The impact of bowlers in Tests, home and away

  • Why Muralitharan is peerless and the Indian cricket team wobbly without off-spinner Ashwin at home.
From Left: Dale Steyn, Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath excelled at both home and away. (Getty Images) PREMIUM
From Left: Dale Steyn, Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath excelled at both home and away. (Getty Images)
Updated on Aug 21, 2021 06:03 PM IST
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BySomshuvra Laha, Kolkata

No other fast bowler has taken over 100 wickets at a single venue. Two spinners have: Sri Lankans Rangana Herath (102 wickets at Galle) and Muttiah Muralitharan (111 wickets at Galle, 117 wickets at Kandy and 166 wickets at Colombo’s SSC ground). Anderson, 39, is also the most prolific pace bowler at home with 396 wickets, a record only Stuart Broad (341 wickets) may come close to.

But who are the most consistent wicket-takers, home and away? And how have some of them influenced their teams’ fortunes?

For starters, there is no doubt Muralitharan’s record in 133 Tests - most wickets (800), most five-wicket hauls (67) and most 10-wicket hauls (22) - will remain untouched for a long time.

Just over 61% of his career haul - 493 wickets to be exact - has come at home but it’s that average of 19.56 (the only bowler to do it under 20 runs at home) that makes him an all-time great. He was the foremost reason Sri Lanka were such a top bowling force at home for nearly 15 years. That 415 of those 493 wickets helped Sri Lanka stay unbeaten in 59 Tests (including 37 wins) at home in a career spanning from 1992 to 2010 is proof of Muralitharan’s impact. He is in a league of his own home or away, but there are a handful of other bowlers who are close to unplayable in home conditions.

Such as Anderson. He has taken 63.25% of his total wickets at home, 330 out of those 396 scalps coming in wins and draws for England. A little ahead are Herath (64.2%) and Broad (65.07) who has also partnered Anderson to make the Dukes ball sing in English conditions. But no one playing now has done more damage at home than Ravichandran Ashwin (69.24%). With 24 five-wicket hauls and six 10-wicket hauls in 47 Tests, he is just shy of the home records of Anil Kumble (25 fifers and seven 10-wicket hauls) and Herath (26 fifers and seven 10-wicket hauls). Since his debut in 2013, Ashwin gave India a new impetus after Kumble and Harbhajan Singh retired, with an overwhelming 263 out of his 286 wickets at home contributing to 36 unbeaten Tests. Right now, only Kumble has a better overall home record than Ashwin (301 out of 350 wickets in 51 wins and draws).

Muralitharan is second on the list for most wickets away from home with 307 scalps, with over a third coming in India (40 wickets), Bangladesh (29 wickets) and Pakistan (50 wickets) where the pitches are almost similar to what he got at home. But Muralitharan also has 48 wickets in eight Tests in England and 35 wickets in six Tests in South Africa, once again underlining his impact even in challenging conditions.

The Shane-Glenn show

Shane Warne is a rare spinner who has more wickets away (362, the highest ever) than at home (319) despite very little success in India - 34 wickets in nine Tests, compared to 48 in nine Tests in Sri Lanka, 49 in nine Tests in New Zealand and 61 in 12 Tests in South Africa. Warne was at his most prolific in England where he claimed a staggering 129 wickets in 22 Tests. It is the most by any bowler in an away country.

Warne was a match winner in every sense but it was his partnership with fast bowler Glenn McGrath that made Australia such a world-beating team till 2007. Like Warne, nearly half (48.66%) of McGrath’s wickets were away from home. Together, they scalped 750 wickets in 71 Tests that Australia won (home and away), easily the most by any pair.

Some fast bowlers have got more wickets away from home simply because they have played more there. Like Courtney Walsh, who held the world record of most Test wickets till Warne broke it in 2004, earning over half his haul (55.87% or 290 wickets) in 74 away Tests (compared to 58 at home) even though that hasn’t affected his averages (23.7 at home and 25.03 away) or strike rate (58.9 at home and 56.9 away). Similarly, Malcolm Marshall (50 Tests away and 30 at home) and Wasim Akram (62 Tests away, 40 at home and one on neutral ground) have outstanding figures both home and away.

Kapil Dev too has been equally good at home (219 wickets in 65 Tests at a laudable strike rate of 55.7) and away (215 wickets in 66 Tests at a strike rate of 72.2). But no one quite comes close to Sir Richard Hadlee whose 86 Tests were split equally between New Zealand and other countries.

With 230 wickets (or 53.36% in a career haul of 431 wickets) at a strike rate of 48.9 (the best for any bowler to take at least 200 wickets away from home) in just 43 away Tests, Hadlee’s numbers are truly exceptional considering he more or less carried the New Zealand bowling after Lance Cairns retired in 1985.

Strike like Steyn

On the matter of strike rates - always an effective measure of a bowler - Dale Steyn (439 wickets in 93 Tests) has few equals. Among all bowlers to have taken at least 200 wickets at home, Steyn has a strike rate of 40.2 for 261 wickets (205 of them coming in wins and draws), better than Ashwin (47.8), Dennis Lillee (49.9), Broad (50.6) and even Muralitharan (50.8).

He even tops the all-time list of bowlers with at least 300 career wickets with a strike rate of 42.3, better than Waqar Younis (43.4), Marshall (46.7) and Allan Donald (47). Kagiso Rabada (213 wickets in 47 Tests) is the only current fast bowler with a better career strike rate of 41.2 but in terms of longevity he has a long way to go before catching up with his compatriot.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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Saturday, November 27, 2021