Trivia - bowling March 27, 2008

Bowlers with the most high-quality wickets - a follow-up

Many good suggestions were received to my previous post on quality of wickets taken by bowlers
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I was in for a surprise with my previous post. I never expected it to receive so many comments (nearly 200) many of which were quite complimentary. My favourite post so far has been the one on the Revised Batting Average. Possibly the reason for the mixed reactions on that post might have been the fact that the traditional definition of batting average exists in the mind of many people who are not going to accept a change quickly. On the other hand this idea of "Batsman wicket quality" is totally new and many people have appreciated the originality of the theme.

Many good suggestions were received. It was difficult to decide what to take up and what to discard. However I have taken up three tweaks for implementation, in increasing order of difficulty.

Since I do not want to post a follow-up to a follow-up, I will respond individually to comments which I feel deserve a further response.

Quite a few complex computational alternatives have been suggested. I have gone through all these, and most have some merit. However, I have decided to retain the easy-to-understand methodology adopted by me since it would be possible for everyone to follow the computations easily - that axiom has always been the cornerstone of my analysis. I must acknowledge the originality of some of the suggestions, though.

1. Raising the bar to 200 wickets (now only 54 qualifying bowlers in lists)

Quite a few readers have suggested raising the qualifying bar to 200 wickets. This request is like a half-volley outside the off stump, bowled to a set batsman, which would be instantly driven for four. Only a few minutes work was needed here. The revised table is presented below. It should be noted that only the qualifying bar is raised and no other change has been done. Of course, this is only a temporary exercise for this blog and my database table cut-off stays at 100 wickets.

Table 1: Ordered by BQI

SNo Bowler            Bow Cty Mat Wkt  Sum of   BQI
BatAvge

1.Caddick A.R RFM Eng 62 234 7706.0 32.93 2.Hoggard M.J RFM Eng 67 248 8157.0 32.89 3.McKenzie G.D RF Aus 60 246 8018.0 32.59 4.Gough D RF Eng 58 229 7238.0 31.61 5.Bedser A.V RFM Eng 51 236 7456.0 31.59 6.Thomson J.R RF Aus 51 200 6291.0 31.45 7.Snow J.A RFM Eng 49 202 6313.0 31.25 8.Underwood D.L LSP Eng 86 297 9212.0 31.02 9.McDermott C.J RF Aus 71 291 8988.0 30.89 10.Lillee D.K RF Aus 70 355 10919.0 30.76 ... ... 50.Abdul Qadir RLB Pak 67 236 6516.0 27.61 51.Waqar Younis RFM Pak 87 373 10156.0 27.23 52.Garner J RF Win 58 259 6903.0 26.65 53.Wasim Akram LFM Pak 104 414 10754.0 25.98 54.MacGill S.C.G RLB Aus 42 203 5231.0 25.77

One reason for the low placement of Muttiah Muralitharan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in this table might be their skill in taking lower-order wickets quickly and effectively. This is indeed a great attribute of these bowlers, and not to be scoffed at. It is true these great bowlers would have taken many top-order wickets and quite a few lower-order wickets also.

Table 2: Ordered by Difference between BQI and Bowling Average

SNo Bowler            Bow Cty BowAvge  BQI    Diff

1.Marshall M.D RF Win 20.95 30.06 9.11 2.Ambrose C.E.L RF Win 20.99 29.85 8.86 3.McGrath G.D RFM Aus 21.64 30.43 8.79 4.Donald A.A RF Saf 22.25 29.27 7.01 5.Trueman F.S RF Eng 21.58 28.44 6.86 6.Lillee D.K RF Aus 23.92 30.76 6.83 7.Hadlee R.J RFM Nzl 22.30 29.09 6.79 8.Bedser A.V RFM Eng 24.90 31.59 6.69 9.Imran Khan RF Pak 22.81 29.44 6.63 10.Pollock S.M RFM Saf 23.12 29.62 6.50 ... ... 50.Harbhajan Singh ROB Ind 31.40 28.71 -2.69 51.Sobers G.St.A LM Win 34.04 30.47 -3.57 52.Danish Kaneria RLB Pak 33.90 29.84 -4.06 53.Abdul Qadir RLB Pak 32.81 27.61 -5.19 54.Vettori D.L LSP Nzl 34.23 28.64 -5.59

A few suggested that instead of determining the measure of difference between BQI and Bowling Average, a measure of quotient, say BQI/Bowling Average can be determined. This has its own merits. However the differences are likely to be minimal: 40 minus 25 and 35 minus 20 both will work out to 15 while 40/25 will work out to 1.6 and 35/20 will work out to 1.75. It is difficult to select one method over the other. What I have done, however is to provide this information also in the Table. It can be seen that there is virtually no difference between Tables 2 and 2A.

Table 2A: Ordered by Quotient between BQI and Bowling Average

SNo Bowler            Bow Cty  BowAvge   BQI     Quot

1.Marshall M.D RF Win 20.95 30.06 1.43 2.Ambrose C.E.L RF Win 20.99 29.85 1.42 3.McGrath G.D RFM Aus 21.64 30.43 1.41 4.Trueman F.S RF Eng 21.58 28.44 1.32 5.Donald A.A RF Saf 22.25 29.27 1.32 6.Hadlee R.J RFM Nzl 22.30 29.09 1.30 7.Lillee D.K RF Aus 23.92 30.76 1.29 8.Imran Khan RF Pak 22.81 29.44 1.29 9.Muralitharan M ROB Slk 21.77 27.78 1.28 10.Pollock S.M RFM Saf 23.12 29.62 1.28

2. Taking into account the batsman score at the time of dismissal

Quite a few readers have also suggested that the batsman's score, at the time of dismissal, should be considered. This is an excellent idea and strengthens the concept of quality of wickets taken by bringing in a "when" factor in addition to the "who" factor. This suggestion falls smack in between the previous and the next suggestions in terms of implementation difficulties. I have gone over my notes and come out with the following methodology.

Assign a weightage of 50% to the dismissed batsman's average [current or career, whatever it might be]. Assign the other 50% weightage to the batsman score at the time of dismissal, ranging from 100% credit for dismissal at 0 to 0% credit for any dismissal at or above the batsman average. A few examples are given below.

Batsman   Avge    Score  BQI-Fixed  BQI-Variable  BQI-Total

Bradman 99.94 0 49.97 49.97 99.94 Bradman 99.94 67 49.97 16.47 66.44 Bradman 99.94 304 49.97 0 49.97 (any score above 99)

Tendulkar 55.58 0 27.79 27.79 55.58 Tendulkar 55.58 25 27.79 15.29 43.08 Tendulkar 55.58 75 27.79 0 27.79 (any score above 55)

Vettori 27.12 0 13.56 13.56 27.12 Vettori 27.12 11 13.56 8.08 21.64 Vettori 27.12 28 13.56 0 13.56 (any score above 27)

Based on the modified calculation methodology, the revised tables are given below. This modification now reflects a significant improvement. It must, however, be noted the revised report is not comparable with the earlier reports since the basis has changed significantly. Previously the bowler got 100% of the Batting Average as credit. Now he gets 50% + x% as credit. As such the average BQI values have dropped and this report should be seen on its own.

The only comparison possible will be between this option and the next option, to be done in future.

Table 4: Ordered by BQI (Revised)

SNo Bowler            Bow Cty Mat Wkt  SumAvge BQI

1.Hoggard M.J RFM Eng 67 248 6412.0 25.85 2.Caddick A.R RFM Eng 62 234 6045.2 25.83 3.McKenzie G.D RF Aus 60 246 6146.3 24.98 4.Gough D RF Eng 58 229 5618.7 24.54 5.McGrath G.D RFM Aus 124 563 13766.6 24.45 6.Snow J.A RFM Eng 49 202 4910.8 24.31 7.Marshall M.D RF Win 81 376 8973.4 23.87 8.Ambrose C.E.L RF Win 98 405 9650.2 23.83 9.Bedser A.V RFM Eng 51 236 5581.4 23.65 10.Lillee D.K RF Aus 70 355 8314.5 23.42 ... ... 50.Muralitharan M ROB Slk 118 723 14511.2 20.07 51.Danish Kaneria RLB Pak 51 220 4410.2 20.05 52.Vettori D.L LSP Nzl 78 241 4810.6 19.96 53.Benaud R RLB Aus 63 248 4925.8 19.86 54.MacGill S.C.G RLB Aus 42 203 3807.4 18.76

For a full list, please click here.

No one can have complaints on the top ten bowlers. The only surprise is the presence of Matthew Hoggard, Andy Caddick and Darren Gough in the top four. The only reason, as already surmised, could be their playing against Australia and India quite frequently recently. Another reason could be the generally high current batting averages.

Table 5: Ordered by Quotient of BQI and Bowling Average (Revised)

SNo Bowler            Bow Cty BowAvge BQI     Diff  Quot

1.Ambrose C.E.L RF Win 20.99 23.83 2.84 1.14 2.Marshall M.D RF Win 20.95 23.87 2.92 1.14 3.McGrath G.D RFM Aus 21.64 24.45 2.81 1.13 4.Trueman F.S RF Eng 21.58 22.99 1.41 1.07 5.Donald A.A RF Saf 22.25 22.41 0.16 1.01 6.Hadlee R.J RFM Nzl 22.30 22.49 0.19 1.01 7.Pollock S.M RFM Saf 23.12 23.06 -0.06 1.00 8.Garner J RF Win 20.98 20.86 -0.12 0.99 9.Holding M.A RF Win 23.69 23.37 -0.31 0.99 10.Lillee D.K RF Aus 23.92 23.42 -0.50 0.98 ... ... 50.MacGill S.C.G RLB Aus 28.15 18.76 -9.39 0.67 51.Abdul Qadir RLB Pak 32.81 20.64 -12.17 0.63 52.Sobers G.St.A LM Win 34.04 21.11 -12.92 0.62 53.Danish Kaneria RLB Pak 33.90 20.05 -13.86 0.59 54.Vettori D.L LSP Nzl 34.23 19.96 -14.27 0.58

For a full list, please click here.

If one adds Wasim and Waqar to the top ten, this is almost a list of the top dozen pace bowlers of all time.

3. Applying the cumulative batsman average at the beginning of the Test (as against the career average)

Many people suggested applying "upto-current Test" batting average rather than the "career" batting average. This was the most voiced comment and deserves to be considered seriously. This has an impact at the early stages of a batsman's career. I had considered doing this earlier itself but ruled against it because of the complexity involved. Dynamic determination of the "upto-current Test" averages is very cumbersome. This method will slow down any analysis, even considering the high pentium speeds. The only alternative is to determine the "upto-current Test" averages as a one-off exercise for all 1866 Tests, store these static data within the match data for each player and use these any time required. Of course, the current averages will have to be created for each new Test as the data is appended. This exercise requires a redefinition of the database layout and considerable amount of programming since it is a systemic change. I will do this in the near future and make the results available to all the interested readers, even if not through a post in this blog.

Conclusion

It is amusing to see people complaining, even abusing the "Indian ***********" about the absence of their favourite bowlers from the list, most prominently Wasim Akram. Not having understood the analysis is a possible reason. The other reason is the difficulty in accepting any list which does not meet their perceived conclusions.

If I make a list of bowlers who have taken a hat-trick in Tests, Wasim Akram will appear twice. Dennis Lillee, Murali, Anil Kumble, Waqar and Richard Hadlee etc would not be on the list while Peter Petherick, Alok Kapali, Andy Blignaut, James Franklin and Irfan Pathan will appear in that list. Should one disown such a list because of the absence of the marquee names?

Just for the record, here is my own list, in alphabetical order, of the all-time great bowlers, taking all factors into consideration. This should satisfy the readers who should know that there is no narrow-minded chauvinism at work here.

Sydney Barnes, Bishan Bedi, Richard Hadlee, Michael Holding, Lillee, Malcolm Marshall, Glenn McGrath, Muttiah Muralitharan, Waqar Younis, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram.

A few have rightly commented on the dilution of the average because great bowlers tend to take lower-order wickets. Michael Clark and Onkar Walavalkar, among others, have given the example of someone taking all ten wickets would have the average batting average lowered significantly. My submission is that this list does not rate the bowlers at all. It is an alternative measure, hitherto untapped. The same Kumble whose ten-wicket haul in Delhi had an average batting average of 31 would have a higher average of batting average in the West Indies match in St Lucia - in which he took three wickets - of 41. It works both ways and over a long career, these variations even out. The points are well made, I concede.

Other interesting comments are by people complaining that the need is to enjoy the game and not reduce it to numbers or terming such analysis as useless or me as jobless (possibly I am !!!). Let me reply by saying that there are different types of cricket followers. There are those who only like to watch the game, they would not even bother about the batsman's strike-rate or some such simple measure. There are a few who are only number nerds. There are millions in between, the author included, who enjoy both watching the game and analysing it. If one does not want to see such analysis why get into this blog, which is purely an analyst's corner, at all? Entry to this blog is voluntary.

The comments for this post have been the most received so far for any post and have been very enjoyable, whether bouquets or brickbats. I have been made to think in a lateral manner and I thank all those who took the time to comment. It has been a great experience.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Napsil on July 9, 2009, 23:10 GMT

    There are tons of information to be known about this. You made some great points that answered my questions.

  • Omer Admani on April 20, 2008, 19:35 GMT

    Regarding Wasim Akram, what you are ignoring is the fact that he hd to bowl a lot in the subcontinent. Even, say, if the average per wicket in the subcontinent is lesser than in Aus, it is still much, much easier for spinners to take wickets. Compare India's trio of Sree Shanth's, RP Singh's, and Pathan's bowling when they went to Aus and there form now at home. I think you'd agree it has substantially deteriorated. Pak's pitches like Multan where Sehwag got 300 are not the most refreshig site for bowlers. Whereas in India, most wickets are taken by spin bowlers. At least in the long-term, bowlers like Mcgrath and Ambrose-- very good bowlers in their right-- would find difficult to bowl out batsman in pitches like Multan with such Monotony. Of course, when Pak visisted India recently, again, spin took most the wickets. Conversely, the reason why Warne's average is quite high (compared to other greats) is again that Aus pitches are more conducive to pace bowling.

  • subbu on April 14, 2008, 13:54 GMT

    Have you done any similar analysis on batting? Perhaps I missed it. I have always held that the "Not Out" factor must be eliminated in order to arrive at the "Real" average. Otherwise, people like Hussey (or Bevan in ODIs) have overstated averages.

  • Subbu on April 14, 2008, 13:51 GMT

    Terrific analysis. Just that, because of "rounding", the data in Table 5 is incorrectly ordered. For example, Marshall should head up the table and not Ambrose. And Lance Gibbs should follow Kumble

  • Peter on April 14, 2008, 10:00 GMT

    Excellent analysis and some very interesting comments.

    There are a number of anomalies that come to light. For instance, the difference between top order and lower order batsman, playing top ranked teams and lesser teams and home and away performance. I think one of the most interesting careers to look at is Murali's and the comparison with Warne's. Murali's figures fluctuate dramatically between home and away and also top and lower ranked teams. I am not usre how you factor this into your table but no doubt others might add further comments.

    You comment on bowling partnerships but what difference do you think the strength of the whole bowling line up makes. Again, I look at Murali and Warne. Effectively Murali only had Vaas but Warne was part of a very strong bowling attack. The same could be said of the WI attack in the 1970's and 1980's and arguably the likes of Roberts, Garner and Croft suffer.

    Overall great work and a very interesting read.

    Thank you.

  • Gert on March 31, 2008, 13:31 GMT

    Even though all of these comments and your post, Ananth, are very interesting, I cant but feel that if a person have to look at every aspect of a bowler's career, including conditions he bowled in, the amount of overs bowled prior to dismissing a batsmen, the quantity of Cola he had with dinner the previous night, the temperature they were playing in (dehydration)...etc...all useless info.

    The fact remains, as a club cricketer that bowls and bats in the top order, I know there is serious competition between team mates all the time! I dont believe that Nel sits in the dressing room after a match and have a gripe about Steyn's bagful of sticks he pouched. Who cares who bowled at who...the fact remains...:

    Over a period of 5 to ten years all averages flattens out, all bowlers had opportunities to pick up wickets against top, middle and lower order batsmen. If you trail a team mate by 100 wickets you have yourself to blame!

    Nice topic, but irrelevant. Its the roll of the dice!!

  • Dave Everett on March 31, 2008, 13:20 GMT

    Regarding Gough, Caddick and Hoggard all being in the top ten. Much as I like these guys they do seem to be an anomaly. Could it be caused by the fact they played on swinging English wickets more than the others. This would lead to high average sub continent cricketers being turned over more often. How would it distort the figures if you used the batting average figures for the country concerned? Alternatively I have lived through a golden age of English bowling without even realising it.

  • David Richerby on March 31, 2008, 11:40 GMT

    Factoring in the batsman's score at the point of dismissal seems to me to be the wrong thing to do. One interpretation is that bowling Bradman out for a duck means that he must've been out of form and that bowling him for 300 means it must have been a truly amazing ball to stop the master in flight. The other interpretation says that bowling Bradman for a duck is an incredible feat, while bowling him for 300 indicates that it took an awful long time to get a decent ball in. The truth is, obviously, somewhere in the middle but you can't hope to quantify that just from knowing the batsman's score.

  • Alex on March 31, 2008, 10:37 GMT

    Ignore those philistines who don't appreciate the stats of cricket! Two great articles that I will be mulling over again and again!!!!!!

  • anon on March 31, 2008, 3:26 GMT

    Have a simple suggestion? Instead of career averages, why don't you use averages against that country? Some averages are inflated by their performances against weak bowling attacks.

  • Napsil on July 9, 2009, 23:10 GMT

    There are tons of information to be known about this. You made some great points that answered my questions.

  • Omer Admani on April 20, 2008, 19:35 GMT

    Regarding Wasim Akram, what you are ignoring is the fact that he hd to bowl a lot in the subcontinent. Even, say, if the average per wicket in the subcontinent is lesser than in Aus, it is still much, much easier for spinners to take wickets. Compare India's trio of Sree Shanth's, RP Singh's, and Pathan's bowling when they went to Aus and there form now at home. I think you'd agree it has substantially deteriorated. Pak's pitches like Multan where Sehwag got 300 are not the most refreshig site for bowlers. Whereas in India, most wickets are taken by spin bowlers. At least in the long-term, bowlers like Mcgrath and Ambrose-- very good bowlers in their right-- would find difficult to bowl out batsman in pitches like Multan with such Monotony. Of course, when Pak visisted India recently, again, spin took most the wickets. Conversely, the reason why Warne's average is quite high (compared to other greats) is again that Aus pitches are more conducive to pace bowling.

  • subbu on April 14, 2008, 13:54 GMT

    Have you done any similar analysis on batting? Perhaps I missed it. I have always held that the "Not Out" factor must be eliminated in order to arrive at the "Real" average. Otherwise, people like Hussey (or Bevan in ODIs) have overstated averages.

  • Subbu on April 14, 2008, 13:51 GMT

    Terrific analysis. Just that, because of "rounding", the data in Table 5 is incorrectly ordered. For example, Marshall should head up the table and not Ambrose. And Lance Gibbs should follow Kumble

  • Peter on April 14, 2008, 10:00 GMT

    Excellent analysis and some very interesting comments.

    There are a number of anomalies that come to light. For instance, the difference between top order and lower order batsman, playing top ranked teams and lesser teams and home and away performance. I think one of the most interesting careers to look at is Murali's and the comparison with Warne's. Murali's figures fluctuate dramatically between home and away and also top and lower ranked teams. I am not usre how you factor this into your table but no doubt others might add further comments.

    You comment on bowling partnerships but what difference do you think the strength of the whole bowling line up makes. Again, I look at Murali and Warne. Effectively Murali only had Vaas but Warne was part of a very strong bowling attack. The same could be said of the WI attack in the 1970's and 1980's and arguably the likes of Roberts, Garner and Croft suffer.

    Overall great work and a very interesting read.

    Thank you.

  • Gert on March 31, 2008, 13:31 GMT

    Even though all of these comments and your post, Ananth, are very interesting, I cant but feel that if a person have to look at every aspect of a bowler's career, including conditions he bowled in, the amount of overs bowled prior to dismissing a batsmen, the quantity of Cola he had with dinner the previous night, the temperature they were playing in (dehydration)...etc...all useless info.

    The fact remains, as a club cricketer that bowls and bats in the top order, I know there is serious competition between team mates all the time! I dont believe that Nel sits in the dressing room after a match and have a gripe about Steyn's bagful of sticks he pouched. Who cares who bowled at who...the fact remains...:

    Over a period of 5 to ten years all averages flattens out, all bowlers had opportunities to pick up wickets against top, middle and lower order batsmen. If you trail a team mate by 100 wickets you have yourself to blame!

    Nice topic, but irrelevant. Its the roll of the dice!!

  • Dave Everett on March 31, 2008, 13:20 GMT

    Regarding Gough, Caddick and Hoggard all being in the top ten. Much as I like these guys they do seem to be an anomaly. Could it be caused by the fact they played on swinging English wickets more than the others. This would lead to high average sub continent cricketers being turned over more often. How would it distort the figures if you used the batting average figures for the country concerned? Alternatively I have lived through a golden age of English bowling without even realising it.

  • David Richerby on March 31, 2008, 11:40 GMT

    Factoring in the batsman's score at the point of dismissal seems to me to be the wrong thing to do. One interpretation is that bowling Bradman out for a duck means that he must've been out of form and that bowling him for 300 means it must have been a truly amazing ball to stop the master in flight. The other interpretation says that bowling Bradman for a duck is an incredible feat, while bowling him for 300 indicates that it took an awful long time to get a decent ball in. The truth is, obviously, somewhere in the middle but you can't hope to quantify that just from knowing the batsman's score.

  • Alex on March 31, 2008, 10:37 GMT

    Ignore those philistines who don't appreciate the stats of cricket! Two great articles that I will be mulling over again and again!!!!!!

  • anon on March 31, 2008, 3:26 GMT

    Have a simple suggestion? Instead of career averages, why don't you use averages against that country? Some averages are inflated by their performances against weak bowling attacks.

  • Michael on March 30, 2008, 20:27 GMT

    I have a couple of points: 1. If a bowler does not have good support or if he DOES have good support (someone who actually ends up taking the wicket) I'm not sure that the analysis would pick up on it. As one of the previous posters has pointed out perhaps the bowling figures in the context of a game needs to be identified as well (as per Habib Jalib's post). For if one bowler is 'plugging up' an end forcing the batsmen to take risks against their partner bowler to 'break the shackles' should not some of the credit go to the pressure bowler? Is there a way to give credit to a bowler if their partner takes a wicket from the other end during their spell? 2. In order to get around the "tailender" conundrum could it be effective to take the 'best 100 wickets' (rather than a percentage which could end up including more tailenders).

  • Arvind on March 30, 2008, 10:22 GMT

    One thing missing from this analysis is the type of wicket the match is played in. I think it is fair to say that most batsmen score more in subcontinental conditions than in say, Australia / England. In that case, bowlers in the subcontinent will have poorer (BQI - bowl ave) if the BQI is calculated over the entire career of the batsman. To tackle this discrepancy, while calculating BQI for a bowler, the average of the batsman only in that particular part of the world should be considered (not his career average). This can even out the playing conditions and make the list more fair.

  • Ahmed on March 30, 2008, 7:07 GMT

    I liked Habib Jalib's post, and i agree with him. There are so many factors that need to be considered in actually 'ranking' the bowlers. I loved his comment about Akmal ;). I would just like to add a couple of things: 1. What about taking economy rate into consideration. Now that we have a list of BQI and other parameters, lets see who has taken these top quality wickets while giving away lesser no. of runs?. 2. Similarly for strike rate, lets see who has taken these quality wickets in lesser no. of balls? 3. Is it possible to do an analysis of the most unfortunate bowlers? :).. like most missed chances, dropped catches etc off each bowler. It may be done as a separate analysis.

    I liked these analysis very much, and this is a wonderful work. I appreciate it, and please keep doing it :).

  • Anand on March 30, 2008, 3:20 GMT

    Hi Ananth: Interesting analysis! Also it is interesting to see how different bowlers excel in different aspects. I request you to present the following analysis if possible: Just like how we say good batsmen are those who thrive in all conditions and contribute when the team is in trouble, can we have a similar ratings for bowlers? For example a spinner with a good bowling average in say Perth which normally assists fast bowlers or say in a placid pitch like Nagpur has traditionally been, then that deserves more weightage. Similarly, if we look at those bowlers who are partnership breakers then we can add points to them. I guess in such an analysis, the all time greats would be right up there (which is what made them all time greats in the first place I suppose).

  • Tim on March 29, 2008, 23:12 GMT

    Using strike rate somehow - (BQI - Average)*60/SR would then be able to adjust for which bowlers were taking those wickets faster.

    At the moment, there isn't a distinction bewteen taking lower order wickets only and taking wickets against lesser teams. The comment about Murali, Akram and Younis taking plenty of lower order wickets assumes that all teams that they played against are equal, whereas there is plenty of controversy around Murali's ability to take wickets against teams like Bangladesh, whereas not against teams like Australia.

    Not sure how one would adjust for that, but I suspect think that the % of team score adjustment would help in some way to identify that - if Lee has an average of 20, but only 5% of his team's runs, compared to Abdur Razzak, with an average of 21 but probably closer to 10-15% of his team's runs, Razzak should be a much higher weighted wicket.

    While not explicit, if you rise in rank after this, it is a sign of taking wickets against minnows.

  • Tim on March 29, 2008, 22:58 GMT

    Ananth, I love the work that you've put into all this!

    Data mining through large databases myself at work, I fully appreciate how difficult it is to design a test that best captures the attributes that you're looking for, but it's great that you can apply it to something you love. (I on the other hand, am a simple wage slave...)

    Possible improvements:

    Looking at wicket value being 50% current average and 50% contribution to innings average (rather than (1 - dismissal score/average)). Although this would now mean that you would need to calculate yet another statistic, it wouldn't require that much additional processing time if you're getting 'current average', and would both remove some of the 'plays against Australia/WI a lot' bias and increase the 'key wicket' bias. If Sehwag is on 80-100, he usually goes on to get a big score, it shouldn't be that his (1-score/average) weighting should be zero!

  • Habib Jalib on March 29, 2008, 21:05 GMT

    I think that the analysis you make is a very intelligent one. The problem is that cricket is ateam oriented game and any wicket taken is not just one bowler's wicket.Zaheer creates pressure while Pathan reaps benefits. (Happens to me all the time!). Or imagine Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis playing for Australia, with their high fielding standards. Pakistan plays with Kamran Akmal! Talk about low standards. Look at the pitches the sub-continent bowlers mostly bowl. Flat pitches with nothing in 'em. Kapil's 29 avg. is so much better than some Australian's 25, or 24 just for hte quality of pitches.

    What I am trying to get at is that even tohugh the results of your calcualtions are telling; they are just not adequate enough to rank any bowler as having a better quality than others. The study of numbers without taking pitches, fielding standards, quality of the grounds (some are grassless) and the fact of 'hunting in pairs'. The list will always be biased against sub-continent players.

  • Karthick on March 28, 2008, 22:52 GMT

    Ananth, Appreciate your effort. Looks like a lot of thinking has gone into this latest list. And table 5 looks closest to what people might have thought when you are talking about taking quality wickets.

  • Geoff Bethell on March 28, 2008, 20:03 GMT

    Not sure if anyone else has suggested this one. Given that opening bowlers have the advantage of being fresh and have a new ball a good measure of quality would be wickets taken after about 30 overs have been bowled. The effect of a second new ball is not so great since the bowlers will be tired.

  • Deej on March 28, 2008, 15:19 GMT

    Appreciate you're trying to improve on the basic average, which can distort a career.

    But hasn't a far more sophisticated analysis been done by the former PWC ratings, now known as the LG ICC ratings. This considers the relative values of each batsman dismissed - including their current form - and also the relative condition of the match (e.g. low scoring vs run feast games).

    That deals with snapshots in time, but an average career rating would give a better indication than your computation.

  • Michael Jones on March 28, 2008, 15:09 GMT

    Interesting analysis, as always. Just a suggestion regarding the cut-off point for being considered for the tables - how about making it 100 wickets taken at an average of more than, say, four per match? That would allow the pre-WWII bowlers who played far fewer Tests to be included, while not considering part-time bowlers who scrape past 100 wickets at barely one per match (eg George Lohmann - 112 wickets in 18 Tests - versus Carl Hooper - 114 in 102).

  • merrick on March 28, 2008, 14:33 GMT

    I was wondering if at some point you could do an analysis on a batsmans success score, this being the score that once reached results in a victory for his team. eg Graeme smiths is 87 in onedayers as his highest score in a lost cause is 86. Sorry if i have already posted this, computer froze.

  • merrick on March 28, 2008, 14:23 GMT

    I think the best thing to do is to go back to your original calculations (where BOJE was on top) and then divide the bowlers strike rate by the original BQi. The bowlers with the lower numbers would be best. What this does is it accounts for lower order wickets and gives a better result.

  • Dimuthu Ratnayake on March 28, 2008, 12:46 GMT

    one more thing if i may... could you compile a list of "The Greatest Match Winners" ? where a significent contribution from a player lead to test and ODI matches being won?

  • Flint on March 28, 2008, 11:14 GMT

    Ananth .. Thanks for adding rule number two. I must concur that your blog is a tremendeous service to cricket world. It has opened the traditional definition of brilliance in contemprory cricket and may very well just tip of an iceberg. I always found the old method of calculating averages bogus. Your new method may not be perfect and some people may find it hard to digest, but I reckon it is way better than current system .. and we all should push for the implementation !!

    PS: Flintoff is the best bowler in the history, next comes Akram !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    PS:

  • Dimuthu Ratnayake on March 28, 2008, 10:36 GMT

    I like Peter Parker's suggestion about coniditions coming into play. This might iron out some stats that are skewed due to uncovered pitches of yesteryear, where bowlers had a better chance of getting wickets. But then again, if you take the match where England got 903-7 (in 1938) you also need to consider the 201 and 123 (both all out) that Aus got in the match. Was this a batting paradise, or was it a horrible wicket? Tricky... I feel sorry for you always being bombarded with "AKRAM IS DA BEST" etc, pitiful really. I think you need an infinite number of stats and analyses to get the complete picture, and i'd just like to thank you for your contribution!

  • Don on March 28, 2008, 5:53 GMT

    The new tables, taking into account as fixed previous batting averages tend to favour England bowlers, and I think there is a reason why. Those bowlers (I have checked this) played a great number of matches against very strong Australian and West Indies batsmen. All these batsmen had very good averages (far better then their England counterparts). What this means is that a top-order wicket taken by an England bowler will automatically be worth more then a similar wicket taken by an australian bowler, even if such a wicket is not of more importance to match result. Hence the English bowler will be rated higher, even though most times their efforts were less effective then the Australian or Windies bowlers. I have not checked the NZ stats, but I'm sure the results there would be similar (no batsman with an average over 40).

  • srikanth on March 28, 2008, 4:00 GMT

    I have never bothered about numbers..But i found the last 2 blogs extremely interesting..I have come to know some bowlers whom i have not heard of..and i have followed those names and analysed their career..and i have come up with some fascinating players.. This blog is even more good..as u took time to sort out differences and ur interaction with readers is just great! But i would like u to answer this? As u are a numbers man..it would be interesting to see ur reply.. Do u think that numbers tells the story abt a batsman or a bowler..or is there a limitation with that? Please do answer if u find it worth..

  • Darren Palmer on March 28, 2008, 2:29 GMT

    Good follow up! However, I too like reading stats but I often wonder if the numbers alone tell the truth (lies, damned lies and statistics - Disraeli [not Twain]). What is lacking is objective context - bowling the most dangerous batsmen out within the conditions on the day is NOT something that can be measured but would be the true value of a wicket. e.g. Getting a premier batsment out for les than his career average on conditions that usually favour him. Surely the capture of the wicket would rate more highly than say on a ground or facing bowling that causes this player to play below their normal standard.

    HOW ABOUT THESE TWO SUGGESTIONS: 1. Rather than taking a career average, form is only temporary (class being permanent), how about a moving average over say 5 or 10 innings as sometimes players have purple patches. Tough calculation but realistic at that time.

    2. Just take the average score for batsmen in that test - it is a true reflection of current performance?

  • Peter on March 28, 2008, 1:04 GMT

    I must protest against the removal of bowlers with fewer than 200 wickets.

    It removes a number of luminous names. Indeed every bowler, with the sole exception of Grimmett, who bowled before WWII, and many other All Time Greats, such as Davidson, who finished before the escalation of Test matches around 1970.

  • Naresh on March 28, 2008, 0:52 GMT

    Hi Ananth - I did not understand the sentence "It works both ways and over a long career, these variations even out" when you refer to a bowler taking lower order wickets. Could you please clarify? My understanding is that to score high on this measure, Kumble should have stopped after taking five wickets in the match where he took ten. What evens out over his career, and how?

    Also, it sounds a little hollow to me, personally, when you say that this list does not rate the bowlers at all. It seems to me that the implication is always there that the bowler who takes more top-order wickets is the better bowler.

  • Prashant on March 27, 2008, 22:12 GMT

    Great analysis, which demonstrates who the top bowlers of all time are.

    Q) Which batsmen have fared the best against the top bowlers listed above ie, Ambrose, Marshall, McGrath et al? That would be very revealing... would Gavaskar show up higher than Richards, who played along Marshall, Holding and Garner rather than against?

  • Peter Parker on March 27, 2008, 20:58 GMT

    Another parameter that I would consider to rank "quality" wickets would be the match/pitch conditions. Obviously, a bowler taking 5/100 on a batting paradise has taken "higher quality" wickets than someone with, say, 6/80 on a green top in overcast conditions. One way to quantify this might just be to take into account the total runs scored in a test. So if a bowler has taken 10 wickets in a match where over 1500 runs were scored, those 10 wickets should be given more weight than a bowler with 10 wickets in an 800-run game.

  • Onkar Walavalkar on March 27, 2008, 19:17 GMT

    A good way of doing it is to actually consider the batsman's average in 12 months prior to and including that innings (that tells you the batsman's form). So getting Sachin Tendulkar out in a test match in 2002 (or in 2007-08) will weigh more than getting him out in 2005-06. Similarly getting Viv Richards out in 1976 would be more precious than getting him out in 1990. I know this is equally hard as considering a player's average at the start of the match. A good approximation to this is to consider only the player's average in the year of his dismissal. So you do consider Tendulkar's average for the whole 2002 for any dismissal in 2002. This, though not accurate, gives a fair approximation.

  • Dan Thomas on March 27, 2008, 17:15 GMT

    I'd just like to thank you for you contributions, as someone who is a bit of a number nerd I'm really enjoying the different presentations of the statistics you're producing and the fact you take the time to respond to the comments.

    I wondered if one possible extension to this might be the addition of what was statistically the best attack though I'm not sure how you could go about this in a simple way. Standouts would be Warne and McGrath, Lillee and Thompson, Wasim and Waqar, WI attacks of the 80s, all spin indian attacks. Cricket is afterall a team game and batsmen get statistics for highest partnerships, isn't it time the bowlers got an equivalent?

    Dan (A bowler who often creates pressure at one end, allowing someone else to take the wickets!)

  • Aditya Banerjee on March 27, 2008, 17:10 GMT

    An observation on Table 4 - it seems that list can be divided into two halves with opening bowlers defining the top half. It seem to be due to the fact that opening bowlers get to bowl to two players (the openers) before they've scored, and subsequently the rest of the top order starting off their innings, thus increasing the likelihood of dismissing them below their career/current average. Spinners on the other hand are more likely to be bowling at batsmen with runs on the board, and are in a way penalised in this form of computation. However, table 5 seems to compensate this to some extent by accounting for the spinners average.

  • David Barry on March 27, 2008, 16:41 GMT

    You say that there's little to choose from between the difference between (BQI - average) and (BQI / average).

    For me, it's like this. Suppose batsman A averages 60 and batsman B averages 40. Bowler C can dismiss batsman A after conceding 30 runs. Bowler D can dismiss batsman B after conceding 20 runs.

    In a sense, each bowler has cut the opposing batsman down by half. (Obviously this is a toy example, and there'd be other bowlers. But it makes my point.) So in my opinion, each bowler should get rewarded the same amount.

    Taking the quotient does this, but taking the difference doesn't.

    Also, taking the quotient is nicer when you compare across eras with large scoring differences. This is not so important with a qualification of 200 wickets, but it changes things if you want to let in Lohmann and Barnes, etc.

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  • David Barry on March 27, 2008, 16:41 GMT

    You say that there's little to choose from between the difference between (BQI - average) and (BQI / average).

    For me, it's like this. Suppose batsman A averages 60 and batsman B averages 40. Bowler C can dismiss batsman A after conceding 30 runs. Bowler D can dismiss batsman B after conceding 20 runs.

    In a sense, each bowler has cut the opposing batsman down by half. (Obviously this is a toy example, and there'd be other bowlers. But it makes my point.) So in my opinion, each bowler should get rewarded the same amount.

    Taking the quotient does this, but taking the difference doesn't.

    Also, taking the quotient is nicer when you compare across eras with large scoring differences. This is not so important with a qualification of 200 wickets, but it changes things if you want to let in Lohmann and Barnes, etc.

  • Aditya Banerjee on March 27, 2008, 17:10 GMT

    An observation on Table 4 - it seems that list can be divided into two halves with opening bowlers defining the top half. It seem to be due to the fact that opening bowlers get to bowl to two players (the openers) before they've scored, and subsequently the rest of the top order starting off their innings, thus increasing the likelihood of dismissing them below their career/current average. Spinners on the other hand are more likely to be bowling at batsmen with runs on the board, and are in a way penalised in this form of computation. However, table 5 seems to compensate this to some extent by accounting for the spinners average.

  • Dan Thomas on March 27, 2008, 17:15 GMT

    I'd just like to thank you for you contributions, as someone who is a bit of a number nerd I'm really enjoying the different presentations of the statistics you're producing and the fact you take the time to respond to the comments.

    I wondered if one possible extension to this might be the addition of what was statistically the best attack though I'm not sure how you could go about this in a simple way. Standouts would be Warne and McGrath, Lillee and Thompson, Wasim and Waqar, WI attacks of the 80s, all spin indian attacks. Cricket is afterall a team game and batsmen get statistics for highest partnerships, isn't it time the bowlers got an equivalent?

    Dan (A bowler who often creates pressure at one end, allowing someone else to take the wickets!)

  • Onkar Walavalkar on March 27, 2008, 19:17 GMT

    A good way of doing it is to actually consider the batsman's average in 12 months prior to and including that innings (that tells you the batsman's form). So getting Sachin Tendulkar out in a test match in 2002 (or in 2007-08) will weigh more than getting him out in 2005-06. Similarly getting Viv Richards out in 1976 would be more precious than getting him out in 1990. I know this is equally hard as considering a player's average at the start of the match. A good approximation to this is to consider only the player's average in the year of his dismissal. So you do consider Tendulkar's average for the whole 2002 for any dismissal in 2002. This, though not accurate, gives a fair approximation.

  • Peter Parker on March 27, 2008, 20:58 GMT

    Another parameter that I would consider to rank "quality" wickets would be the match/pitch conditions. Obviously, a bowler taking 5/100 on a batting paradise has taken "higher quality" wickets than someone with, say, 6/80 on a green top in overcast conditions. One way to quantify this might just be to take into account the total runs scored in a test. So if a bowler has taken 10 wickets in a match where over 1500 runs were scored, those 10 wickets should be given more weight than a bowler with 10 wickets in an 800-run game.

  • Prashant on March 27, 2008, 22:12 GMT

    Great analysis, which demonstrates who the top bowlers of all time are.

    Q) Which batsmen have fared the best against the top bowlers listed above ie, Ambrose, Marshall, McGrath et al? That would be very revealing... would Gavaskar show up higher than Richards, who played along Marshall, Holding and Garner rather than against?

  • Naresh on March 28, 2008, 0:52 GMT

    Hi Ananth - I did not understand the sentence "It works both ways and over a long career, these variations even out" when you refer to a bowler taking lower order wickets. Could you please clarify? My understanding is that to score high on this measure, Kumble should have stopped after taking five wickets in the match where he took ten. What evens out over his career, and how?

    Also, it sounds a little hollow to me, personally, when you say that this list does not rate the bowlers at all. It seems to me that the implication is always there that the bowler who takes more top-order wickets is the better bowler.

  • Peter on March 28, 2008, 1:04 GMT

    I must protest against the removal of bowlers with fewer than 200 wickets.

    It removes a number of luminous names. Indeed every bowler, with the sole exception of Grimmett, who bowled before WWII, and many other All Time Greats, such as Davidson, who finished before the escalation of Test matches around 1970.

  • Darren Palmer on March 28, 2008, 2:29 GMT

    Good follow up! However, I too like reading stats but I often wonder if the numbers alone tell the truth (lies, damned lies and statistics - Disraeli [not Twain]). What is lacking is objective context - bowling the most dangerous batsmen out within the conditions on the day is NOT something that can be measured but would be the true value of a wicket. e.g. Getting a premier batsment out for les than his career average on conditions that usually favour him. Surely the capture of the wicket would rate more highly than say on a ground or facing bowling that causes this player to play below their normal standard.

    HOW ABOUT THESE TWO SUGGESTIONS: 1. Rather than taking a career average, form is only temporary (class being permanent), how about a moving average over say 5 or 10 innings as sometimes players have purple patches. Tough calculation but realistic at that time.

    2. Just take the average score for batsmen in that test - it is a true reflection of current performance?

  • srikanth on March 28, 2008, 4:00 GMT

    I have never bothered about numbers..But i found the last 2 blogs extremely interesting..I have come to know some bowlers whom i have not heard of..and i have followed those names and analysed their career..and i have come up with some fascinating players.. This blog is even more good..as u took time to sort out differences and ur interaction with readers is just great! But i would like u to answer this? As u are a numbers man..it would be interesting to see ur reply.. Do u think that numbers tells the story abt a batsman or a bowler..or is there a limitation with that? Please do answer if u find it worth..