Captaincy January 9, 2009

Test Captains - an in-depth look

This article has been in the pipeline for long

This article has been in the pipeline for long. An analysis of Test Captains is not an easy task and will lead to many arguments and comments. However that cannot deter us from making an honest attempt. As long as the comments are positive in nature, it does not matter.

What are the requirements of a good Test captain? The measurable factors are on-field performance as a player, leading from the front, achieving good match and series results, both home and away. The non-measurable factors are man management, identification of talent, getting players to do their best and support of team members with selection entities. I will only concentrate on the measurable factors and stay away from the non-measurable ones. I am confident that this will be fair even to great captains whose on-field performance might be below par.

I have decided on a few yardsticks for this analysis. Readers should be happy with these since these reflect earlier reader comments.

The first is that there will be no longevity based allocation of points. I will set a fairly high bar for selection. Once this bar is crossed, all the selected captains will have an equal chance of achieving a high position in the table.

The second is that the team strength measures will be adjusted for the period during which the concerned Test was played. This will ensure a fair playing field.

The third is that the captains' individual performances will be weighted for the quality of opposition. The all-Test batting average of 29.92 and bowling average of 31.51 are used as reference. In other words, a 100 against a strong Australian team will be weighted at a much higher level than a 100 against a weak Bangladesh team. Similarly for bowling.

After a number of trial runs I have decided on 30 Tests as the minimum requirement for inclusion. This has been worked on various factors, not the least is the need to keep the number of qualifying cricketers, in this case 35, to a reasonable number. Also 30 Tests represents between 3 and 5 years reign, a fairly long one. Unfortunately this keeps out very successful captains such as Don Bradman, Richie Benaud, Wasim Akram, Jayawardene, Shaun Pollock (he was a very good Test captain) to name a few. To do proper justice to these great players, I have presented an additional table of captains who have led their teams in 20-29 tests at the end.

Now for the details, to be followed by the tables. I waited for the end of the wonderful Test match at Sydney to prepare these tables since the result there might have had a bearing on the final positions.

The measures for analysing Test Captains is broadly classified into the following four (measurable) factors.

1. Base unadjusted match results.
2. Match results adjusted for team quality and venue.
3. Series results.
4. Individual performances - Batting, Bowling and Fielding.

1. Base unadjusted match results.

These are the raw unadjusted results. A win is a win, whether it is against Australia at Sydney or against Bangladesh at Mirpur. Similarly a draw is not a loss and as such some credit has to be given. The measure of success is derived by the following formula and converted to points.

No of wins   +   (No of draws / 2)
Success Factor =  ----------------------------------
No of matches

A captain who wins all the matches (not that any one has done it) gets full credit.

2. Match results adjusted for team quality and venue.

The best way of explaining this measure, which carries the most weight is to show a table of imaginary match results. Let me take three teams. Australia, with a TSI of 75, England, with a TSI of 60 and Bangladesh, with a TSI of 45. All possible results and the winning captain credits are tabulated below.

Home win           Away win
Stronger team winning
Australia (75) defeats England (60)           60                 72
Australia (75) defeats Bangladesh (45)        36 (lowest)        45
England (60) defeats Bangladesh (45)          41                 50
Weaker team winning
Bangladesh (45) defeats Australia (75)        83                100 (highest)
Bangladesh (45) defeats England (60)          66                 80
England (60) defeats Australia (75)           75                 90

The summary is that the minimum points are allocated when the strongest team defeats the weakest team at home and the maximum points are allocated when the weakest team defeats the strongest team away. The limiting values have a factor of nearly 3 between themselves. Everything else is in between.

Captains in drawn matches get 50% of the adjusted TSI values.

The points for all tests captained by one player are summed and divided by the number of Tests captained. This ensures that longevity in captaincy does not play a part.

3. Series results.

A few comments on the Series calculations. Until now a total of 590 series have been played. Single Test series, 50 of these at last count, are not considered to be series. A minimum of two Tests have to be played. There have been three multi-team series (The 1912 Triangular tournament at England between Eng-Aus-Saf, the First Asian Test Championship of 1998-99 and Second Asian Test Championship of 2001-02). For these three tournaments, the home teams are respectively England, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The winner of these three tournaments, viz., England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka get the winner's credits. For the only series played in neutral locations, the 2002 matches between Pakistan and West Indies/Australia, all three teams are considered to be "Away".

The winning captain gets the average of the losing team's TSI as credit for winning the series. A bonus of 20% is given for winning an away series. If multiple captains have captained within a series they get proportionate credit. All these are subject to the above mentioned adjustments for relative strengths of the two teams. Aus/Ind/Saf will get least credit for winning at Bangladesh while Bangladesh will get maximum credit for winning at Aus/Saf/Ind, if ever that miracle happens.

The points for all series/part series captained by one player are summed and divided by the number of Tests captained. This ensures that longevity in captaincy does not play a part. Number of Tests rather than number of series is used to ensure uniform weighting. Also all series wins are treated the same. Of course, if a captain wins the series 5-0 he would have got substantial match win credit points as against one who wins 1-0.

It is possible that there is some overlap amongst the three Results based parameters. However each has a different objective and the overlap exists unformly across all captains. The across-the-board division by the "Tests captained" figure smoothes all variations.

4. Individual performances - Batting, Bowling and Fielding.

Finally on-field performance. I think it is essential to recognize the batting, bowling and fielding performances of the captain. Cricket is not any longer, and should never have been, a non-playing-captain game. We recognize the performances by converting runs/wickets/catches to points, adjust these for the quality of other team's batting and bowling, sum these and then divide by the number of tests captained. Wicket-keeper-captains' dismissals are given additional weighting.

Let me summarize these. I have kept in mind a figure of 70-75% for different Results related points allocation and 25-30% for Performance related points allocation. I also expected to achieve these allocations at the total level. At individual levels the allocations will vary considerably. A low-performing captain such as Brearley gets over 90% on Results related allocations, an average-performing captain such as Steve Waugh gets over 80% on Results related allocations while a Performing captain such as Imran Khan or Sobers gets over 40% in Performance related points allocations. The summary is given below.

For 62 Captains     For 290 captains
(20+ tests)           (All)
Results:          14.35%             14.76%
Matches:          45.55%             46.04%
Series:           13.86%             12.04%
Performance:      26.22%             27.16%

The summarized weighted percentages have come almost very close to what I set out at the beginning.

These summary figures meet the target I had set before beginning the analysis and we can now proceed to complete the table preparation work.

Top Test Captains - Minimum 30 tests as captain

SNo Player Cty (Runs Wkts C/S) Matches Ser Win% Win Mat Ser Perf CapIdx (Adjusted) M W D W Pts Pts Pts Pts

1 Imran Khan Pak (2438 198.6 17) 48 14 26 5 56.2% 11.2 36.9 11.1 43.6 102.88 2 Ponting R.T Aus (4698 1.1 53) 53 36 9 13 76.4% 15.3 49.8 17.8 18.9 101.71 3 Waugh S.R Aus (3854 3.1 34) 57 41 7 13 78.1% 15.6 49.1 15.4 14.6 94.69 4 Sobers G.St.A Win (3516 120.1 48) 39 9 20 3 48.7% 9.7 32.4 7.2 43.9 93.26 5 Illingworth R Eng (1262 53.1 24) 31 12 14 6 61.3% 12.3 41.5 13.8 22.6 90.25 6 Chappell I.M Aus (2463 6.0 46) 30 15 10 5 66.7% 13.3 43.5 13.8 19.6 90.14 7 Richards I.V.A Win (3093 18.3 49) 50 27 15 7 69.0% 13.8 44.2 12.9 16.3 87.18 8 Lloyd C.H Win (5114 0.0 71) 74 36 26 13 66.2% 13.2 45.1 13.3 14.8 86.34 9 Taylor M.A Aus (3292 1.1 84) 50 26 11 11 63.0% 12.6 41.3 15.5 15.0 84.50 10 Cronje W.J Saf (2912 39.4 27) 53 27 15 9 65.1% 13.0 40.8 11.6 17.4 82.93 11 Smith G.C Saf (5717 8.1 88) 67 33 15 14 60.4% 12.1 36.5 14.5 19.4 82.48 12 Chappell G.S Aus (3934 24.2 59) 48 21 14 6 58.3% 11.7 37.8 11.0 21.7 82.09 13 Vaughan M.P Eng (3132 1.1 27) 51 26 14 8 64.7% 12.9 43.0 12.5 13.0 81.49 14 Brearley J.M Eng (1060 0.0 41) 31 18 9 5 72.6% 14.5 46.5 12.2 8.2 81.37 15 Jayasuriya S.T Slk (2194 43.4 23) 38 18 8 8 57.9% 11.6 34.5 13.9 21.3 81.20 16 Kapil Dev N Ind (1351 118.7 26) 34 4 23 2 45.6% 9.1 28.5 6.7 36.6 80.91 17 Simpson R.B Aus (3677 41.7 62) 39 12 15 3 50.0% 10.0 34.1 6.6 29.0 79.65 18 Dexter E.R Eng (2393 35.7 18) 30 9 14 3 53.3% 10.7 34.8 7.5 26.1 79.04 19 Inzamam-ul-Haq Pak (2388 0.0 14) 31 11 9 5 50.0% 10.0 36.2 15.5 15.9 77.46 20 May P.B.H Eng (2971 0.0 28) 41 20 11 7 62.2% 12.4 38.9 10.2 15.2 76.72 21 Javed Miandad Pak (2433 0.0 32) 34 14 14 7 61.8% 12.4 36.9 12.2 15.3 76.65 22 Ganguly S.C Ind (2609 5.4 37) 49 21 15 9 58.2% 11.6 37.2 14.6 12.3 75.75 23 Border A.R Aus (6759 27.0 89) 93 32 39 9 55.4% 11.1 36.1 8.2 17.8 73.24 24 Gooch G.A Eng (3566 9.0 29) 34 10 12 3 47.1% 9.4 32.1 6.9 24.0 72.37 25 Howarth G.P Nzl (1449 1.1 21) 30 11 12 6 56.7% 11.3 36.3 13.4 10.6 71.70 26 Hussain N Eng (2362 0.0 27) 45 17 13 6 52.2% 10.4 38.0 11.0 11.1 70.52 27 Fleming S.P Nzl (5101 0.0 132) 79 28 24 13 50.6% 10.1 31.5 13.5 14.6 69.77 28 Gavaskar S.M Ind (3438 0.0 45) 47 9 30 4 51.1% 10.2 34.0 7.0 15.6 66.85 29 Azharuddin M Ind (3064 0.0 50) 47 14 19 5 50.0% 10.0 29.6 7.4 14.1 61.09 30 Ranatunga A Slk (3242 5.0 26) 56 12 25 6 43.8% 8.8 26.1 9.4 12.8 57.07 31 Atherton M.A Eng (3600 1.1 33) 54 13 20 3 42.6% 8.5 28.7 5.4 14.1 56.73 32 Reid J.R Nzl (2022 55.5 23) 34 3 13 0 27.9% 5.6 19.9 3.0 25.6 54.19 33 Lara B.C Win (4388 0.0 72) 47 10 11 4 33.0% 6.6 21.3 5.9 20.2 53.98 34 Mansur Ali Khan Ind (2446 1.0 26) 40 9 12 2 37.5% 7.5 23.8 5.1 13.1 49.47 35 Gower D.I Eng (2295 0.0 26) 32 5 9 2 29.7% 5.9 19.9 5.1 15.2 46.08

Imran Khan is deservedly on top, both for his success as a captain and as a performer. He always led from the front. His average of 50 runs & 4 wickets per test as captain are testimony to this. His top position is due to his high level of consistent performances, And that is how it should be.

Ponting has been a very good and successful captain. People might say that this was easy with world class performers such as Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist playing under him. He still had to produce the results. Incidentally he was comfortably in the top position when I started this a couple of months back. The twin losses to India and South Africa have pushed him down. Ponting has averaged nearly 95 runs per test as captain.

Steve Waugh was as charismatic as Imran Khan. He inherited a good side from Taylor and handed over nearly as good side to Ponting. The changeover of the old guard under him was smooth and effective. His performance, however, has been average. Only 65 runs per test as captain.

Gary Sobers' results as a captain have been only average. He is the one of two captains to get a below-50% success rate in the top-20. However his performances on the field as captain have been the best by anyone. 90 runs and 3 wickets per test have pushed him into the fourth place. Overall a very deserved position.

Illingworth was again a successful captain with above average performance. His Ashes wins are legendary.

It can be seen that Mike Brearley, considered by many to be possibly the best captain ever is very well placed at the 14th place. Note his results scores and his performance score. He was a great captain but a mediocre performer. He scored a very low 35 runs per test.

If there was a bravery factor introduced, Greame Smith would be at the top. His performance at Sydney was heart-warming. However his achievements came much earlier, at Perth and Melbourne. There is no doubt that, by the time he finishes his captaincy career, he would be right at the top. A performing leader, Smith averaged 85 runs per test.

Lara is placed way down the table, justifiably so. One of the greatest batsmen who ever played the game, Lara was, at best, an average captain. These statements would also apply to the other great, Tendulkar.

Kapil Dev is the best Indian captain. Readers might say that Ganguly achieved more as a captain. However Ganguly's average performance (52 runs per test as captain) pushed him down a few places. Readers must also remember that this is an all-time best captain list and Kapil's 16th and Ganguly's 22nd places are reasonable rewards for their contributions to Indian cricket.

A few interesting captaincy related points:

1. 290 players have captained their teams in the 1905 Test matches, 41 of them having done so only once.
2. Alan Border has captained in most tests, 93, followed by Stephen Fleming with 79 tests.
3. Steve Waugh has won most tests, 41, followed by Clive Lloyd and Ricky Ponting (after the great Sydney win), with 36 wins.
4. The best result has been achieved by Steve Waugh with 78.1%, followed by Ponting with 76.4%.
5. With the great Australian series win, Greame Smith has won 14 series, alone at the summit he shared with four others. Lloyd, Steve Waugh, Ponting and Fleming have 13 series wins.
6. Imran Khan has taken most wickets, 187 in 48 tests, followed by Richie Benaud with 138 in only 28 tests as captain. Incidentally Benaud has performed in an outstanding manner as a captain. In 35 other tests he has taken only 110 wickets. 7. Border leads the run tally for captains with 6623 runs in 93 tests, followed by Greame Smith with 5633 in 67 tests as captain.

Top Test Captains - Addl report for those who captained between 20 and 29 tests

SNo Player Cty (Runs Wkts C/S) Cm Cw Cd Sw Win% WPts MPts SPts PPts CapIdx

1 Benaud R Aus ( 765 144.3 32) 28 12 12 5 64.3% 12.9 44.1 13.6 47.8 118.35 2 Pollock S.M Saf ( 946 108.7 22) 26 14 7 7 67.3% 13.5 41.0 20.3 41.6 116.36 3 Wasim Akram Pak ( 928 110.7 16) 25 12 5 4 58.0% 11.6 38.6 13.0 43.5 106.63 4 Bradman D.G Aus (3244 0.0 18) 24 15 6 4 75.0% 15.0 48.3 12.7 27.8 103.79 5 Jayawardene M Slk (2683 0.0 42) 26 15 4 6 65.4% 13.1 38.4 17.7 22.3 91.38 6 Walsh C.A Win ( 121 89.6 7) 22 6 9 4 47.7% 9.5 33.3 12.9 34.0 89.69 7 Hutton L Eng (1817 1.1 11) 23 11 8 4 65.2% 13.0 43.1 14.2 16.7 87.05 8 Hassett A.L Aus (1890 0.0 13) 24 14 6 3 70.8% 14.2 44.1 8.8 16.3 83.32 9 Dravid R Ind (1722 0.0 32) 25 8 11 5 54.0% 10.8 37.4 14.2 15.1 77.45 10 Richardson R.B Win (1260 0.0 20) 24 11 7 3 60.4% 12.1 43.1 9.9 11.3 76.34 11 Bedi B.S Ind ( 296 99.5 6) 22 6 5 1 38.6% 7.7 24.8 3.4 39.2 75.06 12 Woodfull W.M Aus (1495 0.0 2) 25 14 4 4 64.0% 12.8 39.0 11.0 12.0 74.84 13 Lawry W.M Aus (1921 0.0 17) 25 9 8 2 52.0% 10.4 37.2 8.0 16.0 71.61 14 Goddard J.D.C Win ( 658 28.6 14) 22 8 7 3 52.3% 10.5 33.5 10.4 17.0 71.42 15 Cowdrey M.C Eng (1663 0.0 22) 27 8 15 2 57.4% 11.5 35.3 9.7 13.1 69.60 16 Hammond W.R Eng (1792 3.0 28) 20 4 13 3 52.5% 10.5 28.4 9.7 20.5 69.11 17 Darling J Aus ( 863 0.0 15) 21 7 10 4 57.1% 11.4 36.1 11.7 8.9 68.08 18 Smith M.J.K Eng (1097 0.0 33) 25 5 17 2 54.0% 10.8 34.4 9.6 10.1 64.98 19 Kardar A.H Pak ( 873 19.8 15) 23 6 11 1 50.0% 10.0 32.5 5.0 15.1 62.57 20 Hooper C.L Win (1576 22.5 21) 22 4 7 2 34.1% 6.8 22.8 5.7 23.5 58.84 21 Tendulkar S.R Ind (1951 4.4 16) 25 4 12 2 40.0% 8.0 25.6 7.6 17.7 58.83 22 Streak H.H Zim (1101 54.3 8) 21 4 6 2 33.3% 6.7 15.2 4.8 31.6 58.20 23 Gatting M.W Eng (1555 1.8 13) 23 2 16 1 43.5% 8.7 28.6 5.0 14.7 57.05 24 Hughes K.J Aus (1668 0.0 18) 28 4 11 1 33.9% 6.8 23.0 3.0 12.6 45.34 25 Flower A Zim (1350 0.0 117) 20 1 9 0 27.5% 5.5 17.4 3.0 19.4 45.26 26 MacLaren A.C Eng (1311 0.0 23) 22 4 7 0 34.1% 6.8 23.6 0.0 13.0 43.41 27 Campbell A.D.R Zim ( 958 0.0 30) 21 2 7 1 26.2% 5.2 18.1 6.9 10.6 40.73

Richie Benaud was an outstanding leader and a great performer, averaging nearly 5 wickets and 30 runs per test as captain. The unassuming Shaun Pollock also achieved considerable success as a Test captain. These should not be forgotten because of the 2003 WC fiasco. Coupled with a high success rate he also averaged 38 runs and 4 wickets per test. Wasim Akram had slightly better figures as a performer and slightly worse figures under the results category. Don Bradman's success as a captain and performer is reflected in the fourth position. Note Jayawardene's performance. He is the only one, other than the Don, to average over 100 runs per test as captain.

If the cut-off had been lower at 25 tests, Benaud, Pollock and Wasim Akram would have taken the first three positions. I would not have too many problems with that list.

Douglas Jardine does not make the cut-off for this list also. He captained England 15 times and won 9 times, 4 of these, through the probably unethical body-line methods, against the strong Australian team.

Top Test Captains - Addl report excluding Performance data - 20 tests and above

SNo Player Cty Cm Cw Cd Sw Win% WPts MPts SPts CapIdx

1 Ponting R.T Aus 53 36 9 13 76.4% 15.3 49.8 17.8 82.82 2 Waugh S.R Aus 57 41 7 13 78.1% 15.6 49.1 15.4 80.13 3 Bradman D.G Aus 24 15 6 4 75.0% 15.0 48.3 12.7 76.01 4 Pollock S.M Saf 26 14 7 7 67.3% 13.5 41.0 20.3 74.77 5 Brearley J.M Eng 31 18 9 5 72.6% 14.5 46.5 12.2 73.21 6 Lloyd C.H Win 74 36 26 13 66.2% 13.2 45.1 13.3 71.55 7 Richards I.V.A Win 50 27 15 7 69.0% 13.8 44.2 12.9 70.90 8 Chappell I.M Aus 30 15 10 5 66.7% 13.3 43.5 13.8 70.59 9 Benaud R Aus 28 12 12 5 64.3% 12.9 44.1 13.6 70.53 10 Hutton L Eng 23 11 8 4 65.2% 13.0 43.1 14.2 70.37 11 Taylor M.A Aus 50 26 11 11 63.0% 12.6 41.3 15.5 69.46 12 Jayawardene M Slk 26 15 4 6 65.4% 13.1 38.4 17.7 69.13 13 Vaughan M.P Eng 51 26 14 8 64.7% 12.9 43.0 12.5 68.50 14 Illingworth R Eng 31 12 14 6 61.3% 12.3 41.5 13.8 67.64 15 Hassett A.L Aus 24 14 6 3 70.8% 14.2 44.1 8.8 67.03 16 Cronje W.J Saf 53 27 15 9 65.1% 13.0 40.8 11.6 65.49 17 Richardson R.B Win 24 11 7 3 60.4% 12.1 43.1 9.9 65.01 18 Ganguly S.C Ind 49 21 15 9 58.2% 11.6 37.2 14.6 63.45 19 Wasim Akram Pak 25 12 5 4 58.0% 11.6 38.6 13.0 63.16 20 Smith G.C Saf 67 33 15 14 60.4% 12.1 36.5 14.5 63.13

This table is provided only for information. Readers can draw their own conclusion. Only comment is on how high the position of Mike Brearley is in this list, fifth.

2. Match results adjusted for team quality and venue.

This measures the quality of the results achieved. Which team was beaten, what were the relative strengths of the teams, where was the match played (home or away). In general the winning team's captain gets credited with the losing team's Team Strength Index (TSI), already discussed in these columns. TSI is a composite of Batting, Bowling and Fielding strengths.

There are some adjustments. First the case of the stronger team winning. If the losing team is quite weak (TSI less than 75% of the winning team's TSI), there is a 10% reduction of points. (e-g) Australia defeating Bangladesh. Their captain will only get 90% of Bangladesh's TSI. On the other hand, New Zealand's captain will get full credit for defeating Bangladesh. If Australia defeats India/South Africa or vice versa, the winning captain will get credited with the losing team's TSI.

Now the case of the weaker team winning. If the winning team is quite weak (TSI less than 75% of the losing team's TSI), there is a 10% increase of points. (e-g) New Zealand defeating Australia. On the other hand, India/South Africa's captain will get Australia's TSI for defeating them.

Captains in drawn matches get 50% of the TSI values, subject to the above adjustments.

For away matches, an additional weighting of between 0% and 30% are given to the team winning away, depending on the relative strengths of the two teams.

The points for all tests captained by one player are summed and divided by the number of tests captained. This ensures that longevity in captaincy does not play a part.

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

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