Every Batsman Has Their Weakness, But What About “The Fab Four”?

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CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 23: Kane Williamson of New Zealand is bowled by Jackson Bird of Australia during day four of the Test match between New Zealand and Australia at Hagley Oval on February 23, 2016 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Every Batsman Has Their Weakness, But What About “The Fab Four”?

Every batsman is usually a bunny to at least one bowler. Only an elite few are exempt from this. There are some very famous ‘bunny combinations’: Graeme Smith and Zaheer Khan, Sachin Tendulkar and James Anderson. This begs the question of who can easily dismiss Steve Smith, if that is even possible. What about Virat Kohli and Joe Root? This article looks at the bowlers who can claim the world’s current best Test batsmen as their bunnies. The “Fab Four” are certainly not invincible.

Steve Smith

Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah can claim the number one ranked Test batsman Steve Smith as his bunny. The pair have encountered each other in nine innings, with Shah dismissing the Australian skipper an incredible six times.

Out of the five Tests the two have played against each other, three have been played in Australia – in significantly less spin-friendly conditions. Shah has dismissed Smith three out of four times in the UAE and three out of five times in Australia. Thus, it is clear that the leg-spinner does not purely rely on turning pitches to outfox the world’s best batsman.
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In the Adelaide Test between Australia and Pakistan, in January of last year, Shah dismissed Smith both times in that Test. This also happened in the first meeting between the two players, in the UAE (Dubai, 2014). Incidentally, this was Yasir’s debut.

We can analyse the nature of the dismissals to determine more about the ‘bunny relationship’.

Out of the six dismissals, Smith has been caught four times, LBW once. Three out of the four catches have been close around the bat. Interestingly, Smith’s weakness has been when Yasir has set-up with flighted deliveries and then fired in flatter, quicker balls.

Smith has been deceived like this on numerous occasions, resulting in him being late on the cut shot. This has lead to him finding the man at point or nicking off to Sarfraz behind the stumps.

Under the current future tours programme, as proposed by the ICC, Australia are set to tour the UAE/Pakistan in October of this year. It will be interesting to see how the battle continues then.

Kane Williamson

New Zealand stalwart Kane Williamson usually fares well in the subcontinent. Williamson’s career average is just over fifty, while he averages over 45 in Asia. This is a fairly impressive achievement, most batsmen struggle to perform consistently in this area of the world.

After struggling against Indian left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, Kane Williamson has since established himself as Ravichandran Ashwin’s bunny. Admittedly there are a lot of batmsen who find themselves frequently dismissed by India’s premier spinner, but Williamson’s otherwise strong performance in Asia shows its not a weakness against spin in general but against Ashwin himself.
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They have met each other in eight innings, across four Test matches. Ojha dismissed the New Zealand skipper in the first three innings. However, Ashwin has since then dismissed Williamson every single time. Indeed, the last five times Williamson has faced Ashwin in an innings in a Test match, Ashwin has got him out.

This is quite a remarkable feat and shows a real inability to deal with Ashwin, since he usually thrives in Asian conditions. The dismissals can be broken down as thus:

LBW: twice, bowled: twice, caught behind: once.

Ashwin clearly enjoys bowling at Williamson.

Virat Kohli

It may not be surprising to hear that Virat Kohli is James Anderson’s bunny. However, unlike the others, there is a caveat here. Kohli plays Anderson with ease in the subcontinent but has struggled against him desperately on the green tops in England. Again, this may not come as a surprise.

When the pair have met in India, Anderson has only dismissed Kohli once in seven matches. Furthermore, Kohli averages 73.90 in those encounters, with three hundreds at a highest score of 235. Nothing about these statistics would indicate that Kohli has a weakness against England’s great seamer.

It is when we examine Kohli’s record in England that we see the cracks in his otherwise strong facade. In matches where Kohli has played in England, with Anderson featuring for the hosts, he averages a miserly 13.40 with an abysmal high score of 39.
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Anderson in particular was the cause of his failures. England’s frontline quick has dismissed him four times in the ten matches, the most out of any of England’s pace attack. This included Anderson dismissing him twice in the fourth Test match at Manchester, removing him for scores of 0 and 7.

With India touring England this summer, Kohli will be pitted against his chief tormentor in challenging conditions. Now is his chance to quash Anderson’s dominance and to silence his critics.

Joe Root

England skipper Joe Root is unlike the other members of the “Fab Four” in the sense that he is not the bunny of anyone playing at the moment. Against the world’s current bowlers, no one in particular stands out in being able to dismiss Root cheaply regularly.

If we look a bit further back in time, it can be argued that Root struggled against Australia seamer Ryan Harris. Overall, Root was dismissed five times in eighteen innings. These dismissals were shared fairly even across both Australia and England, meaning that, unlike in the case of Kohli, there is no paradigm of Root specifically struggling against Harris in either set of conditions.

Thus, I think it is fair to conclude that Harris, the bowler who has dismissed Root the most, cannot claim him as his bunny. Root is perhaps then the only member of the “Fab Four” not to have a bunny.

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