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February 15, 2008

Trivia - bowling

Bowler consistency analysis - a follow-up

Anantha Narayanan
Muttiah Muralitharan fires down another delivery, Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Kandy, December 5, 2007
 © AFP
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The post on "Bowler Consistency" received many comments, some silly, some sceptical, some dismissive, some appreciative and some happy at the thinking process it initiated. There were many relevant comments, which warrant a follow-up post.

First of all, an apology to the readers. I used "spell" when I really meant "innings spell". A spell is an uninterrupted stint of bowling. What I really meant was the bowling done during an innings. So I have coined an alternate term called "innspell" which is exactly what it means, the complete bowling effort during an innings, often consisting of multiple spells. Many thanks to the readers who took me to task on this issue.

There were many relevant comments on bowler strike-rates and other pertinent measures such as bowling support, pressure situations, bowling accuracy etc. I do not want to mix up the criteria. Bowler strike-rate is not to be confused with the ability of bowlers to be more consistent. That is one of the most important of bowler measures and warrants a separate post. A similar situation exists with the other measures as well.

I am also determined that I will keep the analysis as simple as when the post started. Finally, one factor should not be forgotten: what I have stated is that if a spin bowler bowls 11 overs or above and takes at least a wicket, this innspell is considered to be a success as compared to a bowler who bowls a similar innspell and comes out wicketless. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this statement.

However the one comment which also impressed me a lot was the suggestion to reward bowlers for taking more than one wicket in an innsspell. Hence I have added a simple linear weightage factor to a successful innsspell. For each wicket captured, a weightage of 10% is given. Thus a 1-wkt capture makes this value as 1.1, 2-wkt capture as 1.2 and so on upto the two 10-wicket captures of Laker and Kumble as 2.0. This tweak should satisfy most readers. The Bowler Consistency Index value is computed as a % of "number of relevant spells x 2.0".

Readers will note that this method will increase the consistency ratings of bowlers who have captured more wickets in their career. An alternative would have been to consider a one-wickett haul to have a value of 1.0 and anything more as 1.1. This would still have left the disparity between insspells which fetched two wickets, and those that fetched more than two.

The most significant comment was that 30 innspells are not sufficient. The lowering of the bar has allowed quite a few relatively insignificant bowlers to walk through at the expense of bowlers who have served for longer periods. Hence I have raised the bar, and considered only the bowlers who have bowled a minimum of 50 innspells, which translates to around 30 Tests, possibly 4-5 years of Test cricket. A total of 143 bowlers have qualified under this criteria compared to 276 bowlers with the lower cut-off.

There were a few (mostly unwarranted) comments on Mervyn Dillon. He has taken 131 wickets in 38 Tests, not a bad haul. Just taking a "wickets per Test" criterion, he is ahead of more well-known bowlers such as Derek Underwood, Kapil Dev, Vaas, Zaheer Khan, Daniel Vettori, Sarfraz Nawaz, Michael Kasprowicz and S Venkataraghavan. Comments should be made only after verifying facts and making allowance for his playing in a weak West Indies team all his career.

The revised table is given below.

Bowler Consistency Analysis (Revised with weightage) - Min 50 relevant spells
<----Innspells---->
SNo Bowler            Bow Ctry  Mat Relevant Successful BCIdx  Wkts Wkt/IS
Total
1.Muralitharan M    ROB  Slk  118    201     267.3    66.49   723  3.60
2.Grimmett C.V      RLB  Aus   37     66      84.6    64.09   216  3.27
3.Kumble A          RLB  Ind  125    215     262.4    61.02   604  2.81
4.Hadlee R.J        RFM  Nzl   86    138     168.1    60.91   431  3.12
5.Bedi B.S          LSP  Ind   67    107     129.6    60.56   266  2.49
6.Warne S.K         RLB  Aus  145    250     302.8    60.56   708  2.83
7.Donald A.A        RF   Saf   72    124     150.0    60.48   330  2.66
8.Trueman F.S       RF   Eng   67    115     138.7    60.30   307  2.67
9.Lillee D.K        RF   Aus   70    124     149.5    60.28   355  2.86
10.Gupte S.P         RLB  Ind   36     54      64.9    60.09   149  2.76
11.Dillon M          RFM  Win   38     55      66.1    60.09   131  2.38
12.Imran Khan        RF   Pak   88    125     150.2    60.08   362  2.90
13.MacGill S.C.G     RLB  Aus   42     76      91.3    60.07   203  2.67
14.Wasim Akram       LFM  Pak  104    161     192.4    59.75   414  2.57
15.Danish Kaneria    RLB  Pak   51     84     100.0    59.52   220  2.62
16.Croft C.E.H       RF   Win   27     50      59.5    59.50   125  2.50
17.Chandrasekhar B.S RLB  Ind   58     87     103.2    59.31   242  2.78
18.Saqlain Mushtaq   ROB  Pak   49     78      91.8    58.85   208  2.67
19.Gough D           RF   Eng   58     91     106.9    58.74   229  2.52
20.Laker J.C         ROB  Eng   46     77      90.3    58.64   193  2.51
21.Trumble H         ROB  Aus   32     53      62.1    58.58   141  2.66
22.Ambrose C.E.L     RF   Win   98    164     191.5    58.38   405  2.47
23.Marshall M.D      RF   Win   81    147     171.6    58.37   376  2.56
24.Bishop I.R        RF   Win   43     67      78.1    58.28   161  2.40
25.Cork D.G          RFM  Eng   37     57      66.1    57.98   131  2.30
(Click here for the full table.)

Muralitharan is on top, followed by Grimmett, Kumble, Hadlee and Bedi. This is not a bad quintet. The next five bowlers are Warne, Donald, Trueman, Lillee and Subash Gupte. There should be no complaints there either. The top 25 table now includes most bowling stalwarts, which should satisfy most readers. The weightage of values and raising the cut-off bar has taken away most of the lesser, shorter-duration bowlers.

I have added another variable, the average wickets per innspell, which is indicative of the bowler performance. Muralitharan is way ahead of the other bowlers, having taken 3.6 wickets per innspell. Compare the numbers for some of the other greats. Donald - 2.66, Kumble - 2.81, Pollock - 2.30, Warne - 2.83, Lillee - 2.86 and Ambrose - 2.47. It shows what a wonderful wicket-taking bowler Muralitharan is, even if you concede that the bowler at the other end was not always competing with him in taking wickets. Note also that Flintoff is the only bowler in the top-50 whose wickets per innsspell figure is less than two.

The unfortunate aspect of increasing the cut-off is that this has excluded the pre-World War I all-time greats such as Sydney Barnes, George Lohmann etc. In order to be fair to these great bowlers I have given below a list of five such pre-WW I bowlers.

Barnes S.F          RFM  Eng   27     48     64.9     67.60   189  3.94
Lohmann G.A         RFM  Eng   18     32     40.2     62.81   112  3.50
Giffen G            ROB  Aus   31     35     43.3     61.86   103  2.94
Briggs J            LSP  Eng   33     42     51.8     61.67   118  2.81
Blythe C            LSP  Eng   19     35     43.0     61.43   100  2.86
Look at Barnes' wickets per innspell figure - it is higher than Muralitharan's.

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems

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Keywords: Trivia

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Posted by Ash on (April 20, 2008, 20:40 GMT)

Murali is better, technology has salvaged his reputation and he is no doubt a modern great.

Posted by Dave on (March 28, 2008, 1:28 GMT)

As an Australian, I would have to rate Muralitharan higher than Shane Warne. Murali is a phenomenal bowler and although the Australians may have got the better of him, the fact was that he did not have anyone putting pressure at the other end. Obviously, everyone has their own opinion about who was the greater bowler but statistically and going by what many of the greatest batsman have said, Murali is the greatest bowler of all time. He is the Bradman of bowling. By the time he retires, he probably will have a 1000 Test wickets to his name and 500+ ODI wickets. What is to stop him from being the highest wicket taker in ODIs and Tests.

Posted by Madhu on (March 21, 2008, 12:11 GMT)

A quick suggestion around here to fill the gaps in too many people thoughts. Ananth may have to generate a similar analysis on batsmen, so allignment on analysis will shapen more better

Posted by Naganada Kodituwakku on (March 20, 2008, 14:22 GMT)

I think those who love the game of cricket should not let their personal feelings or views about one particular bowler to dominate over another whose skills and talent is unmistakably proved with hard evidence. Let the statistics speak for themselves.

Posted by Zaheer on (March 17, 2008, 3:21 GMT)

It is understandable that this analysis doesn't try to give an idea of who is the best ever bowler. However, since alot was spoken about Warne & Murali i would also like to comment on the fact. As many have raised the point i too am interested to know on what grounds a person can rank Warne ahead of Murali??? Its mere jealousy! Warne was a great bowler no doubt, and definetely you won't find any one else to compare against Murali. But just because you have a comparison it doesn't mean you become the best, it only suggests that you are near there. Sorry for Warne lovers. Murali is THE best.

Posted by Alan Robertson on (March 15, 2008, 20:52 GMT)

I know you have made 100 wickets the cut off, but out of interest where would Shane Bond feature in this table?

thanks.

Posted by Theena on (March 11, 2008, 7:28 GMT)

Being mathematically retarded, I'll venture away from the arguments on the statistical model used and add my two cents on the fringe, albeit predictable, issue of Shane Warne vs. Murali.

I am yet to get a proper answer on why a comparison is even warranted just as I find comparing Lara and Tendulkar absolutely pointless. Both players were great, geniuses of their respective crafts, and nothing you lot say will take anything away from that. Naysayers of Murali or Warne need to have their heads examined if they truly think that either player isn't worthy of greatness.

Who you prefer is a different, and subjective, matter all together. I prefer watching Warne for the psychological mind games just as I prefer watching Murali for the sheer delight he exudes in his craft. At the end of the day, I am just thankful that in the space of 15 years we had two supremely gifted spinners out-performing fast bowlers to the extend that these two have.

Posted by BigO on (March 7, 2008, 3:23 GMT)

Superb analysis of how effective a bowler has been when called upon by his skipper! This is a dependability analysis. In my view, it is somewhat relevant to the on-going argument on who’s been the 'best ever', simply because no bowler could ever claim the title if he was not dependable on taking a wicket when needed. As a Sri Lankan, my feelings are a bit mixed. Murali has a record that no sane person could prove second to any bowler in the history of the game. His 62 5-fers in 118 tests in itself can only be compared with Bradman's 29 100's in 52 tests. But he lacks something that Warne showed in abundance! As Chari said in the earlier post 'make batsmen do something stupid'. Warne was great in creating something out of nothing where Murali kept to his armory. Granted! That Warne's methods were at times questionable. But if Murali can master that art he would undoubted be the best spinner ever. As for best bowler ever.. thru sheer fear & respect of batsmen of his era.. Wasim Akram!

Posted by Chari on (February 17, 2008, 15:39 GMT)

Can anybody who says Warne is the "greatest" give me at least one quantitative yardstick that puts him above Murali?? Wickets, average, strike rate??? If he trumps Murali in anything, it's the fact that he was a master at getting under the skin of some batsmen and making them do something stupid. But of course he couldn't do it to the best of them like Lara and Sachin. He also used this ability to intimidate umpires and got dozens of wickets through bad decisions. Apart from that, Murali trumps him in everything. Murali didn't have big scores to bowl at, no real support from the other bowlers or fielders, not many matches vs England, he never took performance enhancing drugs etc etc. I haven't even got to text messages yet! Also, unlike Warne, Murali was just a big spinner of the ball in his early days. But he has adapted (Doosra, top spinner etc) after batsman started to catch on to him to become the greatest bowler the world has ever known.

Posted by Ahmed on (February 17, 2008, 13:37 GMT)

Whatever the analysis say, but one thing is for sure that as far as class is concerned Wasim Akram, Shane Warne and Murli top the list. Bowlers like Waqar and McGrath however, were quality bowlers.

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anantha Narayanan
Anantha spent the first half of his four-decade working career with corporates like IBM, Shaw Wallace, NCR, Sime Darby and the Spinneys group in IT-related positions. In the second half, he has worked on cricket simulation, ratings, data mining, analysis and writing, amongst other things. He was the creator of the Wisden 100 lists, released in 2001. He has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket, and worked extensively with Maruti Motors, Idea Cellular and Castrol on their performance ratings-related systems. He is an armchair connoisseur of most sports. His other passion is tennis, and he thinks Roger Federer is the greatest sportsman to have walked on earth.

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