December 4, 2008

Lies, damned lies, and 21st century cricket stats

If you are allergic to or intolerant of cricket statistics, please either take an anti-histamine before reading this, or destroy your computer
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[If you are allergic to or intolerant of cricket statistics, please either take an anti-histamine before reading this, or destroy your computer. Whichever is easier and safer.]

Do cricket statistics mean anything anymore? It used to seem that they were an unimpeachable barometer of quality. Now, they are skewed by a mixture of endemically weak teams, artificially weakened teams, 21st century superbats, homogenous pitches, nonsensical schedules, exhausted bowlers and supposedly entertainment-enhancing boundaries. There are now more statistics in the cricket world than ever before – and that’s just one of them. But they tell us less than ever about the players who generate them.

A Test batting average of 50 was once the certificate of authenticity of unquestionable world class, the unforgeable hallmark on the commemorative silver WG Grace statuette of greatness. That once exclusive club now has an increasing number of members. In the 1970s, seven batsman topped the half-century mark per innings (excluding those statistical chancers who played fewer than 20 innings in the decade). In the 1980s, it was six. In the 1990s, it was seven again. Since the millennium, 20 batsmen are on the Bradman side of 50 rather than the Mullally side. Are there really three times as many great batsmen as in previous recent decades?

First, let me give you some background on this statistical fixation. When I was a small boy, in the absence of any cricket-obsessed family members, my interest in the great game was fostered by a single book – Botham Rekindles The Ashes, the Daily Telegraph’s book commemorating the 1981 series, which my father gave the seven-year-old me for Christmas that year. There can have been few pages in history scrutinised with such incessant junior fervour as Bill Frindall’s scorecards in the back of that sacred tome. I was, clearly, an odd child.

My love of, fascination with and psychological dependence on cricketing statistics remains to this day. An unhealthily large part of my cranium has been permanently cordoned off for the retention of pre-1997 cricket stats (an achievement rendered even more obsolete by the subsequent creation of Cricinfo’s Statsguru facility, one of the unquestionable wonders of the modern technological world, whose very existence mocks my entire Wisden-trawling childhood).

This is neither a boast nor an admission. It is a simple fact. As a student, I remember one particularly spectacular stat-off with a fellow stat-nut. I successfully named all three wicketkeepers to have scored Test double centuries at the time. In my moment of triumph, I was overwhelmed with simultaneous feelings of pride and embarrassment. How many people in the world could have reeled off the names of Imtiaz Ahmed, Taslim Arif and Brendon Kuruppu with barely a pause for breath? Not many. And even fewer would have been even marginally impressed. Was this the path to happiness and love? If it was, there would be one unorthodox woman sitting at a folding table at the end of it, with a box of coloured pencils and a scorebook.

However, as many of you will know from personal experience, a sporting statistic learnt in childhood is not easily forgotten. Indeed, I find it far easier to recall the Test averages of cricketers who died before I was even born than, for example, my PIN number, or wedding anniversary [see footnote].

So it is that, with an increasing sense of nostalgia for the old mathematical certainties and fear for what the statistical future of cricket holds, I have watched my beloved averages and records become bloated, tainted and opaque. This was emphasised once again during South Africa’s recent and pointless obliteration of Bangladesh.

The Confectionery Stall Statistical Analysis Unit has examined the influence of performances against Test cricket’s two weakest teams, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. 49 batsmen average over 70 against these perennial purveyors of cannon fodder. 63 bowlers average below 20 against them. Inevitably, some illustrious career statistics have been given a sparkly coat of varnish, and some less illustrious ones have had unsightly stains at least partially painted over.

Matches against these two have, for example, raised Kumar Sangakkara’s batting average from 50 to almost 55; Marvin Atapattu’s from 32 to 39; Jacques Rudolph’s from 30 to 36; Ian Bell’s from 39 to 42; Marcus Trescothick’s from 41 to almost 44; Ramnaresh Sarwan’s from 37 to 40, and Chris Martin’s from a frankly insufficient 1.71 to a perfectly respectable 2.17. They have reduced Steve Harmison’s bowling average from almost 34 to 31; Irfan Pathan’s from 45 to 32; Daniel Vettori’s from 38 to 33; and Muttiah Muralitharan’s from 24 to 22.

Even the mighty Tendulkar’s numbers seem a little less divine – his 54 career average dips to 51. For Jacques Kallis, one of the most merciless acquisitors of statistical excellence in the game’s history, career averages of 55 batting and almost 31 bowling become a slightly less imposing 51 and 34 respectively. Still great, but not quite as great.

Some buck this trend. Warne and Lara have profited little if at all from these opponents. Younis Khan’s average would be just above instead of just below 50. So too the remarkable, evergreen Chanderpaul (career average 49). He scores a paltry 33 per dismissal against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, but almost 54 against the top five teams in the current ICC rankings. Is he in fact therefore the greatest batsman of the era? And one can only speculate on how much more extraordinary Andy Flower’s figures would have been had he had the good fortune to play against Zimbabwe as well as for them.

Admittedly, and obviously, throughout cricket history players have statistically benefitted from the weaker teams and been damaged by the stronger ones. Sobers averaged 57 and 34 overall, but only 43 and 39 against Australia. The greatest statistical bowling phenomenon of Test cricket, George Lohmann, averaged 10.75 for his 112 wickets. But without his 35 wickets at 5 apiece against a South African team who had only just learnt on which limbs pads were strapped, his average against Australia rockets to an almost wantonly profligate 13.

So what does all this show? Three things:

  • 1. I need to spend more time with my family.
  • 2. Statistics are like a ventriloquist’s dummy – shove your hand far enough up them and you can get them to say whatever you want.
  • 3. Selectors sometimes look at the wrong numbers.

Cricket stats have always required a large element of interpretation – few would claim that Hashan Tillakaratne was a greater cricketer than Victor Trumper, despite his significantly superior Test and first-class batting averages. Even Hashan’s nearest and dearest would politely change the topic of conversation were he to start claiming so at a family function.

Now, however, the numbers ceaselessly generated by cricket require an increasingly large research team and several industrial-strength pinches of salt before they shed their grains of truth into the porridge of speculation. Please can I have my childhood again?

FOOTNOTE:

Following a brief and tetchy consultation with Mrs Confectionery Stall, I can now confirm that my anniversary is 18th September. I will never forget it again – the figures in the date 18-9 make up the number of Test wickets taken by SF Barnes, Erapalli Prasanna or (for at least another week) Zaheer Khan, or, as an emergency fall-back memory-jogging stat, the highest Test score of Jacques Kallis, Vijay Manjrekar, Bruce Mitchell and four others, or, in extremis, the number of runs conceded by underrated Pakistani tweaker Tauseef Ahmed whilst taking three Indian wickets in the first innings of the first Test at Chennai in 1987.

If I ever move to America, my revised anniversary of 9-18 would be simply recalled by remembering the number of Test runs scored by 1960s England offspinner David Allen, or the number of balls faced by David Gower in the 1983-84 Pakistan v England series.

Alternatively, if I merely wish to avoid confusion and remember the 9 and 18 sections of the anniversary date independently to ensure the great day is not forgotten regardless of geographical location, I need only remind myself of the number of Test centuries scored by Maurice Leyland and the number of five-wicket hauls taken by Lance Gibbs, and then deduce which number refers to the day and which to the month by analysing which one is greater than 12. My marriage is now safe. Thank you Statsguru. I owe you my future happiness.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • arijit dasgupta on February 27, 2009, 18:58 GMT

    Michael S, neither Warne nor McGrath played in the India-Australia series of 2003-04. McGrath didn't play in the 1998 India series either. Sachin played both together only in the 1999-2000 series, when his average wasn't all that good.

  • Himanshu on January 17, 2009, 6:24 GMT

    What was your point anyway minnows are minnows..its well known. Sidhu always says stats are like bikinis what they reveal is important and what they hide is important. It was a waste of time on your part.

  • neel on January 16, 2009, 3:30 GMT

    One should also consider how helmets and paddings helped batsmen boost their averages while the absence of those in the Bradman days helped bowlers, bodyline bowlers in particular!

  • Michael S on December 30, 2008, 8:26 GMT

    Susobhan, you utterly wrong. Sachin averages 55+ from 1996-2006 against Aus. This is the time when those great bowlers you mentioned played for Australia. If we exclude that one off test in 1996 when only 1 of those bowlers played the match for Australia then his avg rises above 59 against them during 1998-2006.

  • Michael S on December 30, 2008, 7:34 GMT

    Just found something pretty interesting. People these days are furious that players improve their averages by playing against Bangladesh etc but this kind of thing has been going since Bradman era so it's a norm. Amazingly Bradman's average drops to 88.31 if we exclude his innings against SA and India (who could be called minnows of that era).

  • Zeeshan on December 13, 2008, 21:27 GMT

    It is simple to compare players who are in same period but comparing them with others are very difficult like Tendulkar with Sir Richard or Lara with Sir Bradman. Now players have to tackle pressure of test as well as one day. In 70s or 80s, one day started only but now twenty twenty is also introduced so it become very difficult for players to show their full strength in test as compare to previous. In this decade bowlers are like Warne, Murlitharan, McGrath, Wasim, Donald, Pollock, Kumble and others. But now their is facility of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh as well like Hayden average is 250.5 against Zimbabwe. It is easy to score against weak teams as compare to strong teams. Overall performance of Hayden is very good and we can compare him with best batsmen of his era. I think Lara is one, two Tendulkar and three Ponting and for fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh position any one of them Dravid, Inzamam, Kallis and Hayden, as comparison between these four players is very difficult.

  • James on December 13, 2008, 9:28 GMT

    Statistics are OK for comparing players who are contemporaries (quality opposition arguments aside) but comparing modern batsmen with Bradman or the West Indies of the 1970s and 1980s, is meaninless because A) short boundaries made of rope are not the same a a fence that is also further away. Many "good" shots today would have been out caught back then. Sixes were rare and beautiful, often only one or none scored in a whole Test. Consequently, runs used to be real runs, nearly all involving traversing the length of the pitch. The other problem is good batting and good bowling cancel each other out, at least when above the level of schoolyard kids who are either good or not good at cricket (like world cup also-rans) as opposed to people who have specialised.

  • Shuvo Brahmachari on December 11, 2008, 8:32 GMT

    Hate to be a nit-picker, but the tally of batsman this decade having 50+ avg. is 14 and not 20 per cricinfo's stats!! Here's the complete list

    Player Ave MEK Hussey (Aus) 64.18 RT Ponting (Aus) 57.18 Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) 55.49 JH Kallis (ICC/SA) 55.06 KC Sangakkara (SL) 54.79 SR Tendulkar (India) 54.3 BC Lara (ICC/WI) 52.88 R Dravid (ICC/India) 52.61 DPMD Jayawardene (SL) 52.41 V Sehwag (ICC/India) 51.96 ML Hayden (Aus) 51.87 A Flower (Zim) 51.54 SR Waugh (Aus) 51.06 KP Pietersen (Eng) 50.51

    And if you take out players who are no longer playing (Yousuf, Lara, Flower, Waugh) the tally drops to 10!

  • G on December 11, 2008, 6:16 GMT

    Funny funny funny article, mate. It was really interesting though I must admit I didn't know more than half of the names you mentioned there. LOL, there's a guy defending Murali there. I think Sri Lanka has played the minnows more than any other team. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are cannon fodder for the Sri Lankans more than for any other team. Besides, when it comes to Murali, I am with Bishen Singh Bedi on this - the guy clearly CHUCKS. Even if he gets a thousand more wickets in his career, I would never consider him anywhere in my list of great bowlers. His action is abominable and even more is the explanation that is he partially disabled. I don't see any reason for the ICC to change laws to fit him in. I mean, you don't hear about partially limp batsmen who are allowed to run only ten yards to complete a run, do you? All that stuff with the brace was a farce too. Proving that he 'can' bowl with a straight arm doesnt automatically mean he 'does' in real matches.

  • Sanjeev Priyam on December 10, 2008, 9:48 GMT

    This article reminds me of the famous Siddhuism, "Statistics are like bikinis… what they reveal is suggestive, what they hide is essential!". LOL!!

  • arijit dasgupta on February 27, 2009, 18:58 GMT

    Michael S, neither Warne nor McGrath played in the India-Australia series of 2003-04. McGrath didn't play in the 1998 India series either. Sachin played both together only in the 1999-2000 series, when his average wasn't all that good.

  • Himanshu on January 17, 2009, 6:24 GMT

    What was your point anyway minnows are minnows..its well known. Sidhu always says stats are like bikinis what they reveal is important and what they hide is important. It was a waste of time on your part.

  • neel on January 16, 2009, 3:30 GMT

    One should also consider how helmets and paddings helped batsmen boost their averages while the absence of those in the Bradman days helped bowlers, bodyline bowlers in particular!

  • Michael S on December 30, 2008, 8:26 GMT

    Susobhan, you utterly wrong. Sachin averages 55+ from 1996-2006 against Aus. This is the time when those great bowlers you mentioned played for Australia. If we exclude that one off test in 1996 when only 1 of those bowlers played the match for Australia then his avg rises above 59 against them during 1998-2006.

  • Michael S on December 30, 2008, 7:34 GMT

    Just found something pretty interesting. People these days are furious that players improve their averages by playing against Bangladesh etc but this kind of thing has been going since Bradman era so it's a norm. Amazingly Bradman's average drops to 88.31 if we exclude his innings against SA and India (who could be called minnows of that era).

  • Zeeshan on December 13, 2008, 21:27 GMT

    It is simple to compare players who are in same period but comparing them with others are very difficult like Tendulkar with Sir Richard or Lara with Sir Bradman. Now players have to tackle pressure of test as well as one day. In 70s or 80s, one day started only but now twenty twenty is also introduced so it become very difficult for players to show their full strength in test as compare to previous. In this decade bowlers are like Warne, Murlitharan, McGrath, Wasim, Donald, Pollock, Kumble and others. But now their is facility of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh as well like Hayden average is 250.5 against Zimbabwe. It is easy to score against weak teams as compare to strong teams. Overall performance of Hayden is very good and we can compare him with best batsmen of his era. I think Lara is one, two Tendulkar and three Ponting and for fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh position any one of them Dravid, Inzamam, Kallis and Hayden, as comparison between these four players is very difficult.

  • James on December 13, 2008, 9:28 GMT

    Statistics are OK for comparing players who are contemporaries (quality opposition arguments aside) but comparing modern batsmen with Bradman or the West Indies of the 1970s and 1980s, is meaninless because A) short boundaries made of rope are not the same a a fence that is also further away. Many "good" shots today would have been out caught back then. Sixes were rare and beautiful, often only one or none scored in a whole Test. Consequently, runs used to be real runs, nearly all involving traversing the length of the pitch. The other problem is good batting and good bowling cancel each other out, at least when above the level of schoolyard kids who are either good or not good at cricket (like world cup also-rans) as opposed to people who have specialised.

  • Shuvo Brahmachari on December 11, 2008, 8:32 GMT

    Hate to be a nit-picker, but the tally of batsman this decade having 50+ avg. is 14 and not 20 per cricinfo's stats!! Here's the complete list

    Player Ave MEK Hussey (Aus) 64.18 RT Ponting (Aus) 57.18 Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) 55.49 JH Kallis (ICC/SA) 55.06 KC Sangakkara (SL) 54.79 SR Tendulkar (India) 54.3 BC Lara (ICC/WI) 52.88 R Dravid (ICC/India) 52.61 DPMD Jayawardene (SL) 52.41 V Sehwag (ICC/India) 51.96 ML Hayden (Aus) 51.87 A Flower (Zim) 51.54 SR Waugh (Aus) 51.06 KP Pietersen (Eng) 50.51

    And if you take out players who are no longer playing (Yousuf, Lara, Flower, Waugh) the tally drops to 10!

  • G on December 11, 2008, 6:16 GMT

    Funny funny funny article, mate. It was really interesting though I must admit I didn't know more than half of the names you mentioned there. LOL, there's a guy defending Murali there. I think Sri Lanka has played the minnows more than any other team. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are cannon fodder for the Sri Lankans more than for any other team. Besides, when it comes to Murali, I am with Bishen Singh Bedi on this - the guy clearly CHUCKS. Even if he gets a thousand more wickets in his career, I would never consider him anywhere in my list of great bowlers. His action is abominable and even more is the explanation that is he partially disabled. I don't see any reason for the ICC to change laws to fit him in. I mean, you don't hear about partially limp batsmen who are allowed to run only ten yards to complete a run, do you? All that stuff with the brace was a farce too. Proving that he 'can' bowl with a straight arm doesnt automatically mean he 'does' in real matches.

  • Sanjeev Priyam on December 10, 2008, 9:48 GMT

    This article reminds me of the famous Siddhuism, "Statistics are like bikinis… what they reveal is suggestive, what they hide is essential!". LOL!!

  • Sanjeev Priyam on December 10, 2008, 9:08 GMT

    Good way to remember dates. I would suggest the same to my girlfriend. Hope from now on she would remember the day we met!!

  • Rishabh on December 6, 2008, 10:26 GMT

    Brilliant stuff! As a writer, you're a great role model, Andy! I can only hope my blog gets half the readers yours does! And Chris: The Aussie spinning woes will continue, as Ponting is a medium pacer.

  • David on December 6, 2008, 6:31 GMT

    Chris,

    Ponting's stats can easily be retrieved from statsguru ... without Bang/Zim (7 matches in total), his average PLUMMETS from 57.18 to 56.33, but his BOWLING average IMPROVES from 48.4 to 45.4! Maybe this is the solution to Australia's spinning woes ... bowl Ponting more :)

  • Dimuthu on December 6, 2008, 4:36 GMT

    Srikanth - actually, if you ask Mendis or Murali, i think they'll agree that the ZIM wickets were harder to get than the Indian ones! Please refer the Asia Cup and the !dea Cup tests.

    redneck - nothing much the players can do about the matches they get. stop being a baby and accept Murali is a great bowler and that it takes nothing away from Warne who is also a great one.

    Andy - loving this blog mate! Chris Martin's stat is hilarious! also, i wonder if English batsmen of the 90s would have actually scored elusive ODI centuries if they got to play themselves!

  • tonyp on December 6, 2008, 1:09 GMT

    Bangladesh's status is a grave concern but their position is made somewhat starker by comparison against NZ or SL which seems a little unfair. Back when NZ and even SL became test-playing nations you stood a chance in a test by occupying the crease for a long time, putting the stronger team under some sort of pressure to force a result, and capitalising on a dodgy fifth day pitch.

    You can always try that against the modern teams but you're not going to find it working for you terribly often.

  • tonyp on December 6, 2008, 0:51 GMT

    There is a famous stats text book entitled "How to Lie with Statistics" which has a lot to say on this particular subject (though not with reference to cricket). Andy's spot on the money - averages can never actually convey the true worth of a player.

    How many times did Adam Gilchrist fall cheaply while trying to blast quick runs from a strong position? How many times has Kallis ever done the same against quality opposition? How many times was Mark Taylor ever in that sort of position as opener? Statistics are of only limited predictive value at the best of times, even less so if the myriad factors that make up context are neglected.

  • Amar S Dwadasi on December 5, 2008, 23:52 GMT

    The difference in averages of some senior players is quite stunning! These are great stats "Guru."

  • Bart on December 5, 2008, 20:26 GMT

    A fantastic article. Cricket nuts do indeed remember dates by cricket. My birthday is 11 January (shared with Rahul Dravid); my girlfriend's is 18 March (183, Sourav Ganguly's highest ODI score). She's not a cricket fan, so I haven't divulged this memory trick, but I've never forgotten it...

  • Lokesh on December 5, 2008, 16:52 GMT

    Amazing article. truly wonderful

  • Gram E on December 5, 2008, 13:59 GMT

    Fantastic stuff! Really love the writing, Gideon Haigh with a twist of Harry Pearson shot through with the love of the game you'd get from Cardus. Write a book - i will buy a copy!

  • daz on December 5, 2008, 13:34 GMT

    On the other hand, throughout that last 50 years of cricket, there would have always been one or two teams which were newcomers. And in another 25 years, both Bang and Zim will be respected cricketing nations and we'll be saying things like "Test average of 130? Take out France and Norway, and that come down to 13! Pah! Now Bangladesh, that's a proper opposition!"

  • Chris on December 5, 2008, 12:35 GMT

    Thank you for letting us all have a few innocent laughs in these terribly stressful times for cricket and the world in general.

    I am dying to know what Ponting's stats are with and without adding Zim/Bang into the equation.

  • Cameron Petie on December 5, 2008, 11:32 GMT

    Great article, loved it. Really opens your eyes. I think though that this new age of cricket is no different to previous ages such as the late 1800's where ball dominated bat. Stats do need to be looked at in context no doubt. Keep up the good work!

  • Susobhan on December 5, 2008, 9:54 GMT

    YES. Absolutely right. One thing we should keep in mind that statistics always misleads us until it is viewed deeply but once it handed properly and meticulously, the true picture reveals. Sachin's fans may not agree but when Sachin's average is considered vs Aussie playing against MCgrath, Warne , Lee/GIllespie (the trio) his averege deminishes considerably against Australia. But in wholesome he averages huge vs Australia.

  • keyur on December 5, 2008, 8:42 GMT

    Another great article. Maybe all of your articles need to have a headnote: 1)For all those sitting in office chairs, kindly tie your seatbelts (if any available) before reading this article. 2)In Bold Letters: "Potentially injurious" 3)Disclaimer: The writer shall not be responsible for any injuries caused by falling off the seat due to laughter and no compensation claims for the same shall be entertained.

  • jaymin on December 5, 2008, 5:13 GMT

    "And one can only speculate on how much more extraordinary Andy Flower’s figures would have been had he had the good fortune to play against Zimbabwe as well as for them". Good one Andy. As I said yesterday in one of your articles about England returning to India, u have a great sense of humour. I am reading this article at work and can't stop laughing. I am in a serious trouble of getting caught by my manager.

  • redneck on December 5, 2008, 5:09 GMT

    charindra you have got to be kidding me! warne played zimbabwe once in his whole career! are you telling me that you consider the english batsmen of the 90's playing at home in england less respectable scalps than that of the zimbabwe team playing in sri lanka on the most pro murili wickets in the world (low, slow and plenty of turn from day 1) take away warnes 6 career wickets against zimbabwe and his 11 against bangladesh and he still has 691 test scalps murali on the other hand has 756 test wickets take away his 76 bangladesh wickets and his 87 against zimbabwe and hes left with 593 wickets against credable opposition! clearly the cream rises to the top by a whole 98 wickets! and all with his arm straight too! as andy said stats can be used to prove anything but seriously murali wouldnt even hold the record for the most test wickets if it werent for a couple of teams making up the numbers!!! and he may never have broken it either!

  • Ajay on December 5, 2008, 3:56 GMT

    Andy, Terrific post. I remember Barnes' 189. Viv Richards' highest one-day score was also 189. My head was filled with stuff like Kapil Dev's 175 after he walked out at 17/5. I too was statistics-obsessed. While all the kids at school were wielding wrestling cards, I made my own cricketer cards that listed the vital statistics of each player.

  • Khurram on December 5, 2008, 3:23 GMT

    I agree with the first point completely! I too need to spend more time with my family :) :)

  • M.Ali on December 5, 2008, 1:38 GMT

    Right on the spot. Growing up we used to be obsessed with statistics as well-the averages, working out how they are calculated, and making analysis and so on. Now, like everything else, this too has become meaningless. I wholly support the idea of revising averages by subtracting the two worst teams from the calculation. That does shed a new light on "greatness" of the current batsmen. Cricket is losing its essential classical and gentlemanly character. And its planners are not helping matters by making meaningless pitches and shortened boundaries. It's cheap and it's about money and aesthetics, which drew us to cricket in the first place, has little to do with it.

  • Nathan on December 4, 2008, 23:08 GMT

    Very good article, and so true. It's basically pointless, and misleading, to compare averages from past eras with the averages of players today.

    And Charindra, please stop whining. The simple fact is that Murali's figures are enhanced by the large number of times that he played Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. It's a fact, you can clutch at straws to try to deny it, but I think you should just get over it.

  • Srikanth on December 4, 2008, 20:54 GMT

    Thought so.. your statistics bear me out..whenever I see cricinfo I see a SL-Bang or an SL-Zim series. Nice to see muralitaran and the new guy take some hard earned zimbabwean wickets

  • ak on December 4, 2008, 20:36 GMT

    This is a fantastic article; it supports my sentiment of dropping Zim and Ban from Test cricket. @ afzaal khan-- Sehwag is a quality player; he averages above 50 and has two triple hundreds (only acheived by Lara and the Don himself). One other point. If we say the batting stats are bloated in this era, equally on can argue the bowling stats of the past are sugar coated as well...so it goes both ways i guess.

  • joe shah on December 4, 2008, 19:38 GMT

    Um, please provide statistical information on dark vs milk chocolate, and also what delights your stall has for CHRISTMAS, thanx.

  • Phoenix on December 4, 2008, 19:15 GMT

    Let me help you out to remember your Anniversary in a much easier way. How could you forget the great King Richards 189 not out which remained the highest score in ODI's for a long time

  • Avi Singh on December 4, 2008, 19:14 GMT

    Haha indeed I remember Rahul Dravid's birthday as Jan 11, the same as my grandmother, Sachin's birthday is Apr 24, the same as my grandfather, while my other grandfather's birthday is 2 weeks after VVS Laxman's Nov 1 birthday! Meanwhile I have to share my 9 Jan birthday with the unfulfilled Jimmy Adams. A sign of things to come?

  • saurabh on December 4, 2008, 18:39 GMT

    if ever there was a need of a column after the Mumbai attacks, which talked about cricket in a lighter sense this was it. I was gobsmacked :D

  • bala on December 4, 2008, 18:17 GMT

    @afzaal khan sehwag averages more against stronger teams than zim/bang, even if its only marginal 52.56 vs 52.16.Afridi is not in the same boat as him. But i agree he would have found it difficult to make those huge scores if not for a few docile tracks.(multan,chennai)

  • Zorax on December 4, 2008, 18:13 GMT

    Thanks. Now even I've learnt your anniversary by heart!!

  • Vinish on December 4, 2008, 18:07 GMT

    Very true. Just because Vinod kambli scored a double hundred - was he a better test batsman than Mark Waugh, Azharuddin, Kallis, Vengserkar (all these never scored a test 200)? Or that is Gayle a better batsman than Tendulkar or Viv Richards (both these have never scored a test 300)? As Navjot Singh Sidhu rightly puts it 'Statistics are like bikins, they reveal more but conceal what is vital'.

  • Vignesh on December 4, 2008, 17:21 GMT

    Why are people so obsessed with cricket stats? Should we really worry about deciding who is the greatest cricketer ever? Should we not forget all this stuff and just sit back and enjoy the game? Because ultimately cricket is all about entertainment (for us) and revenue (for boards). That is the reason why there are so many matches these days.

  • Nick Passingham on December 4, 2008, 16:15 GMT

    Good piece - one thought regarding the figures against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Could it be that the really great players figures could be a lot higher against them. Perhaps don't get quite as focussed for these teams in the same way that test players seem to no longer "murder" the bowling when they return for a brief spell in domestic cricket.

  • Sameer on December 4, 2008, 15:20 GMT

    Lovely article. Made me remember my college days *sigh*. Please keep it up...

    FOOTNOTE: Loved the footnote!

  • Prash on December 4, 2008, 13:46 GMT

    Lolsome read. Charindra, no need to feel insecure about Murali, even after removing the minnows, he is still ahead of Warne's career avg.

  • Balaji on December 4, 2008, 13:39 GMT

    sehwag doesn't benefit from skewed statistical parameters. he's just about the best unorthodox batsmen in modern times. just a thought.

  • Saravanan.NB on December 4, 2008, 12:46 GMT

    Andy, lucky for us, there are no statistical records for Net practices.

  • Charindra on December 4, 2008, 12:37 GMT

    Andy, saying Murali has benefitted by playing against those two teams is a very narrow way of looking at it. Even without Zim and Bangla, Murali's stats are greater than any other contemporary bowler, including Warne. And if you want to really put the stats under scrutiny, try checking how many wickets Warne got by playing in England in the middle of summer when the pitches have quick turn. And the English batsman in the 90's were probably worse than the Bangladeshis at playing spin!

  • Krishna on December 4, 2008, 12:18 GMT

    Andy, you are incorrigible. Do you know the percentage of your statements that have made us roll about in the aisles? The salt, porridge etc simply make for mind-blowing mirth. Do you remember your father-in-law's name?

  • stumpythestumper on December 4, 2008, 12:09 GMT

    Tremendous stuff. However, your perfectly reasonable rant about meaningless stats comes within a day of your exorting England to return to India, and if they have to put out a "weakened team, so what?" Bundles of runs for the Indians and more meaninless stats I fear....

  • Deepak Shah on December 4, 2008, 11:59 GMT

    Great stuff Andy. You get better with each article. I know the bemusement caused by knowing obscure cricket information. I once won a quiz tie-breaker by naming the UAE vice-captain at the 1996 world cup - Saeed al Safar! You do make a great point about how Statistics/cricket information can help remember other important things in life. Eg. My daughter shares her birthday with Azharuddin (Feb 8), and a friend's anniversary is on Jan 28 (VVS Laxman's famous 281 helps in remembering that.) Your point about weak teams bloating batting averages is very valid. Even Don Bradman's famous average is reduced to 89.78 against England, the only noteworthy opposition he faced. The Poms probably said when he walked out to bat, "Just 89 runs from this bloke, and we'll get him". A real bunny!

  • Amirali on December 4, 2008, 11:44 GMT

    Andy. Terrific article. I especially loved your comment about Chris MArtin's average rocketing from 1.71 to 2.17 because of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. And good points about Younis Khan and Chanderpaul. Those two are perhaps the most underrated batsmen in the world.

  • afzaal khan on December 4, 2008, 11:34 GMT

    lol good one andy, keep it on. I do agree that with game firmly tilted in batsman favor and the idiotic idea of small boundries and flatter pitches any tom dick and harry can be a gr8 batsman. Y look at afridi and shewag lolz

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  • afzaal khan on December 4, 2008, 11:34 GMT

    lol good one andy, keep it on. I do agree that with game firmly tilted in batsman favor and the idiotic idea of small boundries and flatter pitches any tom dick and harry can be a gr8 batsman. Y look at afridi and shewag lolz

  • Amirali on December 4, 2008, 11:44 GMT

    Andy. Terrific article. I especially loved your comment about Chris MArtin's average rocketing from 1.71 to 2.17 because of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. And good points about Younis Khan and Chanderpaul. Those two are perhaps the most underrated batsmen in the world.

  • Deepak Shah on December 4, 2008, 11:59 GMT

    Great stuff Andy. You get better with each article. I know the bemusement caused by knowing obscure cricket information. I once won a quiz tie-breaker by naming the UAE vice-captain at the 1996 world cup - Saeed al Safar! You do make a great point about how Statistics/cricket information can help remember other important things in life. Eg. My daughter shares her birthday with Azharuddin (Feb 8), and a friend's anniversary is on Jan 28 (VVS Laxman's famous 281 helps in remembering that.) Your point about weak teams bloating batting averages is very valid. Even Don Bradman's famous average is reduced to 89.78 against England, the only noteworthy opposition he faced. The Poms probably said when he walked out to bat, "Just 89 runs from this bloke, and we'll get him". A real bunny!

  • stumpythestumper on December 4, 2008, 12:09 GMT

    Tremendous stuff. However, your perfectly reasonable rant about meaningless stats comes within a day of your exorting England to return to India, and if they have to put out a "weakened team, so what?" Bundles of runs for the Indians and more meaninless stats I fear....

  • Krishna on December 4, 2008, 12:18 GMT

    Andy, you are incorrigible. Do you know the percentage of your statements that have made us roll about in the aisles? The salt, porridge etc simply make for mind-blowing mirth. Do you remember your father-in-law's name?

  • Charindra on December 4, 2008, 12:37 GMT

    Andy, saying Murali has benefitted by playing against those two teams is a very narrow way of looking at it. Even without Zim and Bangla, Murali's stats are greater than any other contemporary bowler, including Warne. And if you want to really put the stats under scrutiny, try checking how many wickets Warne got by playing in England in the middle of summer when the pitches have quick turn. And the English batsman in the 90's were probably worse than the Bangladeshis at playing spin!

  • Saravanan.NB on December 4, 2008, 12:46 GMT

    Andy, lucky for us, there are no statistical records for Net practices.

  • Balaji on December 4, 2008, 13:39 GMT

    sehwag doesn't benefit from skewed statistical parameters. he's just about the best unorthodox batsmen in modern times. just a thought.

  • Prash on December 4, 2008, 13:46 GMT

    Lolsome read. Charindra, no need to feel insecure about Murali, even after removing the minnows, he is still ahead of Warne's career avg.

  • Sameer on December 4, 2008, 15:20 GMT

    Lovely article. Made me remember my college days *sigh*. Please keep it up...

    FOOTNOTE: Loved the footnote!