Mahela's accomplishment in SSC or Galle doesn't make him Ordinary

Whenever Mahela is called a “Great”, the only point raised by those who gloat about him is that most of his runs have come in the subcontinent, at home and in dust bowls. It is true that his records outside Asia is not flattering. Jayawardane’s average drops to unfathomably dreadful numbers outside Asia.

Career average of Mahela

SpanMatInnsNORunsHSAveBFSR1005004s6s
overall1997-2014145244151149337450.182232951.47334814135060

Only 15 batsmen average over 50 after playing 100 or more games.

 
in Australia2004-2013714044010431.42102243.05122551
in Bangladesh1999-20147122591203*59.10104556.55211596
in England1998-20141223178811935.81165947.49242981
in India2005-2009610062827562.80112255.97141752
in New Zealand2005-200647019414127.7142345.86102241
in Pakistan1999-2009917168424042.75126654.02131961
in South Africa2000-201281604469827.8796546.21011612
in Sri Lanka1997-2012771219684637461.121303252.532232379540
in U.A.E.2011-2014611032912929.9078541.91101314
in West Indies2003-200847029413642.0051557.08100320
in Zimbabwe1999-2004562253100*63.2549551.11110242

Surprisingly his record draws parallel to the West Indian Brian Lara who has similar records to Mahela. It is evident from the above graph that Mahela’s record is sturdy only in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

Lara’s record

in Australia1992-200519146927741.97400190
in England1995-200415126817948.76400210
in India1994-199431989133.00030
in New Zealand1995-2006740614736.9010030
in Pakistan1990-2006762621648.15270
in South Africa1998-2004984120246.722100
in Sri Lanka1993-20014706221100.85340
in West Indies1992-2006656217400*58.651700940
in Zimbabwe2003-2003222219155.50130

Lara’s record is astonishing only in Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe. Both Mahela and Lara have scored heavily in conditions that favor spinners.

Here is where one of the most perplexing questions in my life arrives. Why are batsmen who play well in fast and bouncy conditions considered great, while batsmen who play well against spinners in the subcontinent relegated to the levels of Gully cricketers? Players who have mastered the batting against lethal and fiery fast bowlers have struggled against spinners.  Ricky Ponting averages only 26.48 against India and 48.20 against Sri Lanka. Yet these batsmen have the prerogative of being called greats.

But players who have mastered themselves against spinners are still made to saunter in darkness on the other side of the Hall of Great batsmen. It may be due to the fact that, in the past  batsmen had to do well in England and Australia to gain recognition from the senior experts there, who judged players by their performances in Australia and England.

There is no second word to the fact that Mahela is one of the very best when it comes to playing spin bowlers. Through out his career no spin bowler has ever troubled Mahela, with Ajmal being the only exception. Let it be the top spinners of Kumble or the Leg breaks of Warne, Mahela had the technique to counter everything that spinners had in their quiver.

In all the matches where player vs player comparison is available, Mahela has scored 49 runs on the average against Shane Warne. Shane Warne has managed to get him out only 4 times, a commendable feat by Mahela against a spinner like Warne. Against Kumble he averages 53.67 getting out only thrice.  In the games where player vs player comparison is not available Kumble has got the better of Mahela only once, even that was after he had amassed 242 runs. Against Harbhajan Singh Mahela’s average reaches a whopping 86.4, losing his wicket to the bowler only 5 times. Graeme Swan has bowled reasonably well against Mahela going for an average of 43.33, picking Mahela thrice. Vettori’s record is mediocre giving away 99 runs on the average and getting Mahela’s wicket only once. Ajmal has had the better of Mahela, getting him out 8 times, the most by any of the bowlers concerned. Mahela averages only a paltry 23.75 against Ajmal.

Even though subcontinental tracks are considered to be flat, the pitches in Sri Lanka often assist the bowlers better than any other tracks in South Asia. Galle pitch can become a minefield for batsmen after the third day. SSC pitch often takes turn after the third day.

If it takes an impeccable technique to counter swing, seam and bounce, it takes an equally supreme technique to play on turning, low bouncy dust bowls. Mahela has mastered the art of survival on terrible pitches, which has helped him standout among the rest in low scoring games.

Often the SSC track is notoriously called a highway, but it has a better results percentage than most of the other grounds. Hence, Mahela’s record in SSC cannot be simply trashed  as yet another brutal rendition on batsman friendly pitches.

SSC has  a results percentage of 63. Only 19 stadiums have a better percentage. Galle has an even better record with 72% of the games yielding results, the 12th best in the list of grounds with more than 20 test matches.

The average runs scored per wicket in SSC is 35.90. If SSC is considered flat, then there are 9 other flatter pitches, that includes, Adelaide, Brabourne Stadium Mumbai, Napier, Antigua and Guyana. Both Lara and Ponting have amassed most of their runs in Adelaide and Antigua which are flatter than SSC.

Antigua Recreation Ground, St John’s, Antigua – West Indies
1981-20092210012240846264741638.473.04
Punjab C.A. Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh – India
1994-201311605127663322503038.453.06
McLean Park, Napier – New Zealand
1979-20121030798412591978537.992.98
Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chittagong – Bangladesh
2006-201412804135153562397937.963.38
Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur, Dhaka – Bangladesh
2007-201411902121483202140037.963.40
Bourda, Georgetown, Guyana – West Indies
1930-20053013017291208036362736.262.74
Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai – India
1948-2009187011189765264526836.072.51
Green Park, Kanpur – India
1952-2009219012204235684621035.952.65
Adelaide Oval – Australia
1884-2013725301986922241918381135.932.83
Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo – Sri Lanka
1984-201236230133859510757622435.903.03
Sardar Patel (Gujarat) Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad – India
1983-201212606130023632707635.812.88
Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi – India
1948-20133218014316469006894635.162.75
Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore – Pakistan
1959-200940180223848610977825735.082.95
Bellerive Oval, Hobart – Australia
1989-201211902118843432257634.643.15
M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore – India
1974-2012201208206125954107134.643.01
Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad – Pakistan
1978-20062411013249007224881034.483.06
Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo – Zimbabwe
1994-2011191207188155553910933.902.88
Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados – West Indies
1930-2014503301753354159010922033.552.93
Eden Gardens, Kolkata – India
1934-201339200193927511788573833.342.74
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai – India
1934-20133119111305239236166833.062.96
P Sara Oval, Colombo – Sri Lanka
1982-2012171304173695283391132.893.07
National Stadium, Karachi – Pakistan
1955-200941230184040612358725632.712.77
Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica – West Indies
1930-201447340134741114529965732.652.85
W.A.C.A. Ground, Perth – Australia
1970-20134134074354713408307332.493.14
Galle International Stadium – Sri Lanka
1998-2013221606222086844460232.462.98
Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba, Brisbane – Australia
1931-2013564211356561174312052532.452.81
Trent Bridge, Nottingham – England
1899-2014603702359339183013001832.422.73
Kennington Oval, London – England
1880-2013965903793235289319632132.222.84
Basin Reserve, Wellington – New Zealand
1930-2014563302351970162011120032.082.80

 

It is agreed that to be deemed an all time great one should play spin and pace equally well. But if batsmen who had faced pace with ease and struggled against spin ( Kallis averages only around 35 in Sri Lanka) can be considered great, then Mahela Jayawardane deserves to be in the league of Lara, Kallis and Ponting. Kumar Sangakkara has been the best in terms of statistics, but Mahela’s innings have had substance and lot of contextual relevance to Sri Lankan victories.  The western world looks at records in Asia patronizingly. A spin bowler is measured by his performance outside Asia, yet a fast bowler is measured by his performances in pace friendly pitches. It takes an equally rigorous and phenomenal technique to play spin, which should never be belittled.

 

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