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February 26, 2009

Trivia - batting

Okay, Bradman is at No.1... but who is last?

Anantha Narayanan
Chris Martin does his best to defend a straight delivery ... but is bowled, England v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Old Trafford, May 24, 2008
 © Getty Images
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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  Bpa

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

Now the final table.
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)  19.97
As 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.

To view the complete list please click here.

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

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Keywords: Trivia

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Posted by Arnold D'Souza on (February 9, 2012, 19:09 GMT)

An important factor, if you're considering the average partnership runs added, is how good the batsmen (esp. mid-to-lower order ones) in the team are. Pommie, playing for Zimbabwe, wasn't helped by the fact that the other batsmen around him were also pretty inept. Chris Martin wouldn't have scored many runs, but at least he had better batsmen around him to score them!

Posted by Fergus Pickering on (March 18, 2009, 18:17 GMT)

If you want to now the best batsman ever COMPARED WITH his fellow batsmen, then the answer is W.G. Grace in the 1870s, whennhe was at his best, when he scored 66% of all the centuries scored. Just think of it - 2 out of 3 of the centuries scored were scored by him. And his average was pretty well DOUBLE anybody else's. No tests in hose days, it's true, but they knew how to play.

Posted by Prasad Shah on (March 17, 2009, 3:55 GMT)

Hi Ananth - thanks for accepting and publishing my comment about Bradman. I do not disrespect him (because I don't know anything about his record) but I am still waiting for your analysis that he indeed is best Test batsmen of all time.

Posted by anon_N on (March 7, 2009, 13:03 GMT)

I'm wondering what's the worst average ever in any recordable form of cricket ( not couinting age cricket). My average for this season might have been a world record if it can count...its significantly under 1/2

Posted by Kartik on (March 6, 2009, 21:19 GMT)

I see that you have mentioned that balls played is not known for the earlier tests. However, almost all of the batsmen on this list are modern except Valentine and maybe Chandra, so they should have balls played available, no?

Posted by Kartik on (March 6, 2009, 21:07 GMT)

Thus, following from my earlier comment, instead of 'Average Partnership runs added', it would be better to take 'average balls faced'. That distinguishes between a tailender that is actually surviving balls, rather than one who is shielding on the non-striker's end, while Viv Richards is hitting sixes.

More balls faced by a tailender automatically means the better batsman partner is getting more chances to score before the innings ends.

This distinguished between a No. 11 in a century partnership who scores 40 vs. one who scores just 5 runs from 15 balls faced.

Posted by Kartik on (March 6, 2009, 21:04 GMT)

Glenn McGrath would have been on this list until 1998, after which time he made a couple of scores about 30, permanently moving off it.

I am not sure about Partnership runs added. You have to weight that value in relation to how many runs the tailender actually scores in the partnership.

Take an ODI example. If Richards scores 90% of the runs in partnership with Holding for the 10th wicket, why does Holding automatically rise up the ranks as a result? It is Richards shielding him from the strike. Holding's main job is to not get run-out. He will face very few balls.

That is very different from Zaheer Khan partnering with Tendulkar against Bangladesh. Zaheer himself scored half the runs in that partnership.

Posted by Girish on (March 2, 2009, 7:43 GMT)

analysis should be for worst 'pure batsmen' (not bowlers or allrounders) with minimum 25 test innings,

who do you think is the worst batsman?

Posted by Rohit on (February 27, 2009, 16:58 GMT)

Some people have put wall around any objective analysis of Bradman's record and compare it to current greats. Pure speculation about how Ponting/SRT/Lara would've played without protective gear is meaningless and shouting down others is not going to help. Ananth does very good job by looking only at stats, rest everything is hype, speculation and myth.

Posted by R Sivasubramaniam on (February 27, 2009, 15:53 GMT)

Thank you Ananth for your explanation.

For those who criticise Bradman. Would any of the present day 'greats' (with the exception of Viv Richardes dared to have faced Larwood, Voce or Constantine with 'body armour' and helmets. Bradman probably had a guard and maybe a towel as thigh guard and yet scored a century in the Nodyline series! Leave the Don alone - he is in a class by himself - let lesser mortals fight ot out frrom the 2nd place onwards! Siva from Singapore

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anantha Narayanan
Anantha spent the first half of his four-decade working career with corporates like IBM, Shaw Wallace, NCR, Sime Darby and the Spinneys group in IT-related positions. In the second half, he has worked on cricket simulation, ratings, data mining, analysis and writing, amongst other things. He was the creator of the Wisden 100 lists, released in 2001. He has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket, and worked extensively with Maruti Motors, Idea Cellular and Castrol on their performance ratings-related systems. He is an armchair connoisseur of most sports. His other passion is tennis, and he thinks Roger Federer is the greatest sportsman to have walked on earth.

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