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
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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ravi on August 11, 2009, 13:50 GMT

    A little off the point. But on the Federer/cricket angle. The thing (problem?) with Tennis is that it is a “winner takes all” sport. i.e. if Federer is say a ½ % better than his rivals he will win and so gets the Titles. It is entirely different in team sports where the impact of the other 21 players has a major impact on proceedings. So, we have the gold standard of “batting average” in cricket. We can relatively safely assume that a batsman who averages 60 over a long stretch of matches is better than a batsman who averages 50 over a similarly long stretch…(all things being equal i.e. varied opponents ,roughly similar number of ODIs and tests played, injuries etc)… But in Tennis, you either win or lose. Which is why the sheer number of titles/slams won by Federer does not automatically make him the “best ever”(perhaps the most successful ever)…because the exact same skills may or may not have delivered results in another era with other players. Because the same ½ % by which he is better than others now may not hold good.

  • Abhi on August 4, 2009, 13:18 GMT

    Ananth, This belatedly struck me:

    “If Kumble took 8 for 141, with the 705 behind him, that spell, wonderful it was, will be undervalued. On the other hand the same Kumble's spell of 5 for 90, defending a total of 105 will be increased in value.” I am in two minds whether this should be so…because if the wicket was good, shouldn’t the value increase? I seem to remember on some previous blog you mentioned that in taking into account pitch quality you have taken total runs( both teams)whereas clearly It should be separated…perhaps for bowlers we can correct this inaccuracy? [[ Abhi I think this is a Test Bowler analysis and we should stop the Batsmen related discussions at this point. I also think you have not read the Test Bowler/Batsmen analysis articles carefully. The sum of the top-10 scores in the match determine how much of a batting pitch it is. The said match is one of the best batting pitches ever (1110 runs) and Kumble will get credit for that. Ananth: ]]

  • Abhi on August 4, 2009, 10:45 GMT

    Ok Ananth, too longwinded? Will try to compress. If you take “peer comparison” then Tendulkar comes out ok out of the top batsmen at that time. We can assume that the various batsmen then faced more or less the same bowlers in more or less the same conditions. Again, as we have seen, not exactly but approximately. For eg Azhar avg 23 in 12inns!!(Never mind the rest of the batsmen also on the 91 tour). So, we know how well “X” has done against his peers world wide in that particular time. But then in some other period (perhaps generally much easier for batting) dozens of batsmen avg say 50+, then how can we compare these 2 periods to each other? How correct is it to say that some 100 batsmen have done “better” than Tendulkar against SA in SA. I don’t know if I am quite getting my point through. But this “peer comparison” measure gives us much greater insight as to what REALLY went on in a definite particular period/era, instead of blindly comparing stats across eras with wildly different conditions. And for this reason it should form the BEDROCK of such analyses. [[ After the Test Bowlers follow-up article, I am coming out with the peer analysis of Test Batsmen. The only word I object to is "blindly". There is a lot of insight which goes into the comparisons. If a bowler has bowled at 2.67 in an era where the average is 2.89 and the all-time average is 2.78, his rpo will be adjusted suitably. Similarly if a bowler has a strike rate of 35 in an era of great strike rates (avge 40 against all time 50), his strike rate will be suitably adjusted. If Kumble took 8 for 141, with the 705 behind him, that spell, wonderful it was, will be undervalued. On the other hand the same Kumble's spell of 5 for 90, defending a total of 105 will be increased in value. And so on and so on. Man-years of work has gone into it. I am happy that a new metric, the peer comparisons, great in its intrinsic value has come through. Ananth: ]]

  • Abhi on August 4, 2009, 6:26 GMT

    “Peer comparison” is probably the holy grail of all player analysis. It is the only solid stat (or as close to solid as you can get with stats) which really indicates anything. All else, including how X would have done in Ys era...is pure conjecture. A simple eg would be Murali….a couple of decades back he would almost certainly have had his career terminated since with the “naked eye” his action certainly does look dubious. But the variables are impossible to factor in in different eras…the best that can be said of any player (with any certainty) is how good he was in his own era. Many think that Federer is the greatest ever now. But a simple point pricks this argument- Then how come he has such a lopsided record against Nadal and Murray? If he is the “greatest of all time”…why can’t he beat his own contemporaries in his PRIME. This last part is the KEY…we are not talking about a hobbled, injured, past it Federer. Federer, “in his Prime” loses more to these guys than wins. So, how on earth can we say with any conviction that he would have beaten Laver, Borg, Mac, Sampras…who have you? So, the correct title would be the “Most successful player of his era”- that is all.

    Similar, to the title we can confer on any bowler. [[ Abhi Peer comparison is a very strong indicator of a player's status within his playing career. However we cannot forget overall achievements. It would be unfair and churlish to deny someone like Federer his place at the top, after he finishes his career with, say 18 titles, just because he had a net minus record against, say, Nadal. That way, I can guarantee, every Tennis player, barring none, would have had a nemesis player. For that matter all top batsmen, barring (n)one, have had their waterloos. Richards against Pakistan, Tendulkar against South Africa, Lara against India, Ponting against India, one can go on. In no way does this diminish their overall greatness. Ananth: ]]

  • Jeff on August 3, 2009, 11:03 GMT

    @ Engle - Ananth summed it up perfectly.

    The two best "independent" variables to use in analysing bowling are SR (wkts/ball) and EconR (runs/ball).

    The question is how much weight to give either.

    Bowling Average gives a simple 50/50 weighting (ER/SR)

    I believe that the weighting depends on a 3rd variable - resources (balls) available.

    The lower the balls available, the more valuable Economy Rate becomes. To illustrate, take the extreme example of one of those rain affected 20/20 games that gets reduced to a 5 over slog. Here you have little chance of bowling the oppostion out, so EconR is the most valuable attribute.

    At the other extreme are the Timeless Tests of old - here, it doesn't matter how slow the batsmen score, they will win eventually unless you take wickets - therefor SR is most important.

    And it's a sliding scale between, from 20/20 through ODIs and Tests. Given the balls available for tests, I think SR is more important,I just don't know by how much [[ Jeff My current weight of 9(+4) & 6(+4) for strike rate and accuracy looks good. Ananth: ]]

  • Arjun on August 3, 2009, 8:44 GMT

    Ananth,

    Thanks, I was specially interested in Bond, Clark's numbers since i knew they were right up there. They were averaging 20-22 in the ERA where overall avg. has shoot-up to 35.0 per wkt. why australia are not picking Clark in Ashes is mystery to me. I want to know your views on constant increase in Avg. runs per wicket. will it ever stop or it will cross over 40.0 and keep on increasing?

  • Alex on August 3, 2009, 8:41 GMT

    Ananth - I didn't dispute Kapil's ranking. Just that some people put Kapil down a bit in their comments, and hence I defended him. He was a great player and a simple human being. Sure, there have been better bowlers who are deservedly placed higher in these lists. For example, Marshall and Holding outperformed Kapil in the 1983 series India, which saw Kapil at his near best, Marshall coming into his own, and Holding in his decline. [[ Alex My comments were not addressed you. I just used your comment as a vehicle to pass a message. Another example which comes to my mind is Vettori, by a few miles, the best New Zealand spinner ever. However he is placed quite low, 62nd, in the bowler table. It is a wonderful achievement of Vettori what he has done on the seamer-friendly/recently flat pitches of New Zealand. However the concerned readers are aware that, in the world arena, Vettori is competing with the spin giants and is not going to do very well. Ananth: ]]

  • Ananth on August 3, 2009, 4:00 GMT

    Arjun I have not forgotten your query on Johnson et al. He completed his 100 wkts after this analysis was sent to press. I have since almost concluded the follow-up article and I waited for that, to do a special run since the cut-off is now 200 wkts. I did a special run with 79 wickets as cut-off. The following are the positions. 19.Nzl Bond S.E RFM 47.61 ... 38.Aus Clark S.R RFM 45.16 ... 42.Aus Johnson M.G LFM 44.92 ... Please remember that a lot more bowlers qualify because of this specific lowering of the bar. I hope that Bond is able to play a few more tests for New Zealand since I consider him to be no less than Dale Steyn. Note how highly he is placed despite taking only 79 wickets. Regards Ananth

  • Alex on August 2, 2009, 4:53 GMT

    Great analysis Ananth! The only problem, if any, with the peer comparison is that the playing conditions are not uniformly the same world-wide, and that goes against some players. For example, a Binny or a Kapil would have been more effective as a bowler for England/Australia ... instead, they mostly toiled on adversarial pitches in India. If we view your lists as "ranking of effectiveness as per this measure over their career as it stands?" (and not as "who was the best, 2nd best, etc" ... which is more of an intrinsic quality), even this objection vanishes.

    In other words, it is not necessarily true that Kapil or Chandra were that bad as bowlers. Just that if BCCI had insisted on preparing bowler friendly wickets, they might have fared better over their careers. Kapil was a great cricketer, and what he managed as a bowler is amazing ... before him, no fast bowler for India took more than 120 wickets while he ended up with over 430, averaging better than them. [[ Alex All Indian supporters have every right to think that Kapil should be rated no.1 by a comfortable margin in India. However I do not know why people should think that Kapil should be rated high in the all-time list when there have been giants, true giants, playing over the past 40 years. And do not forget that Kapil's wickets in the sub-continent have been given higher weight. Otherwise why should Imran be rated so high. Ananth: ]]

  • Ananth on August 1, 2009, 4:26 GMT

    Arjun The batsman's Ctd average measure you have referred to, "Wicket average" should be seen in conjunction with the next one "Wicket quality" which recognizes capturing top and middle order batsmen. In any test match it is essential to take top order wickets to win the match and this factor is recognized. Currently these two measures have weight of 4 points each. Without disturbing the balance of the analysis, I can change this weight to 5 for "Wicket average" and 3 for "Wicket quality" respectively. Ananth

  • Ravi on August 11, 2009, 13:50 GMT

    A little off the point. But on the Federer/cricket angle. The thing (problem?) with Tennis is that it is a “winner takes all” sport. i.e. if Federer is say a ½ % better than his rivals he will win and so gets the Titles. It is entirely different in team sports where the impact of the other 21 players has a major impact on proceedings. So, we have the gold standard of “batting average” in cricket. We can relatively safely assume that a batsman who averages 60 over a long stretch of matches is better than a batsman who averages 50 over a similarly long stretch…(all things being equal i.e. varied opponents ,roughly similar number of ODIs and tests played, injuries etc)… But in Tennis, you either win or lose. Which is why the sheer number of titles/slams won by Federer does not automatically make him the “best ever”(perhaps the most successful ever)…because the exact same skills may or may not have delivered results in another era with other players. Because the same ½ % by which he is better than others now may not hold good.

  • Abhi on August 4, 2009, 13:18 GMT

    Ananth, This belatedly struck me:

    “If Kumble took 8 for 141, with the 705 behind him, that spell, wonderful it was, will be undervalued. On the other hand the same Kumble's spell of 5 for 90, defending a total of 105 will be increased in value.” I am in two minds whether this should be so…because if the wicket was good, shouldn’t the value increase? I seem to remember on some previous blog you mentioned that in taking into account pitch quality you have taken total runs( both teams)whereas clearly It should be separated…perhaps for bowlers we can correct this inaccuracy? [[ Abhi I think this is a Test Bowler analysis and we should stop the Batsmen related discussions at this point. I also think you have not read the Test Bowler/Batsmen analysis articles carefully. The sum of the top-10 scores in the match determine how much of a batting pitch it is. The said match is one of the best batting pitches ever (1110 runs) and Kumble will get credit for that. Ananth: ]]

  • Abhi on August 4, 2009, 10:45 GMT

    Ok Ananth, too longwinded? Will try to compress. If you take “peer comparison” then Tendulkar comes out ok out of the top batsmen at that time. We can assume that the various batsmen then faced more or less the same bowlers in more or less the same conditions. Again, as we have seen, not exactly but approximately. For eg Azhar avg 23 in 12inns!!(Never mind the rest of the batsmen also on the 91 tour). So, we know how well “X” has done against his peers world wide in that particular time. But then in some other period (perhaps generally much easier for batting) dozens of batsmen avg say 50+, then how can we compare these 2 periods to each other? How correct is it to say that some 100 batsmen have done “better” than Tendulkar against SA in SA. I don’t know if I am quite getting my point through. But this “peer comparison” measure gives us much greater insight as to what REALLY went on in a definite particular period/era, instead of blindly comparing stats across eras with wildly different conditions. And for this reason it should form the BEDROCK of such analyses. [[ After the Test Bowlers follow-up article, I am coming out with the peer analysis of Test Batsmen. The only word I object to is "blindly". There is a lot of insight which goes into the comparisons. If a bowler has bowled at 2.67 in an era where the average is 2.89 and the all-time average is 2.78, his rpo will be adjusted suitably. Similarly if a bowler has a strike rate of 35 in an era of great strike rates (avge 40 against all time 50), his strike rate will be suitably adjusted. If Kumble took 8 for 141, with the 705 behind him, that spell, wonderful it was, will be undervalued. On the other hand the same Kumble's spell of 5 for 90, defending a total of 105 will be increased in value. And so on and so on. Man-years of work has gone into it. I am happy that a new metric, the peer comparisons, great in its intrinsic value has come through. Ananth: ]]

  • Abhi on August 4, 2009, 6:26 GMT

    “Peer comparison” is probably the holy grail of all player analysis. It is the only solid stat (or as close to solid as you can get with stats) which really indicates anything. All else, including how X would have done in Ys era...is pure conjecture. A simple eg would be Murali….a couple of decades back he would almost certainly have had his career terminated since with the “naked eye” his action certainly does look dubious. But the variables are impossible to factor in in different eras…the best that can be said of any player (with any certainty) is how good he was in his own era. Many think that Federer is the greatest ever now. But a simple point pricks this argument- Then how come he has such a lopsided record against Nadal and Murray? If he is the “greatest of all time”…why can’t he beat his own contemporaries in his PRIME. This last part is the KEY…we are not talking about a hobbled, injured, past it Federer. Federer, “in his Prime” loses more to these guys than wins. So, how on earth can we say with any conviction that he would have beaten Laver, Borg, Mac, Sampras…who have you? So, the correct title would be the “Most successful player of his era”- that is all.

    Similar, to the title we can confer on any bowler. [[ Abhi Peer comparison is a very strong indicator of a player's status within his playing career. However we cannot forget overall achievements. It would be unfair and churlish to deny someone like Federer his place at the top, after he finishes his career with, say 18 titles, just because he had a net minus record against, say, Nadal. That way, I can guarantee, every Tennis player, barring none, would have had a nemesis player. For that matter all top batsmen, barring (n)one, have had their waterloos. Richards against Pakistan, Tendulkar against South Africa, Lara against India, Ponting against India, one can go on. In no way does this diminish their overall greatness. Ananth: ]]

  • Jeff on August 3, 2009, 11:03 GMT

    @ Engle - Ananth summed it up perfectly.

    The two best "independent" variables to use in analysing bowling are SR (wkts/ball) and EconR (runs/ball).

    The question is how much weight to give either.

    Bowling Average gives a simple 50/50 weighting (ER/SR)

    I believe that the weighting depends on a 3rd variable - resources (balls) available.

    The lower the balls available, the more valuable Economy Rate becomes. To illustrate, take the extreme example of one of those rain affected 20/20 games that gets reduced to a 5 over slog. Here you have little chance of bowling the oppostion out, so EconR is the most valuable attribute.

    At the other extreme are the Timeless Tests of old - here, it doesn't matter how slow the batsmen score, they will win eventually unless you take wickets - therefor SR is most important.

    And it's a sliding scale between, from 20/20 through ODIs and Tests. Given the balls available for tests, I think SR is more important,I just don't know by how much [[ Jeff My current weight of 9(+4) & 6(+4) for strike rate and accuracy looks good. Ananth: ]]

  • Arjun on August 3, 2009, 8:44 GMT

    Ananth,

    Thanks, I was specially interested in Bond, Clark's numbers since i knew they were right up there. They were averaging 20-22 in the ERA where overall avg. has shoot-up to 35.0 per wkt. why australia are not picking Clark in Ashes is mystery to me. I want to know your views on constant increase in Avg. runs per wicket. will it ever stop or it will cross over 40.0 and keep on increasing?

  • Alex on August 3, 2009, 8:41 GMT

    Ananth - I didn't dispute Kapil's ranking. Just that some people put Kapil down a bit in their comments, and hence I defended him. He was a great player and a simple human being. Sure, there have been better bowlers who are deservedly placed higher in these lists. For example, Marshall and Holding outperformed Kapil in the 1983 series India, which saw Kapil at his near best, Marshall coming into his own, and Holding in his decline. [[ Alex My comments were not addressed you. I just used your comment as a vehicle to pass a message. Another example which comes to my mind is Vettori, by a few miles, the best New Zealand spinner ever. However he is placed quite low, 62nd, in the bowler table. It is a wonderful achievement of Vettori what he has done on the seamer-friendly/recently flat pitches of New Zealand. However the concerned readers are aware that, in the world arena, Vettori is competing with the spin giants and is not going to do very well. Ananth: ]]

  • Ananth on August 3, 2009, 4:00 GMT

    Arjun I have not forgotten your query on Johnson et al. He completed his 100 wkts after this analysis was sent to press. I have since almost concluded the follow-up article and I waited for that, to do a special run since the cut-off is now 200 wkts. I did a special run with 79 wickets as cut-off. The following are the positions. 19.Nzl Bond S.E RFM 47.61 ... 38.Aus Clark S.R RFM 45.16 ... 42.Aus Johnson M.G LFM 44.92 ... Please remember that a lot more bowlers qualify because of this specific lowering of the bar. I hope that Bond is able to play a few more tests for New Zealand since I consider him to be no less than Dale Steyn. Note how highly he is placed despite taking only 79 wickets. Regards Ananth

  • Alex on August 2, 2009, 4:53 GMT

    Great analysis Ananth! The only problem, if any, with the peer comparison is that the playing conditions are not uniformly the same world-wide, and that goes against some players. For example, a Binny or a Kapil would have been more effective as a bowler for England/Australia ... instead, they mostly toiled on adversarial pitches in India. If we view your lists as "ranking of effectiveness as per this measure over their career as it stands?" (and not as "who was the best, 2nd best, etc" ... which is more of an intrinsic quality), even this objection vanishes.

    In other words, it is not necessarily true that Kapil or Chandra were that bad as bowlers. Just that if BCCI had insisted on preparing bowler friendly wickets, they might have fared better over their careers. Kapil was a great cricketer, and what he managed as a bowler is amazing ... before him, no fast bowler for India took more than 120 wickets while he ended up with over 430, averaging better than them. [[ Alex All Indian supporters have every right to think that Kapil should be rated no.1 by a comfortable margin in India. However I do not know why people should think that Kapil should be rated high in the all-time list when there have been giants, true giants, playing over the past 40 years. And do not forget that Kapil's wickets in the sub-continent have been given higher weight. Otherwise why should Imran be rated so high. Ananth: ]]

  • Ananth on August 1, 2009, 4:26 GMT

    Arjun The batsman's Ctd average measure you have referred to, "Wicket average" should be seen in conjunction with the next one "Wicket quality" which recognizes capturing top and middle order batsmen. In any test match it is essential to take top order wickets to win the match and this factor is recognized. Currently these two measures have weight of 4 points each. Without disturbing the balance of the analysis, I can change this weight to 5 for "Wicket average" and 3 for "Wicket quality" respectively. Ananth

  • Engle on July 31, 2009, 17:04 GMT

    @ Jeff There was no double counting on Cricketer article. Bowing Avg is runs conceded per wkt. Strike Rate is balls bowled per wkt.

    What the author was saying is that it is just as important to get the wkts with less runs conceded as it is to get them quickly in Tests.

    This does make sense to me. When wkts are obtained quickly, they prevent partnerships, stability and exposing lesser bowlers to a set batsman. Also, the team that gets the wickets quicker sets the agenda. Plus Tests end in 5 days, object being to win within that timeframe.

    What I may not subscribe to, is the equal weight.

    Economy in Tests, I give less weight to. Seeing Edmonds, Emburey, Illingworth on the above list plus the plethora of names I never knew existed on Cricinfo's top economy bowlers confirm my view.

    [[ Engle Probably what Jeff meant was that by determining the square root of "Bowling average and Strike rate", the Strike rate was double counted because of the following arithmetic. Strike rate = Balls/Wkts. Accuracy = Runs/Balls. Bowling Avge = Runs/Wkts which can be written as Strike rate x Accuracy since "Balls" gets cancelled out. In which case, square root of "Bowling Average and Strike Rate" comes out to be square root of "Strike rate x Accuracy x Strike rate" thus double counting Strike rate. In the Bowling analysis I had used the Arjun suggestion of the factor you had mentioned since I wanted to give additional weight for facing bowlers like Waqar Younis. Ananth: ]]

  • Rohington on July 31, 2009, 10:09 GMT

    I think this “peer comparison” is the single most important factor in determining a player’s quality. It reduces the distortionary effects of quite a few factors in judging pure player ability. Also, as some persons have mentioned, when we take into account long careers such as Murali, Tendulkar, Lara etc…then we also get a good idea of the “background”. i.e. we already more or less know who the class players of the era are: both subjectively and by sheer volume of numbers…so then we can a good idea of other factors such as whether pitches have gotten flatter, batting is easier, bowling is more difficult etc etc…because it will result in a general relative run up or down of the background scores.

  • Yash Rungta on July 31, 2009, 8:24 GMT

    Hi Ananth, I'm sorry for my bad example. I should picked one where a team is scoring heavily to set-up a declaration. This time, its better that the bowler bowls economic spells. Although its always good to pick wickets pretty quickly in terms of balls, remember that for the same average, a better strike rate means a worse economy rate. However, now that you've removed the Performance measure(it was nothing but strike rate, wasn't it?) and reduced the weightage from 10-5 to 9-6 for strike rate vs. economy rate, it isn't a big issue now. Having a double weight for strike rate along with performance measure looked really stupid to me and yielded some weird results. Anyways, lets leave this is very few people are interested in my logic.

    I was hoping to hear from you and others about my suggestion regarding the weighted avg career span instead of the actual career span. See above for my posts in this topic. What do you'll think? [[ Yash I have gone through your suggestion. The increased complexity level of the calculations does not justify the change. Breaks in players' careers are part and parcel of the game. Also 90% of the players, possibly 98% of the sample we have considered, have a normal continuous career. We are not going to consider Floyd Reifer for analysis. So the first to last test will work well almost always. Ananth: ]]

  • kalyan on July 31, 2009, 8:11 GMT

    hiiii ananth, thank you for coming up with an extremely satisfied article. I was very impressed at shaun pollock from his debut. He, along with mcgrath described the word "accurate" in this modern, batsmen friendly era. In this article, he was the only bowler in top 10 of all the three lists. So, he is the most valuable bowler among all others. But he didnt found his name in your before last article. so you say ananth, who is the best bowler? whether it is MURALI or S.POLLOCK

  • Arjun on July 31, 2009, 7:32 GMT

    Contd.

    to play against poor teams which would have improved their S/rates and averages and consequenlty gained in other parameters.

    I will explain with 2 different examples.

    J Thomson took 200 wkts at avg.28.0 and S/rate- 53.7; His Ctd avg is 27.17. He only played against major nations. Had he played 15 tests(out of 50) against Zim and Ban, his avg. would be around 24.0 and S/rate around 45.0. Similarly his ctd avg.(27.17) will drop down to 20-21.

    Murli's Ctd avg. of '20.09' will increase if we remove his stats of tests played against Zim and Ban. Similaraly his Bow. avg. will increase form 22.18 to 24.28.

    Above examples indicate that abosolute numbers are greatly affected because of weak teams. This single parameter will benefit players who played against only Top teams.

    Arjun

  • Arjun on July 31, 2009, 7:27 GMT

    Hi Ananth, Another change i would like to see in your follow-up post is to increase the weightage given to Ctd bat avgs (from 4 to say, 6-7 points). The top-10 bowlers in this catergory are Hogg, Thomson, Old, Yardley, Imran Khan, Lawson, Holding, Holder, Roberts, Iqbal Qasim.(all above 25.0). Someone might say these bowlers would have dismissed only Top order batsmen and hence have high Ctd avgs. This would be unfair to bowlers who cleanup tails eg. Wasim, Waqar etc. However, I think there is different reason for that. All the above Top-10 bowlers played in 1970' & 80'. There wasn't any weak team eg. Ban, ZIm in those days. They Played mostly against only Top 6 nations. I am sure had they played some tests against poor teams their Ctd Avgs. would have been low. (NZ of pre-1960, Ban, Zim, Srilanka pre-1990 all thier bastmen avg. around 20-30). By Increasing the weightage, they will be correctly rewarded for playing mostly against Top teams as they didn't had luxury/Chance

    Contd.

  • Ananth on July 31, 2009, 3:24 GMT

    This is in specific response to Arjun's suggestion on strike rates and RpO measures. The first thing to clarify is that I am already adjusting the strike rate and rpo figures by the period values. In fact I have gone one step further. Since most of the players go across periods, I have done a pro-rata year-by-year adjustment. I have not shown the adjustment factor because of shortage of space, that is all. The main (adjusted) strike rate and rpo measures are based on ABSOLUTE values. For instance the range of strike rate valuation is 30 (maximum-9) to 120 (minimum-0). The range of rpo valuation is 1.0 (maximum-6) to 5.0 (minimum-0). However the Peer comparison measure is a RELATIVE one and is totally different to the absolute measure. It is possible for bowlers to well in absolute measures and do poorly in relation to their peers and vice versa. I can get examples or you yourself can do that. The Peer ratio is a very significant measure and going to be the fulcrum of many future analysis.

  • Kartik on July 31, 2009, 0:37 GMT

    So Carl Hooper really is just about the worst Test bowler of the modern era.

    That is sad, as in ODIs, he was quite competent.

    He should have been the successor to Sobers, due to many similarities, but he could not do it (at least in Tests).

  • Kartik on July 30, 2009, 22:59 GMT

    Ananth,

    Yes, I am aware that the data is from the 'vs. peers' table.

    For all the hype about the great Indian spin quartet, they didn't have a strike rate high enough to really win too many Tests. Needless to say, they were nothing compared to the West Indian pace quartet of the same/later period. The Indian spin quartet did not take all 20 wickets often, while the WI pace quartet rarely failed to take all 20.

    India still has never had a real strike bowler (let alone 2 or more) over a sustained career. The closest was the first 5 years of Kapil's career, which rapidly gave way to the last 10 years of a low strike rate.

    1.2 billion people, yet no pacer who can average better than 60 balls/25 runs per wicket. This is all the more odd given how many great strike bowlers have come from Lahore, which is all of 50 km from the Indian border. Surely the genetics cannot be that different over just 50 km...

  • an_rag on July 30, 2009, 17:38 GMT

    i agree with yash rngta when he says that the strike rates, be it batting or bowling, need not always be great becase test cricket is a game where defense bowling or batting is as important as wicket taking or rn scoring depending on the sitation of the game, more so in batting than bowling.

    i apologise for the lack of _sage of the fifth vowel, i need to repair/replace my keyboard!!!!

    an_rag [[ Anurag I have never considered strike rate as the only factor. Relatively it is the more dominant factor. What I have been telling Yash is to avoid picking up bizarre matches to show that bowling accurately is much more important than taking wickets. In the said match if Warne had taken two more wickets each in the first and second innings Australia would have won. Anyhow due importance and weight have been given to both. Ananth: ]]

  • kalyan on July 30, 2009, 11:31 GMT

    hiiii ananth, thank you for coming up with an extremely satisfied article. I was very impressed at shaun pollock from his debut. He, along with mcgrath described the word "accurate" in this modern, batsmen friendly era. In this article, he was the only bowler in top 10 of all the three lists. So, he is the most valuable bowler among all others. But he didnt found his name in your before last article. so you say ananth, who is the best bowler? whether it is MURALI or S.POLLOCK

  • Arjun on July 30, 2009, 10:30 GMT

    Hi Ananth,

    In career achivements, instead of giving credit for the same quality (S/rate and RPO) twice, don't you think there should be one adjusted figure. eg. Steyn, truemen, waqar top in both the list...S/rate and peer s/rate ratio. Similarly, Bowlers with low Eco. rates also benefit in peer RPO ratio.eg. Goddard, verity, Tate etc. In other words, an adjusted figure could be calcluted by Using all-time S/rate of 68.0 and alltime RPO of 2.80. Bowler's individual S/rate and RPO is adjusted either side of 68.0 and 2.80 with the help of his peer ratio respectively.

    Bishen Bedi's RPO of 2.14 in the ERA of 2.50 gets adujusted to '2.40' Adjusted S/rate of Davidson is '53.7'. (His S/r-62.3, ERA S/r-78.8) Shane warne's (2.65) and Jim Laker's (2.05) adjusted RPO is same '2.54'. Similarly, Adjusted S/rate of Bedser(67.4) and Gillespie(55.0) is same '56.0'.

    To avoid double credit, Weightage Given in final index could be changed from 9+6+4+4 to 15+8.

    Arjun.

    [[ Arjun That is a sensible idea. Let me look at it and revert. I have given myself a minimum of 7-8 days to finalize the follow-up article. So there is no great hurry. Ananth: ]]

  • Jeff on July 30, 2009, 10:23 GMT

    I absolutely agree Ananth that treating the components of economy rate (runs/ball) and strike rate (wickets/ball) seperately is the right thing to do.

    I'm somewhat undecided on the relatives merits of each though.

    After all, the objective is to bowl the opposition out for the least amount of runs, not to bowl them out in the shortest time. (obviously the absolute best is to bowl them out for the least runs AND in the quickest time.)

    For example, you'd rather bowl a team out for 200 in 50 overs than 100 overs.

    But would you rather bowl them out for 250 in 50 overs or for 200 in 100 overs?

    Obviously it's the latter, even though the strike rate is only half as good (by contrast the economy rate is more than twice as good.)

    As a general principal, the shorter the game, the less important Strike Rate is - ie. economy rate is all important in Twenty20 but in tests it's not as important.

    But what is the right ratio between the two??

    [[ Jeff 30/40 years back economy rate would have been ahead of strike rate since "not losing" was the main objective. However now even traditionally defensive teams have come to the conclusion that scoring 200 runs in a day does not guarantee the team anything even if that was 200 for 3. I would say, today the weight I have given, 9 and 6 looks correct. Ananth: ]]

  • Jeff on July 30, 2009, 8:16 GMT

    @ Engle

    I didn't read that article in the Cricketer but if they were taking the square root of the product of average and strike rate then they were double counting the impact of strike rate.

    Bowling average itself is in fact the product of strike rate and economy rate - these are the 2 most important factors in assessing a bowlers worth - and bowling average is the main tool currently (and historically) used to measure this.

    Obviously it gives "equal" weighting to each measure - if it's thought that strike rate is more important than economy rate, you could produce a "weighted bowling average" (maybe called something different to avoid confusion)which is skewed towards strike rate. [[ Jeff At the end of the day, my current method of treating the two components of the batting average, viz., strike rate and runs per ball separately seems to be the best since we can assign independent weights. Obviously strikeke rate is more important, so that gets assigned 50% more weight. Anything else will have some problem or other. Ananth: ]]

  • Ismail Moola on July 30, 2009, 7:46 GMT

    As a Saffer i am glad to see that Sean Pollock has finally been shown objectively to be a great bowler... And Styen's Strike rate makes him a slippery customer on all tracks... Keep up the great work, i look forward to the batting tables

  • Kartik on July 30, 2009, 3:39 GMT

    Chandrasekhar was Indias best strike bowler, and still just #54 on the list!

    Kapil at 71 is India's highest 'pacer'.

    India's pathetic inability to produce a real strike bowler (i.e. better than 60 balls or 25 runs/wicket) out of a 1.2 billion population is remarkable.

    This has been and continues to be the main reason India fail to reach the very top at a Test team. [[ Kartik The sad fact is that the positions you have referred to are not in the Test Bowlers tables but in the table of raw data on Player vs Peer comparisons. If we even do a single sub-analysis of away performances it will be still worse. Ananth: ]]

  • eddy on July 29, 2009, 21:23 GMT

    Hello Ananth...........your analysis has, at last, made me happy and contented man. I met MM briefly at Bristol in 1999 during the WI V PAK WC match. He had been my hero (with VIV) since a child. He was happy to chat for a few minutes and was the same character i had heard about from reports and word of mouth. Six months later he was dead. Along with Lara, i believe he was the greatest of modern players. Greatest bowler in the WI team (no small feat) and now proven by your work to be greatest amongst his peers. Australians will always pick Bradman and Warne as the greatest two cricketers ever, and they would have a very strong argument. If i had to choose a bat and bowler i'd pick the two your work has shown to be right at the top of modern day players. BCL and MDM.

    regards as always eddy

  • Engle on July 29, 2009, 21:05 GMT

    Bowling Average and Strike Rate are important considerations in assessing a bowlers worth.

    In an article on Cricketer magazine many years ago on All-Rounders, they were given equal weight by computing the Square Root of their Product.

  • Yash Rungta on July 29, 2009, 12:35 GMT

    In terms of taking into account match strike rates, I just hope you don't give a good rating for a lower bowling strike rate. Take the example of the Aus vs. Nz match at Brisbane in 2001: http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63953.html

    Australia could have lost the match had Warne picked up the same 3-89 figures in say 16 overs instead of his actual 18 overs. Aussies could have won it too, but the chances of losing were much much more. When a team is playing to save the match, you should reward a player with a bad strike rate instead of a player with a good strike rate. This can only happen if you take strike rate innings wise(which you've now done) and not career wise.

    I wonder whether how easy(rather difficult) it is to take into account such a calculation though? Yash It is in theseexamples that you lose credibility. This was a totally contrived and bizarre match. New Zealand declared 199 behind and then Australia declared at 84 setting a target of 284 runs in 57 overs.When they did that they were ready to lose in trying for a win. If Warne had a better strike rate Australia would have won. If they lost that would not have been the end of the world. Also at no stage were they trying to save the match. They were always trying for a win, probably other than during the last two overs. Let us leave such examples out of rational discussions. Ananth

  • Yash Rungta on July 29, 2009, 12:30 GMT

    Cont. from previous post

    However, if yearly averages are haphazrd like the following: 1998: 30 1999: 33 2000: 32 2001: 35 2002: 34 2003: 35

    From the above, its clear that the averages are increasing but in a hap hazard manner. You could then take 3 yearly avegs or 5 yearly avgs depending upon stability of averages. This is so because in general sense, the averages(both bowling and batting ofcourse) are increasing. So you don't want to take a lesser average for a later year just because of this haphazardness.

    This might not make a drastic change to the overall scene but will be fair to players who have a span like Ganguly mentioned in the earlier post in Test matches(the example was for ODIs..).

  • Yash Rungta on July 29, 2009, 12:25 GMT

    I have an idea where you could have taken the peer averages for the periods a player has actually played in rather than taking his entire career span. For eg., in ODIs, Ganguly played just 1 match in 1992 and then started his actual career in 1996. In your method, you would count his career from 92 till 2007. However, instead of taking a whole career span, you should take yearly averages and then take weighted averages for the no. of matches a player has played in that year. For eg. say the general average for year 2000 is 32 and for the year 2001 is 35. A player played 20 matches in 2000 and only 6 matches in 2005. His comparison average should be like 20 multiplied by 32 plus 6 multiplied by 35 which gives 850 divided by 26 which is about 32.7 and then compared with his own average. Assuming his own average is 25, his peer average would be 1.308.

    To be cont...

  • Jeff on July 29, 2009, 11:37 GMT

    Ananth - interesting stuff once again.

    Building on from some other comments, you COULD (if you wanted to) refine the analysis a bit further to weight the analysis by the opposition each player played against.

    For example, you could breakdown the peer performance into performance against each individual team and then use the % of balls bowled by the player against each of those teams to weight the final index.

    I'm not sure this would make any significant difference to the results but it will help to provide hard evidence to counter those people who say things like "Murali can only take wkts against Zim and Banagladesh".

    In the extreme case, bowlers like Goddard and Adcock never faced the Windies teams including the 3 W's and Sobers, where as their peers did. Could this fact have helped Goddard & Adcock to achieve better figures than they "should" have? Or was it countered by the fact that they also didn't play against relatively weak Indian & Pakistani teams? [[ Jeff I think your points (and the ones on fine-tuning these values made by others) are very valid. However I have to take a call on this. Since I am going to use these values in my much-wider-context Test Bowlers' analysis I do not want to complicate it any further. I am going to work on the base peer ratios. Already the complexity is mind-boggling and is proving to be the demise of whatever little hairs I have got. However I realize that I have opened a (wonderful) Pandora's box. In future I will expand this analysis fine tuning the same in the light of your (and others') suggestions. Ananth: ]]

  • Gopal on July 29, 2009, 9:58 GMT

    Hi Ananth,

    Another great article. It is precise and very objective. However, I feel that we can add another criteria for judgement. Lets add the countries in which the bowlers bowled. For eg. great bowlers such as Dennis Lillee and Richard Hadlee hardly ever bowled outside of Aust/ NZ and England. I feel this gives them an unfair advantage. Since it is a peer comparison, we'll get a more comprehensive base to work with and won't necessarily leave out anyone. Also, this way we can have a list of the greatest bowlers in all the cricket playing nations in every era.

    Thanks and Regards, Gopal

    PS: I don't have anything against Lillee and Hadlee. I think they both were great bowlers. [[ Gopal As I have mentioned elsewhere the pure, unadjusted figures are exactly what I mentioned at the beginning. A 100% undiluted measure comparison of a bowler against his peers. Ananth: ]]

  • Saf on July 29, 2009, 9:36 GMT

    Ananth, I anticipated some outraged replies from some readers to the effect : “Do you mean to say that all the rest of the bowlers in Marshals time were humbug?!” No. If the difference was same through out his period then clearly he was that much better. But ,especially since most viewers feel that the bowling standards were tougher in the 90s(and that the game has changed dramatically in this period)..then if the SAME bowlers difference is less in different periods (90s compared to the 2000s) it points to something else.

  • HD Stout on July 29, 2009, 9:30 GMT

    So who is the best bowler of them all? How do you prepare a list of best bowlers as per your above analysis? [[ Seems clear that you have not read the previous article. Ananth: ]]

  • AR on July 29, 2009, 9:23 GMT

    good work, some innovative thinking. some time numbers don't pronounce the true nature & the greatness of an individual. when it comes to greatness aruguably there is only two, bradman & sobers. [[ AR they are great batsman and all-rounder respectively. But here we are looking at bowlers. Ananth: ]]

  • Saf on July 29, 2009, 9:19 GMT

    My point was that this metric not only shows us how good the bowlers/batsmen were, but actually it throws MORE light on how good the rest of the pack was. We more or less already know the quality of the bowlers/batsmen by general subjective analysis and viewing..but now we can get a vague idea of how good the rest of the field/competition were from 1990-99 and 2000-09

  • Saf on July 29, 2009, 9:14 GMT

    Ananth, This “peer” metric may help us clarify another issue. If you use the same methodology for the periods 1990-99 and 2000-09 it would help in the foll: 1)If the differences exist , i.e say the 2000s show the few 2000s bowlers figures(relative to their peers) much better than the 90s ones... It could well mean, as several ppl mentioned, that the 90s general (overall) standards were better (never mind your individual parameters such as bowling quality). And that in the 2000s only a few bowlers truly stood out among their peers as compared to a general,overall poor bowling quality. 2)Similarly with the batsmen. But with the batsmen it is suspected that a great many more “2000s” batsmen will figure highly as compared to a fewer in the 90s given the better overall bowling standards and pitch qualities. Sort of vice versa to the bowling.

  • Arjun on July 29, 2009, 7:42 GMT

    Hi Ananth,

    Another great post. However, if you want to use above factors in your follow-up article you must do one adjustment. First see that what is the ratio of Tests played by a bowler in proportion to his career span. eg. Lohmann played 18 tests(career span is 29 tests, ratio is 0.62. i.e. he played in 62 % of his total career span which will have huge effect on his ratios of SR, RPO and avg.) Barnes's ratio is 0.39 (27 out of 69) Marshall' ratio is 0.24 (81 out of 339) his own figures will have less effect as comp. to lohmann and barnes. Murli's ratio is 0.17 (127 out of 718). his own numbers are compared to 83 % of other tests played. Shoaib Akthat has played in only 10 % of total career span test (46 out of 464) as compared to H Verity 63%(40 out of 63) There must be some adjustment. Arjun. [[ Arjun My idea was to use the unadjusted numbers for the two measures being added. The other point is that irrespective of 10% to 63% numbers, the common thread is that the number is an indicator of how the said bowler performed against his peers. In that way it stands unaffected by the % figures since the bowlers' own figures are not included. Ananth: ]]

  • Dasith on July 29, 2009, 7:09 GMT

    I don't know why everyone think playing in a weaker bowling team helped murali. The fact is McGrath and other Australian bowlers helped warne take wickets because they put pressure at the other end. All the batsman play murali defencively and hence less chance of taking wickets. Besdies Warne 29% vs Murali 35% of his teams overall wickets just proves they were equally effective.

  • Yash Rungta on July 29, 2009, 7:02 GMT

    Thanks Ananth for giving equal weights to Strike Rate and RPO. Basically, I believe instead of giving weights to individual items, you could just take the bowling average because SR and RPO cancel each other and yield nothing but the average. In other words, average is nothing but a function of SR and RPO. Correct?

    It is also good that you removed the Performance Ratio measure because to me, that was nothing but Strike Rate.

    So now we'll have a the real true bowlers at the top.

    Although 200 wickets as a cut-off is good, if you really wish to analyse bowlers like Akhtar, Steyn etc. the best way is to give a higher weight to wickets say 15 just like we had in batting analysis. Once you increase the longetivity factor, only a really really exceptional bowler with less no. of wickets can compete with the likes of Murali, Warne, Kumble etc.

    I still believe a MIRROR OF THE BATTING ANALYSIS would be the best. Apart from giving great analysis, there will also be standardization. Thanks! [[ Yash It is essential to treat the components separately for the very comparison once pointed out by Arjun, wherein there are two bowlers with virtually identical averages but varying strike rates and accuracy. Even though you might disagree, 9 out of 10 readers will agree that in Tests, strike rate is more important because of the necessity to capture 20 wickets. Certainly in ODIs I will place strike rate and accuracy at the same level and in T20s, accuracy should be considered at a higher level than strike rate. Ananth: ]]

  • Aditya Jha on July 29, 2009, 7:00 GMT

    Ananth, how/where would you rate a batsman who scored 6333 runs in 61 tests at an average of 70.36 with 24 centuries? That was Ricky Ponting over 6 years (01 jan 2002 - 31 dec 2007). So, here's my request - how about comparing players over their "peak" performances? It's different from their career performances (and i understand that you have built in the consistency factor in their career analysis), but the abiding memories that we carry are the performers in their pomp. Let's have a cut-off (minimum of 4,000 runs/200 wickets at a stretch, or, 40 tests, or whatever you feel is right). It'd be interesting to see the sustained peaks reached and how the different greats compare on this basis - with their peers and across eras. Just a thought. Thanks for all your wonderful analysis. [[ Aditya Will do. It is only the quantum of runs/wkts which can be a debating factor. 4000/200 seems to be quite high. Possibly this could be lowered to 3000/150 so that even the older players who finished their careers at a total of 3000/150+ could come in for consideration. Will do it after all these current ones are finished. Ananth: ]]

  • Saf on July 29, 2009, 6:38 GMT

    " 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). " Why the change of heart after campaigning so vigorously for strike rate? Strike rate should indeed deserve a greater weightage. [[ Saf 1. Only in the Peer Ratios are the Strike Rate and Accuracy treated equally. In the main measures there is still a difference (9 against 6). Even this change I made because I have introduced the individual innings strike rate as a measure in the Match performance calculations. So I have not watered down strike rates at all. Ananth: ]]

  • Peter on July 29, 2009, 5:40 GMT

    Excellent idea. However different countries have different pitch conditions, so some will have higher batting averages than others. As a bowler will play half his matches in a single country that will bias the results. Ideally, I would like to see that adjusted for. [[ Peter As I have already mentioned elsewhere, this is a pure peer-comparison with no adjustment. In a way it is like the bowling average. A single figure which has genuine importance. If I start adjusting this base figure then that will become an exercise like the Best bowler exercise. Let us work on the basis that, in general, a bowler will gain in his own country, against weaker teams, on friendly pitches and lose away, against stronger countries and on flat pitches. Over 20 years and 700 tests these factors tend to even out. Ananth: ]]

  • Derek Thursby on July 29, 2009, 5:18 GMT

    Well done and very interesting BUT In Table 3, how on earth can you call Trevor Goddard a spinner? Surely you are confusing him with Tom Goddard who had a limited career with England, but a most prolific one with Gloucestershire, and even he started life as a quickie. Also, can you please enlighten me as to whether it is Wes Hall or Fidel Edwards who is the "journeyman." Personally, I would not call either a journeyman to his face. [[ Derek My mistake as I have already mentioned to Marcus. You will note that the bowler description is correctly mentioned as LFM. I also realize that Tom Goddard played much earlier. Sitting around 10000 kms from West Indies, I can afford to call Fidel "journeyman" and Hall is the great, without any questions whatsoever. Ananth: ]]

  • ab on July 29, 2009, 0:18 GMT

    Good effort! This analysis is definitely superiour to the previous one where there is no peer comparision. However, the analysis still depends on the number of matches played against poorer teams as opposed to better teams. The peer analysis could be a weighted so that, for instance, the bowling average of Muralitharan against Bangladesh should be compared to the bowling average of all teams against Bangladesh as opposed to comparing it with the bowling average during the entire era.

  • Marcus on July 28, 2009, 23:28 GMT

    I though Goddard was a medium pacer? Anyway, a good idea which I look forward to seeing incorporated into the main analysis. [[ Marcus Yes Goddard is LFM. My mistake. Ananth: ]]

  • Engle on July 28, 2009, 21:08 GMT

    Nice analysis and food for thought.

    The one bowler that came to mind when I read this was a spinner who stood out amongst his ilk in an era of rampant pace attack during the 1980's.

    That man was Abdul Qadir who alone resurrected his craft when there was a real fear amongst pundits that spin was dead amongst the likes of Lillee, Thomson, Roberts, Holding, Garner, Imran, Kapil, Hadlee, Botham ....

    Although there were many before him (Bedi, Chandra, Venkat, Gibbs, Underwood) and after (Warne, Kumble, Murali, Harbajhan), there was not a single 200 wicket spinner of his time.

    I understand you have not drilled down to era or type; just thought I'd get this off my chest.

  • deep on July 28, 2009, 20:51 GMT

    man its strange shane bond's name is not here?

  • Yogesh on July 28, 2009, 18:14 GMT

    Murali did indeed benefit by playing in a weak team. You have compared only Murali with peers not each bowler among his team-mates. Here is a stat : In the 126 matches involving Murali, SL bowled 20759 overs and took 1879 wkts. In that Murali's share was 7000 overs and 765 wkts. Similar stat for Warnie is Aussies bowled 24231 overs & took 2501 wkts in 145 matches and Warne's share is 6784 overs with 708 wkts. Firstly, it is clear that Murali bowled a greater percentage (35%) of overs in an innnings than Warnie(29%), which is something to the extent of 15-20 overs a match. This is what common sense says will happen when a captain has to choose from 2 greats and 2 good bowlers as compared to a captain choosing from 1 great,1 good and 2 average bowlers. I was dead sure of it and statistics confirm it.

    Murali is a great bowler no doubt. Numbers are always going to benefit him for he played in a team where he bowled more than 1/3 of the overs. [[ Yogesh Murali (why single him out, for that matter all bowlers) is compared with ALL bowlers, including his team mates. Also I have mentioned that I have also done the comparison with his own team mates. Results are not presented here. Ananth: ]]

  • Yogesh on July 28, 2009, 18:05 GMT

    Interesting thought. Here is a suggestion to take it further. When people really say comparison among peers, they generally mean comparison with the best of the era. So, picking the top 20-25 bowlers of the period and then comparing the ratios with respect to them alone would be quite interesting. Similar for batting too.

  • bakkab on July 28, 2009, 17:34 GMT

    Interesting analysis. One more suggestion to make it even fairer: The peer group should only include bowling against the teams that player faced. In particular it should exclude the player's own team, because the bowler in question didn't have the requirement (or maybe the opportunity if his side was weak) to play against his own side. [[ Bennett This is a pure analysis of peer bowlers, including own team bowlers. Nothing will be gained by excluding one sub-set or other. Ananth: ]]

  • Douglas on July 28, 2009, 17:04 GMT

    I think this analysis is fantastic, and very close to the best method of establishing greatest players of all time. One question is why Murali is placed ahead of Ambrose and Garner despite having a lower ratio.

    I have actually planned to do a similar analysis myself (but based on bowling average by decade rather than throughout test career, since I don't have access to a database that allows me to do this effectively). My plan is to modify the ratio based on some of the parameters you mentioned by working out the value of wickets in different location, against different teams, and of batsmen in different positions in the order. This would take the place of your points weightings.

  • Aneesh on July 28, 2009, 15:39 GMT

    Good to see this analysis, Ananth. I agree that comparing a player to the peer group is a good way of making comparisons across time -- do more analyses like this!

    As long as the player has had a long career, I think many of the potential biases with this method (variation in pitches, increased use of part-time bowlers in matches, etc) are probably negligible.

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  • Aneesh on July 28, 2009, 15:39 GMT

    Good to see this analysis, Ananth. I agree that comparing a player to the peer group is a good way of making comparisons across time -- do more analyses like this!

    As long as the player has had a long career, I think many of the potential biases with this method (variation in pitches, increased use of part-time bowlers in matches, etc) are probably negligible.

  • Douglas on July 28, 2009, 17:04 GMT

    I think this analysis is fantastic, and very close to the best method of establishing greatest players of all time. One question is why Murali is placed ahead of Ambrose and Garner despite having a lower ratio.

    I have actually planned to do a similar analysis myself (but based on bowling average by decade rather than throughout test career, since I don't have access to a database that allows me to do this effectively). My plan is to modify the ratio based on some of the parameters you mentioned by working out the value of wickets in different location, against different teams, and of batsmen in different positions in the order. This would take the place of your points weightings.

  • bakkab on July 28, 2009, 17:34 GMT

    Interesting analysis. One more suggestion to make it even fairer: The peer group should only include bowling against the teams that player faced. In particular it should exclude the player's own team, because the bowler in question didn't have the requirement (or maybe the opportunity if his side was weak) to play against his own side. [[ Bennett This is a pure analysis of peer bowlers, including own team bowlers. Nothing will be gained by excluding one sub-set or other. Ananth: ]]

  • Yogesh on July 28, 2009, 18:05 GMT

    Interesting thought. Here is a suggestion to take it further. When people really say comparison among peers, they generally mean comparison with the best of the era. So, picking the top 20-25 bowlers of the period and then comparing the ratios with respect to them alone would be quite interesting. Similar for batting too.

  • Yogesh on July 28, 2009, 18:14 GMT

    Murali did indeed benefit by playing in a weak team. You have compared only Murali with peers not each bowler among his team-mates. Here is a stat : In the 126 matches involving Murali, SL bowled 20759 overs and took 1879 wkts. In that Murali's share was 7000 overs and 765 wkts. Similar stat for Warnie is Aussies bowled 24231 overs & took 2501 wkts in 145 matches and Warne's share is 6784 overs with 708 wkts. Firstly, it is clear that Murali bowled a greater percentage (35%) of overs in an innnings than Warnie(29%), which is something to the extent of 15-20 overs a match. This is what common sense says will happen when a captain has to choose from 2 greats and 2 good bowlers as compared to a captain choosing from 1 great,1 good and 2 average bowlers. I was dead sure of it and statistics confirm it.

    Murali is a great bowler no doubt. Numbers are always going to benefit him for he played in a team where he bowled more than 1/3 of the overs. [[ Yogesh Murali (why single him out, for that matter all bowlers) is compared with ALL bowlers, including his team mates. Also I have mentioned that I have also done the comparison with his own team mates. Results are not presented here. Ananth: ]]

  • deep on July 28, 2009, 20:51 GMT

    man its strange shane bond's name is not here?

  • Engle on July 28, 2009, 21:08 GMT

    Nice analysis and food for thought.

    The one bowler that came to mind when I read this was a spinner who stood out amongst his ilk in an era of rampant pace attack during the 1980's.

    That man was Abdul Qadir who alone resurrected his craft when there was a real fear amongst pundits that spin was dead amongst the likes of Lillee, Thomson, Roberts, Holding, Garner, Imran, Kapil, Hadlee, Botham ....

    Although there were many before him (Bedi, Chandra, Venkat, Gibbs, Underwood) and after (Warne, Kumble, Murali, Harbajhan), there was not a single 200 wicket spinner of his time.

    I understand you have not drilled down to era or type; just thought I'd get this off my chest.

  • Marcus on July 28, 2009, 23:28 GMT

    I though Goddard was a medium pacer? Anyway, a good idea which I look forward to seeing incorporated into the main analysis. [[ Marcus Yes Goddard is LFM. My mistake. Ananth: ]]

  • ab on July 29, 2009, 0:18 GMT

    Good effort! This analysis is definitely superiour to the previous one where there is no peer comparision. However, the analysis still depends on the number of matches played against poorer teams as opposed to better teams. The peer analysis could be a weighted so that, for instance, the bowling average of Muralitharan against Bangladesh should be compared to the bowling average of all teams against Bangladesh as opposed to comparing it with the bowling average during the entire era.

  • Derek Thursby on July 29, 2009, 5:18 GMT

    Well done and very interesting BUT In Table 3, how on earth can you call Trevor Goddard a spinner? Surely you are confusing him with Tom Goddard who had a limited career with England, but a most prolific one with Gloucestershire, and even he started life as a quickie. Also, can you please enlighten me as to whether it is Wes Hall or Fidel Edwards who is the "journeyman." Personally, I would not call either a journeyman to his face. [[ Derek My mistake as I have already mentioned to Marcus. You will note that the bowler description is correctly mentioned as LFM. I also realize that Tom Goddard played much earlier. Sitting around 10000 kms from West Indies, I can afford to call Fidel "journeyman" and Hall is the great, without any questions whatsoever. Ananth: ]]