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Opinion

Tim Paine is not the wicketkeeping messiah with the bat

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Roar Guru
1st December, 2021
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Tim Paine is out of the Ashes and he may not play Test cricket again after taking an indefinite break. While it’s a loss to the Australian team the notion that Paine is great based on averages or even a better batsman than Ian Healy is misplaced.

Does Alex Carey or Josh Inglis really have a lot to live up to when it comes to wielding the willow in Paine’s place this summer and beyond?

How does Paine really compare with Ian Healy, the last of the long-term traditional wicket keepers for Australia? Obviously, neither (Carey or Inglis) will be another Gilchrist and the next best batsman among our regular keepers of the last 50 years was arguably Brad Haddin. Rodney Marsh was also apparently pretty good during the 1970s until around the time of World Series Cricket as I understand it, given I only started following the game in late 1981.

It really does raise my eyebrows in amusement any time Tim Paine’s batting gets compared to Ian Healy’s. Paine was not a monumental failure in Test match batting by any stretch of the imagination, but in terms of impact performances, he did not come close to Healy.

It is not relevant what they averaged overall per dismissal or even that Paine was not out every 5.7 innings, Healy only every 7.9. It’s not even especially relevant that Paine reached 50 every 6.5 innings, Healy every 7. It’s potentially relevant that Healy scored some Test centuries and Paine didn’t, but not purely in itself – the circumstances of all such innings need to be dissected and analysed.

A traditional keeper’s role in a team is not to puff up his average at every opportunity, but to make a worthwhile contribution on the (hopefully) rare occasions when the majority of batsmen ahead of him in the order mal-function on the same day. All that matters is what’s done on the day in relation to what’s needed on the day taking into account the circumstances of the day.

I have formed some basic guidelines in order to do a proper comparison between keepers when they have the willow in hand.

The first thing to do is set a par competitive team total when batting first, and I feel 300 is a sound number. I am not talking about only scoring 300 when it is a 450 pitch, I am talking about the 1-6 batsmen miss-firing to such an extent that when the keeper comes in at five down, the team, from that point would happily settle for 300 if offered. I feel that if a keeper comes in at 5 for 200 batting first, then if he scores 50, the team should reach 300.

Therefore, when the keeper comes in at 5 for less than 300, I will halve the difference as the expected contribution, and then treat the actual contribution as a success percentage in such times of need. For example, the keeper comes in at 5 for 180, then the expected contribution is 60, and if he only makes 45, then the success percentage will be 75(%).

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However, I will cap expected contributions in any situation at 60, as it is unreasonable to be expecting keepers to make big hundreds on a regular basis – when they do so, it should be looked upon as a bonus. Making 60 in a bowled-out total of 220 having come in at 5 for 100 may well have fallen short of the aforementioned par 300, but it can also be considered effective damage control.

I will also cap the success percentage at 100(%). For example, when Healy went to the crease in the third innings of the first Test of the 1993 Ashes series, the lead Australia had at the time has me capping his 102 not out at a mere 25, so in the Appendix at the end, this is treated as 100% success, not 408%. Healy’s other three Test centuries were all needed in their full final amount, but still will be considered as a mere 100% of the aforementioned maximum expectation of 60.

When batting second, I am going to borrow Renato Carini’s need for a lead of 50 to leave the match evenly poised at the completion of both first innings. Therefore, the needed contribution from the keeper will be half of whatever number short of that lead they are when he goes in. For example, the opposition scores 300 and then they are 5 for 250 in reply, the contributional need from the keeper will be 50, once again capped at 100% success should he score more than that.

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Chasing in the fourth innings works the same way as replying in the second. For example, in the Port Elizabeth chase in early 1997, Healy went in at six down, 12 runs still to get, so the needed contribution was 6, rounded back to 5 – it is easier to work in 5’s and 0s i.e., 17 becomes 15 while 18 becomes 20.

The third innings simply calculates half of the remaining amount needed to get to what can be deemed a safe lead. In good batting conditions, I set this at 400, but this can be lowered depending on the conditions. For example, in the second Test in Melbourne in the 1994-95 Ashes, no expert commentator at the time would have given England any hope of chasing more than 250. Therefore, all of Healy’s runs going in at 5 for 348 are to be considered junk runs, and both Paine and Healy have their fair share of these.

A fourth innings where the team was not actively chasing the target, but rather merely trying to survive out the final day will see runs numerically disregarded, and the focus will be on the number of overs left when Healy or Paine came in. When coming in at five down, it will be deemed that they needed to survive for half the remaining deliveries in order to be awarded the 100-success percentage.

Healy faced this situation on five occasions during the June 1993 to December 1998 period, and he scores 100% twice, 50% once and only 15% on each of the other two occasions for an overall success percentage of 56.1. Paine only faced two such situations and he scores 100% and 51.5% for an overall success percentage of 75.8. These tiny number of occasions are not part of the Appendix at the end.

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During their respective careers, Healy and Paine faced lost cause situations in the third or fourth innings on seven occasions each and runs made, big or small, will be completely disregarded for this study.

For the first four and a half years of his career, Healy actually under achieved with the bat. He scored the occasional small half century when needed, but it took a piece of really good advice from coach Bob Simpson to get him to work as hard on his batting as he did his keeping. That piece of advice had such an affect on Healy that he wrote it down and kept the piece of paper in his kit bag for the rest of his career.

It read: FULLY EXPLORE YOUR BATTING HORIZONS, SO FAR ONLY A SMALL PORTION OF YOUR ABILITY HAS BEEN GLIMPSED.

That was just before the 1993 Ashes and it led to Healy’s prime years with the bat which lasted until the first innings of the Melbourne Test in late December 1998. This is the period of Healy’s career I will be dissecting, as during this phase, he played 94 innings, 65% more than Paine played in his entire career.

Here are the results of this proper analysis:

Apart from the aforementioned five and two pure last-day survival situations faced by Healy and Paine respectively, as well as the seven lost cause situations for each, Australia needed at least 25 from Healy on 44 out of the remaining 82 innings which is 53.6% of the time. In Paine’s remaining 48 innings 25 or more were needed from him on 31 occasions which is 64.6% of the time.

Under the circumstances of the previous bullet point, Healy reached at least 25 22 times when at least 25 were needed from him which is 50%, while Paine did the same 15 times which is 48.4%.

Of those respective afore outlined 44 and 31 times of need, on 39 occasions Australia needed at least 35 runs from Healy and he provided that amount or more on 18 occasions which is 46.2%. At least 35 runs were needed from Paine on 28 occasions and he scored this amount or more 11 times which is 39.3%.
The team needed at least 50 from Healy on 32 occasions and he delivered on 10 of those which is 31.3%. The team needed 50 or more from Paine on 22 occasions and he delivered just four times which is 18.2%.

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In relation to the previous bullet point, there were also five more of the remaining 22 (from 32) occasions that Healy delivered at least 60% of run needs in the 50-60 range with percentages of 60, 61.7, 73.3, 78.3 and 94. Paine on the other hand only delivered more than 60% of a 50-60 run need on two others occasions, 60 and 68.1 in the remaining 18 (from 22 occasions of such team needs).

When we factor in those percentages of the previous bullet point, we can say that from the 32 occasions Australia needed Healy to make 50 or more, on 46.7% of occasions, he delivered, on average, 86.7% of such needs. From 22 innings of the same 50 plus scoring need from Paine, on only 27.3% of occasions, did he, on average, deliver 88.1% of such needs.

In order to match Healy’s numbers in the previous bullet point, in those 16 other innings (from 22) where he didn’t score at least 60% of the 50 plus team need, Paine would pretty much needed to have doubled his tally of four half centuries in such situations, and half of those i.e., two of them, would have needed to continue on to become centuries.

This is remembering also that Healy was confronted with a need to score 50 or more in a 45.5% greater number of innings than Paine i.e., 32 as opposed to 22.

What this study shows is that when the team need was for at least 25 runs, Paine almost matched Healy, but started to drop off the pace when the team need rose to 35 (runs). When the team need was for 50 runs or more from either of these two keepers, Paine was not even in the same galaxy as Healy.

So, whoever of Carey or Inglis is chosen, if he is as good as people say he is, then it shouldn’t be too long before Paine’s performance with the bat is emulated. Stick with him for a period of decent duration and Australia will be extremely well served if he can eventually match Healy’s temperament and toughness in a crisis. After that, it will be a bonus if he can emulate a batsman like Haddin, who, as I remember him, also had a great temperament in tough situations as well as a speed of scoring that would have been the envy of most of his colleagues ahead of him in the batting order.

The Appendix below shows a breakdown of the 94 and 57 innings of Healy and Paine respectively which was drawn up after studying each and every match scorecard.
Just a note on how to read the tables: a + or – symbol in the scores when the batsman went to the wicket in second or third innings indicates the lead or deficit at that point, while in the fourth innings it indicates the number of runs still needed to win.

Innings of match Score when he came in Runs needed by Healy from team Runs he scored % Success
1st 5 for 232 35 0 0
3rd 5 for +331 25 102 not out 100
2nd 4 for -71 60 9 15
4th 5 down 15
2nd 5 for -43 50 80 100
2nd 5 for -216 60 83 not out 100
4th Lost Cause Target of 391 at the Oval 1993
1st 5 for 164 60 113 not out 100
1st 5 for 501 0 1 n/a
2nd 5 for +203 0 15 n/a
1st 5 for 300 0 7 not out n/a
2nd 5 for +10 20 19 95
4th 6 for -45 20 1 5
1st 5 for 391 0 0 n/a
3rd 5 for +299 0 14 not out n/a
2nd 5 for -109 60 11 18.3
4th Lost Cause Target of 428 in Johannesburg
2nd 5 for -51 25 61 100
1st 5 for 123 60 55 91.7
1st 5 for 216 45 57 100
3rd 5 for +255 25 8 *** 86.7
1st 5 for 347 0 58 n/a
1st 5 for 352 0 7 n/a
3rd 5 for +442 0 45 not out n/a
1st 5 for 171 60 17 28.3
3rd 5 for +342 0 17 n/a
2nd 5 for 391 60 10 16.7
4th 5 down 15.7
2nd 5 for -121 60 74 100
4th 5 down Healy was not out batsman 100
1st 5 for 287 10 12 100
3rd 6 for +433 0 11 not out n/a
2nd 5 for +4 25 74 not out 100
1st 5 for 126 60 14 23.3
3rd 5 for +152 60 26 43.3
1st Trinidad 1995
3rd Trinidad 1995
2nd 5 for +152 0 6 n/a
1st 5 for 385 0 18 n/a
1st 5 for 156 60 37 61.7
3rd 5 for +302 10 24 100
2nd 5 for -117 60 6 10
4th 3 for -130 ***25 7 28
1st 5 for 395 0 41 100
1st 5 for 196 55 70 100
1st 5 for 143 60 17 28.3
3rd Lost Cause 179 deficit Came in at 5 for -34 n/a
1st 5 for 196 55 161 not out 100
3rd 5 for +391 0 45 not out n/a
1st 5 for 131 60 44 73.3
3rd 4 for +301 0 22 not out n/a
1st 5 for 129 60 36 60
3rd 5 for +28 60 0 0
2nd 5 for +158 0 12 n/a
1st 5 for 169 60 7 11.7
3rd Lost Cause 141 deficit Came in at 5 for -59 n/a
2nd 6 for +275 0 11 n/a
2nd 6 for -139 60 5 8.8
4th 6 for -12 10 10 100
1st 6 for 197 50 19 38
3rd Lost Cause 157 deficit Came in at 6 for -49 n/a
1st 5 for 48 60 0 0
3rd Lost Cause 360 deficit Came in at 5 for +40 n/a
2nd 6 for +82 0 13 not out n/a
1st 5 for 113 60 9 15
3rd 5 for +205 50 47 94
2nd 5 for +146 0 31 n/a
1st 5 for 325 0 11 n/a
3rd 5 for +285 10 63 100
2nd 5 for -30 40 2 5
4th 5 for -70 35 14 40
1st 5 for 108 60 68 100
3rd 1 for +48 25 25 100
2nd 5 for +45 0 85 n/a
1st 5 for 266 15 16 100
1st 5 for 222 40 16 40
3rd 5 for +225 15 4 26.7
2nd 5 for +30 35 46 not out 100
2nd 5 for -254 60 1 1.7
4th 5 down 50
2nd 5 for -90 45 90 100
4th 6 down Healy was not out batsman ***100
1st 5 for 141 60 11 18.3
3rd Lost Cause 400 deficit Came in at 4 for -319 n/a
2nd 5 for -126 60 4 6.7
2nd 5 for +83 0 82 n/a
3rd 5 for +288 0 14 not out n/a
1st 5 for 179 60 47 78.3
3rd 5 for +312 0 3 n/a
1st 5 for 178 60 134 100
2nd 5 for +97 0 12 n/a
1st 5 for 274 15 13 86.7
3rd 5 for +432 0 7 not out n/a
2nd 5 for -119 60 36 60
Innings of match Score when he came in Runs needed by Paine from team Runs he scored % Success
1st 5 for 174 60 7 11.7
3rd 6 for +293 45 47 100
1st 5 for 41 60 17 28.3
3rd Lost Cause 160 deficit Came in at 5 for +4 n/a
1st 5 for 222 40 92 100
3rd 5 for +177 10 9 90
1st 5 for 256 25 59 100
3rd 5 for +114 60 23 38.3
2nd 5 for -127 60 13 21.7
1st 5 for 209 45 59 100
3rd 5 for +186 25 11 44
2nd 5 for +156 0 49 not out n/a
1st 5 for 278 10 24 100
2nd 5 for +148 0 38 not out n/a
1st 5 for 177 60 25 41.7
3rd 5 for +345 25 14 56
1st 4 for 161 60 36 60
3rd Lost Cause 139 deficit Came in at 5 for +34
2nd 5 for -211 60 34 not out *** 100
4th Lost Cause Target of 430 in Cape Town
2nd 5 for 96 60 62 100
4th Lost Cause Target of 612 in Johannesburg
2nd 5 for -311 60 7 11.7
4th 5 down Paine was a not out batsman 100
2nd 6 for -247 60 3 5
4th Lost Cause Target of 538 in Abu Dhabi
2nd 5 for 120 60 5 8.3
4th 5 for -208 60 41 68.3
1st 5 for 232 35 38 100
3rd 5 for +235 10 37 100
2nd 5 for -401 60 22 36.7
4th Lost Cause Target of 399 in Melbourne
2nd 5 for -424 60 5 8.3
2nd 6 for +128 0 0 n/a
1st 5 for 404 0 45 not out n/a
1st 5 for 105 60 5 8.3
3rd 5 for +241 0 34 n/a
2nd 5 for -156 60 23 38.3
4th 5 down 51.5
1st 5 for 139 60 11 18.3
3rd 5 for +275 0 0 n/a
1st 5 for 224 40 58 100
3rd 5 for +335 0 23 not out n/a
2nd 5 for -184 60 1 1.7
4th Lost Cause Target of 399 at The Oval
2nd 5 for +216 0 13 n/a
1st 5 for 301 0 39 n/a
3rd 5 for +410 0 0 n/a
1st 5 for 284 10 79 100
1st 5 for 331 0 35 n/a
2nd 5 for -165 60 73 not out 100
1st 5 for 134 60 13 21.7
3rd Lost Cause 131 deficit Came in at 5 for -33
1st 5 for 249 25 1 4
3rd 5 for +302 50 39 not out *** 100
1st 5 for 213 45 50 100
3rd 5 for +229 50 27 54
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