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March 6, 2009

Trivia - batting

The worst specialist Test batsmen

Anantha Narayanan
Mohammad Ashraful fails to deal with a short one from Dilhara Fernando, Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Chittagong, 2nd day, January 4, 2009
 © AFP
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A number of remarks raised in response to my last article on the worst Test batsmen suggested that these poor "batsmen" were in reality bowlers and I should also look at the specialist batsmen to determine who was the worst ever. These comments, led by "Voyager", made a lot of sense and I have completed the study. I must say this is also a fascinating one and my thanks to all who suggested this. I will admit, this specific analysis completely escaped me.

As usual I have set some criteria for selection. Let me outline these first.

1. These should be specialist batsmen. Bowlers (even those who might only have averaged 1-2 wickets per Test) and wicketkeepers have been excluded.

2. A minimum of 25 Test innings should have been played.

3. The Batting Average should be below 20.00 for those who played their entire career before 1925 and below 25.00 for those who played afterwards.

4. The Batting Position Average for the batsman (already presented and discussed by me in these columns) should not be below 6.5. This is to make sure that only specialist batsmen are included. Otherwise bowlers like Kumble, Warne, Vaas et al would come in. The number 6.5 ensures a tilt towards no.6 position than no.7 position.

These entry constraints let 41 batsmen walk under the bar.

Now for the analysis.

I have considered the following three measures for analysis. These are all logical and make sense.

1. The Batting Average, the truest of all measures. The highest weight is given for this measure.

2. The % of single digit scores. This is an improvement on the number of Zeroes I considered earlier and was suggested by Karthik. The lower this % is, the greater credit to the batsman. The range is from 26.7% to 70.0%.

3. The quality of bowling faced. Just in case the less-performing specialist batsmen faced top quality bowling, they have to be given credit. I have also used the weighted bowling average faced, in other words, the exact quality of bowling faced. If Parker faced a Pakistani bowling attack sans Imran, playing, but only as a batsman, this is taken care of. The lower this Average Bowling Quality figure is, the greater credit to the batsman. The range is from 26.6 to 41.5.

The formula is given below.

Index =
(100.0 - Single digit inns %)   (60 - Avge Bowling Quality)
Batting Average +  ---------------------------  +  -------------------------
10                             5

The formula is self-evident. The division by 10 and 5 is to ensure appropriate weights.

Let us look at the tables.

Cty Batsman          Mats Inns NO Runs  HS BPA Batting Scores<10 Bow  Index
Avge    No   %   Qty

Nzl Miller L.S.M 13 25 0 346 47 3.96 13.84 12 48.0% 29.2 25.20 Aus Bonnor G.J 17 30 0 512 128 5.27 17.07 21 70.0% 26.6 26.75 Eng Read J.M 17 29 2 463 57 5.17 17.15 13 44.8% 31.0 28.47 Bng Alok Kapali 17 34 1 584 85 6.06 17.70 13 38.2% 35.8 28.71 Pak Maqsood Ahmed 16 27 1 507 99 4.67 19.50 13 48.1% 33.0 30.08 Nzl Chapple M.E 14 27 1 497 76 4.52 19.12 13 48.1% 31.0 30.11 Aus Horan T.P 15 27 2 471 124 4.00 18.84 12 44.4% 29.4 30.51 Bng Hannan Sarkar 17 33 0 662 76 2.03 20.06 14 42.4% 36.3 30.56 Eng Ikin J.T 18 31 2 606 60 4.81 20.90 12 38.7% 41.5 30.73 Nzl McGregor S.N 25 47 2 892 111 4.11 19.82 18 38.3% 31.6 31.67 Zim Ebrahim D.D 29 55 1 1230 94 2.69 22.78 27 49.1% 39.1 32.05 Zim Gripper T.R 20 38 1 809 112 2.18 21.86 17 44.7% 36.3 32.12 Bng Aminul Islam 13 26 1 530 145 4.31 21.20 10 38.5% 35.5 32.26 Nzl Morgan R.W 20 34 1 734 97 4.82 22.24 16 47.1% 36.3 32.28 Bng Aftab Ahmed 14 27 3 514 82 5.56 21.42 10 37.0% 35.8 32.56 Zim Wishart C.B 27 50 1 1098 114 5.20 22.41 24 48.0% 34.5 32.71 Bng Javed Omar 40 80 2 1720 119 2.12 22.05 33 41.2% 36.1 32.71 Eng Larkins W 13 25 1 493 64 2.72 20.54 10 40.0% 28.9 32.77 Win Morton R.S 15 27 1 573 70 3.89 22.04 13 48.1% 31.9 32.84 Win Simmons P.V 26 47 2 1002 110 2.40 22.27 16 34.0% 36.3 33.60 Nzl Morrison J.F.M 17 29 0 656 117 2.55 22.62 13 44.8% 31.6 33.81 Nzl Bell M.D 18 32 2 729 107 2.16 24.30 17 53.1% 35.6 33.86 Bng Mohammad Ashraful 48 93 4 2125 158 4.59 23.88 42 45.2% 35.1 34.35 Nzl Franklin T.J 21 37 1 828 101 2.00 23.00 10 27.0% 39.1 34.47 Aus Richardson V.Y 19 30 0 706 138 4.97 23.53 13 43.3% 33.5 34.51 Eng Athey C.W.J 23 41 1 919 123 3.22 22.98 16 39.0% 32.4 34.60 Zim Rennie G.J 23 46 1 1023 93 2.89 22.73 16 34.8% 32.9 34.68 Nzl How J.M 18 34 1 771 92 2.00 23.36 10 29.4% 38.7 34.68 Nzl Murray B.A.G 13 26 1 598 90 2.00 23.92 11 42.3% 34.4 34.81 Nzl Pocock B.A 15 29 0 665 85 2.00 22.93 10 34.5% 32.3 35.02 Eng Brearley J.M 39 66 3 1442 91 3.12 22.89 23 34.8% 31.7 35.06 Pak Asif Mujtaba 25 41 3 928 65 4.46 24.42 15 36.6% 37.7 35.23 Bng Al Sahariar 15 30 0 683 71 2.80 22.77 8 26.7% 34.3 35.25 Eng Knight N.V 17 30 0 719 113 3.70 23.97 11 36.7% 34.8 35.35 Win Griffith A.F.G 14 27 1 638 114 2.00 24.54 12 44.4% 32.2 35.64 Pak Mathias W 21 36 3 783 77 5.81 23.73 12 33.3% 32.8 35.83 Win Smith D.S 28 49 2 1165 108 2.31 24.79 16 32.7% 36.2 36.29 Saf Cheetham J.E 24 43 6 883 89 5.74 23.86 13 30.2% 32.2 36.41 Nzl Parker J.M 36 63 2 1498 121 3.67 24.56 24 38.1% 30.6 36.62 Win Williams S.C 31 52 3 1183 128 2.29 24.14 14 26.9% 33.0 36.84 Pak Kardar A.H 23 37 3 847 93 6.16 24.91 12 32.4% 32.8 37.12

Lawrence Miller is an unknown name but is going to become quite well-known, one suspects. He barely gets in having played 25 innings. He played between 1953 and 1958. To boot, he batted in the middle order to start with but opened in the last six Tests. I am amazed that New Zealand cricket was at such a low ebb that they could not replace a batsmen who did not go past 50 in 13 Tests, had a single digit score in half the innings he played (and bowled a total of 2 balls). However I must mention that his top score of 47 helped New Zealand secure their first ever Test win against West Indies. Also that Miller faced good quality bowling almost always.

George Bonnor and John Read played duriing the first few years of Test cricket. Bonnor was more successful with a century and two 50s. Their averages of around 17 should be considered to be slightly higher in view of the time they played in. I have not done any average adjustment.

Now comes the interesting part. Couple of average Bangladeshi batsmen follow them. Some reader mentioned Jack Ikin. He finds a place in the top 10. It can be seen that the bowling he faced was very average quality, the post-war Indians, New Zealanders and West Indian bowlers.

Note how high Mohammad Ashraful and Javed Omar are in the table. They have also played a huge number of Tests. To be the premier batsmen of a modern team and average around 23 reflects the state of Bangladeshi cricket. What is also galling is the high % of single digit dismissals by both these batsmen, both above 40%.

As expected, Mike Brearley takes his place in this table in the lower half. That too because he crossed 10 a few times more than other batsmen and also faced very good bowling almost always.

What surprises me is the presence of Jamie How in this table. For How to be given 18 Tests in today's situation is quite surprising.

New Zealand has most entries in this table, 11. Bangladesh follows with 7. Surprisingly England has a few recent batsmen, viz., Athey, Brearley, Knight and Larkins in this list. Similarly West Indies has Morton, Simmons, D.S.Smith and Williams present. Pakistan has four players incluyding Asif Mujtaba. A.H.Kardar just about makes the list. He captained Pakistan during the difficult early days.

How, along with Pollard, Franklin, Murray are the New Zealanders in this list who have opened, quite unsuccessfully, in all the Tests they have played. The only other ever-present opener is Griffith of West Indies. Martin Bell should also have been there. However he played once in the no.7 position.

Note the absence of a single Indian in this list. For the record, the worst Indian specialist batsman is Eknath Solkar, with an average of just over 25, since his tally 18 wickets in 27 Tests is quite low. But his extraordinary fileding should give him the all-rounder status. As such the crown should go to Ashok Mankad, with an average of around 26, followed by Arun Lal.

For that matter the only Australians are the pre-1930. The nearest a modern Australian comes in is John Dyson, with an average just over 26.

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 Bill Bartmann on (September 5, 2009, 0:15 GMT)

Great site...keep up the good work.

Posted by Bill Bartmann on (September 3, 2009, 14:59 GMT)

Great site...keep up the good work.

Posted by Fraser on (March 28, 2009, 11:45 GMT)

I still think Daren Ganga is pretty awful, though Ananth, why don't you make a list of the best tailenders ie Vaas?

Posted by rajib on (March 20, 2009, 9:22 GMT)

yeah! feeling 'proud' to see the name of Ashraful

Posted by prasanth on (March 18, 2009, 18:34 GMT)

we should gratefully remember V.B.Chandrashekhar, Gagan Khoda, Sujit Somasundar, Devang Gandhi, Vijay Bharadwaj etc for not serving indian cricket for long. I still can't believe India had the audacity of letting some of these gentlemen open the first test in away series in aus, NZ, SA etc. I needn't go into the results of these matches. Of course they didn't play 25 tests to make the list, but still we shouldn't forget them

Posted by Aloke Mondkar on (March 18, 2009, 17:26 GMT)

I have to agree with a few of the posts above - any list of the worst batsmen in Tests is incomplete without Vikram Rathore. After a point, it was just funny how bad he was. Also, worth considering is the fact that like Rathore, there are many batsmen who were so bad that they were not even allowed 25 innings (rightly so). It would be interesting to see that list too - say 5 test matches or more. I am sure you will find Rahores brother from another mother - Rizan Uz Zaman of Pakistan on that list as well. As for WK - I will go with Drop DasGupta. I have never felt more nervous about a potential caught behind than when he was keeping wickets - all this while I was sitting on my couch watching :)

Posted by Ash Zed on (March 17, 2009, 17:20 GMT)

Great research work - as always. However, I felt you are a bit biased in case of Mongia. He is a keeper but he is/was always considered as wicketkeeper batsman. It is like Gilchrist who is an specialist keeper but any list of explosive openers will not be completed without Adam Gilchrist. Therefore, you need to consider Mongia in this list. [[ Ash I have no bias for or against Mongia. It is just that I felt it would be unfair to consider ANY keeper in this list since the keepers have a specialist task to do. There have been quite a few keepers who have batting average inferior to Mongia (24.03). Ananth: ]]

Posted by Arvind on (March 17, 2009, 11:58 GMT)

Dear Ananth I am trying to reach you, as I would like to suggest a new analysis to study the process of fall of wicket. This would involve measuring bowlers figures before and after he took a wicket. Similarly, one can also calculate average performance of a batsman just before he got out. I think these two averages for both batsmen and bowler, would give important information about the style of bowlers in setting up the batsmen and so on...

Many Thanks Arvind [[ Arvind The type of analysis you have mentioned will be possible only with complete ball-by-ball data which is either not available at all for 75% of Tests or are not available to the public (meaning me) for the later tests. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Zeeshan Ahmed Siddiqui on (March 14, 2009, 6:55 GMT)

Nice article about worst batsmen. In my opinion min. criteria should be 1000 runs. As we know that Bradman, Lara, Tendulkar, Gavaskar, Sobers, Viv. Richard and others are the best batsmen but here your article is about worst is something which is improving our knowlegde. I think Ashraful is worst specialist batsman of today's test cricket. His batting average is only 23.88 only. In my opinion batting average should be 35 or more for any specialist batsman in test cricket, although statistic is not only criteria like Victor Trumper batting average is less than 40 but he is the most elegant player that cricket history ever produced as he was also master in playing on sticky pitches. Kindly arrange research for those players also who are one day specialist but ordinary in test cricket like Bevan or test cricket specialist batsman but ordinary in one day cricket like Sehwag although he is improving in one cricket also day by day. One more list may be for worst test specialist bolwers.

Posted by Jeff on (March 12, 2009, 13:57 GMT)

I realise we are getting slightly off-topic here, but I think Shah deserved his chance, it's just so frustrating that he hasn't taken it (shades of Ramprakash from 10-15 years ago) Pietersen will never bat three - his ego won't allow it. I don't think Prior is good enough to make it as a specialist batsman (even I could have scored runs on those WI pitches!!) and his keeping is a joke.

England have a real problem, especially if they insist on playing Flintoff at 6 - he never has been good enough to bat 6 and is getting worse.

Getting back on topic - how about analysing the worst bowlers (and keepers)? We could then build the worst ever test team.

We have the top order (i've ignored the 19th century players because of the shocking pitches back then):

1. Hannan Sarkar 2. Miller 3. Chapple 4. Maqsood Ahmed 5. Ikin 6. Alok Kapali

We need 4 bowlers and a keeper (Kapali is the all-rounder) I'm nominating Ian Salisbury as one of the bowlers ! [[ Jeff your idea of the worst test bowlers and a classic team comprising of the worst amongst the worst is quite appealing. I liked the look of Bopara. However cannot England find couple of good quality batsmen. Ananth: ]]

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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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