Allrounders October 3, 2008

The best Test all-rounders: a follow-up

The previous post on allrounders received a high number of quality responses

The main article received a high number of quality responses. A number of useful suggestions were provided and the exchanges were conducted without the acrimony that had been the feature of earlier exchanges. I thank the readers for this trend and hope that this will be continued in future.

The final table has been slightly modified based on tweaks in the Performance parameter as suggested by Hamish and Kartik. Details at the end.

I had mentioned that I would do an in-depth article on selected all-rounders incorporating more measures, as suggested by readers. Some of the relevant points mentioned by readers are summarised below.

  1. Take care of an all-rounder being the first/second bowler (e-g., Imran/Hadlee) vs fourth/fifth bowler (e-g., Sobers/Kallis).
  2. Take care of quality of wickets captured.
  3. Take care of quality of bowling faced by the all-rounder in batting.
  4. Equalise Batting and Bowling to a greater extent.
  5. Take into account Bowling strike rates.
  6. Reduce the weight for longevity measures.
  7. Take into account Fielding data.
  8. Take into account Captaincy data.

I have considered all these requests and incorporated whatever is possible and quantifiable. The response to these points are given below in the same order.

  1. This has been taken care of in a round-about manner. I have determined the % of Balls bowled by the bowler to the Balls bowled by the team. This will clearly give an idea of the bowling importance of the bowler. In addition the % of wickets captured by the bowler to that captured by the team is also deternined to do a more informed determination of the bowler status.
  2. Has been done by assigning the dismissed batsman's batting average to each wicket captured by the player. Capturing the wicket of Tendulkar will add 54.23 to the kitty while dismissing Zaheer Khan will add only 11.77 to the sum. Fair enough.
  3. Has been done by assigning an opposite team's actual weighted bowling strength, based on balls bowled and bowling average, to each run scored by the player. Take three centuries scored by Kallis. The 115 against Zimbabwe will be weighted with a value of 46.47, the 105 against Pakistan will be weighted with a value of 35.40 and the 139 against Bangladesh will be weighted with 59.98. Cannot do more.
  4. Has been done in different ways.
  5. Has been done. The longevity weightings have been halved.
  6. Not done since the Bowling Strike rate is a constituent part of the Bowling Average. I am aware that separating the Bowling Accuracy and Bowling Strike Rate and doing a differential weighting of the two measures will change the dynamics of the calculations. However I see no reason for doing the same separately since the Bowling Average is a universally accepted figure encompassing both. If Sobers has higher bowling strike rate, he makes up for it partly with his accuracy and this is already reflected in his relatively high Bowling Average. Doing the Strike Rate in addition will penalize players doubly.
  7. Not done since an all-rounder analysis should take only Batting and Bowling. Fielding does not become part of a player's all-round abilities. If a fielder fields at first slip, he would get a number of catches. If he fields at long-on, he will get very few catches.
  8. Not done because a player's captaincy ability does not add to his all-round abilities. It is an opportunity given to him which he does very well (as Imran did) or poorly (as Botham did). However what about Hadlee who never captained New Zealand. It was not because he did not have captaincy skills, rather it was because NZ board did not want to overload him. He cannot be penalised for this. Similar situation exists with Kallis/Miller et al.
The criteria for selecting the elite group of all-rounders is the following.
  • 2500+ runs.
  • 25.00+ Batting average.
  • 100+ wickets.
  • Bowling average less than 40.
13 players qualify. Out of these, Vettori is excluded since, surprisingly, his bowling average is higher than his batting average and that is not the sign of a world class all-rounder. Hadlee also has a sub-30 batting average but he makes up with an outstanding bowling average. The following 12 all-rounders qualify.
No Player          Runs   Avge    Wkts   Avge

1.Sobers G.St.A 8032 57.78 235 34.04 2.Kallis J.H 9761 55.46 240 31.23 3.Imran Khan 3807 37.69 362 22.81 4.Miller K.R 2958 36.97 170 22.98 5.Botham I.T 5200 33.55 383 28.40 6.Pollock S.M 3781 32.32 421 23.12 7.Hadlee R.J 3124 27.17 431 22.30 8.Kapil Dev N 5248 31.05 434 29.65 9.Cairns C.L 3320 33.54 218 29.40 10.Flintoff A 3494 32.35 206 32.21 11.Goddard T.L 2516 34.47 123 26.23 12.Greig A.W 3599 40.44 141 32.21

All these players have the figures to qualify as all-rounders. They could all bat at no.7 and above and would feature in all their teams as one of the top 5 bowlers.

However since this list is primarily a post-WW2 list, a separate analysis is done for all the all-rounders who have played their games before 1948. This list is shown at the end.

The following parameters have been used with the weightings allotted.

1. BAT - Runs Scored (7.5 points):

The weighting has been reduced by 50% to 7.5 points. One point per 1500 runs and limited to 7.5 points.

2. BAT - Batting Average (10 points):

The range is from Sobers (57.78) to Hadlee (27.17). The point allocation ranges from 0.0 for Batting Average of 25.00 to 10.00 for Batting Average of 60.00.

3. BAT - Bowling Quality faced (10 points):

The range is from Botham (34.38), a surprise indeed, to Miller (43.63), indicating the average quality of bowlers during 40s-50s. Botham's number puts paid to the wrong presumption that he was a flat-track-bully and did not do well against good quality bowling.

The point allocation ranges from 0.0 for Bowling quality value of 50.00 to 10.00 for Bowling quality value of 30.0.

4. BAT - % of Team Runs scored (5 points):

The range is from Sobers (15.78%) to Pollock (7.68%), both understandable. The point allocation ranges from 0.0 for TRS % of 0.00 to 5.00 for TRS % of 16.0.

5. BOW - Wickets captured (7.5 points):

The weighting has been reduced by 50% to 7.5 points. One point per 60 wickets and limited to 7.5 points.

6. BOW - Bowling Average (10 points):

The range is from Hadlee (22.30) to, not surprisingly, Sobers (34.04). To a great extent Sobers has made up his poor strike rate with his accuracy. The point allocation ranges from 0.0 for Bowling Average of 40.00 to 10.00 for Bowling Average of 20.00.

7. BOW - Wickets Quality (5 points):

I have always felt that Flintoff consistently captiured top order wickets. This is more than borne by these numbers. The range is from Flintoff (34.85) to Cairns (29.29). Incidentally 84 of Flintoff's 206 wickets (over 40%) are of batsmen with Batting Averages exceeding 40.0.

The point allocation is from 0.0 for Wkt quality of 25.0 to 5.0 for Wkt quality of 35.0.

8. BOW - % of Team Balls (5 points):

As stated already this is a clear indication of the player's importance to the bowling attack. Kallis is clearly the lowest with a % of Team Balls bowled value of 15.22, less than a sixth, indicating that he was, at best, South Africa's fifth bowler. On the other hand, Imran Khan bowled 27.27% of his team balls making him to be the top bowler.

The range is from 0.0 for Team Balls % of 10.0 to 5.0 for Team Balls % of 30.0.

9. BOW - % of Team Wickets (5 points):

This is another indicator of the all-rounder's place in the bowling attack. The previous one indicates the effort put in. This indicates the results. Kallis is clearly the lowest with a % of Team wickets captured value of 16.59, again less than a sixth, indicating that he was, at best, South Africa's fifth bowler. On the other hand, Imran Khan has captured 37.07% of his team wickets making him to be the top bowler. It should be noted that the team wickets are accumulated only in matches where the all-rounder bowled. This is to take care of the 7 matches in which Imran played as a pure batsmen.

The range is from 0.0 for Team wickets % of 10.0 to 5.0 for Team wickets % of 40.0.

10. ARF - All Round performances in Tests (10 points):

This is a great measure of the individual match performances. I have changed the criteria to 100+ runs & 4+ wickets for P1 performances and 75+ runs & 3+ wickets for P2 performances. These are AND conditions and not OR conditions. Since completing the previous article I have realised that this is a true measure of the all-rounder's contributions in individual Test matches since he contributes heavily to the team performance by excelling in both batting and bowling.

0.5 points are alloted for each P1 performance and 0.25 points for each P2 performance.

Sobers is the undisputed leader in this category. His performances are listed below. This table will outline his greatness. In 93 Tests he has excelled with P1 level all-round performances in 11. He has done P1/P2 level performances in 24 Tests (more than 25%).

Sobers G.St.A
P1 1960 0490 Eng Win (3+1) 4 wkts & 145 runs (145+  0)
P1 1960 0491 Eng Win (3+2) 5 wkts & 141 runs ( 92+ 49)
P1 1962 0526 Ind Win (4+1) 5 wkts & 153 runs (153+  0)
P1 1962 0529 Win Ind (0+5) 5 wkts & 154 runs (104+ 50)
P1 1966 0608 Win Eng (5+3) 8 wkts & 174 runs (174+  0)
P1 1966 0610 Ind Win (3+2) 5 wkts & 103 runs ( 50+ 53)
P1 1968 0629 Eng Win (1+3) 4 wkts & 113 runs (  0+113)
P1 1968 0636 Win Eng (3+3) 6 wkts & 247 runs (152+ 95)
P1 1969 0646 Aus Win (2+3) 5 wkts & 126 runs ( 13+113)
P1 1971 0685 Win Ind (2+2) 4 wkts & 187 runs (178+  9)
P1 1972 0695 Win Nzl (4+0) 4 wkts & 177 runs ( 35+142)

P2 1958 0448 Win Pak (1+2) 3 wkts & 132 runs ( 52+ 80) P2 1961 0506 Win Aus (5+0) 5 wkts & 85 runs ( 64+ 21) P2 1963 0546 Win Eng (0+3) 3 wkts & 154 runs (102+ 52) P2 1965 0584 Win Aus (3+0) 3 wkts & 93 runs ( 69+ 24) P2 1965 0588 Win Aus (2+2) 4 wkts & 87 runs ( 45+ 42) P2 1966 0605 Win Eng (0+3) 3 wkts & 161 runs (161+ 0) P2 1966 0607 Win Eng (4+1) 5 wkts & 97 runs ( 3+ 94) P2 1966 0609 Win Eng (3+0) 3 wkts & 81 runs ( 81+ 0) P2 1968 0643 Win Aus (4+0) 4 wkts & 86 runs ( 19+ 67) P2 1969 0654 Win Eng (2+1) 3 wkts & 79 runs ( 29+ 50) P2 1971 0684 Win Ind (3+0) 3 wkts & 112 runs ( 4+108) P2 1971 0686 Ind Win (1+2) 3 wkts & 132 runs (132+ 0) P2 1973 0726 Win Eng (3+0) 3 wkts & 95 runs ( 21+ 74)

To view all players' performances click here.

11. ARF - Average Runs scored / Wickets captured per Test (5 points):

This rounds off the individual Test all-round performances. I total the Runs and 25 times the Wickets and divide the sum by the number of Tests played. This is a clear parameter of consistency and all-round delivery. This is slightly biased in favour of the bowling since an average of 100 runs per Test has been achieved only by one batsman while 4 wickets per Test by 48 bowlers.

The range is from Hadlee (161.6) to Greig (122.8).

The point allocation is from 0.0 for ARF value of 100 to 5.0 for ARF value of 160.0 and above.

Based on these calculations the top all-rounder list is given below.

No Player           Bat     Bow     A/R    Total

1.Sobers G.St.A 26.47 14.64 12.74 53.86 2.Botham I.T 17.32 20.91 9.12 47.34 3.Imran Khan 15.11 25.90 5.72 46.73 4.Hadlee R.J 12.54 26.85 7.22 46.61 5.Kallis J.H 25.28 13.97 7.27 46.52 6.Pollock S.M 13.57 24.39 4.62 42.58 7.Cairns C.L 15.52 16.36 7.84 39.73 8.Kapil Dev N 13.80 21.12 4.10 39.01 9.Miller K.R 12.07 19.28 6.00 37.35 10.Goddard T.L 14.65 17.30 4.68 36.64 11.Flintoff A 14.52 16.86 4.89 36.27 12.Greig A.W 18.69 12.40 5.09 36.17

As expected Sobers is comfortably on top, this time with a cushion of nearly 14%. He is the undisputed leader in Batting and All-round performances and has acceptable Bowling values. What has really tilted the table in his favour is his consistent delivery of all-round performances. No one else has matched him.

Botham comes next and is just ahead of Imran Khan. He has acceptable fogures in all three areas and this has helped him move to the second place.

Then three greats occupy the next three positions and these are closely bunched. This trio is led by Imran Khan and followed by Hadlee and Kallis. They are separated by fractions of a point and should really considered as a group. Imran Khan and Hadlee excel in Bowling and have reasonable Batting figures. Kallis has an excellent batting figure and just about reaches the Bowling mark.

My suggestion to the readers is not to split hairs among these three. A slight change in parameters will move them up or down. I would say that let us take Imran as the first among these three equals. For that matter I would suggest that we take Botham as the first among the four equals since the four all-rounders are within a single % point of each other.

Then come Pollock, Cairns and Kapil Dev. Those who query Cairns' higher position than Kapil must understand that Cairns has better Batting and Bowling average figures than Kapil Dev. If people refer to Kapil's taking wickets on the Indian soil, one can point out Cairns' scoring runs on those difficult New Zealand pitches. Cairns is again an under-rated all-rounder.

Sobers is the best batsmen, followed by Kallis. Hadlee is the best bowler, closely follwed by Imran Khan. Sobers is the comfortable leader in the Test match performance area, followed by Botham.

To view the parameter values and the calculated Index values for these 12 all-rounders click here.

A look at the pre-World War all-rounders:

Using Hammond's last Test during 1948 as a cut-off, I have selected all-rounders of the pre-WW2 era, lowering the cut-off to 1000 runs and 50 wickets. The calculations have also been slightly adjusted to provide for the lower cut-off levels, lower batting averages and lower bowling averages. The table is given below.

No Player         Runs   Avge  Wkts   Avge  Index

1. Faulkner G.A 1754 40.79 82 26.59 38.99 2. Tate M.W 1198 25.49 155 26.16 34.31 3. Gregory J.M 1146 36.97 85 31.15 32.47 4. Hammond W.R 7249 58.46 83 37.81 30.15 5. Noble M.A 1997 30.26 121 25.00 29.30 6. Armstrong W.W 2863 38.69 87 33.60 26.16 7. Rhodes W 2325 30.19 127 26.97 26.02 8. Kelleway C 1422 37.42 52 32.37 23.68 9. Woolley F.E 3283 36.08 83 33.92 22.71

Faulkner, the great South African all-rounder is the leader. He is the one all-rounder who would have clearly walked into the all-time all-rounder table. Incidentally Faulkner gets an unadjusted valuation of around 34.5 points. The two Australian all-rounders, Alan Davidson and Richie Benaud are missing from the two tables. They were two genuine all-rounders who would have graced any era.

Final tweak on performance parameter:

This is a slightly revised final Table based on two very valid suggestions made by Hamish and Kartik re performances.

Hamish has suggested that since there is a clear skew, in favour of the batsmen, in fixing the P1 and P2 criteria as 100r/4w and 75r/3w, it should be changed to either P1=100r/5w... or P1=75r/4w. This is a valid suggestion, based on sound statistical analysis and the P1-P2 limits have been changed to 80runs/4wkts and 60runs/3wkts respectively. The point allocation has been changed to 0.5 and 0.3 to reflect the narrowing of gap between P1 and P2.

Kartik has made a valid suggetion to penalize the very poor performances. This makes sense since virtual non-contribution has to be recognized as we do the above-average contributions. I have taken a cut-off of 40 runs (equivalent to 1w/20r) as the point below which a test is deemed to be a failure for an all-rounder. Suitable adjustment has been made for treating tests like the one Imran played as a batsman. Equivalent runs are taken to compensate for wickets. The penalty has been fixed at 0.15, which is half the P2 value and is quite fair.

The revised table is given below.

No Player           Bat     Bow    A/R    Total

01.Sobers G.St.A 26.47 14.64 13.74 54.86 02.Botham I.T 17.32 20.91 11.07 49.29 03.Imran Khan 15.11 25.90 7.37 48.38 04.Hadlee R.J 12.54 26.85 8.72 48.11 05.Kallis J.H 25.28 13.97 7.17 46.42 06.Pollock S.M 13.57 24.39 6.37 44.33 07.Kapil Dev N 13.80 21.12 5.35 40.26 08.Cairns C.L 15.52 16.36 8.19 40.08 09.Miller K.R 12.07 19.28 6.55 37.90 10.Goddard T.L 14.65 17.30 5.18 37.14 11.Flintoff A 14.52 16.86 5.34 36.72 12.Greig A.W 18.69 12.40 5.24 36.32

As I had mentioned earlier there are no major differences. The gap between Sobers and others has come down slightly. The only significant move is that Kapil Dev and Cairns have exchanged places. The other minor change is that there is now a larger gap between Hadlee and Kallis so much so that I would consider the second best as the trio Botham, Imran and Hadlee with Botham as the first amongst equals.

This can be taken as the final table.

To view the complete table with all values, please click here.

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