Okay, Bradman is at No.1... but who is last?
A lot of analysis has been done on the best batsmen in Test cricket. Whatever be the methodology used, all analysis lead to the incomparable Don Bradman at the top. The arguments start when some one is anointed the second best, any one of 5 batsmen could fill this place.
Let us leave that topic aside. I have always felt that the other end of batting table presents a fascinating possibility. Who is the worst batsman who ever carried a bat and walked in. Is it Chris Martin, is it one of the Indian spinners, is it a West Indian fast bowler or an unexpected batsman out side this lot? Without further ado, let us delve in.
First a few criteria to be fixed.
The first is that the batsman (okay, I know I am stretching the point) has to have played 25 Test innings, which, for a tail-ender, represents nearly 20 Tests. The next is that the career batting average should be below 10.00. These twin criteria have enabled 70 tail-end batsmen to be selected.
Let me also mention that I would not do just a simple table based on, say, Batting Average. That is something which anyone could get using the excellent Cricinfo Statsguru. I will do a composite but not complex analysis of these 70 batsmen.
I have considered three measures for analysis. These are explained below.
1. Batting Average. This is the simplest and most acceptable of all batting measures. Readers can easily identify with this measure and it reflects the batting ability very realistically, notwithstanding the "not outs" conundrum. In this particular analysis even the "not outs" do not matter since most of these batsmen remain not out on quite a few occasions. This measure will carry a weight of 20 points.
2. Dismissed Zeroes. The emphasis here is on both the words. An innings which ends at 0 means that, barring a few exceptional circumstances, very little has been contributed and another batsman, almost always a better one, has been left in the limbo. I have determined the number of dismissed zeros and determined a frequency of innings in which this has occured. The lower this figure is, the worse the batsman is. This measure will carry a weight of 15 points.
3. Average partnership runs added. This is a useful measure since it tests another facet of the tail-end batsman's skills, which is the support he provides to the senior batsmen. Basically I have computed the number of runs added while the tail end batsman was at the crease, mostly at no.10 or no.11, and determined the measure of average partnership runs per innings. This measure will carry a weight of 15 points.
I have considered (and ignored) the batsman's highest score since that does not convey any additional information. I have also not considered the "Balls played" information since that is available only for about a third of Tests. And extrapolating based on team scoring rate will not work since these batsmen are likely to take a lot more balls to score the runs.
Let us take a look at tables, first the support table.
Cty Batsman Ins No Runs Avge HS Dis Runs Avge 0s Added BpaNow the final table.
Zim Mbangwa M 25 8 34 2.00 8 9 171 11.0 Nzl Martin C.S 65 30 76 2.17 12 25 663 10.9 Win King R.D 27 8 66 3.47 12 7 275 10.2 Bng Manjural Islam(Sr) 33 11 81 3.68 21 10 351 10.6 Ind Chandrasekhar B.S 80 39 167 4.07 22 23 760 10.9 Ind Maninder Singh 38 12 99 3.81 15 11 396 10.8 Ind Doshi D.R 38 10 129 4.61 20 14 384 10.9 Aus Reid B.A 34 14 93 4.65 13 6 262 10.8 Ind Nehra A 25 11 77 5.50 19 10 221 10.6 Win Valentine A.L 51 21 141 4.70 14 12 502 10.9
Cty Batsman Batting Avge Dis 0s Freq Avge Ptship Total (20) (15) (15) (50) Zim Mbangwa M 4.00 (2.00) 2.08 ( 2.78) 5.13 ( 6.84) 11.21 Nzl Martin C.S 4.34 (2.17) 1.95 ( 2.60) 7.65 (10.20) 13.94 Win King R.D 6.95 (3.47) 2.89 ( 3.86) 7.64 (10.19) 17.48 Bng Manjural Islam(Sr) 7.36 (3.68) 2.48 ( 3.30) 7.98 (10.64) 17.82 Ind Chandrasekhar B.S 8.15 (4.07) 2.61 ( 3.48) 7.12 ( 9.50) 17.88 Ind Maninder Singh 7.62 (3.81) 2.59 ( 3.45) 7.82 (10.42) 18.02 Ind Doshi D.R 9.21 (4.61) 2.04 ( 2.71) 7.58 (10.11) 18.83 Aus Reid B.A 9.30 (4.65) 4.25 ( 5.67) 5.78 ( 7.71) 19.33 Ind Nehra A 11.00 (5.50) 1.88 ( 2.50) 6.63 ( 8.84) 19.50 Win Valentine A.L 9.40 (4.70) 3.19 ( 4.25) 7.38 ( 9.84) 19.97As foreseen, a dark horse has emerged. Who would have thought of a batsman who could come ahead of Chris Martin. (Mpumelelo) Pommy Mbangwa's batting is for the Gods to view. 25 innings, 8 not outs and 34 runs gives him an unbelievable average of 2.00. He has been dismissed at 0 for nearly 40% of his crease visits. He has a highest score of 8, the only one in this elite group not to have crossed 9 runs. He has always batted at no.11. His average partnership is an unbelievably low 6.8. What more do you want. I would have paid money to see Pommy bat. Note his batting sequence: 0, 2, 0, 4, 0*, 0, 0, 0, 0, 2*, 3, 2, 0, 1*, 2, 0*, 0*, 1*, 3, 0, 0, 1*, 8, 0*, 5. One fascinating string of scores.
I can see the New Zealand readers having mixed feelings. They would dearly love to have Chris Martin head this table because they love his batting. I can only suggest that if you increase the number of innings to 30, Chris Martin will be at the top. Let us see Martin's exploits. 65 innings, 30 not outs, 76 runs giving Martin a slightly higher average of 2.17 as compared to Pommy. He has crossed single figures once in his career, an unbeaten 12 against Bangladesh when he outscored O'Brien. He has 25 dismissed zeroes, the most frequent amonst all these batsmen. But his partnership average is a healthy 10+. Only twice has Martin batted at no.10 when Shane Bond and Cummings could not bat. Let me add, I would also pay money to see Chris Martin bat.
Reon King is next. Not as great a fast bowler as some of the other greats such as Walsh or Ambrose, but equally inept a batsman.
Then comes Manjual Islam, followed by three Indian spinners. Reid of Australia separates these three from Ashish Nehra, another rabbit of a batsman. Alf Valentine is last in this table.
Fidel Edwards, who is 11th in the table is the only other batsman wiith a sub-5.00 batting average. However he has recently batted very well, saving West Indies twice at Antigua and Napier.
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Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems