Trivia - bowling March 18, 2009

The worst specialist bowlers in Test cricket, and the worst team

Some readers have suggested that I should look at the worst bowlers in Test cricket the same way I have looked at the worst specialist batsmen

I started this thread so I have to finish it. Some readers have suggested that I should look at the worst bowlers in Test cricket the same way I have looked at the worst specialist batsmen. This is a fair request and as Jeff wants, this gives us an opportunity to select what could be termed as the worst team in Test history.

For the batsmen I had a very effective measure, the Batting Position Average, which could be used to identify a specialist batsman, in addition to other measures. We do not have such a measure for bowlers and we have to improvise.

Let me list down the criteria for selection.

1. The bowler must have played in a minimum of 15 Tests.
2. The bowler should have bowled, on an average, a minimum of 150 balls per Test. This excludes casual bowlers.
3. The bowling average should be above 40.00. Fair enough condition.

4. To exclude all-rounders (Hooper/Ramchand et al), bowlers who bat well (Giles/Dharmasena et al) and batsmen who bowl frequently (Richards), the batting average should be below 20.00.
5. I have also excluded bowlers such as Mohammad Rafique, who have a bowling average between 40 and 50 and a difference in average values (bowling average minus batting average) less than 30. There is no way a quality player such as Rafique should get in this collection of incompetents.

This gets us a list of 18 bowlers.

It would be very simple to rank these based on the Bowling Average and that table would as well be enough. However I have done a simple additional analysis of the constituent measures to bring out the level of bowling. The following measures are used.

1. The Bowling Strike rate.
2. The Bowling RpO.
3. The number of wickets captured per Test.

It must be remembered that the Bowling Strike rate and RpO are the two components which form the Bowling Average and I have separated these to let the readers judge the lack of effectiveness.

The formula is given below.

Index=StrikeRate x 0.25 + RpO x 5 + (3.0 - W/T) x 10.
The final table is given below.

Cty Bowler            Mat Balls B/M Wkts  Avge  B/W   RpO  W/T Index

Eng Salisbury I.D.K 15 2492 166 20 76.95 124.6 3.71 1.33 66.3 Bng Manjural Islam(Sr) 17 2970 175 28 57.32 106.1 3.24 1.65 56.3 Bng Tapash Baisya 21 3376 161 36 59.36 93.8 3.80 1.71 55.3 Nzl Moir A.M 17 2650 156 28 50.64 94.6 3.21 1.65 53.2 Nzl Cave H.B 19 4074 214 34 43.15 119.8 2.16 1.79 52.9 Nzl Hayes J.A 15 2675 178 30 40.57 89.2 2.73 2.00 45.9 Ind Agarkar A.B 26 4857 187 58 47.33 83.7 3.39 2.23 45.6 Win Powell D.B 37 7090 192 85 47.99 83.4 3.45 2.30 45.1 Pak Mohammad Sami 33 6984 212 81 51.37 86.2 3.57 2.45 44.9 Slk Wickramasinghe G.P 40 7260 182 85 41.87 85.4 2.94 2.12 44.8 Nzl Wiseman P.J 25 5660 226 61 47.59 92.8 3.08 2.44 44.2 Saf McCarthy C.N 15 3499 233 36 41.94 97.2 2.59 2.40 43.2 Win McLean N.A.M 19 3299 174 44 42.57 75.0 3.41 2.32 42.6 Slk Ramanayake C.P.H 18 3654 203 44 42.73 83.0 3.09 2.44 41.8 Pak Asif Masood 16 3038 190 38 41.26 79.9 3.10 2.38 41.7 Eng Pocock P.I 25 6650 266 67 44.42 99.3 2.69 2.68 41.4 Ind Nehra A 17 3447 203 44 42.41 78.3 3.25 2.59 39.9 Eng Jones I.J 15 3546 236 44 40.20 80.6 2.99 2.93 35.8

Ian Salisbury stays supremely on top with such a huge lead that, whatever be the criteria used, he is unlikely to give up his top position. I am surprised that England could not find a better bowler than Salisbury nor could they have decided that the part-time spin of the much-maligned Hick (incidentally he captured 23 wickets at a much better average of 56.78) was enough. It is also relevant that Tufnell was England's leading spinner during the 1990s and the reason why they kept selecting Salisbury over eight years escapes me.

Then we have a couple of average Bangladeshi bowlers and a trio of average New Zealand bowlers.

The interesting entry then is Agarkar. How he could have played 26 Tests as an all-rounder is one of the mysteries of Indian cricket. I can understand his being selected for 191 ODI matches because he had one of the best strike rates as a bowler in ODIs (288 wickets in 191 matches). But 26 Tests, even conceding the Adelaide contribution, is inexplicable.

I am equally amazed that Mohammad Sami was selected for 33 Tests and captured fewer than 2.5 wickets per Test at a 50+ average. I will not make any comments except that Pakistan has had very competent and effective pace bowlers during this period and it is a surprise that Sami was on for such a long time.

Just to demonstrate the point that the Bowling Average is the most effective of all cricketing measures I have given below the table in decreasing order of Bowling average. Readers will note that there are very few significant changes.

Cty Bowler            Mat  Wkts BowAvge  BatAvge

Eng Salisbury I.D.K 15 20 76.95 (16.73) Bng Tapash Baisya 21 36 59.36 (11.29) Bng Manjural Islam(Sr) 17 28 57.32 ( 3.68) Pak Mohammad Sami 33 81 51.37 (12.05) Nzl Moir A.M 17 28 50.64 (14.86) Win Powell D.B 37 85 47.99 ( 7.83) Nzl Wiseman P.J 25 61 47.59 (14.08) Ind Agarkar A.B 26 58 47.33 (16.79) Eng Pocock P.I 25 67 44.42 ( 6.24) Nzl Cave H.B 19 34 43.15 ( 8.81) Slk Ramanayake C.P.H 18 44 42.73 ( 9.53) Win McLean N.A.M 19 44 42.57 (12.27) Ind Nehra A 17 44 42.41 ( 5.50) Saf McCarthy C.N 15 36 41.94 ( 3.11) Slk Wickramasinghe G.P 40 85 41.87 ( 9.41) Pak Asif Masood 16 38 41.26 (10.33) Nzl Hayes J.A 15 30 40.57 ( 4.87) Eng Jones I.J 15 44 40.20 ( 4.75)

Now for the serious task of selecting the worst Test team to be assembled. First let me say that the team will be assembled from the two "worst" tables. Also it will be a balanced team. The incompetency will be spread right through. A team of 11 batsmen with averages exceeding 50 might very well draw all Tests they play while a team with 11 bowlers with averages below 10 might very well dismiss any opposing team cheaply.

I am not able to select a wicket-keeper since keepers have, by definition, been excluded in the two selections. Readers can insert their own keeper. Khaled Mashud is one possibility. I will select 12 players so that the bowlers' selection can be effectively done between spinners and pace bowlers.

I will take the task seriously. Here is my team.

Bt/Bw
Avge

1.Nzl Miller L.S.M 13.84 2.Eng Brearley J.M 22.89 (Captain) 3.Aus Bonnor G.J 17.07 4.Eng Ikin J.T 20.90 5.Bng Alok Kapali 17.70 6.Nzl McGregor S.N 19.82 7.Wicket keeper 8.Eng Salisbury I.D.K 76.95 9.Bng Tapash Baisya 59.36 10.Pak Mohammad Sami 51.37 11.Nzl Moir A.M 50.64 12.Bng Manjural Islam(Sr) 57.32

It is with heavy heart that I have to leave out Javed Omar, Ashraful, Ebrahim, Simmons, Agarkar, Nehra et al. But we are limited to 11 (okay 12) players and I owe it to the readers to select the "best". For bowlers I have almost totally gone on numbers. Brearley could be replaced by one of the New Zealand openers without "strengthening" the team.

Readers should remember that there is no malice in this selection and everything has been done in a lighter vein. Do not come in with serious objections. You are welcome to form your own teams.

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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