Stats don’t lie, but sometimes they don’t tell the truth

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

Vernon Philander reminded us that “stats don’t lie”. Damn straight. But sometimes they don’t tell the truth either.

The data on Holkar stadium in Indore, where India and SA clash in the second one-day international on Wednesday, marks one of those times.

Only three matches in the format have been played there, all of them won by the home side. That sample size is too small to take seriously but the numbers make intriguing reading nonetheless.

Blessed or cursed with a small outfield and short straight boundaries, Indore is in an elite club of six venues – four of them in India – that have seen a double hundred in an ODI: Virender Sehwag’s 219 against West Indies in December 2011.

India scored 418/5 that day, good enough for sixth place on the list of the highest ODI totals.

But only one other century has been struck there despite batsmen having reached 50 on 13 other occasions. Only four of those efforts have been by foreigners, who count Denesh Ramdin’s 96 as their highest score.

Thirty-nine wickets have fallen in Indore’s ODIs – most of them to spinners, you would guess. And you would be right but not by much: 20 to slow poison, 19 to the fast, furious stuff.

Wednesday’s match is a day/nighter. The only previous match under lights in Indore was the West Indies game, in which India batted first and won by 153 runs. In the two day games, both against England, they won by 54 runs and seven wickets with five balls to spare.

So, go figure. Not that SA bowling coach Charl Langeveldt was in an analytical mood when he faced the press in Indore yesterday. Rather, he was having what Pink Floyd fans would recognise as a momentary lapse of reason.

“We’ve been really working hard at staying in the moment,” Langeveldt said. “In the past we have had moments where we have lost big moments and at the moment we are trying to stay in the big moments and not trying to change too much.”

That’s five mentions of “moment” in two sentences. But Langeveldt wasn’t a one-word pony.

“In India you don’t give up,” he said. “The saying is always to compete. If you go for six, you compete with the next ball. We are competing every ball.

“They’re not easy conditions to bowl in so the bowlers’ mindset is important and we try and enforce that. If we are competing every ball there’s a good chance we are going to win the game.”

That’s once, twice, three times a competitor: good advice from one of the best there was at “staying in the moment” and “competing”.

As are SA, and handsomely. They have won both completed Twenty20s and they drew first blood in the ODI series in Kanpur on Sunday.

The form of David Miller, who has reached the 40s three times in his last 13 completed innings for SA in the shorter formats without going on to make 50, is a concern, as is the state of Faf du Plessis’ twisted knee.

But those issues are, for now, less important than the only stat that matters: played three, won three. That’s no lie.

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