February 24, 2017

Mr Inconsistents

There is no doubting the batting talent of Shaun Marsh and KL Rahul, but both have been plagued by inconsistency in their Test careers so far

For both Marsh and Rahul, the top 20% of their Test innings account for most of their runs © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

All numbers exclude the ongoing Test between India and Australia in Pune.

When they are at their best, both Shaun Marsh and KL Rahul look a million dollars: their strokeplay is elegant and effortless, they have all the shots in the book and then some, and they generally make batting look easy. Both have adjusted to different formats quite well, scoring heavily in T20s and in Test cricket. However, both are still striving to prove they can be consistent Test batsmen, and that they can combine grace and elegance with runs on a regular basis.

So far, Test cricket has been a mixed bag for the two. They have both notched up some big scores - Marsh's highest Test score is 182, while Rahul made 199 earlier this season - but both have also developed a habit of making a string of low scores between those big ones.

Marsh's blow-hot, blow-cold career has been particularly frustrating for Australia for several years. He started in Tests with scores of 141 and 81 in difficult conditions in Sri Lanka in 2011, but then, in the home season that followed, when the rest of the Australia top order feasted on India's feeble attack, Marsh had a horror series, with scores of 0, 3, 0, 11, 3, 0 - 17 runs in six innings. Similarly, an outstanding hundred in Centurion in 2014 was followed by a pair in the next Test. To be fair to Marsh, he has been more consistent recently, with two hundreds and a fifty in his last five innings, but then injuries have struck at inopportune moments to rob his career of momentum.

Rahul hasn't gone past 10 in 11 of his 21 Test innings © Associated Press

Rahul is much younger - 24 to Marsh's 33 - and is in the early stages of his international career. That means he is allowed more time to find his feet, and is allowed more failures, but for a player of his ability, he too has had far too many failures: he has been dismissed for ten runs or fewer in 11 out of 21 innings.

A split of their careers - looking at their top 20% innings and the rest - tells the story of their up-and-down performances in Tests so far. In the top 20% of their innings, both Marsh and Rahul average more than 120, with Rahul averaging almost 144, thanks to scores of 199, 158, 110 and 108. In the remaining 80% of their innings, though, their average drops to less than 20; Rahul's average is less than 14. In terms of aggregates, Rahul has, in his top 20% innings, scored almost 2.5 times as many runs as he has in the remaining innings, while for Marsh the ratio is 1.81.

Shaun Marsh and KL Rahul in Tests
  Shaun Marsh KL Rahul
  Inngs Runs Ave % runs Inngs Runs Ave % runs
Top 20% inngs 7 854 122.00 64.45 4 575 143.75 71.25
The rest 27 471 18.12 35.55 17 232 13.65 28.75
Career 34 1325 40.15 100 21 807 38.42 100

Test runs for Marsh and Rahul, in top 20% and remaining innings
Batsman Runs - top 20% inngs Remaining inngs Ratio
Shaun Marsh 854 471 1.81
KL Rahul 575 232 2.48

For the top players, averaging more than 100 in the top 20% of their innings isn't uncommon. In the top 20% of their innings, Virat Kohli, Steven Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson all score more than 120 runs per innings. (These aren't averages, as not-outs are not excluded from the number of innings batted.) On that front, both Marsh and Rahul are right up there with the best.

Where these stars score over Marsh and Rahul, though, is in managing the remaining 80% of their batting performances. While Marsh and Rahul have averaged less than 20 in those innings, Smith, Kohli, Root and Williamson have all averaged in excess of 27, with Smith's average touching 34. (In the top 20% innings, not-outs have been included as innings batted, while in the lower 80%, not-outs have been excluded, to omit instances of batsmen being not out for low scores. Even when not-outs are included, the runs-per-innings figure is still fairly healthy for all four - 29.81 for Smith, 25.97 for Kohli, 26.95 for Root, and 26.12 for Williamson.)

Test records of Smith, Kohli, Root and Williamson
  Top 20% inngs The rest  
Batsman Inngs Runs RpI Inngs Runs Ave Runs ratio
Steven Smith 18 2546 141.44 74 2206 33.93 1.15
Virat Kohli 18 2529 140.50 74 1922 27.85 1.32
Joe Root 20 2492 124.60 78 2102 29.60 1.19
Kane Williamson 21 2587 123.19 85 2220 27.75 1.17

The median values for these batsmen is another good indicator of consistency, or the lack of it. Rahul has played 21 innings in Tests, and his 11th-highest score in these innings is 10; that means he has scored ten or more runs in only half the innings he has played, while in the other half he has made ten or fewer runs. Similarly for Marsh, the median score (which is the average of his 17th and 18th-highest scores, in 34 innings), is 17.5.

These are incredibly low median scores for top-order batsmen, and are illustrative of high failure rates: Marsh, for instance, has seven ducks in 34 innings, while Root has three in 98. The medians for the four other players discussed in this piece are all in excess of 28; in fact, the medians for Kohli, Root and Williamson are all within a range of 0.5 of each other.

These four players all have averages of more than 50, but perhaps more illustrative would be to compare Marsh and Rahul's median numbers with that of Murali Vijay, Rahul's opening partner in the Indian team. His average isn't much better than Rahul's, and is very close to that of Marsh, but his median score is 26, compared with Rahul's 10 and Marsh's 17.5. Incidentally, David Warner's median score is 29 as well.

Median scores in Tests for Smith, Root, Williamson and Kohli
Batsman Inngs Average Median score
 Steven Smith  92  60.15  33.50
 Joe Root  98  52.80  29.00
 Kane Williamson  106  50.07  29.00
 Virat Kohli  92  51.75  28.50

Median scores in Tests for Rahul, Marsh, Vijay and Warner
Batsman Inngs Average Median score
 KL Rahul  21  38.42  10.00
 Shaun Marsh  34  40.15  17.50
 Murali Vijay  82  40.67  26.00
 David Warner  111  49.16  29.00

These are early days in international cricket for Rahul, but for both him and Marsh, greater consistency will be crucial if they are to cement their places in the Test line-ups for their countries.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. @rajeshstats

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • David on March 3, 2017, 2:53 GMT

    Shaun Marsh is super talented but never gone near reaching his potential because of what goes on in his head. He has the age and experience now so could come good and be a permanent member of the side for the next 2 or 3 years however if he can't deliver for the rest of the series where he has been picked for the conditions, he could well be banished from the Aus lineup for good.

  • Sriram on March 2, 2017, 13:21 GMT

    A more interesting contrasting comparison would be with Chet Pujara - who probably doesn't do as well in the top 20% scores, but his remaining 80% is very good.

  • Phil on March 2, 2017, 13:20 GMT

    Marsh has to be the luckiest player in the history of Australian test cricket. How is it that he is selected ahead of players who have clearly better stats. e.g. Khawaja has a test ave of 48 versus Marsh's of 38! Explain that??

    The situation with regards the continued selection of the Marsh brothers warrants an internal investigation into Aussie selection.

  • rajkum6762002 on March 2, 2017, 7:29 GMT

    The comparison and rating is to unfair. He doesn't played a whole series, he came as a replacement and proved, then got injury & came back played only two/three matches. Need to give a whole series time without putting any pressure on him. Look at his first-class average, no one will say he is Inconsistent(Also see march fist-class average). But need to maintain his fitness without any injury concern.

  • Mustansir on February 28, 2017, 7:10 GMT

    Rahul is nothing but dhawan Part II. and one more thing that is common between marsh & rahul is that both have terrible fitness record. both are injury prone.

  • Jose on February 28, 2017, 6:58 GMT

    Two aspects:

    1. Timing in career (This is for all)

    Are we trying to compare two sons? I mean, suns? Sun, an hour after sunrise can't be compared with a sun an hour before sunset. Can we?

    It may be the same case, when we compare the son of one Mr Lokesh with the one of Mr Geoff. Probably.


    2: A minor issue with Statistics (Only meant for S Rajesh)

    It is tricky one. Bit uncomfortable getting into it, after I was told by @Percy_Fender, once, asking me to use a language humans can understand! When I used a bit of 'legalese'! Yet, I will leave the thought, for those who are interested in that kind of stuff (other than S Rajesh) to mull over. Only a hint though. The problems in comparing "averages" (mean, mode or median, doesn't matter) without looking at the "standard deviations", also considering the differences in sample sizes. I do promise, will not get into a discussion on this, boring the hell out of most!

  • cornel1376908 on February 27, 2017, 8:36 GMT

    Shaun Marsh's problem is that he is too inconsistent, which of course is the point of this excellent article. He has had a very good run for someone of average quality, but now is the time to let him go

  •   Gaurav Sethi on February 26, 2017, 16:07 GMT

    Thing is Rahul has played more in low scoring matches in India. Test matches has been getting over in 3 days and less. On the other hand we have seen ridiculous flat batting paradises in Australia and elsewhere recently.

  • KISH on February 26, 2017, 13:30 GMT

    Rahul scores 64 in India's score of 105 in a minefield and now, we have someone suggesting he has been inconsistent. Can't you time this article any worse? Why do we bother if he has been inconsistent? Are you suggesting India should drop Rahul for the next match, because his median score is 10 ? May be Australia can drop Shaun Marsh (which they wouldn't. Because, he is in the team as a specialist for the subcontinent conditions and soon or later he will deliver). But, Rahul is only 21 innings old.

  • kieran on February 26, 2017, 7:13 GMT

    I don't know if this applies to Rahul, but Marsh suffers from his SR, he's a very slow starter. Marsh likes to build an innings, even in the short formats he's watchful and plays himself in before opening up. In only 22% of his innings is Marsh's SR is >50. So he's a slow starter, and a poor starter, not a great combination. But he's got a decent conversion rate (4 100's, 5 50's), and 2 100's (+ a 50) in his last 4 tests, I'm hopeful we'll see an innings of substance on this tour.

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