Teams December 10, 2008

A tale of 100 Australian Tests

As the title implies, this is an analytical look at the 100 Tests played by Australia between January 1, 2000 and now
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As the title implies, this is an analytical look at the 100 Tests played by Australia between January 1, 2000 and now. This is a look at determining the extent of their dominance, the Why, and the possible What next.

There are a lot of similarities between the Australian cricket team and Roger Federer. Both dominated their respective games to a level unseen until now. Both had their achilles heal in the Indian team and Nadal respectively. However their overpowering performances during the rest of the period kept them right on top for a long time. They might have been beaten by lesser teams/players once in a while. But that did not make their conquerors World no.1.

When Djokovic defeated Federer at Melbourne, he did not move to (or claim) the No.1 position. Similarly with other players. It took one player, Nadal, to produce consistent top-drawer performances over a long period, across all surfaces, which propelled him to the top, displacing Federer. He won the Monte Carlo Open, Italian Open, German Open, French Open, Wimbledon, Canada Master's and Olympics and only then moved to the top position.

Even then, Federer only moved to No.2 and he showed the fire in him winning the US Open just as Australia have bounced back after their loss to India.

If India or South Africa want to unseat Australia, it is not sufficient that they beat Australia once a while. They have to back this up with consistent wins across the globe and against each other, and that too away. Until then neither team can claim the No.1 spot. Any views to the contrary are hollow and empty words.

Let us look at some tables summarising these 100 matches. These are mostly team-centric analysis with very few individual player references. The format of the tables has been designed to show the years and total horizontally to improve readability.

Summary of series results.

Total       Won by      Won by
Played    Australia   Other Team     Draw
All series        32          27           3           2
In Australia      17          15           -           2
Outside           15          12           3           -
The only series lost by Australia were against India during 2001 (1-2), against England during 2005 (1-2) and the recent one against India (0-2). The only series drawn were, surprisingly, both at home. The first one against New Zealand during 2001 (0-0) and the one against India during 2003-04 (1-1).

The three-Test series played against Pakistan during 2002, at Sri Lanka and UAE, has been taken as an away series. The ICC Test series (one match) has also been included in this table.

Only India have a good record against Australia. Of the five series played between these two teams during this period, two have been won by Australia, two by India and one drawn.

Summary of match results

2000  2001  2002  2003  2004  2005  2006  2007  2008  Total

All matches 8 14 11 12 14 15 10 4 12 100 Wins 8 8 10 8 10 9 10 4 5 72 Wins % 100.0 57.1 90.9 66.7 71.4 60.0 100.0 100.0 41.7 72.0 Losses 0 3 1 3 1 2 0 0 3 13 Losses % 0.0 21.4 9.1 25.0 7.1 13.3 0.0 0.0 25.0 13.0 Draws 0 3 0 1 3 4 0 0 4 15 Draws % 0.0 21.4 0.0 8.3 21.4 26.7 0.0 0.0 33.3 15.0 Inns wins 3 2 5 3 1 0 2 1 1 18 Inns wins % 37.5 14.3 45.5 25.0 7.1 0.0 20.0 25.0 8.3 18.0

Home matches 5 6 5 8 7 7 5 4 5 52 Home wins 5 3 5 5 5 6 5 4 3 41 Home wins % 100.0 50.0 100.0 62.5 71.4 85.7 100.0 100.0 60.0 78.8 Home losses 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 3 Home loss % 0.0 0.0 0.0 25.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 20.0 5.8

Away matches 3 8 6 4 7 8 5 0 7 48 Away wins 3 5 5 3 5 3 5 0 2 31 Away wins % 100.0 62.5 83.3 75.0 71.4 37.5 100.0 0.0 28.6 64.6 Away losses 0 3 1 1 1 2 0 0 2 10 Away loss % 0.0 37.5 16.7 25.0 14.3 25.0 0.0 0.0 28.6 20.8

Barring small periods of vulnerability, Australia have dominated world cricket during the past nine years, as evidenced by these figures. They have an overall win record of 72% and a loss record of only 13%, only one in eight Tests. It is not that they are only dominant at home, as most teams are. Their home win % is 78.8% as compared to 64.6% outside.

During this period Australia have lost only three Tests at home. The first was the dead rubber Test (at 4-0) against England during 2003. The other two have been against India during 2003 and 2008 respectively, both in live situations. This is an imposing record.

Away from home, the maximum losses have been against India (5 times) followed by England (3 times). Overall Australia's draw % has been a low 15%. Barring recent times, they have always gone for a victory, risking a loss.

Australia's best years have been 2000, 2006 and 2007 when they had a 100% all-won record. Their worst year has been 2008 when they have won less than half the Tests, the only such year during this golden period. Another measure of their dominance has been the number of innings wins they have achieved, 18 in all, an amazing 18% overall. However it must be seen that 11 of these wins (nearly 25%) were achieved during the first four years and the numbers have fallen off recently. Important to note that, during these nine years, not once did Australia lose by an innings.

If one looks at Australia's recent record, say during 2007-08, they have played 16 Tests, won 9, lost 3 (all against India) and drawn 4 matches. This is not the sign of a dominating team, especially the high proportion of drawn matches. The South African series will be a clear pointer to the Australian revival from this minor slump. If they win 3-0 or 2-0, they would have established their dominance. If they win 1-0 or draw the series or lose, there will be a clear sign of fall.

Now let us look at possible contributing factors, both for the dominance and the (possible) fall from such a dominating position.

Summary of partnerships

2000  2001  2002  2003  2004  2005  2006  2007  2008  Total

Aus:Innings 13 25 17 21 27 29 18 7 22 179 Aus:Op >100 2 5 4 1 4 2 0 1 3 22 Aus:Op >100 % 15.4 20.0 23.5 4.8 14.8 6.9 0.0 14.3 13.6 12.3 Aus:Op <10 6 8 4 5 3 6 5 0 5 42 Aus:Op <10 % 46.2 32.0 23.5 23.8 11.1 20.7 27.8 0.0 22.7 23.5 Aus:Op runs 438 1546 1060 776 1458 1365 602 498 1015 8758 Aus:Op avge 33.7 61.8 62.4 37.0 54.0 47.1 33.4 71.1 46.1 48.9

Opp:Innings 16 27 22 24 28 30 20 8 24 199 Opp:Op >100 0 2 1 2 2 3 0 0 2 12 Opp:Op >100 % 0.0 7.4 4.5 8.3 7.1 10.0 0.0 0.0 8.3 6.0 Opp:Op <10 8 7 6 11 9 7 5 3 7 63 Opp:Op <10 % 61.5 28.0 35.3 52.4 33.3 24.1 27.8 42.9 31.8 35.2 Opp:Op runs 232 1031 778 784 732 1077 534 196 1031 6395 Opp:Op avge 17.8 41.2 45.8 37.3 27.1 37.1 29.7 28.0 46.9 35.7

During this period, Australia have had 12.3% of their opening partnerships exceeding 100. This is a very high proportion, on an average once every 4 Tests. Contrast this with the all-Test figure of 8.1%. Almost all these partnerships have had Hayden and more than half have been with Langer. Taking all aspects the best year was 2001-02 when they averaged over 60 for the opening partnership.

The opening failures have also been reasonable, at 23.5%. This compares favourably with the all-Test average for failures which is 28.7%.

Let us look at what the Australian opening bowlers have done. The opposing teams have missed playing only one of the second innings (during a rain-affected match against New Zealand during 2001) and have had only 6% of opening partnerships exceeding 100, below half of the Australian numbers and well below the all-Test figure of 8.1%. The failures have been similarly higher, at 35.2%, much higher than the all-Test value of 28.7%.

We have successfully identified the first two reasons. The success of the Australian opening batsmen and bowlers.

Late order batting

2000  2001  2002  2003  2004  2005  2006  2007  2008  Total

Aus:Last3wPtsh 8 17 12 12 22 22 11 3 18 125 Aus:Last3wRuns 491 1139 591 507 1093 1468 664 165 1090 7208 Aus:Last3wAvge 61.4 67.0 49.2 42.2 49.7 66.7 60.4 55.0 60.6 57.7

Opp:Last3wPtsh 16 25 20 22 26 27 18 8 20 182 Opp:Last3wRuns 613 1301 759 1018 1187 1246 819 347 1000 8290 Opp:Last3wAvge 38.3 52.0 38.0 46.3 45.7 46.1 45.5 43.4 50.0 45.5

The last Australian 3 wickets, when asked to perform, have averaged 57 runs, much higher than the all-Test average of 48. A credit to the batting skills of Warne, Gillespie et al. The corresponding opposite team number has been 45, somewhat comparable to the all time figure, no doubt bolstered by the recent Indian late-order batting exploits.

Team batting and bowling summary

2000  2001  2002  2003  2004  2005  2006  2007  2008  Total

Aus:BallsBwled 6909 12768 9420 11146 15176 14458 10076 3744 13252 96949 Aus:RunsScored 3942 8042 6279 7596 8994 8944 6125 2436 7300 59658 Aus:WktsTaken 160 248 215 224 257 281 191 80 211 1867 Aus: RpO 3.42 3.78 4.00 4.09 3.56 3.71 3.65 3.90 3.31 3.69 Aus: BpW 43.2 51.5 43.8 49.8 59.1 51.5 52.8 46.8 62.8 51.9 Aus:DiffBatRpO 0.57 0.60 0.98 0.95 0.58 0.47 0.55 1.00 -0.02 0.58 Aus:DiffBowS/R 23.9 27.4 30.7 48.4 -0.5 14.1 28.8 59.7 8.7 22.0

Opp:BallsBwled 6780 14286 10289 13738 13693 14487 10355 4047 13666 101341 Opp:RunsScored 3226 7554 5176 7172 6795 7833 5340 1962 7568 52626 Opp:WktsTaken 101 181 138 140 234 221 127 38 191 1371 Opp: RpO 2.85 3.17 3.02 3.13 2.98 3.24 3.09 2.91 3.32 3.12 Opp: BpW 67.1 78.9 74.6 98.1 58.5 65.6 81.5 106.5 71.5 73.9

The RpO figure during this period has started and finished at either side of 3.5 with a peak of around 4 during couple of years (2001-02). This is way above the all-Test figure of 2.79. The overall faster scoring was one of the main reasons for the Australian successes and the reduction in draws.

The overall bowling strike rate has been an excellent 52 balls per wicket, as compared to 68 overall. Once every 8+ overs means they were looking at dismissing an opposing team within a day's play.

The opposing teams have also been quite good with an overall RpO figure of 3.12. However they have been way below par in their strike rate value which is more than 70. However remember this includes 6 Tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

I have also introduced couple of other factors, differential in nature. One is the difference between the Batting RpO values of Australia and the opposing teams. Australia have exceeded the other teams by an overall substantial value of 0.58. Only once, during the current year, have the other teams matched the Australian figures. Similarly Australia have consistently captured a wicket every 22 balls more frequently than the opposing teams. Only during 2004 have the other teams managed to better Australia's BpW figure.

Summary of innings scores

2000  2001  2002  2003  2004  2005  2006  2007  2008  Total

Aus:Comp Inns 7 13 10 10 19 18 8 2 16 103 Aus:Inns<100 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 Aus:Inns<100 % 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 5.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 Aus:Inns 13 25 17 21 27 29 18 7 22 179 Aus:Inns>500 1 3 4 6 4 3 4 2 3 30 Aus:Inns>500 % 7.7 12.0 23.5 28.6 14.8 10.3 22.2 28.6 13.6 16.8

Opp:Comp Inns 16 19 21 20 24 26 17 8 18 169 Opp:Inns<100 1 0 3 1 3 0 0 0 0 8 Opp:Inns<100 % 6.2 0.0 14.3 5.0 12.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 4.7 Opp:Inns 16 27 22 24 28 30 20 8 24 199 Opp:Inns>500 0 3 0 1 1 0 1 0 3 9 Opp:Inns>500 % 0.0 11.1 0.0 4.2 3.6 0.0 5.0 0.0 12.5 4.5

During these nine years only once have Australia been dismissed below 100. That was on the worst pitch ever created (in India at least), at Mumbai during 2004. They have exceeded 500 a whopping 16.8%, one in every six innings. These figures are overwhelming and point to a batting might, possibly comparable to the 1948 Australians. Look at 2003, when one in four of Australia's innings exceeded 500. Surprisingly this was not a great year for Australia since they lost three matches.

The opposing teams have been dismissed below 100 4.7% of the innings completed, slightly above the 3.84% overall. They have also exceeded 500 4.5% of the innings played, way below the overall 6.5%. Incidentally 7 of these 9 innings above 500 have been scored by India.

Finally the summarised reasons for the Australian domination. I would appreciate it if the readers do not write to me that these are obvious. These are not off-the-cuff subjective conclusions, as normally made. These are based on a thorough analysis and have been derived in an objective manner.

1. The success of the opening partnerships - both in terms of increased successes and considerably reduced failures.
2. The way the Australian opening bowlers have reversed the above trend, not allowing successes and the high number of breakthroughs very early in the innings.
3. An overall very high scoring rate.
4. A very high bowling strike rate despite the presence of the slightly lower-striking Shane Warne (57 bpw) throughout.
5. Rare batting failures and frequent batting successes in terms of innings scores.
6. The only reference to an individual in this team-centric analysis: one of the major reasons for Australian domination during these 9 years has been the performance of Adam Gilchrist, who scored 5130 runs at an average of 46.64 and effected 397 dismissals. That sort of all-round performance meant that Australia had invariably been able to play with an extra bowler/allrounder through the luxury of having Gilchrist bat at No.7.

What does the future hold for Australia. It is possible for Australia to lose their No.1 position, provided India maintains its very competitive recent Test performances, both home and away. They have to win away consistently and win at home comfortably. Similarly for the South Africans, with a lower degree of possibility. I am not certain whether any other team has the resources to test Australia over a long period. Pakistan lack a dynamic captain while England lack top-quality players.

Australia will go through a phase of re-building and will come back stronger. However the days of domination are probably over. The No.1 position will swing between 3-4 teams.

The same thing applies to Federer. He will win around 15-16 Grand Slam titles and probably go back to No.1, but not at the dominating level as exhibited earlier. So the similarities between Australian team and Federer will continue.

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

  • Amateur Black Page on December 23, 2009, 18:47 GMT

    well.. it's like I thought!

  • BASS 1298 on May 20, 2009, 11:22 GMT

    Really it is an amazing work done by the writer.This talks about the past glories of the aussies.Go Aussies!!!!!!!!

  • abaniumbano on February 11, 2009, 4:27 GMT

    Interesting and communicative, but would make something more on this topic?

  • Aditya on December 26, 2008, 18:18 GMT

    Excellent Analysis! Consistent performance by the Australian team over a Long period of time.Could you do a similar one for ODI's and it would be better if a comparison can be made between the Australian team in the 21st century and the West Indian team of the 80's. @Zeeshan Disagree with you completely.. The Australian team has dominated due the strong starts the openers and the top order has been giving them..they haven't been tested as much over the period under consideration. They have always been found wanting in series when they have encountered good fast bowlers ( 2005 Ashes 2008 in India now South Africa ). The team is a good one but the the greatest one of all time...the results in this decade sound so superlative due to the lack of competition from other sides..and during this period whenever the opposition team has looked settled they have given the Aussies a run for their money(England to an extent and India in general..barring South Africa until now (Hopefully)!

  • Raj on December 25, 2008, 13:29 GMT

    This is the most objective analysis I have ever come across. I am a die-hard Aussie fan because I believe the ONLY yardstick for World Dominance is CONSISTENT performance, and Australia is exemplary in this respect. I like winners,not losers, or whingers, who are desperate to think Australia is declining. East or West, Australia is the best - both home and way. 16 consecutive Test wins, not once, but twice. Match that. Three ODI World Cups in succession. Match that. No country can. Thaty's why Australia IS and will ALWAYS be Number One. [[ Thanks. Ananth: ]]

  • Ananth on December 20, 2008, 6:25 GMT

    This is in response to Aditya's query on Australia's results sans McGrath. Given below is the summary. Mat W D L W% McGr-124- 84-20-20-67.7% NoMc- 33- 18- 7- 8-54.5% Tot- 157-102-27-28-65.0% It is true that the results with McGrath are significantly better than those without McGrath.

  • Sumit on December 19, 2008, 18:11 GMT

    I think Mcgrath and warne made the greatest difference between Australia and rest of the teams. Early strike by Mcgrath rarely allowed opposition to settle and then warne came into the act.Take Mcgrath or warne out of picture you see Australia piling up runs but somehow their bowlers can't take the necessary 20 wickets.Even India owns her recent success more to her bowlers than her batsmen.

  • Jagadish on December 19, 2008, 13:05 GMT

    In my opinion, until and unless Australia are beaten consistently home and away over the next couple of years, they will remain #1. Remember that for all the talk of India troubling Australia, they've only won 2 tests in Australia in the last 2 series, and lost a series at home. South Africa've probably been fared worse. [[ As I have written the Aus-Saf series will be a pointer. If Saf loses badly, all talks of an Australian demise are premature. Atready the signs are that the opposite teams, barring India to a certain extent, get intimidated by Australia's aggression, especially at home. During the three days of the Perth test, Saf have been ahead 3/4 times but I would rate Aus win at 70/30. Note how Symonds/Haddin, Haddin/Kreicza (and assorted other partnerships), came out attacking when down. Ananth: ]]

  • Zeeshan Ahmed on December 19, 2008, 8:44 GMT

    May be history best team. We can compare it the best team of Bradman or the team of W Indies in 70's and 80's. This team of Australia have comparison with Bradman's ideal team also (Players from all over the world). Batting comprises of such a great players that even they can build two teams from it easily and the bowlers are also excellent. At one stage, bowler like Lee cannot have a chance in this ideal team. From opener to middle order, all are specialist batsmen like Ponting, Hayden, Langer and others. In bowling history best leg spinner Shane Warne and leading wicket taker in fast bowling McGrath and others are the beauty of their game. In my opinion, Shane Warne is the only bowler of this century who can turn match from any position to his team favour. I think he is no. 1 bowler of this century because he has played very few macthes against weak teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and his wicket taking ability is equivalent at opponents' home too as compare to other spinners.

  • Aditya on December 18, 2008, 7:11 GMT

    excellent analysis. 2 questions: what would the analysis of the indian and south african team, in the recent past, along the success dimensions show? looks like india has got a good opening pair, and opening bowlers who are taking wickets early and a wicket-keeper batsman who is critical. second question: how many of australia's losses came without McGrath? if i remember correctly, he didn't play in any of the 3 losses against england in 2005 and also didn't play in a couple of losses against india. [[ Aditya, Will do a Ind/Saf analysis at the beginning of next year. Also will respond to your query on Australia sans McGrath within a few days. Ananth: ]]

  • Amateur Black Page on December 23, 2009, 18:47 GMT

    well.. it's like I thought!

  • BASS 1298 on May 20, 2009, 11:22 GMT

    Really it is an amazing work done by the writer.This talks about the past glories of the aussies.Go Aussies!!!!!!!!

  • abaniumbano on February 11, 2009, 4:27 GMT

    Interesting and communicative, but would make something more on this topic?

  • Aditya on December 26, 2008, 18:18 GMT

    Excellent Analysis! Consistent performance by the Australian team over a Long period of time.Could you do a similar one for ODI's and it would be better if a comparison can be made between the Australian team in the 21st century and the West Indian team of the 80's. @Zeeshan Disagree with you completely.. The Australian team has dominated due the strong starts the openers and the top order has been giving them..they haven't been tested as much over the period under consideration. They have always been found wanting in series when they have encountered good fast bowlers ( 2005 Ashes 2008 in India now South Africa ). The team is a good one but the the greatest one of all time...the results in this decade sound so superlative due to the lack of competition from other sides..and during this period whenever the opposition team has looked settled they have given the Aussies a run for their money(England to an extent and India in general..barring South Africa until now (Hopefully)!

  • Raj on December 25, 2008, 13:29 GMT

    This is the most objective analysis I have ever come across. I am a die-hard Aussie fan because I believe the ONLY yardstick for World Dominance is CONSISTENT performance, and Australia is exemplary in this respect. I like winners,not losers, or whingers, who are desperate to think Australia is declining. East or West, Australia is the best - both home and way. 16 consecutive Test wins, not once, but twice. Match that. Three ODI World Cups in succession. Match that. No country can. Thaty's why Australia IS and will ALWAYS be Number One. [[ Thanks. Ananth: ]]

  • Ananth on December 20, 2008, 6:25 GMT

    This is in response to Aditya's query on Australia's results sans McGrath. Given below is the summary. Mat W D L W% McGr-124- 84-20-20-67.7% NoMc- 33- 18- 7- 8-54.5% Tot- 157-102-27-28-65.0% It is true that the results with McGrath are significantly better than those without McGrath.

  • Sumit on December 19, 2008, 18:11 GMT

    I think Mcgrath and warne made the greatest difference between Australia and rest of the teams. Early strike by Mcgrath rarely allowed opposition to settle and then warne came into the act.Take Mcgrath or warne out of picture you see Australia piling up runs but somehow their bowlers can't take the necessary 20 wickets.Even India owns her recent success more to her bowlers than her batsmen.

  • Jagadish on December 19, 2008, 13:05 GMT

    In my opinion, until and unless Australia are beaten consistently home and away over the next couple of years, they will remain #1. Remember that for all the talk of India troubling Australia, they've only won 2 tests in Australia in the last 2 series, and lost a series at home. South Africa've probably been fared worse. [[ As I have written the Aus-Saf series will be a pointer. If Saf loses badly, all talks of an Australian demise are premature. Atready the signs are that the opposite teams, barring India to a certain extent, get intimidated by Australia's aggression, especially at home. During the three days of the Perth test, Saf have been ahead 3/4 times but I would rate Aus win at 70/30. Note how Symonds/Haddin, Haddin/Kreicza (and assorted other partnerships), came out attacking when down. Ananth: ]]

  • Zeeshan Ahmed on December 19, 2008, 8:44 GMT

    May be history best team. We can compare it the best team of Bradman or the team of W Indies in 70's and 80's. This team of Australia have comparison with Bradman's ideal team also (Players from all over the world). Batting comprises of such a great players that even they can build two teams from it easily and the bowlers are also excellent. At one stage, bowler like Lee cannot have a chance in this ideal team. From opener to middle order, all are specialist batsmen like Ponting, Hayden, Langer and others. In bowling history best leg spinner Shane Warne and leading wicket taker in fast bowling McGrath and others are the beauty of their game. In my opinion, Shane Warne is the only bowler of this century who can turn match from any position to his team favour. I think he is no. 1 bowler of this century because he has played very few macthes against weak teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and his wicket taking ability is equivalent at opponents' home too as compare to other spinners.

  • Aditya on December 18, 2008, 7:11 GMT

    excellent analysis. 2 questions: what would the analysis of the indian and south african team, in the recent past, along the success dimensions show? looks like india has got a good opening pair, and opening bowlers who are taking wickets early and a wicket-keeper batsman who is critical. second question: how many of australia's losses came without McGrath? if i remember correctly, he didn't play in any of the 3 losses against england in 2005 and also didn't play in a couple of losses against india. [[ Aditya, Will do a Ind/Saf analysis at the beginning of next year. Also will respond to your query on Australia sans McGrath within a few days. Ananth: ]]

  • Kaushik on December 17, 2008, 11:39 GMT

    Pretty amazing stats!!!It no doubts proves the domination of Aussies in world cricket over the past decade. They have been formidable opponents and their thirst for success & acquiring the same has been unmatched and unparalleled. But India has no chance ever of defeating Australia at home if the neutral umpiring does not improve in Australia. I am not stating this merely on the basis of the Sydney test match in 2008 but also from my observations from the 2003-04 tour Down Under. However I take nothing away from the Aussies who have simply been outstanding & all conquering. I agree with Jeff on his points regarding Shane warne-Mcgrath combination being morevital than Adam Gilchrist's crucial knocks. I dont think that gilly could infuse the same level of fear in the opponent's mindset a the combo of Warne -Mcgrath did. Australians are now struggling because of their lack of the same quality of bowlers & not because they are missing the services of gilly.

  • Jeff on December 17, 2008, 9:00 GMT

    Cont...

    Look at the Aussies now – they are still persevering with the 6 batsmen, 1 keeper & 4 bowlers policy but now, the bowlers are: Lee, Johnson, Siddle (Clark if fit) and Krezja.

    Haddin is doing a decent job at number 7 and I’d argue that they aren’t really missing Gilchrist at the moment, but which of these bowlers can fulfill the Warne or McGrath role of taking wickets and keeping the run rate down? Not one of them, let alone 2 of them who can bowl at the same time. Lee will always take wkts but always go for plenty – he was the perfect foil for Warne/Mcgrath, but not a replacement for them.

    I foresee that it won’t be long before the Aussies have to change tactics and pick an extra bowler to enable them to bowl teams out twice for low enough scores. And unless they unearth a new Miller or find an Aussie Kallis or Sobers to bat at number 6, then this will mean sacrificing some runs… the end is nigh, no matter how many runs their keeper scores... [[ Jeff Your comments have been strengthened by Haddin's recent batting form. Earlier in India, while he scored a few runs, he was no comparison to Gilchrist. However now the situation has changed. On bowlers, I have to agree that both McGrath and Warne are irreplaceable. I felt Clark was shaping to be the next McGrath. However he has fared poorly recently, taking only 14 wickets in 6 tests. You are right about Lee. Now he does not have the luxury of M/W at the other end. Johnson is yet to prove himself. The other key point is that both Gillespie and Kaz would have comfortably got in now. Let us see how the Saf series shapes up. It will be a pointer of things to come. Thanks for the valuable comments. Ananth: ]]

  • Jeff on December 17, 2008, 8:58 GMT

    I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one ;-)

    Much as I rate Gilchrist as a player (I have no doubts he's the keeper i'd pick in my all-time team) I don't think he was the biggest single factor in the recent Aussie dominance.

    I think that if Healy or Haddin had been the keeper and batted at 7 throughout the past decade then the Aussies would still have been the dominant team. They may have lost a few more games which Gilchrist's individual brilliance would've won for them but i doubt that much would have changed.

    However, without either Warne or McGrath, they wouldn't have had the luxury of being able to both contain AND attack batsmen at both ends at the same time. That is unique about the recent Aussie sides - no other team has had that ability. Most bowlers are one or the other - a strike bowler who is prone to leaking runs (a la Lee or MacGill) or a steady containment bowler who can tie up one end while a strike bowler tries to take wickets at the other end

  • Jeff on December 16, 2008, 18:09 GMT

    Hi Ananth,

    Just one comment:

    The last point you make in your summary isn't really true. While there's no doubt that Gilchrist is a great player who could have allowed the Aussies to field an extra bowler, they very rarely did so.

    Their typical team of the period contained only 4 bowlers and no true all-rounders (by that I mean a bowler/batsman.)

    I'd argue that it was the McGrath-Warne bowling axis that was the real key to the Aussies success and allowed them to play an extra batsman. This meant that they could continue to rack up big scores and still feel confident about bowling teams out twice, despite the fact that the Aussies haven't produced a genuine all-rounder for the entire period of their recent domination.

    It's the retirement of Warne & McGrath, not Gilchrist that is the real problem for the Aussies.

    [[ Jeff The specific point I had made is debatable and I agree that it has not always been true. However I still maintain that Gilchrist was the one individual player who made the most difference. Between Warne and McGrath, much as I liked McGrath a lot, I have to say that Warne is the more "difficult to replace" bowler. Ananth: ]]

  • keyur on December 16, 2008, 12:38 GMT

    Australia has set the standards high for test cricket in the last decade or so thanks to a conglomeration of many great cricketers. One of the main reason for this is the belief that the australians have had: they could win any test from any dire position, case in point being the 369 they chased against pakistan (at hobart?) with langer and gilchrist hitting centuries in the 4th innings. For interested readers here is stat of WestIndies between Jun 1980-Mar 1995: Series Won lost draw Matches Won Lost Draw Total 29 20 0 9 115 59 15 41 Home 12 11 0 1 48 28 4 16 Away 17 9 0 8 67 31 11 25 [[ Thank you, Keyur The numbers seem to indicate that Australia were slightly more successful than West Indies. However they both dominated the game to a high level. Remember that one of Australia's three series losses was as recent as last month and one was as early as 2001. In between they have gone through 7 years with a single series loss. Ananth: ]]

  • Zeeshan Ahmed Siddiqui on December 13, 2008, 20:00 GMT

    Yes this is right that Australia is no. 1 team of the world in this decade. They have a players like Ponting, Hayden, Waugh, Martyn, Lehman, Slater, Langer, Bevan, Hussey and others in batting and in bowling Warne, McGrath, Lee, Gillespie, MacGill and others. When strong team like S. Africa comes with their four to five all rounders in front of them, always loose finals in one day and mostly test matches also. The reason is that when their all rounders come for batting, specialist bowlers easily tackle them and when come for bowling specialist batsmen tackle them easily and one reason is Gilchrist also which was wicket keeper + batsman. Now they are loosing their position like India beat them in test matches in India recently. Hayden (scored thirty centuries in test) will retire from international cricket soon, another great lost for them as one by one they are loosing big names. We can compare this decade of them with any other team in test history and as well as one day also.

  • srikanth on December 12, 2008, 14:47 GMT

    Whew...where do I start....I've always thought that I've been privileged to witness the greatest cricket team ever. The collection of such talent backed by a great support cast produced something that changed the way test cricket was played. One of the reasons for their success was that the players had very differnt styles that allowed them to be successful everywhere. They had the powerful batsman (Hayden), the absurdly talented strokemaker (Ponting) the "soft hands" backfoot player for the slower pitches (Martyn) the grafters (S.Waugh, Langer) and one of the cleanest hitters in history (Gilchrist). Among bowlers, they had one of the finest exponents of line and length(which was effective on any pitch), the greatest spin bowler ever (could turn it anywhere), an out and out pace bowler (Lee) and a criminally underused swing bowler (Bichel). This doesnt factor in the other factors like the strength of the tail -gillespie lee warne bichel etc would be among the strongest 8,9,10 ever. [[ Srikanth, I deliberately stayed away from individuals. You have complemented my article with your excellent descriptions of the talented individuals. Ananth: ]]

  • Warnesie on December 12, 2008, 6:37 GMT

    Excellent analysis. True, Australia may not dominate world cricket presently like they once did, but no one cricket side currently shows any indication that they will perform like Australia has done. India and South Africa are the obvious challengers, but they certainly do have some work to do. Funny how no Indian or South African supporters have commented? Having these figures in habd, it would be interesting to do a statistical comparison between the Australians and the West Indian sides of the late 70's - early 80's (choose their best 9 years) and wee how they stack up. Keep up the good work. Cheers [[ Craig, Pl see the previous comment of Andrew and my response Andrew. Possibly the public interest is more with individual players than with the teams. Ananth: ]]

  • andrew on December 12, 2008, 4:35 GMT

    Missed this in the previous comment. I am not surprised at the lack of user comments. Instead of this serious weighty analysis, if you had come out with a comparison between Tendulkar and Ponting, you would have been inundated with 50 comments. But you should not be deterred by the lack of comments. [[ Andy, I have no problems with the paucity of comments. My own personal feeling is that the number of comments by themselves do not make an article. Many a time the reader might be satisfied with the contents of an article but may not be motivated to send in a comment. Ananth: ]]

  • Andrew on December 12, 2008, 4:30 GMT

    A very good analysis bringing out all relevant points. However I am surprised at the non-coverage of the Captain data. [[ Good point. There were only two long-standing captains during this period, Waugh and Ponting. My own feeling is that with a team as strong as Australia (or West Indies were during 1980s), the captain does not play as important a part in the team fortunes as for weaker teams. Anyhow will cover this when I do a separate analysis of captaincy. Ananth: ]]

  • redneck on December 11, 2008, 1:28 GMT

    another great analysis Ananth. this shows exactly what a team needs to do to take the number 1 spot off aus. or what aus need to do to maintain it? very true that u cant simply beat australia out side of australia and call your self number 1. that requires success world wide and including knocking australia off in australia! (india soon have a chance to improve their position by beating new zealand in new zealand a series which they dont currently hold) also nice compairison with federer, funny how both tennis and cricket have both had the most clearly dominant team/player through out their long histories in the same era.

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  • redneck on December 11, 2008, 1:28 GMT

    another great analysis Ananth. this shows exactly what a team needs to do to take the number 1 spot off aus. or what aus need to do to maintain it? very true that u cant simply beat australia out side of australia and call your self number 1. that requires success world wide and including knocking australia off in australia! (india soon have a chance to improve their position by beating new zealand in new zealand a series which they dont currently hold) also nice compairison with federer, funny how both tennis and cricket have both had the most clearly dominant team/player through out their long histories in the same era.

  • Andrew on December 12, 2008, 4:30 GMT

    A very good analysis bringing out all relevant points. However I am surprised at the non-coverage of the Captain data. [[ Good point. There were only two long-standing captains during this period, Waugh and Ponting. My own feeling is that with a team as strong as Australia (or West Indies were during 1980s), the captain does not play as important a part in the team fortunes as for weaker teams. Anyhow will cover this when I do a separate analysis of captaincy. Ananth: ]]

  • andrew on December 12, 2008, 4:35 GMT

    Missed this in the previous comment. I am not surprised at the lack of user comments. Instead of this serious weighty analysis, if you had come out with a comparison between Tendulkar and Ponting, you would have been inundated with 50 comments. But you should not be deterred by the lack of comments. [[ Andy, I have no problems with the paucity of comments. My own personal feeling is that the number of comments by themselves do not make an article. Many a time the reader might be satisfied with the contents of an article but may not be motivated to send in a comment. Ananth: ]]

  • Warnesie on December 12, 2008, 6:37 GMT

    Excellent analysis. True, Australia may not dominate world cricket presently like they once did, but no one cricket side currently shows any indication that they will perform like Australia has done. India and South Africa are the obvious challengers, but they certainly do have some work to do. Funny how no Indian or South African supporters have commented? Having these figures in habd, it would be interesting to do a statistical comparison between the Australians and the West Indian sides of the late 70's - early 80's (choose their best 9 years) and wee how they stack up. Keep up the good work. Cheers [[ Craig, Pl see the previous comment of Andrew and my response Andrew. Possibly the public interest is more with individual players than with the teams. Ananth: ]]

  • srikanth on December 12, 2008, 14:47 GMT

    Whew...where do I start....I've always thought that I've been privileged to witness the greatest cricket team ever. The collection of such talent backed by a great support cast produced something that changed the way test cricket was played. One of the reasons for their success was that the players had very differnt styles that allowed them to be successful everywhere. They had the powerful batsman (Hayden), the absurdly talented strokemaker (Ponting) the "soft hands" backfoot player for the slower pitches (Martyn) the grafters (S.Waugh, Langer) and one of the cleanest hitters in history (Gilchrist). Among bowlers, they had one of the finest exponents of line and length(which was effective on any pitch), the greatest spin bowler ever (could turn it anywhere), an out and out pace bowler (Lee) and a criminally underused swing bowler (Bichel). This doesnt factor in the other factors like the strength of the tail -gillespie lee warne bichel etc would be among the strongest 8,9,10 ever. [[ Srikanth, I deliberately stayed away from individuals. You have complemented my article with your excellent descriptions of the talented individuals. Ananth: ]]

  • Zeeshan Ahmed Siddiqui on December 13, 2008, 20:00 GMT

    Yes this is right that Australia is no. 1 team of the world in this decade. They have a players like Ponting, Hayden, Waugh, Martyn, Lehman, Slater, Langer, Bevan, Hussey and others in batting and in bowling Warne, McGrath, Lee, Gillespie, MacGill and others. When strong team like S. Africa comes with their four to five all rounders in front of them, always loose finals in one day and mostly test matches also. The reason is that when their all rounders come for batting, specialist bowlers easily tackle them and when come for bowling specialist batsmen tackle them easily and one reason is Gilchrist also which was wicket keeper + batsman. Now they are loosing their position like India beat them in test matches in India recently. Hayden (scored thirty centuries in test) will retire from international cricket soon, another great lost for them as one by one they are loosing big names. We can compare this decade of them with any other team in test history and as well as one day also.

  • keyur on December 16, 2008, 12:38 GMT

    Australia has set the standards high for test cricket in the last decade or so thanks to a conglomeration of many great cricketers. One of the main reason for this is the belief that the australians have had: they could win any test from any dire position, case in point being the 369 they chased against pakistan (at hobart?) with langer and gilchrist hitting centuries in the 4th innings. For interested readers here is stat of WestIndies between Jun 1980-Mar 1995: Series Won lost draw Matches Won Lost Draw Total 29 20 0 9 115 59 15 41 Home 12 11 0 1 48 28 4 16 Away 17 9 0 8 67 31 11 25 [[ Thank you, Keyur The numbers seem to indicate that Australia were slightly more successful than West Indies. However they both dominated the game to a high level. Remember that one of Australia's three series losses was as recent as last month and one was as early as 2001. In between they have gone through 7 years with a single series loss. Ananth: ]]

  • Jeff on December 16, 2008, 18:09 GMT

    Hi Ananth,

    Just one comment:

    The last point you make in your summary isn't really true. While there's no doubt that Gilchrist is a great player who could have allowed the Aussies to field an extra bowler, they very rarely did so.

    Their typical team of the period contained only 4 bowlers and no true all-rounders (by that I mean a bowler/batsman.)

    I'd argue that it was the McGrath-Warne bowling axis that was the real key to the Aussies success and allowed them to play an extra batsman. This meant that they could continue to rack up big scores and still feel confident about bowling teams out twice, despite the fact that the Aussies haven't produced a genuine all-rounder for the entire period of their recent domination.

    It's the retirement of Warne & McGrath, not Gilchrist that is the real problem for the Aussies.

    [[ Jeff The specific point I had made is debatable and I agree that it has not always been true. However I still maintain that Gilchrist was the one individual player who made the most difference. Between Warne and McGrath, much as I liked McGrath a lot, I have to say that Warne is the more "difficult to replace" bowler. Ananth: ]]

  • Jeff on December 17, 2008, 8:58 GMT

    I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one ;-)

    Much as I rate Gilchrist as a player (I have no doubts he's the keeper i'd pick in my all-time team) I don't think he was the biggest single factor in the recent Aussie dominance.

    I think that if Healy or Haddin had been the keeper and batted at 7 throughout the past decade then the Aussies would still have been the dominant team. They may have lost a few more games which Gilchrist's individual brilliance would've won for them but i doubt that much would have changed.

    However, without either Warne or McGrath, they wouldn't have had the luxury of being able to both contain AND attack batsmen at both ends at the same time. That is unique about the recent Aussie sides - no other team has had that ability. Most bowlers are one or the other - a strike bowler who is prone to leaking runs (a la Lee or MacGill) or a steady containment bowler who can tie up one end while a strike bowler tries to take wickets at the other end

  • Jeff on December 17, 2008, 9:00 GMT

    Cont...

    Look at the Aussies now – they are still persevering with the 6 batsmen, 1 keeper & 4 bowlers policy but now, the bowlers are: Lee, Johnson, Siddle (Clark if fit) and Krezja.

    Haddin is doing a decent job at number 7 and I’d argue that they aren’t really missing Gilchrist at the moment, but which of these bowlers can fulfill the Warne or McGrath role of taking wickets and keeping the run rate down? Not one of them, let alone 2 of them who can bowl at the same time. Lee will always take wkts but always go for plenty – he was the perfect foil for Warne/Mcgrath, but not a replacement for them.

    I foresee that it won’t be long before the Aussies have to change tactics and pick an extra bowler to enable them to bowl teams out twice for low enough scores. And unless they unearth a new Miller or find an Aussie Kallis or Sobers to bat at number 6, then this will mean sacrificing some runs… the end is nigh, no matter how many runs their keeper scores... [[ Jeff Your comments have been strengthened by Haddin's recent batting form. Earlier in India, while he scored a few runs, he was no comparison to Gilchrist. However now the situation has changed. On bowlers, I have to agree that both McGrath and Warne are irreplaceable. I felt Clark was shaping to be the next McGrath. However he has fared poorly recently, taking only 14 wickets in 6 tests. You are right about Lee. Now he does not have the luxury of M/W at the other end. Johnson is yet to prove himself. The other key point is that both Gillespie and Kaz would have comfortably got in now. Let us see how the Saf series shapes up. It will be a pointer of things to come. Thanks for the valuable comments. Ananth: ]]