Tests - bowling July 28, 2009

Comparing Test bowlers to their peers

The best comparison of players is with all the peer players, since it takes perfect care of the vexed question of a player playing in a very strong team

I have done a lot of cricket analysis work over the past 20+ years. I love doing all this work. However once a while a new idea comes across which I consider as a watershed moment in my analytic efforts. The idea of comparing a player with peer players (the base idea of which was provided by Abdulla) is one such spark. I am very excited about this since it is one of the truest measures of a players' capabilities. I am posting this as an interim piece since I intend using some of the findings herein in the "Test Bowlers: follow-up" article.

The idea is to compare a player's performances with his peers. The comparisons with his own team is one limited step and is quite useful. However the real comparison is with all the peer players since it takes perfect care of the vexed question of a player playing in a very strong team. I had done this in a limited way for ODI strike rates. Now I have extended this to Test players in a much more extended manner as explained below.

My initial idea was to come out with the batting tables also in this article. However I have decided to that in a later article so that the analysis currently on hand, on Test bowlers, gets its due attention and does not get side-tracked.

1. For each player, I created a match subset of their career limits, in other words from their first to last Tests. For Muralitharan it is 1195(1992) to 1912 (2009), 717 Tests. For Tendulkar it is 1127(1989) to 1918(2009), a subset of 791 Tests, the longest span for any player.

2. For Bowling, sum the three main data elements, Balls Bowled, Runs Conceded, and Wickets Captured for all the players for these matches. These are quite high numbers.

3. For Batting, sum the three main data elements, Innings, Not Outs, Balls Faced (if available) and Runs Scored for all the players for these matches. This will be covered in depth in a later article.

4. Subtract the player's own career figures from the total for the match subset and post these figures as a database segment. Even though the players' own numbers are quite low compared to the match subsets (Muralitharan 770 out of 21281 wkts and Tendulkar 12773 out of 749558 runs) and the impact of this subtraction is minimal, it is done to get an exact peer segment.

I have not done a separation by bowler type nor by period. This is a pure peer comparison, cutting across all divisions. I wanted to see the place of a great spinner like Muralitharan across all bowlers, to understand his true value.

First let us look at the Bowler tables. There are three tables in all, one which compares the Bowling Average, the second, the Bowling Strike rate and the third, compares the RpO.

1. Bowler Peer comparisons - Bowling Average

SNo.Bowler            Cty    Own  <--Peer Bowlers-->
Avge    Runs  Wkts Avge Ratio

0.Lohmann G.A Eng 0022-0050( 29) 10.76 17664 847 20.85 1.94 0.Barnes S.F Eng 0065-0133( 69) 16.43 53823 2029 26.53 1.61 ... 1.Marshall M.D Win 0837-1175(339) 20.95 299245 9217 32.47 1.55 2.McGrath G.D Aus 1235-1826(592) 21.64 562481 17029 33.03 1.53 3.Muralitharan M Slk 1195-1912(718) 22.18 683748 20511 33.34 1.50 4.Garner J Win 0797-1072(276) 20.98 241822 7644 31.64 1.51 5.Ambrose C.E.L Win 1095-1509(415) 20.99 374642 11797 31.76 1.51 6.Wardle J.H Eng 0296-0440(145) 20.39 125187 4152 30.15 1.48 7.Hadlee R.J Nzl 0710-1147(438) 22.30 391665 12140 32.26 1.45 8.Steyn D.W Saf 1728-1916(189) 23.70 193060 5530 34.91 1.47 9.Pollock S.M Saf 1312-1860(549) 23.12 529531 15921 33.26 1.44 10.O'Reilly W.J Aus 0215-0275( 61) 22.60 52334 1617 32.36 1.43 ... 145.Boje N Saf 1484-1812(329) 42.65 325844 9701 33.59 0.79 146.Giffen G Aus 0005-0052( 48) 27.10 29298 1449 20.22 0.75 147.Hooper C.L Win 1085-1622(538) 49.43 496933 15592 31.87 0.64

The top two bowlers are from the "Wild west era" as Jeff calls it. A bowling average exceeding 20 was a poor one and this is borne out by the numbers of these two great bowlers, Lohmann and Barnes. Let us respect them and give them their top places and move on. I have also assigned them serial numbers of 0.

A number of readers are bound to be quite happy at seeing Marshall at the top. He was 55% ahead of his peers, including his illustrious team-mates. Probably this was the X-factor which many readers found in Marshall. Next is the incomparable McGrath who was 53% ahead of his peers. No surprise there. However there is a big surprise at the next placed bowler, Muralitharan. His figure of 50% over his peers should, once and for all, put to rest any doubts about his greatness. Those who say that he has succeeded only because he was in a weak team should stop and look at this figure. His figure of 50% is on all types of bowlers, pace included.

The two great West Indian fast bowlers, Garner and Ambrose come in next, again a vindication of their position among their contemporaries. Wardle (a surprise), Hadlee, Steyn, Shaun Pollock (a recognition of this modern great) and O'Reilly complete the top-10. Maybe that is why O'Reilly was chosen ahead of Grimmett in the Cricinfo all-time Australian XI.

The top-10 consists of 7 fast bowlers and 3 spinners, one from each era. There are three great West Indian fast bowlers, 2 South African speedsters and two Australian bowlers in this group.

The table is propped up by two average modern spinners and Giffen from the pre-WW1 era.

To view the complete list, please click here.

2. Bowler Peer comparisons - Bowling Strike rate

SNo.Bowler            Cty   Own  <-Peer Bowlers-->
S/R   Overs  Wkts S/R Ratio

1.Steyn D.W Saf 1728-1916(189) 39.3 60370 5530 65.5 1.67 2.Trueman F.S Eng 0351-0592(242) 49.4 92110 6759 81.8 1.65 3.Waqar Younis Pak 1127-1637(511) 43.5 167408 14587 68.9 1.58 4.Lohmann G.A Eng 0022-0050( 29) 34.1 7478 847 53.0 1.55 5.Marshall M.D Win 0837-1175(339) 46.8 110126 9217 71.7 1.53 6.Hall W.W Win 0459-0648(190) 54.3 73998 5449 81.5 1.50 7.Donald A.A Saf 1188-1590(403) 47.0 132130 11470 69.1 1.47 8.Shoaib Akhtar Pak 1389-1852(464) 45.7 151393 13672 66.4 1.45 9.Hadlee R.J Nzl 0710-1147(438) 50.9 146757 12140 72.5 1.43 10.Pollock P.M Saf 0515-0673(159) 56.2 62434 4672 80.2 1.43 ... 147.Shastri R.J Ind 0897-1206(310) 104 101002 8600 70.5 0.68 148.Emburey J.E Eng 0830-1301(472) 104 156168 13341 70.2 0.67 149.Hooper C.L Win 1085-1622(538) 121 178031 15592 68.5 0.57

The Strike Rate is dominated by fast bowlers who occupy all 10 places. Steyn's attacking skills are evidenced by his top position. He is followed by Trueman and the Pakistani giant, Waqar Younis, the WW1 great Lohmann and the top West Indian bowler of all time, Marshall. Five other great fast bowlers complete the top-10 table. The highest placed spinner is Laker, who is in 26th place.

The table is propped by three very average modern spinners.

To view the complete list, please click here.

3. Bowler Peer comparisons - Bowling RpO

SNo.Bowler            Cty   Own  <--Peer Bowlers-->
RpO   Overs  Runs  RpO Ratio

1.Goddard T.L Saf 0407-0672(266) 1.65 102848 240647 2.34 1.42 2.Verity H Eng 0210-0272( 63) 1.88 20504 53897 2.63 1.39 3.O'Reilly W.J Aus 0215-0275( 61) 1.95 19804 52334 2.64 1.36 4.Tate M.W Eng 0153-0245( 93) 1.94 31583 80403 2.55 1.31 5.Edmonds P.H Eng 0762-1079(318) 2.13 105373 282754 2.68 1.26 6.Pollock S.M Saf 1312-1860(549) 2.40 176869 529531 2.99 1.25 7.Illingworth R Eng 0457-0727(271) 1.91 105842 253356 2.39 1.25 8.Lohmann G.A Eng 0022-0050( 29) 1.89 7478 17664 2.36 1.25 9.Emburey J.E Eng 0830-1301(472) 2.20 156168 425350 2.72 1.24 10.Gibbs L.R Win 0448-0770(323) 1.99 122295 297389 2.43 1.22 ... 147.Hall W.W Win 0459-0648(190) 2.92 73998 176672 2.39 0.82 148.Edwards F.H Win 1649-1920(272) 3.98 88839 281972 3.17 0.80 149.Wright D.V.P Eng 0263-0333( 71) 3.12 26891 65859 2.45 0.79

Trevor Goddard, the most accurate bowler of all time, is on top. As expected, the RpO table is dominated by spinners, headed by Verity and O'Reilly. Then comes the doyen of fast-medium bowlers, Tate. Edmonds, average otherwise, follows next. The real surprise is the placement of Shaun Pollock in the 5th position indicating how accurately he has bowled during these batsmen-dominated period. The other surprise is Emburey who occupies a top-10 placement here even though he is in the last 3 in the Strike Rate list indicating that he was of great value to the English team. Nadkarni who would have been right at the top does not qualify. Steyn and Lee, incidentally, are as low as 135th and 136th respectively indicating that they have been very expensive.

The last three is a motley collection of a West Indian great, West Indian journeyman and an outstanding but extravagant leg spinner.

To view the complete list, please click here.

Test Bowlers Analysis: Follow-up

Based on the comments received, both in public and personal mails, I have decided to make the following tweaks to the Test bowlers analysis. Interested readers may send in their comments at the earliest.

1. Have a cut-off of 200 wickets for the current era, reducing the number from 89 to 44. We will lose Shoaib Akhtar, Steyn, Alderman, Bishop et al. But it cannot be helped.
2. Increase the Wickets weight from 5 points to 7.5 points. Within this, do a 5% on either side (105% & 95%) valuation for Away and Home wickets.
3. Correspondingly reduce the Wickets per Innspell weight from 5 points to 2.5 points.
4. Remove the Performance Ratio measure, the last column in the table.
5. Instead introduce the Peer Comparison ratios. This time I have allotted an equal weight for Strike Rate and Accuracy (Yash will be happy to note).
6. Introduce a simple 5-Test slice based Consistency index using wickets captured as the indicator.
7. In the Match performance Ratings, halve the balls bowled base points (a wicket equivalent for about 45 overs).
8. In the Match performance Ratings, introduce the bowler strike rate, in relation to Team strike rate as a new base measure, at a relatively lower weight.
9. In the Match performance Ratings, minor changes to the batsman dismissed base point calculation, to be based on recent form. This will lower the value of wickets of top batsmen while going through a poor patch and increase the weight of capturing in-form batsman.

The revised allocations of the Career points are given below. The points have gone up to 45 and there is a slight increase in the Match performance points because of changes in Base points calculation.

- Career wickets captured (7.5 points)
- Career wickets per innspell (2.5 points)
- Bowling Strike rate-BpW (9 points)
- Bowling accuracy-RpO (6 points)
- Consistency (4) points
- Average Quality of batsmen dismissed - based on CtD bat avge (4 points)
- Type of wickets captured - Top/Middle order/Late order (4 points)
- Peer ratio: Strike rate (4 points)
- Peer ratio: Accuracy (RpO) (4 points).

My thanks to Arjun Hemnany, Shankar Krishnan, Kartik, Alex, Ed, Yash Rungta et al.

The Batting Peer tables will follow the Test Bowlers follow-up article.

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