Trivia - batting June 3, 2008

Why Australia's 2001 line-up is the best ODI side- A follow-up

After a few tweaks in response to reader suggestions, here is an improved version of the piece that was done on May 23

The original article received nearly 200 responses. Unfortunately not all could be posted, mainly because quite a few responses contained readers' own selection of their all-time best ODI teams. This was outside the theme of the article and I can assure the readers that they will have a chance later to come out with their views on this topic as well. Some posts were also rejected because they contained offensive language and/or referred to other responders in negative terms.

I must thank the readers for the interest they have shown. I must confess that I keep learning new things because of the interaction. There are new perspectives which had escaped me the first time around.

I have gone through all the responses. I have adopted the following three significant improvements. There were a few other valid suggestions which have not been implemented. These are summarised at the end, with my reasons for not implementing them.

1. The most important and often-repeated comment was that the game has changed considerably over the years and the analysis should make allowances for such changes. Most of these readers' observations are subjective in nature (Difficult to score runs in the 80s; Scoring rates nowadays are higher; Easier to chase targets nowadays; et al). However since these have been made with a deep understanding of the game, there is no way I can refuse to accept these, especially as I myself share these observations. It is my responsibility, as a computer analyst to translate such subjective inferences into objective, verifiable and acceptable algorithms. I have done this adjustment in my Test analyses, weighting down/up pre-WW1 bowling/batting figures respectively. It is high time the ODI analyses is also done this way. This has been explained in depth later.

2. The second concerns the late order batsmen. I had given equal weighting of 0.25 to each of these 4 batsmen. Most readers have accepted this. However I myself felt that it is wrong to treat Akram at the same level, as a batsman, say, as Sikander Bakht. The weightings, explained later, have been graded now.

3. The third change concerns home advantage. Barring the great teams, most other teams struggle outside their home country and do well in their own backyard. The advantage of 50000 (give or take a few thousand) fans at Kolkatta or Lahore or MCG or Kingston rooting for the home team can never be ignored. Though some might say that India enjoy home advantage wherever they play.

1. Decade-level adjustments

To do this I have split the matches into four decades, the (swinging) 1970s, the (exciting) 1980s, the (nervous) 1990s and the (Twenty20-driven) 2000s. Please see the following table, first for batting and then for bowling. Incidentally this concept itself deserves of an independent post.

In both tables I have used the base factor as the All match numbers, which is presented in the first column. I concede that this is heavily weighted towards the later years. However there is no other way. If I take the median match (no.1354) as a cut-off point, that match itself was played as recently as 1998. So whatever one does, this problem will remain.

ODI Matches - Analysis by Decade - BATTING
All Matches 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s
Matches played 2703 82 516 933 1172
Batsmen innings 46968 1418 8838 16266 20446
Balls bowled 1445956 46208 277516 505727 616505
Runs per match 414 369 393 414 426
Runs per innings 23.83 21.36 22.96 23.76 24.44
% of all-matches avge 100.0% 89.6% 96.3% 99.7% 102.5%
Runs per ball 0.774 0.656 0.731 0.764 0.811
% of all-matches avge 100.0% 84.7% 94.4% 98.7% 104.7%

a. There is a clear increase in the Runs per match, which has been done mainly to show the trend.

b. Runs per innings, which is used to avoid the not outs impact, has clearly shown a move up, from 21.36 during the 1970s to 24.44 for the current decade matches.

c. Similarly, the scoring rate (runs per ball) has shown a clear move upward, from 0.656 (Rpo of 3.94) during the 1970s to 0.811 (Rpo of 4.86) now.

The adjustment is done in the following manner.

The Batting Index figures are adjusted by the Decade adjustment values. In other words, the Batting Average Index is divided by 0.896 for the 1970s teams, by 0.963 for the 1980s teams, by 0.997 for the 1990s teams and by 1.025 for the current teams. Similarly the Batting Strike Rate Index is divided by 0.847 for the 1970s teams, by 0.944 for the 1980s teams, by 0.987 for the 1990s teams and by 1.047 for the current teams.

ODI Matches - Analysis by Decade - BOWLING
All Matches 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s
Matches played 2703 82 516 933 1172
Balls bowled 1445956 46208 277516 505727 616505
Team Runs conceded 1119374 30292 202884 386508 499690
Wickets captured 38120 1156 7097 13215 16652
Wkts per match 14.10 14.10 13.75 14.16 14.21
Bowling Average 29.36 26.20 28.59 29.25 30.01
% of all-matches avge 100.0% 89.2% 97.4% 99.6% 102.2%
Balls per wkt 37.9 40.0 39.1 38.3 37.0

a. It is surprising, maybe not so, that the average number of wickets captured per match has remained fairly constant over these 30-odd years.

b. The bowling averages have shown a clear move upwards from 26.20 during the 1970s to 30.01 for the current decade. A minor concession, likely to have little impact on the final numbers, is made in that the bowling average for this purpose is calculated based on the team runs and team wickets.

c. The balls per wkt figures show a slight reduction as time has gone by, with the difference being only around 7.5%. It's given here only for information.

The adjustment is done in the following manner.

The Bowling Index figures are adjusted by the Decade adjustment values. In other words, the Bowling Index is multiplied by 0.892 for the 1970s teams, by 0.974 for the 1980s teams, by 0.996 for the 1990s teams and by 1.022 for the current teams.

Maybe it's not perfect, but this significant tweak has gone a long way in redressing the imbalance, as the results show.

2. Changing the weightings given to late order batsmen

Jeff Grimshaw has demonstrated that the higher average batsmen would, most probably, be able to bat through their 50 (or whatever) overs without even approaching the late-order batsmen. On the other hand, the lower-average, quicker-scoring batsmen might need the late-order batsmen often. It is, however, essential that we recognize the quality of late-order batsmen. After all, Vettori and Martin are poles apart, when it comes to batting. Hence the weightage is changed, as follows.

No. 8 Batsman: 0.40
No. 9 Batsman: 0.30
No.10 Batsman: 0.20
No.11 Batsman: 0.10

3. Home Advantage

I have effected a 5% increase for all the Index values for home teams for reasons already explained. This value is not applied for the hundreds of matches played in neutral venues. The only question is, why 5%, why not 2.5% or why not 10%. I have no answer other than my gut feel that the additional weighting cannot exceed the value assigned for Fielding.

The revised tables are summarized below.


1. 2004 2196 1 AUS (vs Nzl) 19.95 20.68 40.63; Gilchrist A.C, Hayden M.L, Ponting R.T, Lehmann D.S, Martyn D.R, Symonds A, Clarke M.J. (after 21 other Australian teams (as compared to 107 Australian teams earlier)) 23. 1999 1390 2 SAF (vs Win) 18.80 20.63 39.43 Kirsten G, Gibbs H.H, Kallis J.H, Cullinan D.J, Cronje W.J, Rhodes J.N, Pollock S.M. (after 44 other teams) 68. 2005 2237 2 IND (vs Pak) 18.35 20.27 38.62 (Match lost) Sehwag V, Tendulkar S.R, Dhoni M.S, Ganguly S.C, Dravid R, Yuvraj Singh, Kaif M.


1. 1981 0116 2 WIN (vs Eng) 1.62 39.53 41.15 Roberts A.M.E, Holding M.A, Garner J, Croft C.E.H + Richards/Gomes. 2. 2001 1670 2 AUS (vs Win) 2.55 38.57 41.12 Warne S.K, Lee B, Bracken N.W, McGrath G.D, Symonds A. 3. 1981 0115 1 WIN (vs Eng) 1.37 39.53 40.90 Roberts A.M.E, Garner J, Holding M.A, Croft C.E.H + Lloyd/Gomes. 4. 2000 1552 2 AUS (vs Ind) 2.58 38.22 40.80 Warne S.K, Lee B, Fleming D.W, McGrath G.D, S.R.Waugh. 5. 2000 1622 2 AUS (vs Saf) 2.56 38.21 40.77 Warne S.K, Lee S, Gillespie J.N, Lee B, McGrath G.D.

It is in Bowling that these changes are felt a lot. The top 5 teams are now composed of West Indian and Australian teams since the Australian bowlers have got their Indices adjusted accordingly.

Team Strength

1. 2001 1670 2 AUS (vs Win) 39.47 38.57 2.55 80.59 Gilchrist A.C, Waugh M.E, Ponting R.T, Bevan M.G, Lehmann D.S, Martyn D.R, Symonds A, Warne S.K, Lee B, Bracken N.W, McGrath G.D. (after 24 other Australian teams (as compared to 144 Australian teams earlier)) 26. 1983 0189 1 WIN (vs Ind) 37.28 38.24 2.15 77.67 Greenidge C.G, Haynes D.L, Richards I.V.A, Logie A.L, Lloyd C.H, Gomes H.A, Dujon P.J.L, Marshall M.D, Roberts A.M.E, Holding M.A, Garner J. (after 19 other Australian/West Indian teams) 46. 2002 1918 1 SAF (vs Pak) 37.48 37.17 2.45 77.10 Smith G.C, Gibbs H.H, Dippenaar H.H, Kallis J.H, Rhodes J.N, Boucher M.V, Pollock S.M, Klusener L, Hall A.J, Donald A.A, Ntini M.

You can note the significant change. The 1983 West Indian team moves up considerably. The top 100 now has teams from Australia, West Indies and South Africa.

The best teams for all the 10 Test-playing countries can be viewed by clicking here.

Not considered

1. Career-to-date average or recent form adjusted values instead of career average

I evaluated this option but decided not to do the change. The reasons are many. Richards is an outstanding 47.00(Avge) / .887(Strt) batsman. If his mid-career figures were lower or his recent form was not good, that does not make him any lesser, at any time in his career. Similarly for other great players such as Tendulkar, Lara, Wasim Akram, McGrath et al. The other reason is that between the 11 players these numbers would get evened out. The last reason is that this will involve too much work, for very little improvemet.

2. RPI instead of Batting Average

This was also considered seriously. I did not do this because that meant I would be going away from the widely accepted Batting Average. It is true that a Hussey or Bevan might gain in view of the high number of Not outs. However this is more than compensated by the fact that they would have had very little time to settle down, they would have to throw the bat around and in general play for the team score. The early batsmen, on the other hand, may be hampered by the high number of dismissals. However they would have time to settle down, play themselves in and in general play longer innings.

3. Consider the two Bowling parameters separately

This was also a good suggestion. However, I could not get away from the fact that the bowling average is a composite value of the two components (Bowling Average = Strike Rate x Accuracy). I also did some trial calculations. These showed that the impact of splitting the two components would be minimal. Hence I retained the Bowling Average.

4. Finally the Fielding

Everyone knows that Jonty Rhodes was a great fielder. But then how great a fielder was he? Was he greater than Colin Bland, Roger Harper, Ricky Ponting et al or not? Is there a quantifiable and verifiable measure available? Even run-outs started getting attributed to specific fielders only recently. Possibly the greatest fielding display of all time was effected by Richards during the 1975 World Cup final against Australia. His three run-outs do not find a place on the scorecard.

We do not have a measure for fielding. Until we get that (even then what about the earlier matches) it will be impossible to quantify fielding. I am not going to do a subjective error-prone Fielding Index. Instead I have done a low weighting of 5% for Fielding, done using the available Catches/Stumpings values.

I have also resisted the temptation to come out with an all-time best world team. That is outside the scope of this team-oriented analysis and I want to avoid making the mistake I made in my previous post. Surely there will be another time when such an analysis will be done.

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

  • testli5504537 on June 28, 2008, 9:10 GMT

    wow you guys are amazing.

    Could someone do an analysis for me.

    from 1980 until now. Whos has fielded the best team of allrounders and what would the XI world All rounder team be. (Both ODI's and Test format)

    I would like set the criteria that a player must have played 20 Test matches and 30 one dayers in their repesctive formats. So a Test team of allrounders and an ODI team of allrounders.

    Purely on stats would be great - also you have to pick a wicket keeper.

    Please remember it is all-rounders I am looking at - and no need to name opening batters etc because if they are all rounders they can play anywhere.

    Cheers guys

  • testli5504537 on June 22, 2008, 4:49 GMT

    Finally I just want to remark how ironic it is that Steve Waugh is part of the world's 4th best ever ODI bowling line up at a point in his career when he hardly ever bowled.

  • testli5504537 on June 22, 2008, 4:39 GMT

    The Captain's tactical nous is important. So it would be good if we could find a way to include it. A captain's results are influenced greatly by the team he leads and the opposition he is playing against though, so a way has to be found to take that into account. Fortunately you've just created that very mechanism. The team a player captains has a rating, so does his opposition. So let's try this: (If you win as a captain you get 1 x (opp. rating / your team's rating). If you lose you get -1 x (your team's rating / opposition's rating). A tie gets you (0.5 x opp./your rating - 0.5 x your/opp. team's rating).) Divide this score by the the number of games captained. Over the course of a career we would expect good captains to have a positive score, bad captains will have a negative score. So -1

  • testli5504537 on June 22, 2008, 4:18 GMT

    Other things to consider: #1. Since you are looking at the whole team weight the batsman's batting order depending on how likely they are to get a bat. So if the average innings length (average/s.r.) for the first 6 is 300 balls then the next five batsmen won't get much of a run. #2. Bevan's average is the highest. He sacrificed some strike rate to get it and given how often he proved a match winner because of it, his whole average should be taken into account. I suggest taking Bevan as 50.0 and scaling everyone else down so that the proportions are the same. #3. Just as important as having good lower order bats, is having alternative bowling options to take account of varying conditions or when things go wrong. I suggest weighting bowler 4 as 9/10, bowler 5 as 7/10 and bowler 6 as 4/10. Though perhaps you can think of something better. #4. Fielding analysis: Include byes and leg byes conceded by the wicket keeper, since these don't count against the bowler.

  • testli5504537 on June 10, 2008, 0:18 GMT

    "1. They were largely playing 60 over matches and so the potential need for an extra batsman was greater (20% more overs to bat) - i'm sure this would have been a factor."

    I disagree. The potential need for an extra BOWLER was greater, as there were 12 overs to worry about, not 10. Getting away with part-timers is easier if the number of overs they have to worry about is less.

    2. Study scorecards from the 1983 WC and elsewhere. Part-timers routinely conceded twice as many runs as the quicks.

    3. Note that they won the 1979 final when Richards make 138* after being 99/4. The same goes for the 1983 Semi vs. Pak (Richards make 80*). They were too dependent on one batsman, and when he made only 33, it was over, even though he was just the 3rd wicket to fall.

    Australia, on the other hand, have won countless matches after being 50/4 or worse. WI has ONLY won from such a position if Richards did well (in one case, making 189*), which was often, but not always. [[There is a danger in generalizing. One of the main reasons for India's WC final was the way its fourth, fifth and sixth bowlers bowled. Binny, Madan Lal and Azad bowled 20 overs for 42 runs and 4 wickets. When conditions are favourable, the lesser bowers perform like far greater bowlers and on the sub-continental flatties, the McGraths and Pollocks would be taken to the cleaners.]]

  • testli5504537 on June 9, 2008, 8:10 GMT

    Re; the Windies, you have to remember a couple of things;

    1. They were largely playing 60 over matches and so the potential need for an extra batsman was greater (20% more overs to bat) - i'm sure this would have been a factor.

    2. There were none of the modern inventions designed to help scoring rates: fielding restrictions, harsher rules on wides, powerplays etc and so the format was much more geared towards "traditional" batting rather than the "crash bang wallop" that is easier to get away with now. 3. The old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" - the Windies were winning everything, including the 1st 2 world cups so they would have been reluctant to change that formula.

    All the changes over the past 30 years make it difficult to compare teams - you can only judge vs what they did against opponents at the time, and the Windies did very well...

    As for Klusener, statistically he's the best SA (ODI) batsman ever so in theory should bat in the top 3 or 4.

    [[Jeff is right. One should respect greatness and not look for trivial faults. Any team which reads like Greenidge, Haynes, Richards,,yyy,zzz, Roberts, Holding, Garner and Croft should make only marvel at such a lineup and not split hairs about the middle three.]]

  • testli5504537 on June 8, 2008, 2:49 GMT

    Yes. In the 1983 Semi-final vs. Pakistan, Pak was dismissed for 188, and WI won easily simply because Richards scored 80 not out. In the final a few days later, India scored a similar score. But when Richards was out, at 57/3, viewers knew the tide had turned. WI had just one way of winning, and it involved one of the top-4 (usually Richards) scoring heavily.

    For 20+ years, I considered India's victory to be a total fluke. Now, I think India actually planned well to attack WI's Achilles heel. I think India studied the WI/Pak Semi-Final closely. They scored 57 off Richards/Gomes, and once Kapil caught Richards, both India and WI knew it was over.

    You are right. Symonds/Gilchrist/Clarke/Hussey are really the source of Australia's dominance.

    Which brings another point. South Africa had more all-rounders than any other team, with Pollock and Klusener at #8 and #9. While they did very well, it is surprising that they did not do even better. [[If India planned it, it was great strategy. If not, they were lucky. Either way, it was a wonderful and exhilarating fluke. South African top order does not come out very well in the calculations. The presence of Pollock and Kluesener at 8/9 could as well make them much higher with a different algorithm. Even otherwise it should be noted that the first 100 teams are separated by just over 6%.]]

  • testli5504537 on June 6, 2008, 19:06 GMT

    This ranking points out something that I suspected for a long time - that the 1983 West Indies team had bowling so strong that it masked a major weakness : The batting was top-heavy, and relatively weak after #4. #5-#11 were below average relative to other teams at the time.

    If the first 3-4 wickets went cheaply (particulary if Richards was out), WI was in trouble. That is why in the 1983 WC final, once Richards was dismissed, WI was destined to lose, even though he was still only the 3rd wicket to fall!

    OTOH, no one ever counts Australia out if just the first 3-4 wickets fall cheaply.

    Thus, Lloyd did well to mask a major weakness. In fact, he should have played 5 fast bowlers instead of 4, and not bothered with the likes of Logie, Gomes, Bacchus, Harper, etc. 5 Batsmen + Dujon + 5 quicks would actually have been a better formula for ODIs. Such a team might have won the 1983 final, where Richards + Gomes conceded 57 runs, while the quicks averaged only 26 each. [[Very well put. West Indies between 1975 and 1983 were not nearly as dominant were Australia between 1999 and 2007 for this very reason. Gilchrist and Symonds were true all-rounders. Both match winners. As you have rightly said, many a match was played in which one great fast bowler sat out. Hindsight says that they could very well have played him also. Consider also that truly devastating bowlers like Stephenson never got a look in.]]

  • testli5504537 on June 6, 2008, 13:56 GMT

    Continued… For reference, the top SA team listed by Ananth would score 246-6 (if they promoted Klusener, Boucher & Pollock in the order) and would concede 208-8, giving a diff of 38

    Ananth’s best England team would score 221-7 and concede 212-8

    And his best Indian team would score a healthy 246-6 but concede a massive 233-7

    Note that some scores could have been increased slightly by moving tail enders up the order if they had a higher SR than a main batsman (eg Zaheer Khan has a higher SR than Ganguly but I didn't move him to open and Ganguly down to no. 11) - I tried to make my changes in batting orders at least somewhat realistic (ie Shane Lee was enough of a batsman to at least consider him as a pinch hitter.)

    (This has taken a fair bit of manual work as I don’t have the necessary skills to build an algorithm to do this automatically – but it’s been fun…)

  • testli5504537 on June 6, 2008, 13:50 GMT

    Using the methods I mentioned in my previous posts (using batting SR & ave to calculate predicted score for a team and bowling econ rate & SR to predict opposition scores) I have come to the following results:

    The no .1 ranked Aussie team (in Ananth’s list) would score a predicted 253-6 in 50 overs (they would maximise their score by using Shane Lee as a pinch hitter) and concede a predicted 208-9 giving a run difference of 45.

    The best Windies team would be predicted to score “only” 219-5 (maximised by playing Dujon above the slow scoring Gomes) but would concede just 172-8, giving a difference of 47 runs.

    This clearly shows that strike rates have increased over time but possibly allows us equalise for this factor by looking at the difference between the scores vs opponents.

    Maybe the Windies were the better team?

    Certainly they were at least as good, relative to their opponents, as the Aussies were…(given any margins of error in my calculations)

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