June 9, 2009

In search of the balanced allrounder

A detailed stats analyis to classify players as batting allrounders and bowling allrounders

The beauty of cricket lies in the variety of different roles players can assume when they play the game. I contend there exists a continuum, with specialist bowlers at one end, specialist batsmen at the other, and a range of different types of allrounder in between. The terms "bowling allrounder" and "batting allrounder" are often used in reference to particular players, and it follows that in between these two categories, there must be a group of players whose allround capabilities are perfectly balanced; that is, they bat equally well as they bowl.

If my continuum does exist, then it should be possible to quantify each player's position along this line, and to determine who the "perfectly balanced" allrounders have been in the game's history.

Concerning myself with just Test cricket, I started with two extremes: the "purest" batsman was surely Brian Lara, who scored 11,953 runs in 131 Tests, but failed to take a wicket, the only scorer of 10,000 runs to do so. At the other end of the scale, we have South Africa's Mfuneko Ngam, who was only trusted with the bat once in his three Tests, scoring 0 not out, but was good enough as a bowler to take 11 wickets.

Of the 2551 Test players at the time of writing, 1085 failed either to score a run or take a wicket, and these may be regarded as our specialist players (either batsmen or bowlers), leaving 1467 players who can theoretically be regarded to some degree as allrounders. Readers may not be convinced of the allround credentials of Rahul Dravid, who has one wicket to go along with his 10,823 runs, and so we need to weed out these genuine batting specialists who by some freakish circumstance, have ended up with a small number of wickets.

Similarly, at the other end, we cannot seriously regard the likes of England's Bill Bowes (68 wickets) as a bowling allrounder, even though he scored 28 runs in 15 Tests, so from that end, we also need to establish a point beyond which a player can be regarded as a bowling specialist only, even though he may have scored the odd run here and there.

It will probably be obvious by now that the simplest (and perhaps most effective) way of establishing our continuum is to divide the number of runs a player has scored by the wickets he has taken. Using our two extremes, Dravid comes out with an allround index of 10823, while Bowes' is 0.41. The index for true allrounders, of course, lies within a much a narrower range, and with absolutely no theoretical basis for my conclusion, other than matching the results with my observations of players over many years, it seems that the figure of 14 is the point of equilibrium, where a player's batting is perfectly balanced with his bowling.

In fact no-one with 20 Tests under their belt has an index of exactly 14, but some come near. Of the megastars in the game's history, Ian Botham (13.58) comes the closest, while Jack Gregory (13.48), Ray Illingworth (15.05) and Chris Cairns (15.23) also seem to be extraordinarily balanced in their contributions with both bat and ball, the latter two obviously having a slight bias in favour of their batting. The closest with a 20-Test minimum is the little remembered nineteeth-century allrounder from England, William Barnes (14.22). The following table lists those whose indices lie in between 13 and 15:

Index	player	        M	runs	wkts
13.02	Mankad, MH	44	2109	162
13.12	Boje, 	N	43	1312	100
13.39	Hirst, GH	24	790	59
13.48	Gregory, JM	24	1146	85
13.58	Botham, IT	102	5200	383
14.22	Barnes, W	21	725	51
14.37	Nasim-ul-Ghani	29	747	52
14.41	Ratnayeke, JR	22	807	56
14.68	Madan Lal, S	39	1042	71

How far can we deviate from this balanced centre before we can no longer call the player an allrounder? At the bowling end, the figure appears to be around 7. Wasim Akram comes in on exactly that figure, while Dominic Cork (6.60) and Ray Lindwall (6.59) just had too much fire-power with the ball compared to their output as batsmen to be considered genuine allrounders. Alan Davidson (7.14) and Richard Hadlee (7.46) are rightly included, as is the rapidly-improving Mitchell Johnson (7.38).

Index	player	         M	runs	wkts
6.53	Wickramasinghe	40	555	85
6.59	Lindwall, RR	61	1502	228
6.60	Cork, DG	37	864	131
6.67	DeFreitas, PAJ	44	934	140
6.80	Schwarz, RO	20	374	55
6.91	Briggs, J	33	815	118
7.00	Wasim Akram	104	2898	414
7.00	Edmonds, PH	51	875	125
7.14	Cairns, BL	43	928	130
7.14	Davidson, AK	44	1328	186
7.25	Hadlee, RJ	86	3124	431
7.38	Johnson, MG	21	694	94
7.46	Hadlee, DR	26	530	71

At the other end, we probably need to wander much further from our centre to capture all those who we might consider batting allrounders. Extending the index from 14 to 100 allows the inclusion of Jeremy Coney (98.81), but excludes Doug Walters (109.33), which might be considered fair enough. Wally Hammond (87.34), Scott Styris (86.37) and Chris Gayle (77.49) are also included.

Index	player	         M	runs	wkts
71.15	Jayasuriya, ST	110	6973	98
74.94	Hathurusingha 	26	1274	17
75.47	Shoaib Malik	23	1132	15
76.33	McCabe, SJ	39	2748	36
77.49	Gayle, CH	82	5502	71
79.30	Styris, SB	29	1586	20
82.00	Ryder, J	20	1394	17
86.37	Cronje, WJ	68	3714	43
87.34	Hammond, WR	85	7249	83
92.20	Astle, NJ	81	4702	51
98.81	Coney, JV	52	2668	27
102.17	Wyatt, RES	40	1839	18
103.74	Umrigar, PR	59	3631	35
109.33	Walters, KD	74	5357	49
109.60	Hazare, VS	30	2192	20

Finally, there happen to be exactly 50 players whose indices fall in between 10 and 20 - these are the players who I consider to be closest to being perfectly balanced in their allround contributions.

Index	player	        M	runs	wkts
10.52	Imran Khan	88	3807	362
10.59	Mohd Rafique	33	1059	100
10.67	Tapash Baisya	21	384	36
10.95	Boyce, KD	21	657	60
10.99	Vettori, DL	92	3220	293
11.05	Pathan, IK	29	1105	100
11.60	Knight, BR	29	812	70
11.63	Harper, RA	25	535	46
11.63	MacGibbon, AR	26	814	70
11.65	Emburey, JE	64	1713	147
11.88	Lewis, CC	32	1105	93
11.94	Intikhab Alam	47	1493	125
11.99	Strang, PA	24	839	70
12.02	Giffen, G	31	1238	103
12.09	Kapil Dev, N	131	5248	434
12.15	O'Keeffe, KJ	24	644	53
12.58	Dharmasena 	31	868	69
13.02	Mankad, MH	44	2109	162
13.12	Boje, 	N	43	1312	100
13.39	Hirst, GH	24	790	59
13.48	Gregory, JM	24	1146	85
13.58	Botham, IT	102	5200	383
14.22	Barnes, W	21	725	51
14.37	Nasim-ul-Ghani	29	747	52
14.41	Ratnayeke, JR	22	807	56
14.68	Madan Lal, S	39	1042	71
15.05	Illingworth, R	61	1836	122
15.06	Holford, DAJ	24	768	51
15.23	Cairns, CL	62	3320	218
16.00	Patel, DN	37	1200	75
16.03	Durani, SA	29	1202	75
16.07	Nadkarni, RG	41	1414	88
16.31	Brown, FR	22	734	45
16.50	Noble, MA	42	1997	121
16.67	Prabhakar, M	39	1600	96
16.72	Flintoff, A	75	3645	218
16.89	Hall, AJ	21	760	45
16.97	Sinclair, JH	25	1069	63
17.32	Julien, BD	24	866	50
17.35	Bailey, TE	61	2290	132
17.40	Miller, KR	55	2958	170
17.66	Binny, RMH	27	830	47
17.83	White, C	30	1052	59
18.31	Rhodes, W	58	2325	127
18.98	Ulyett, G	25	949	50
19.46	Abdul Razzaq	46	1946	100
19.51	Amarnath, L	24	878	45
19.58	Hopkins, AJY	20	509	26
19.62	Atkinson, DStE	22	922	47
19.82	Phadkar, DG	31	1229	62

So there we have it: a classification of players into five groups, Bowlers (Indices 0 to 7), Bowling Allrounders (7 to 10), Balanced Allrounders (10 to 20), Batting Allrounders (20 to 100) and Batsmen (above 100). These boundaries are purely subjective, and will no doubt promote some comment - but don't forget, this is NOT an analysis of who the BEST allrounders are!

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