Statistician’s journal : Can Ajinkya Rahane fill in the shoes of VVS Laxman?

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After the retirement of Fab Five, Indian batting line-up in the tests has never been the same. Quite understandable though. The class of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman are not only hard to find, it’s almost impossible. Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan can never bring out the flamboyance Sehwag had. Cheteshwar Pujara showed some potential, but being a Rahul Dravid takes something different. The number 3 position in tests is yet to find a worthy successor of Mr. Dependable. And it’s better to talk as less as possible about Rohit Sharma. The “talented” batsman has not really proved his worth in tests. However, only silver lining we have got is the presence of Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane in the middle order.

It is undoubtedly a herculean task to fill in the shoes of Sachin Tendulkar. So, we have to wait for some more days to compare Kohli and the little master. But, it’s worthwhile to discuss the similarity between Ajinkya Rahane and VVS Laxman.

Before we delve into the statistical discussion, it should be noted that both Rahane and Laxman have a very similar batting style. Right-handed and solid in technique, they always love to stick to the middle. Seldom they threw away their wickets. Also, they usually come at number 5 or 6 and many a times, they had to play with tail-enders. And no one can deny that both have done it quite well.

To begin our comparison, let us start with their overall batting performances in test cricket.

VVS Laxman Ajinkya Rahane
Matches 134 22
Innings 225 40
Runs 8781 1619
Average 45.97 44.97
50s 56 7
100s 17 6

As one can see, Ajinkya Rahane has an average of nearly 45, only a run less than Laxman’s overall average. Although Rahane has played only a sixth of tests Laxman played, it is clearly an indication that he has the potential to become the dependable number 5 India need now. A more interesting aspect is that he has already scored six test hundreds. Laxman was more like a match-saver for India and scored a lot more fifties than hundreds.

The thing that makes the duo special and similar is their average away from home. Ajinkya Rahane has scored twin tons at Feroz Shah Kotla in the fourth test of the ongoing test series against South Africa. However, his performances in the previous four home tests were dismal. But he was extraordinary in the away tests. The following table shows how both Rahane and Laxman have produced a very respectable performance outside India.

Home Away
VVS Laxman Ajinkya Rahane VVS Laxman Ajinkya Rahane
Matches 57 5 77 17
Innings 91 8 134 32
Runs 3767 274 5014 1345
Average 51.6 39.14 42.49 46.37
50s 24 0 32 7
100s 8 2 9 4

Although overall average of Laxman was slightly more than Ajinkya Rahane, the latter dominates in terms of away performance. He improves his overall average to more than 46 while the same for Laxman drops down to about 43. The Hyderabad batsman can boast of an astounding home average of 51.6 at the same time. However, Rahane has played only 5 tests in India. So, he will get the opportunity to improve his average in due course.

In addition to the above, both have had the uncanny similarity of playing well under pressure. If we neglect teams like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and West Indies, both the batsmen have an average of around 44. On a related note, VVS has been a bit better in his team’s second innings. Unlike most of the other top batsmen, his performance improves in the second innings. He scored runs at an average of nearly 49. Ajinkya Rahane, on the other hand, has not yet showed that class and has a second-innings-average of only 37. Following are the relevant stats:

Against Top teams In Team’s Second Innings
VVS Laxman Ajinkya Rahane VVS Laxman Ajinkya Rahane
Matches 103 21 108 20
Innings 177 39 91 19
Runs 6669 1521 3471 589
Average 44.17 43.46 48.88 36.81
50s 44 6 23 2
100s 12 6 5 2

Laxman’s most favorite tough opponent was surely Australia. He scored 2434 runs against them, that too at an average of 49.67. In Australian grounds also, his performance was commendable, as he maintained an average of more than 44. Similarly, Ajinkya Rahane has picked South Africa as his favorites. Against the Proteas bowling attack, he scored 475 runs at an overwhelming average of 59.37. In his last series in South Africa, Rahane was brilliant. In those two tests, his average was nearly 70. It’s evident that both these batsmen love to play against tough opponents and in bouncy, difficult turfs away from home.

Finally, whenever these comparisons come into picture, people argue that it’s too early. We cannot deny it per se, but it definitely makes sense to compare these two. Yet, for the sake of closure, here is one final comparison. Let us take a look at VVS Laxman’s performance in the first 22 tests he played. This will give us another idea about Rahane’s excellence so far.

VVS Laxman Ajinkya Rahane
Innings 39 40
Runs 1337 1619
Average 37.13 44.97
50s 8 7
100s 2 6

As you can see, Rahane’s statistics are way better than his compatriot. Laxman played his 22nd test in March 2001 and back then, he was most famous for his epic innings of 281 against mighty Australians. VVS excelled much more as he played more matches. To be honest, that is true for almost every batsman. Naturally, we can also hope that Ajinkya Rahane will become even better as time would pass by. Surely a good sign for Indian test batting line-up.

What’s your opinion about Ajinkya Rahane? Let us know in the comments below.

 

(You may also like: How good is Ravinchandran Ashwin, as compared to Harbhajan and Kumble?)

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