By Luke Flannigan for LastWordOnCricket
After reading Charles Davis’ article Tracking The Misses in The Cricket Monthly, which looked at the numbers behind missed catches and stumpings, specifically between 2003-2015, I was instantly fascinated with the phenomenon.
While cricket is a stat-fetishiser by nature, it alarmingly ignores an array of fielding data. T20 cricket may be currently tapping into the idea of mapping and fielding strategies based upon a battery of statistics, but for the most part, cricket is still dealing in medieval fielding stats. Cousin Baseball is laughing with glee.
So deciding to take up the mantle of the ‘missed chances data’ from January 1st 2016, I did exactly as Charles Davis had done. I trawled through 54 Test matches of ESPN Cricinfo commentaries, recording every drop and every missed stumping. Later, I attributed a rank of difficulty to give greater perspective for each drop/miss: either regulation or difficult.
General findings proved similar. The number Davis suggested of around seven missed chances per Test match remained true in 2016/17. (7.15) And the number of regulation and difficult catches/stumpings generally evened out, as he also found. However, this year saw a considerable increase from the typical percentage of missed chances (around the quarter mark); 2016/17 had around 36% of missed chances.
Before going through the following tables of interest, relating to each cricketing discipline, note that there are a few unavoidable caveats as Davis stated. Naturally, certain chances will divide opinion as to whether or not they should count as a drop/miss. The difference between difficult and regulation catches/stumpings could also be a moot point. I based my judgements on the commentary provided and tried to take a strict view. Difficult, academic and quarter chances were included.
Certain batsmen are known for being cavalier; spitting in the face of danger and riding their luck bareback into the wind. The first table shows the Test batsmen most notorious for bringing the field into play. Whether it be a lapse in concentration, a burst of natural aggression or a strategy deployed to out-muscle their opponents, the following players have been those that have been dropped the most since 1st January 2016.
The table includes the frequency of chances offered and the conversion rate of the chances offered. (I.e. how many were caught by the fielding team.) The (brackets) beside each player refers to the number of times he has been dropped.
|BATSMAN||Chance offered||Chance conversion rate|
|Shakib Al Hasan (9)||Every 44 balls||0.47|
|Kusal Mendis (6)||Every 48 balls||0.73|
|Sarfraz Ahmed (6)||Every 50 balls||0.67|
|Martin Guptill (4)||Every 54 balls||0.69|
|Shane Dowrich (5)||Every 55 balls||0.5|
|Tamim Iqbal (4)||Every 60 balls||0.6|
|DM de Silva (8)||Every 66 balls||0.58|
|Dinesh Chandimal (7)||Every 66 balls||0.61|
|Temba Bavuma (6)||Every 68 balls||0.63|
*minimum of 4 reprieves
Special mention: Despite the fact that Ajinkya Rahane (one every 97 balls) and Hashim Amla (one every 80 balls) have offered chances less frequently than those above, they can both claim the favour of lady luck.
Rahane was dropped off half of the opportunities he offered (8/16), while Hashim Amla was reprieved on 40 percent of occasions (9/22).
Other notes: Sri Lanka have had a bit of a rough time of late. In part, this can be explained by the reckless aggression that has ravaged the backbone of their batting line-up.
While Moeen Ali has been reprieved the most (10 times) in the study period, the body of Sri Lanka’s middle order is a proverbial walking wicket.
Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva have been dropped six, seven and eight times respectively.
In addition, the table exposes Shakib Al Hasan’s ultimate flaw. Some would argue that he is often unfairly overlooked in a discussion of the best all-rounders. But it is perhaps his carefree, mercernary-esque attitude to batting which explains his exclusion.
His innings are often fraught with risk, and while his showmanship ensures for some heart-in-the-mouth cricket, he often leaves his side in the lurch for not better assessing the match situation.
Batsmen who are difficult to catch
At the other end of the scale, we have many of the shotgun-picks, which make for fairly unsurprising results. However, the interest is in the up-and-comers who have put great value on their wicket.
|BATSMAN||Chance offered||Chance conversion rate|
|Kraigg Brathwaite||Every 209 balls||0.71 (5/7)|
|*Peter Handscomb||Every 187 balls||0.5 (2/4)|
|*Haseeb Hameed||Every 160 balls||0.5 (2/4)|
|Virat Kohli||Every 156 balls||0.8 (12/15)|
|Azhar Ali||Every 140 balls||0.55 (11/20)|
|*Karun Nair||Every 135 balls||0 (0/3)|
|*Matt Renshaw||Every 124 balls||0.71 (5/7)|
|Usman Khawaja||Every 118 balls||0.625 (8/13)|
|Ross Taylor||Every 117 balls||0.7 (7/10)|
* – These players have only played a few games each and so their numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt. Peter Handscomb’s current record is highly untenable. As for Renshaw and Hameed, they have the poisoned chalice role of facing the ball when it is most capable of causing mass destruction.
They have both started their Test careers excellently, and indeed these figures suggest extreme patience and a sound temperament. However, their numbers will regress as their careers develop. Kraigg Brathwaite’s numbers will also dip but his current form deserves recognition amongst his often-hopeless teammates.
No doubt that limiting Virat Kohli to a list of names is almost sacrilege at this point, but the devilish temptation to compare is unrelenting. His numbers are truly astounding, magnified somewhat by the rest of the pack.
Scoring a double century involves a few sprinkles of good fortune along with obvious class, patience and skill. Charles Davis confirmed this in his more accomplished piece on the history of dropped catches in Test cricket. He claimed that only 33% of double centuries are chanceless in the first 200 runs.
Kohli has produced three chanceless double centuries this year.
Tom Latham and Stephen Cook are two openers averaging over 100 balls faced per chance given to the fielding side – Latham was New Zealand’s best player in India. Meanwhile, it is hard to understand the ridiculous flak that Stephen Cook receives. South Africa has arguably the most assured opening pair in Test cricket.
Jonny Bairstow, while known for being fortunate as a batsman, still averages 101 balls per chance given to the fielding side. The statistic is testament to his ability to dig in and rescue England from fairly dire situations, an all too familiar occurrence over this past year. The 27-year-old wicket-keeper batsman is wasted at number seven.
Meanwhile, it seems remarkable that Ross Taylor featured on this list. As an aggressive, rambunctious, run-thirsty, one-day style Test player, he has no business being on a list that you would associate with the game’s most patient and pragmatic batsmen. That being said, the list also features Kohli and Khawaja. Better to ditch conservatism and play your natural game, it would seem.
Batsmen who’ve produced a perfect trio of chanceless centuries during this period are Joe Root, David Warner and Cheteshwar Pujara.
3 is the magic number – number of innings were Hashim Amla has been dropped before going on to make centuries
Percentage Of Chances Missed
– Percentage of chances missed for each team from the beginning of 2016
– Also includes the percentage difference between 2010-2015 statistics as found by Charles Davis
|Fielding team||– % 2016-present – Diff. from 2010-2015|
|South Africa||20.4% -1.2%|
|New Zealand||21.1% -0.3%|
|Sri Lanka||29.5% +2.7%|
|West Indies||31.1% +5.7%|
Using Charles Davis’ statistics from his ESPN Cricket Monthly article, I was able to compare my findings with each team’s catching stats from the recent past.
The only real surprise is Pakistan’s remarkable improvement in the field. It seems bizarre considering the shambolic Test series against the West Indies and Sami Aslam’s crocodile catching technique in the slips in New Zealand. But stats don’t lie.
Perhaps we just remember Pakistan’s mistakes vividly because they are so memorable (bad). That being said, a drop is a drop, no matter if it is truly rank or just unlucky.
The West Indies’ catching has become a lot worse. But that will not raise too many eyebrows.
India’s ranking may come as a shock, but considering that (before the IND-AUS test in Pune) 63.7% of their overs were bowled by spinners, it is a bit of a smoke screen. Chances produced from spinners are more likely to be difficult, thus inflating India’s miss percentage. By comparison, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have had spinners bowl 24.6%, 26.9% and 34.2% of their overs respectively.
It should also be noted that Sri Lanka had a significant proportion of difficult chances. (23 difficult drops, 17 regulation drops.) And that Zimbabwe had a significant proportion of simple chances. (11 regulation drops, 3 difficult drops.) Wicket-keeper Peter Moor has notably missed eight of his fifteen chances. That is half of the Zimbabwe’s missed catches.
Overall, New Zealand and South Africa remain the paragon of fielding.
The table below serves as a current ranking system of the active wicket-keepers. I have provided not only the percentage of catches or stumpings missed but also the number of misses with the difficulty assigned.
|Wicket-keeper||% catches/stumpings missed||Regulation||Difficult|
|Q de Kock||13.7%||4||3|
*Minimum of 20 catches
Notes: Parthiv Patel, while explosive with the bat, proved pretty average behind the sticks when Saha was out injured. (35% missed chances) The latter is India’s best keeper and some leniency must be given regarding his percentage of chances missed, given that he mainly keeps to Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja who produce a significant proportion (60-40) of difficult chances.
The next table is for those fielders who can claim a clean slate: A perfect catching record since the beginning of 2016.
|Fielder||Catches taken without dropping|
|Colin de Grandhomme||5|
*minimum of 5 catches
The results almost seem laughable, considering the list contains two of the least athletic individuals in professional cricket coupled with the fact it is headed by two Pakistani players. However, Pakistan and India being notorious for poor fielding is moving ever closer to becoming a vintage cliché. Misbah’s captaincy has clearly had a big impact on Pakistan’s fielding.
Just how unlucky is Mohammad Amir?
– Data period starting 1st January 2016
– A table of the unluckiest bowlers in relation to % of successful catches taken off their bowling. Includes the drop counts of the fielding side off each bowler.
||% chances taken|
|R. Chase||207.1 overs||10 drops/misses *(4)||41.2%|
|N. Pradeep||207.3 overs||9 drops *(6)||55.0%|
|M. Amir||404.2 overs||12 drops *(8)||61.3%|
|S. Finn||235.1 overs||9 drops *(5)||62.5%|
|T. Boult||447.5 overs||13 drops *(6)||63.9%|
|M. Ali||532 overs||12 drops/misses *(6)||64.7%|
|Yasir Shah||592.2 overs||11 drops *(7)||66.7%|
* – () represents the number of drops which were considered regulation catches
- ‘Miss’ denotes a stumping chance
Yes, Amir has had an alarming number of dolly drops since his return to cricket. It’s almost as if cricket has an internal karma gauge.
But next time someone starts on the number of times Amir has suffered a dropped catch; there are two bowlers who we should consider as worse off.
It is easy to see why they aren’t discussed more. Mohammad Amir is more of an attention-grabbing cricketer. Heck, Nuwan Pradeep and Roston Chase are even overlooked by their own fans. They’re used to the reclusive lifestyle. But this table seeks to give them the limelight for once.
They can be crowned cricket’s current unluckiest Test bowlers.
Spare one final thought for Trent Boult. New Zealand do not drop many. And yet they’ve dropped 13 off poor old Trent. That’s 35 percent of the team’s drops in the study period. And the man bowls less than 20 percent of the team’s overs! Give the guy a break.
Lack of luck for the part-timers
Generally, part-time bowlers are the last resort of a desperate Test captain. The change in pace or strategy often leads to opportunities. But due to their general lack of overs, they are more likely to be unlucky on the drop front. For the more you bowl, the less frequently chances come. Once batsmen acclimatise to the bowling, your impact is stifled. So because the role of a part-time bowler is to force errors, they are more likely to become unlucky.
|Bowler||No. of overs||
||One Drop/Miss per ____ overs bowled|
|J.P. Duminy||34 overs||4 drops||8.5|
|Z. Ansari||68 overs||7 drops/misses||9.7|
|A. Ali||72.3 overs||6 drops/misses||12.1|
|K. Braithwaite||87.5 overs||6 drops||14.6|
|J. Pattinson||59 overs||4 drops||14.8|
|C. Mumba||77.5 overs||4 drops||19.5|
|K. Islam Rabbi||93 overs||4 drops||23.2|
- ‘Miss’ denotes a stumping
Based on the overview results, it would appear there has been a general regression in fielding efficiency. Charles Davis found that the general trend was toward lower rates of missed chances with the data settling around the 25 percent mark consistently over the decades since the 1980’s. However, 2016-17 has seen around 36 percent of chances missed: a seemingly alarming blip.
There are caveats, which could equally explain the significant change. For a start, my grading system for what is considered a missed chance may have been harsher. Also, a single year period is too short a study period. Perhaps over five years, there will be fluctuations and the percentage of misses will eventually converge towards the 25% mark.
Overall, the most obvious talking point based on the fielding statistics has been Pakistan’s improvement and that the teams who have the weakest record in the field, have also played the least amount of Test cricket. Bangladesh has played five Tests, Zimbabwe four and the West Indies eight.