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Sanath Jayasuriya vs Shahid Afridi: A statistical comparison of two destructive all-rounders

A statistical comparison between the two allrounders.

Sanath Jayasuriya and Shahid Afridi – Battle of the destructive sloggers, who won matches with both bat and ball

Among the numerous schools of craftsmanship that cricket offers, slogging is the one that captures viewers’ emotions like none other. It may not possess the artistic flavor of maneuvering the gaps or produce the pleasing sound of the ball softly kissing the willow, but its compelling nature that instantaneously leaves an indelible mark on the game with an enormous potential of affecting the result makes it what it primarily wasn’t – an incredibly fascinating piece of art.

Although both Sanath Jayasuriya and Shahid Afridi have been described as ‘sloggers’ at some point of their respective careers, the entirety of this notion is not true. Both these allrounders were destructive in their own fashion. While the Sri Lankan relied on impeccable hand-eye coordination for his measured belligerence, Afridi was the uncouth ruffian leader with mercurial temperament, but effective nonetheless. To label them as mere sloggers would be oversimplifying both careers and persona of these two stalwarts.

In spite of the diversities that affected their respective brands of cricket, both Jayasuriya and Afridi shared a common penchant for setting benchmarks. Interestingly, among the numerous records that Jayasuriya once held, the one where he scored the fastest ODI century in 48 balls was bettered in the same year by Afridi who completed the feat in 36 deliveries on his debut.

Statistics, however, refuse to display any mercy to the two most destructive match-winners of their times. A look at the numbers will suggest ordinariness, or at best, mildly respectable standards, but then, instances of figures belying facts aren’t too infrequent either.

The futility of comparison in Tests

Despite both careers spanning more than a decade, the difference in matches played is dramatically huge. The chief reason behind this abnormality is Afridi’s early retirement in 2006. Although he returned for a solitary Test in 2010, scores of 2 (4) and 31 (15) in the two innings prompted another retirement immediately after the match.

Overall Test figures (batting)

Players

Matches (Innings)

Runs

Average

100s

50s

Sanath Jayasuriya

110 (188)

6973

40.07

14

31

Shahid Afridi

27 (48)

1716

36.51

5

8

 

It is pertinent to mention here that Jayasuriya had received his Test cap against New Zealand in 1991 while Afridi had had to wait till 1998 for his debut against Australia. Therefore, the major fraction of their careers coincided between 1999 and beginning of 2006. During this period, the Sri Lankan averages 40.08 which is almost similar to his overall career average in Tests, while Afridi averages 41.12, a significant rise from his overall figures.

Overall Test figures (bowling)

Players

Matches (Innings)

Wickets

Average

SR

4w

5w

Sanath Jayasuriya

110 (140)

98

34.34

83.5

6

2

Shahid Afridi

27 (47)

48

35.60

66.5

1

1

Having featured in one-third of the number of innings in comparison to Jayasuriya, Afridi has to his credit almost half the number of Test wickets bagged by the former. Further, a strike-rate difference of 17 firmly inclines the stakes in favor of Afridi with the averages being roughly similar.

It, however, has to be kept in mind that Sri Lanka had in their ranks a legendary spinner in the name of Muttiah Muralitharan and Jayasuriya was frequently used as nothing more than a part-timer. As for Afridi, he filled in as the fifth bowler for Pakistan on several occasions having rolled his arms a staggering 3194 times in contrast to 8188 times by Jayasuriya.

Innings-wise assessment in Tests

An innings-wise break-up, albeit inconclusive, suggests that Jayasuriya has been maximally effective in the second innings with the bat while Afridi has been maximally effective in the fourth. With respect to team innings, Jayasuriya fares equally in both instances while Afridi’s average shoots up to 42.00 when Pakistan batted second as opposed to 32.44 when the team batted first.

In the bowling department, Afridi’s average exhibits a steady increase till the third innings before plunging to 26.87 in the fourth. Jayasuriya’s first innings average (70.27) lie in stark contrast to his second innings average (22.25) before it settles down in the mid-thirties in the third and fourth innings.

Match-winners in their own rights

The fact that both these players were invaluable to their respective teams is emphasized by the fact that the result of the match depended more often than not upon how they fared. Jayasuriya’s Test highest of 340 came against India at Colombo when Sri Lanka notched up a mammoth 952/6 in1997. Unsurprisingly, he averages 48.29 with the bat and 24.38 with the ball in matches won, and 25.97 with the bat and 43.66 with the ball in matches lost.

In contrast, Afridi’s batting average remains in the mid-30s on both occasions with the difference resting on his bowling average. The nine times that Pakistan ended up on the winning side, Afridi plundered 20 wickets at an average of 18.70. On the other hand, averaging a bewildering 70.77, he scalped 9 wickets in as many matches that Pakistan lost.

Since Afridi featured in 27 Tests in his entire career with only 13 of them outside the subcontinent, the home-away assessment holding no significance owing to insufficient data. The same however cannot be said for ODIs, a format where Afridi consciously excelled in in spite of being characteristically erratic and frustratingly unpredictable.

In ODIs

The figures in One Day Internationals offer better grounds of comparisons because both these players have bowled in almost equal number of innings, although Jayasuriya has featured in 47 matches more than Afridi. For the initial part of his career, Jayasuriya was considered primarily as a bowler who could bat. It was only during the Hero Cup in 1993, four years after his debut, that he was allotted the opener’s role.

Since then, Jayasuriya has opened the innings 383 times and faced 14725 deliveries. On the other hand, Afridi has been a lower middle-order batsman for a major part of his career, having batted at No. 6 or below in almost half the number of innings in his career. It is of no surprise, therefore, that he has faced less than half the number of deliveries in comparison to Jayasuriya.

Overall ODI figures (batting)

Players

Matches (Innings)

Runs

Average

SR

100s

50s

Sanath Jayasuriya

445 (433)

13430

32.36

91.2

28

68

Shahid Afridi

398 (369)

8064

23.57

117.0

6

39

 

In accordance with the batting positions, Jayasuriya obviously soars ahead with respect to both average and runs accumulated. However, considering the number of balls faced, Afridi gains the advantage with a strike-rate far better than his competitor. In fact, Afridi boasts of the highest strike-rate in ODIs among batsmen with more than 8000 runs.

Although Jayasuriya steals the show with 28 centuries and 68 fifties, it has to be remembered that Afridi walked into the field during the slog overs leaving him no room to build an innings slowly with caution. Yet the number of fifties being 6.5 times that of his centuries speaks as much about his caliber as the lowly average does about his inconsistency.

Overall ODI figures (bowling)

Players

Matches (Innings)

Wickets

Average

SR

4w

5w

Sanath Jayasuriya

445 (368)

323

36.75

46.0

8

4

Shahid Afridi

398 (372)

395

34.51

44.7

4

9


The economy rate being quite similar and hence inconclusive has not been considered. It may seem that Afridi has been a more reliable bowler with 395 wickets in roughly the same number of innings, but it must be considered that he has bowled 2796 deliveries more than Jayasuriya. The Pakistani maverick fares marginally better in the remaining categories with a best of 7/12 (as opposed to Jayasuriya’s 6/29) being the icing on the cake.

Contribution to the team’s cause

Evidently, Jayasuriya makes for a better impact player at the top of the order boasting of numbers that are much healthier than that of his competitor. That he has played more number of innings in his career also works in his favor.

Figures in matches won (batting)

Players

Innings

Runs

Average

SR

100s

50s

Sanath Jayasuriya

228

8873

41.26

96.6

24

43

Shahid Afridi

193

5116

30.09

121.5

5

29

 

The equations change rapidly with the ball in hand. Pakistan’s dependence on Afridi is emphasized by the fact that all his 4-wicket and 5-wicket hauls have resulted in victories for the team. Although Jayasuriya gains the upper hand for taking more wickets in less number of matches, he falls behind Afridi when bowling average and strike-rate are taken into account.

Figures in matches won (bowling)

Players

Innings

Wickets

Average

SR

4w

5w

Sanath Jayasuriya

196

222

27.53

37.0

7

2

Shahid Afridi

206

206

25.55

35.3

4

9


48 Man of the Match awards for Jayasuriya and 32 of the same for Afridi aptly summarizes their contribution to their teams’ cause.

Performances in different conditions

The numbers hardly reflect any significant difference between home and away matches when individual figures are considered. Obviously, Afridi batting lower down the order averages far less than Jayasuriya who chiefly played as an opener. The galactic difference in runs accumulated is somewhat narrowed down by the difference in strike-rate between the two players. Interestingly, both cricketers have a higher strike-rate playing away from home.

Batting figures for Sanath Jayasuriya

Venue

Innings

Runs

Average

SR

100s

50s

Home

124

3880

33.73

89.0

7

24

Away

147

4087

28.78

92.5

11

16

Neutral

162

5463

34.57

91.9

10

28

Batting figures for Shahid Afridi

Venue

Innings

Runs

Average

SR

100s

50s

Home

49

1135

25.22

121.4

0

6

Away

133

2909

23.84

125.0

2

11

Neutral

187

4020

22.97

110.8

4

22


The bowling comparison looks untidy solely because Afridi spent almost five-sixth of his career playing away from home. No wonder that Jayasuriya fares better at home with higher number of wickets and a better average courtesy more number of innings. Afridi, though, returns the favor in away matches with the ultimate result of him edging out the southpaw in terms of overall career scalps.

Bowling figures for Sanath Jayasuriya

Venue

Innings

Wickets

Average

SR

4w

5w

Home

109

119

28.31

38.1

5

2

Away

119

93

42.46

50.4

2

2

Neutral

140

111

41.01

50.8

1

0

Bowling figures for Shahid Afridi

Venue

Innings

Wickets

Average

SR

4w

5w

Home

55

62

36.19

44.6

0

1

Away

133

140

34.56

44.7

2

2

Neutral

184

193

33.93

44.7

2

6


Performances as captain

Despite having varied approaches to the game and believing in strikingly different brands of leadership, both fared decently as skippers. Jayasuriya was fortunate to lead a team comprising of a stable opening duo, a solid middle order and a fearsome bowling department spearheaded by Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas. Afridi, on the other hand, acquired captaincy during troubled times and was left with no option but to lead from the front. And that he did, with flamboyant skills and charismatic ardor.

Allround figures as captain

Players

Matches

Runs

Average

Wickets

Average

Win%

Sanath Jayasuriya

118

4377

38.73

92

36.67

55.9

Shahid Afridi

38

879

26.63

50

29.88

50


In fact, both players peaked while wearing the skipper’s cap. While Jayasuriya’s batting average increased by 6 points as compared to his overall statistics, which further leapfrogged to 50.43 on victorious occasions, Afridi’s shows very little rise but increases substantially to 33.13 in matches won. Jayasuriya’s bowling average remains the same but Afridi’s differs grossly. In the 19 games that Pakistan triumphed under his leadership, Afridi grabbed a total of 34 scalps including 2 five-wicket hauls at an average of 21.64.

Final verdict

One of the major conclusions that can be drawn from these numbers is that Shahid Afridi failed to realize his potential, definitely as a batsman if not as an allrounder – a fact that’s unanimously acknowledged by pundits. His premature retirement from the longest format of the game in order to focus on ODIs only highlights his lackadaisical disposition that prevented him from being a consistent warlord despite scaling feats on a regular basis.

Secondly, even with his contributions with the ball being overshadowed by his lazy arrogance with the willow, Sanath Jayasuriya remains one of the finest allrounders cricket has ever produced. Not surprisingly, he remains the only man to have plundered in excess of 10,000 ODI runs and taken 300 wickets. Even the South African great Jacques Kallis (11,579 runs, 273 wickets) trails him by quite some distance.

It appears that Jayasuriya leads in the batting department while the honors in the bowling department rest with Afridi. Having said that, mere numbers do not essentially reflect the amount of impact both these players had on their respective teams’ fortunes. They had been match-winners in their own rights and reducing their careers to an assembly of figures would be not only unfair but also deceiving.

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