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Stats: Legends or Home Track Bullies?

The phrase home track bully is often used by fans of one team against legends of other teams. Some of these great batsmen actually fit the bill.

Michael Clarke reaches his century against India at Adelaide Oval in December 2014

Michael Clarke’s dodgy form is surely the biggest reason for Australia’s recent batting collapses. Pup was the man who kept the struggling Australian batting afloat in their transition phase after the batting stalwarts of the 2000s retired. Even with his recent slump of form, he averages more than 56 since the start of 2012.

2012 was a phenomenal year for him – a year when he smashed as many as 3 double hundreds and his only triple hundred. His performances resulted in him bagging the ICC Test cricketer of the year and also the ICC cricketer of the year despite not playing too many ODIs.

But a closer look into Clarke’s statistics shows that he has scored runs mostly in Australia and struggled abroad. Since 2012, he averages more than 90 in Australia and only 36 away. To further surprise, this isn’t a recent phenomenon. With all due respect, Clarke has always been a home track bully.

In this article we shall find out all such home track bullies among the top batsmen in the last decade and a half.

The table below shows the averages of the Top 15 batsmen in the last 15 years at home (includes UAE for the Pakistani batsmen) and away (includes neutral venues):

The Home Dependency factor is calculated as the difference of home and away averages as a percentage of the overall career average.

Clarke is the batsman most dependent on home soil for scoring runs. Mohammad Yousuf, Mahela Jayawardene, Michael Hussey and Matthew Hayden are the others who were heavily dependent on home conditions while the South Africans AB de Villiers and Amla have actually done far better away from home. Speaks a lot about the batting conditions in South Africa.

Jacques Kallis, though, did not find South Africa a tough place to bat. With arguably the best batting technique, he was equally comfortable home and away. As were Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

However, only home and away averages don’t tell the complete story. Kumar Sangakkara, for instance, has scored almost 800 of his away runs in Bangladesh at an average of close to 80. That has bolstered his away average substantially. The same applies for Indian demigod Tendulkar (820 runs at 137) and Pakistani legend Younis Khan (604 runs at 101).

The Asians are not the only ones to have benefitted from having cricketing neighbours either. Kallis averages more 500 in Zimbabwe, something that boosts his away average considerably.

In the table below, we shall see how these players have fared against better teams away from home:

Equality average is the average that these batsmen would have had if they had played equal number of matches in South Africa, Australia, England and in the subcontinent (excluding Bangladesh).

The averages of Jayawardene, Younis Khan and Sangakkara suffer a lot. It is because they have played more than 70% of their cricket in Asia. In fact, Younis has only played 3 out of his 100+ matches in Australia. Virender Sehwag and Yousuf are the others whose average decline significantly. These five actually fare as bad as Shiv Chanderpaul – whose average dips only 15% even though, unlike others, he hasn’t been given the home ground comfort at all. (Yellow cells indicate home conditions)

South Africa is clearly the toughest place to bat with only Tendulkar and Ponting managing to average more than 45 in South Africa (among visiting batsmen).

Unsurprisingly then, two South Africans (Amla and de Villiers) have the best Equality average. Actually, Amla has struggled the most at home (and, funnily, in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe). Tendulkar is the only other batsman to have an Equality average of over 50 and along with Amla is the only batsman to average more than 45 at all places.

AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla: Equally comfortable in all conditions

Kallis and Ponting miss out on a 50+ average due to their poor show in England and Asia respectively, while Dravid and Sangakkara’s struggles in South Africa cost them.

The phrase home track bully is often used by fans of one team against legends of other teams. While it might sound derogatory and insulting, Jayawardene, Sehwag and Mohammad Yousuf aren’t far from it. The Australian trio – Clarke, Hussey and Hayden – also rank very close.

This exercise also highlights how overrated the English batsmen are and how underrated Hashim Amla is. The bearded South African would have been a statistical wonder child if he was playing in any other country.

Lastly, it also brings out that Sachin Tendulkar and AB de Villiers are two of the most complete Test batsmen in the last 15 years. Considering their terrific ODI numbers, these two might well be among the most complete batsmen ever.

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