Test Cricket – better to make your debut at home

Recent research by Shekar Aiyar and Rodney Ramcharan, two IMF economists, has shown that you are more likely to have a successful cricket career if you make your debut in your home country. Playing at home gives a player the advantage of familiar climatic conditions, pitches and also the home crowd. Going through the data on 790 cricketers who made their test debuts between 1950 and 1985, of those who made their debuts at home rather than overseas it raises the average number of runs in their first series by 33% and reduces the numbers of runs conceded by a bowler by 18%. For example, the great Indian opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar’s batting average was about a third higher than that of competent contemporaries such as Keith Fletcher or Larry Gomes. Legendary Australian bowler Dennis Lillee’s average was about 15 percent lower than that of his supporting bowler, Max Walker.

A strong debut seems to lead to a shiner career. Every additional 10 runs scored in a debut series adds an extra 5 runs to a player’s career average. The effects of initial success are similar for bowlers. Obviously a good start builds confidence and an ability to cope with the pressures of Test cricket. A poor performance on debut seems to stick in the minds of the selectors especially if it was made abroad. With the first Ashes Test just completed and if the research is correct, Australia need to blood some new bowlers if there is to be a result in the series.

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