15 Players on the Slide in Test Cricket

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2014

15 Players on the Slide in Test Cricket

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    Despite Sri Lanka capturing a historic Test series victory on English soil this week, the biggest story to emerge from the opening days of the summer is England's ongoing malaise under Alastair Cook. 

    Now eight Tests without a win, significant pressure surrounds England in the first phase of the nation's new era that is still feeling its way without Andy Flower, Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann. 

    But Cook and his teammates aren't the only players in Test cricket enduring difficult stretches of form.

    Across the globe, stars of equal—and, in some cases, even bigger—stature are also battling with the unique and demanding challenges presented by the game's longest format.

    Across the following slides, we examine 15 players who have slipped from previous standards.

How Players Were Evaluated

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    To determine which players are enduring a significant slump in form, the batting and bowling averages of the world's Test stars were examined across two periods.

    First, all accumulated statistics up to Jun. 30, 2013, were examined to gain a base measurement and establish a long-running trend for each player.

    From there, players had their records from Jul. 1, 2013, evaluated in order to identify their form over the most recent 12 months of Test cricket. 

    However, there were a number of players excluded from the process.

    For example, Faf du Plessis experienced a significant drop in his batting average in the last year, but because he had only played a handful of Tests prior to that, his small sample size meant he hadn't yet established a strong body of form to serve as a reliable comparison.

    Additionally, the chopping and changing nature of Test sides resulted in a large quantity of players competing in just one or two Tests, rendering any statistical changes insignificant. 

Vernon Philander

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    Team: South Africa

    Role: Front-line seamer

    Bowling Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 17.13

    Bowling Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 31.65

    Vernon Philander exploded on the Test scene for South Africa after making his debut in 2011, capturing 89 wickets in his first 16 Tests to knock teammate Dale Steyn off the No. 1 spot in the ICC Test Bowling Rankings. 

    However, the scalps have dried up somewhat for the steady right-armer over the last 12 months.

    A lean series in the UAE against Pakistan was followed by a moderate showing at home to India before the arrival of Australia in the rainbow nation—he claimed just seven wickets across six innings—continued Philander's leaner-than-usual run of form. 

Jonathan Trott

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    Team: England

    Role: Top-order batsman

    Batting Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 50.01

    Batting Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 26.00

    While a degree of sensitivity still needs to surround Jonathan Trott's situation, it can't be ignored that he is currently among the most prominent Test cricketers sliding down the game's pecking order.

    Despite entrenching himself as a vital member of England's middle-order between 2009 and 2013, the No. 3 has sadly suffered a rapid decline while dealing with a range of psychological issues. 

    For Trott's sake, it's hoped that his capitulation to Mitchell Johnson in Brisbane doesn't become his final act on the Test stage. 

Murali Vijay

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    Team: India

    Role: Top-order batsman

    Batting Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 38.48

    Batting Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 26.50

    Murali Vijay is one member of MS Dhoni's squad set to tour England who desperately needs a strong summer with the bat.

    Since a pair of brilliant hundreds during his team's thrashing of Australia on home soil last March, the right-handed opener has reached 50 just once in his last 10 innings in the Test arena.

    After scoring just 48 runs in two Tests in New Zealand in February, Vijay will be quickly replaced at the top of India's lineup if his disappointing form continues.  

Morne Morkel

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    Team: South Africa

    Role: Third seamer

    Bowling Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 29.97

    Bowling Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 43.50

    Morne Morkel briefly recaptured his finest form against Australia at Port Elizabeth in February, roughing up Michael Clarke and Co. with extreme hostility on a lifeless pitch.

    But that performance aside, the South African speedster seems to have moved away from the enforcer role that made him so successful, operating as something more of a holding option behind Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.

    While it seems strange to suggest a bowler with the pace and fire of Morkel has ceased intimidating batsman, an improved economy rate (3.26 to 2.76) has coincided with sharp rises in his average and strike rate (55.1 to 94.4), indicating that he's lost some of the venom that initially made him a force. 

Marlon Samuels

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    Team: West Indies

    Role: Middle-order batsman

    Batting Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 37.39

    Batting Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 18:00

    Marlon Samuels has always been an unfulfilled talent for the West Indies, eternally promising to rise alongside some of the Caribbean's finest players only to end up disappointing us all. 

    Now a Test career that began in 2000 could be coming to a close.

    After a wretched run of form with the bat, the talented right-hander recorded a pair of second-ball ducks against New Zealand in Kingston last week, making it three scoreless innings from his last four. 

    Samuels' turbulent ride, therefore, is likely approaching its end. 

Mohammad Hafeez

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    Team: Pakistan

    Role: Top-order batsman

    Batting Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 35.12

    Batting Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 24.57

    The contrasting nature of Test and one-day international cricket is perfectly demonstrated by Mohammad Hafeez's statistics across the last 12 months.

    Despite averaging 50.66 in the 50-over game since July 1, 2013, the versatile 33-year-old has seen his Test form slump, averaging just 24.57 in white clothing during the same stretch.

    Surprisingly, even a two-match encounter with lowly Zimbabwe did little to help Hafeez's form, as he recorded scores of 5, 16, 22 and 16 against the world's No. 9-ranked side.

Matt Prior

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    Team: England

    Role: Keeper-batsman

    Batting Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 44.33

    Batting Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 23.68

    Matt Prior is another of England's players who has endured a torrid stretch of form amid his team's recent difficulties in the Test arena.

    After proving himself as an extremely valuable lower-order counter-attacker until the middle of last year, the keeper-batsman has watched his batting form disappear since the beginning of the 2013 Ashes series.

    Recently dropped for the final two matches of England's disastrous tour of Australia last winter, the 32-year-old will be desperate to repay the faith of the selectors after his recall to the side against Sri Lanka. 

Asad Shafiq

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    Team: Pakistan

    Role: Middle-order batsman

    Batting Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 40.48

    Batting Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 27.09

    When Asad Shafiq brilliantly fought off Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel to score an impressive 111 in Cape Town last February, it felt as though Pakistan had a middle-order star in the making.

    However, since that wonderful innings against the Proteas, the right-hander has struggled, registering just a single century and passing 50 on only one other occasion in his last 15 innings.

    Like Hafeez, the two-Test series against Zimbabwe didn't help the 28-year-old to break out of his slump, which continued in Pakistan's three-match series against Sri Lanka at the beginning of the year.  

MS Dhoni

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    Team: India

    Role: Keeper-batsman

    Batting Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 39.70

    Batting Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 27.77

    India's tour of England this summer likely represents the final Test visit to English shores for MS Dhoni.

    While only 32 years of age, the price of captaining the world's most scrutinised side as a wicket-keeper is bound to take a toll on Dhoni in the coming years.

    The beginning of such an occurrence seems to be already underway, with the Indian superstar's batting averaging slipping substantially across the last 12 months. 

    Indeed, in six Tests against the West Indies, South Africa and New Zealand, the Indian captain reached 50 just once and passed 30 on only two other occasions. 

Chris Gayle

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    Team: West Indies

    Role: Top-order batsman

    Batting Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 42.45

    Batting Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 36.00

    Chris Gayle's gradual decline has been evident across all formats recently, with his failure to reach his typically blistering standard at the ICC World Twenty20 and 2014 Indian Premier League the most notable aspect of his slump. 

    Yet the West Indian's indifferent form has also extended to the Test arena, with the left-hander's only hundred in the last two years struck against Zimbabwe. 

    Although Gayle recaptured some of the magic against New Zealand last week with a blistering 80 not out, the trend is heading in the wrong direction for the 34-year-old. 

Azhar Ali

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    Team: Pakistan

    Role: Top-order batsman

    Batting Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 42.26

    Batting Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 24.80

    Azhar Ali has followed a similar path to Asad Shafiq recently, bursting to prominence in 2012-13 before enduring a horrific run of form thereafter. 

    Indeed, it was the right-hander's three hundreds in seven innings against England and Sri Lanka that announced his arrival as a potential force for Pakistan, but things have disintegrated quite a bit since. 

    Across his last five Tests, the 29-year-old's average has plummeted despite scoring 103 against Sri Lanka in January, as Azhar went eight innings without passing 19. 

Alviro Petersen

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    Team: South Africa

    Role: Top-order batsman

    Batting Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 38.75

    Batting Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 30.10

    Alviro Petersen looked to have secured his place at the top of South Africa's lineup after a strong 2012 season with the bat.

    But the most recent year of the right-hander's career has proved troublesome.

    Without a century since the beginning of 2013, the normally sturdy opener no longer looks like a guaranteed selection in South Africa's squad for the coming 12 months.  

    In and out of his team's XI in the recent clash against Australia, Petersen's technique was exposed by the pace of Mitchell Johnson as he scored just 65 runs in four innings. 

Shane Watson

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    Team: Australia

    Role: All-rounder

    Batting/Bowling Averages to Jun. 30, 2013: 35.34/30.06

    Batting/Bowling Averages since Jul. 1, 2013: 39.42/48.71

    It may seem odd to place Shane Watson on this list, given that his batting average has actually increased over the last 12 months.

    But there's more to it than that.

    The all-rounder's average with the bat has been inflated by two hundreds against England that had no bearing on the result of a series—his 176 at the Oval coming in a dead rubber, while his 103 in Perth was delivered when the visitors had practically conceded the Ashes. 

    When matches and series have been in the balance, Watson's form has been disappointing.

    Additionally, the 33-year-old's ongoing place in team will become dependant upon his ability to contribute with the ball, should his batting form continue to be indifferent.

    In the last year, Watson claimed just seven wickets and has seen his average blow out considerably. 

Peter Fulton

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    Team: New Zealand

    Role: Top-order batsman

    Batting Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 29.04

    Batting Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 19.28

    As a late bloomer, Peter Fulton's batting average has never been outstanding, but his recent run of form suggests his career could be reaching its end.

    After surprising England with a pair of hundreds in Auckland in 2013, it appeared that the now-35-year-old was capable of enjoying a late-career surge similar to that of Australia's Chris Rogers. 

    But Fulton's run-scoring has been brought to an abrupt halt, going on a staggering run of 10 innings without a score above 13. 

Alastair Cook

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    Team: England

    Role: Top-order batsman

    Batting Average to Jun. 30, 2013: 49.17

    Batting Average since Jul. 1, 2013: 25.04

    Alastair Cook's ongoing battle with form is becoming a major headache for England, with the captain's under-fire leadership skills being highlighted more than ever during his barren run with the bat.

    Now without a Test hundred in his last 24 innings, Cook's alarming slump has been a major component of his side's malaise, culminating in consecutive series defeats to Australia and Sri Lanka.

    Worryingly, it appears that the 29-year-old's technique has been worked out by the world's bowlers, his inclination to stay deep in his crease currently being exposed. 


    All statistics courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo.