The Flat Track Bully Myth

Greetings :)

It is quite Un-Indian of this Indian writer that it took 20 months and 52 posts before this – the first cricket post – is up on MAdo ;) Much like how Harry Potter walked into Queen Rowling’s head fully formed on a train journey, this post too walked in fully formed five minutes after I woke up at five this morning (or four minutes after I read *yet* another flat track bully comment on a Cricinfo article“once again india proved they are realy FLAT TRACK BULLIES” ) And that was when I decided that this flat track bully crap “gotta go”. I wanted to write when R Ashwin’s appeal was termed “unsportsmanlike”, when the “spirit of the game” was apparently violated. But I didn’t. I’m not going to let this inspiration pass! :P :)

(Yes, I read Cricinfo articles soon after I wake up, from my phone, after checking e-mails =P)

The current generation of Indian fans have the most to be cheerful about. We have lost only one test series at home since 2001 (losing 2-1 to Australia in 2004). In the five years since our humiliating first round exit from the 2007 World Cup, we’ve won the T20 World Cup and are the reigning 50-over Asian and World Champions. We won the 2008 tri-series in Australia, beating Australia 2-0 in the finals. (Yes, we failed to make the finals in the next edition of the tri-series). (Edit: September 2012: We’ve won the U19 World Cup, in Australia!) We’ve won test series in Pakistan, West Indies, New Zealand and England. We’ve drawn in South Africa and Australia. Despite the recent debacles in England and Australia, where we lost all our test matches, the current squad is a better touring outfit than most earlier squads. We topped the ODI and Test rankings table for a considerable time, before losing the position to Australia and England, respectively.

The team has given its fans more joy than sorrow this century. However, like “Ugly” Aussies and “Chokers” South Africa, an undeserved tag has stuck to the Indian team – “Flat Track Bullies”. Critics use this term to ridicule Indian victories in the subcontinent, labelling Indian batsmen as capable of scoring only on “dead tracks”. Anyone can score a century on this highway, they say. Oh please. I’m sorry, but I always seem to miss that moment when the pitch turns bouncy or green after the Indian Innings, before the opposition bat. It must happen during those ad breaks, I guess.

The only way I can live in peace with Team India being called Flat Track Bullies is if I am allowed to call the Australian and South African teams Green Track Bullies, whose bowlers take wickets only on pitches that assist the bowlers x_x Pfft.. Anyone can take wickets on these grasslands ;)

Before I statistically disprove the Flat Track Bully myth, I’d like to write about what makes cricket so different from other sports with respect to the venue. Perhaps no other sport is influenced so much by the Home and Away factor. Although there are no numbers to prove this, let’s say, for dramatic effect, that an away game in cricket is a hundred times tougher for the touring team than in other field sports like football or hockey. The weather also has so much of an effect on the game; Overcast conditions, moisture in the pitch and dew on the field effect the game. In football, away goals count twice as much as home goals in most leagues. Unfortunately, cricket rankings don’t consider an away victory any different from a home victory. Satisfaction and pride are the only extra takeaways for a touring team.

In a very crude way, the image below represents how comfortable a cricket team is at home and overseas.

Couch - Home and Away
Image via the internet

xD No where else in the world can we be as comfortable as we are at home. We can navigate through our homes in complete darkness, because we are familiar with where the furniture is. A friend staying with you, on the other hand, might have a few bruises on his shins. (Unless the friend is Sri Lanka, that is; We’re in a Live-in relationship, India and Sri Lanka =P In the words of Harsha Bhogle, “India play Sri Lanka every Wednesday and Friday, and Second Saturday” xD) You know which switch operates what in the house. An away batsman is going to try a few wrong switches before he figures out the right switch. (Unless the away batsman is Virat Kohli, in which case, on current form, the Little Little Master might score a century on mars :P)

The Indian Team’s home, and neighbourhood, is filled with relatively batting-friendly pitches.  But why does that have to undermine a victory at home? I’ll now proceed to bore you with statistics in my quest to flatten the myth. (All statistics are generated through Cricinfo’s Statsguru; Very reliable, easy to query and accurate). Let’s use tests for the analysis, although I’m pretty sure the ODI numbers will tell a similar tale.

India

Tests
Home (Overall): 232 matches; 75 won; 49 lost; 1 tied; 107 drawn
Home (Non-subcontinental opposition only): 182 matches; 52 won; 44 lost; 1 tied; 79 drawn
Away (Overall): 230 matches; 37 won;  98 lost; 95 drawn
Away (Outside Subcontinent only): 179 matches; 25 won;  85 lost; 69 drawn

Win percentage at home against non-subcontinental opposition 28.57% falls to 13.97% in games outside the subcontinent, a fall of 51.10%

Australia

Tests
Home (Subcontinent opposition only): 84 matches; 57 won; 9 lost; 18 drawn
Away (Subcontinent only): 77 matches; 23 won;  23 lost; 1 tied; 30 drawn

Win percentage at home against subcontinent opposition 67.86% falls to 29.87% in subcontinent games, a fall of 55.98%

England

Tests
Home (Subcontinental opposition only): 116 matches; 57 won;  16 lost; 43 drawn
Away (Subcontinent only): 90 matches; 20 won; 22 lost; 48 drawn

Win percentage at home against subcontinent opposition 49.14% falls to 22.22% in subcontinent games, a fall of 54.78%

Myth Busted!
Yeaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh! xD

New Zealand

Tests
Home (Subcontinental opposition only): 68 matches; 23 won;  17 lost; 28 drawn
Away (Subcontinent only): 67 matches; 10 won; 29 lost; 28 drawn

Win percentage at home against subcontinent opposition 33.82% falls to 14.93% in subcontinent games, a fall of 55.85

South Africa

Tests
Home (Subcontinental opposition only): 38 matches; 25 won;  5 lost; 8 drawn
Away (Subcontinent only): 33 matches; 13 won; 10 lost; 10 drawn

Win percentage at home against subcontinent opposition 65.79% falls to 39.39% in subcontinent games, a fall of 40.13%

West Indies

Tests
Home (Subcontinental opposition only): 78 matches; 31 won;  13 lost; 34 drawn
Away (Subcontinent only): 77 matches; 21 won; 23 lost; 33 drawn

Win percentage at home against subcontinent opposition 39.74% falls to 27.27% in subcontinent games, a fall of 31.38%

To put these numbers into words, statistically –

  1. India are half as good outside the subcontinent as they are at facing overseas teams within India.
  2. Australia, England and New Zealand are only half as good in the subcontinent as they are at home against subcontinental teams.
  3. Of the lot, West Indies and South Africa are the more consistent teams at both home and away, against subcontinental teams.
  4. In fact, India are statistically better overseas than overseas teams are in the subcontinent.
  5. If India can be called Flat Track Bullies because we “win only on flat tracks”, Australia, England and New Zealand can statistically be called Green and Bouncy Track Bullies because they “win only on Green and Bouncy Tracks” xD

Next time someone calls our team a Flat Track Bully, please feel free to share this post with a smug look on your face :D

India are world champions and my other favourite team, England, are currently the #1 ranked test team. Good time to be a fan! :)

And, seriously, bullies, us? After “It’s soft, but that’s the way we are” ? xD

Now to have a (well-deserved) lunch in peace :P

“They (the Australians) are better at playing mind games than they are at playing the game” ~ Ishant Sharma, to Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron

MAAN

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2 Comments

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  1. Interesting stuff, Felix. India prepare flat tracks because it suits their style of play – put on a big first innings score and then let their spinners go to work. Sides like England and South Africa prepare green wickets because they specialise in fast bowling and their players have techniques that can cope with movement off the pitch. So the title ‘flat track bully’ is not an insult, it’s just the way they play. Any side plays less well in conditions that don’t suit them.

    From an English point of view, I think the stats you’ve come up with reflect the fact that it’s much harder for the non-subcontinental sides to travel to the subcontinent than the other way round. A tour of India or Sri Lanka can be a real culture shock for the likes of England and South Africa – the weather conditions are very different and (certainly in England’s case) they don’t seem to play spin very well. To win in the subcontinent is seen as the ultimate challenge for any of the non-subcontinental sides.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know ‘Flat Track Bully’ need not be an insult. But it is used as one, mostly. I try to not read comments on Cricinfo articles and/or be provocated by them. Sometimes I fall prey to temptation :)

      Yes! That’s why cricket (at least test cricket) is awesome! Australia beating India in India is an upset of sorts. India beating Australia in Australia, more so. It’s the same teams, and look how favourites change just by changing the venue! :)

      I’d say touring teams to the subcontinent have it much better than before in today’s era. Earlier, they’d have to deal with drastically different food and weather. At least, with any cuisine available in any part of the world at 5-star hotels where they are put up, they’d only have a hotter, more humid climate to contend with.

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