Batting August 17, 2009

# Comparing Test batsmen with their peers

Having done a peer comparison analysis of bowlers, it's now the turn of batsmen
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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. This is a follow-up article to the one on Test bowlers.

The idea is to compare a player's performances with his peers. The comparison with one's own team is a 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.

1. For each player, create a match subset of their career limits, in other words from their first to last Tests. For Tendulkar it is 1127(1989) to 1918(2009), a subset of 792 Tests, the longest span for any player.

2. Sum the three main data elements, Innings, Not Outs, and Runs Scored for all the players for these matches. The Batting Average is used for comparison since this is the most accepted of all measures.

3. 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 (Tendulkar 12773 out of 749558 runs) and the impact of this subtraction is minimal, it is done to get an exact peer segment.

4. For batsmen, first the base table is created. This table compares the batsman's bating average with the composite average of all batsmen during his playing span. This covers all batsmen since separate comparisons are done for specialized batting positions such as Opening, Middle order and Late order.

I have not done a separation by period. This is a pure peer comparison, cutting across all divisions.

First let us look at the basic Batsman table.

1. Batsman Peer comparisons - Basic table

```>= 2000 Test runs

No.Batsman         Cty  Runs  Avge From- To (Mat) <------Peer-----> Ratio
Inns   Runs Avge

1.Bradman D.G     Aus  6996 99.94 1928-1948(128)  3722 113802 30.58 3.27
2.EdeC Weekes     Win  4455 58.62 1948-1958(161)  4829 138734 28.73 2.04
3.Sutcliffe H     Eng  4555 60.73 1924-1935( 91)  2600  78032 30.01 2.02
4.Pollock R.G     Saf  2256 60.97 1963-1970(126)  3900 118766 30.45 2.00
5.Walcott C.L     Win  3798 56.69 1948-1960(199)  5982 169812 28.39 2.00
6.Barrington K.F  Eng  6806 58.67 1955-1968(234)  7072 207904 29.40 2.00
7.Headley G.A     Win  2190 60.83 1930-1954(194)  5745 177352 30.87 1.97
8.Hobbs J.B       Eng  5410 56.95 1908-1930(102)  3069  88958 28.99 1.96
9.Sobers G.St.A   Win  8032 57.78 1954-1974(353) 10721 317459 29.61 1.95
10.Hammond W.R     Eng  7249 58.46 1927-1947(117)  3344 101007 30.21 1.94
11.Hutton L        Eng  6971 56.67 1937-1955(143)  4149 123572 29.78 1.90
12.Ponting R.T     Aus 11267 56.05 1995-2009(612) 18664 577309 30.93 1.81
13.Chappell G.S    Aus  7110 53.86 1970-1984(300)  8979 270067 30.08 1.79
14.Tendulkar S.R   Ind 12773 54.59 1989-2009(792) 24004 736785 30.69 1.78
15.Kallis J.H      Saf 10277 54.66 1995-2009(599) 18270 564569 30.90 1.77
16.Javed Miandad   Pak  8832 52.57 1976-1993(460) 13470 401608 29.81 1.76
17.Mohammad Yousuf Pak  7023 54.87 1998-2009(522) 16015 500382 31.24 1.76
18.Flower A        Zim  4794 51.55 1992-2002(431) 13040 384939 29.52 1.75
19.Lara B.C        Win 11953 52.89 1990-2006(661) 20051 607578 30.30 1.75
20.Sangakkara K.C  Slk  7095 55.43 2000-2009(421) 12848 411708 32.04 1.73
```
Even though the batsman peer span is shown in years, the actual computations are done for the exact match of debut onwards. The years make more sense while reading the table. The "inns" value shown on these tables is after subtracting the Not outs.

No surprise at the first placed batsmen. It would have been a shock if it had been anyone else. What is surprising is the ratio of Bradman. An amazing 3.27. Weekes is the first among 9 equals who have ratios from 1.94 to 2.04. These 10 batsmen are among the best ever, all 10 having played their game before 1970.

The batsman with the highest ratio among the contemporary players is Ponting, with a ratio of 1.81, followed by Tendulkar with 1.78 and the unheralded Kallis with 1.77. This, despite the commonly percieved notions of weaker teams, and hence cheaper runs. Note the high placement of Andy Flower.

It should be noted that the peer averages are comparable across ages, at either side of 30. Mohommad Yousuf's peer average is the highest at 31.24. His span is 1998-2009. As also Kallis'. The lowest Peer average numbers are for the early 1950s.

Now we come to the comparison tables for specialized batting positions. These are determined by isolating the runs scored by batsmen in these specialized positions only and then comparing with runs scored in these positions by other batsmen. Opening is determined by the positions 1-2, Middle order by positions 3-7 and Late order by positions 8-11. The only question mark could be with no.7. However when you realize that top-quality batsmen such as Gilchrist, Healy, Knott, Marsh, Imran, Kapil, Botham, S Pollock, Flintoff, Boucher et al have scored over 25,000 Test runs amongst them at no.7 position, it has to belong to the Middle order classification.

First let us look at the Opening position. This time I have also shown the Batting Position Average value. This is the average of the batting position the batsman has batted in, with the opening positions being considered as no.2. Thus a value of 2.00 means that the batsman has batted in the opening positions only.

2. Batsman Peer comparisons - Opening batsmen

```>= 2500 opening runs

No.Batsman          Cty  BPos Inns Runs  Avge  <------Peer------> Ratio
Avge Out              Inns    Runs  Avge

1.Sutcliffe H      Eng  2.05  74  4522 61.11   507   18443 36.38  1.68
2.Hobbs J.B        Eng  2.15  91  5130 56.37   591   21419 36.24  1.56
3.Hutton L         Eng  2.18 119  6721 56.48   846   30900 36.52  1.55
4.Simpson R.B      Aus  3.27  66  3664 55.52  2578   94513 36.66  1.51
5.Amiss D.L        Eng  2.50  61  3276 53.70  1318   49067 37.23  1.44
6.Hayden M.L       Aus  2.00 170  8626 50.74  4339  153809 35.45  1.43
7.Gavaskar S.M     Ind  2.21 191  9607 50.30  2439   86489 35.46  1.42
8.Saeed Anwar      Pak  2.11  84  3957 47.11  2677   90241 33.71  1.40
9.Smith G.C        Saf  2.21 118  6108 51.76  2115   78959 37.33  1.39
10.Sehwag V         Ind  2.36 105  5378 51.22  2360   88396 37.46  1.37
11.Langer J.L       Aus  2.42 106  5112 48.23  4127  146726 35.55  1.36
12.Gibbs H.H        Saf  2.64 111  5242 47.23  3483  124196 35.66  1.32
13.Boycott G        Eng  2.02 168  8091 48.16  2277   82894 36.40  1.32
14.Lawry W.M        Aus  2.00 111  5234 47.15  1086   39476 36.35  1.30
15.Slater M.J       Aus  2.00 124  5312 42.84  2154   71763 33.32  1.29
16.Greenidge C.G    Win  2.03 166  7488 45.11  2684   94699 35.28  1.28
17.Boon D.C         Aus  2.85  58  2614 45.07  2131   75453 35.41  1.27
18.Hunte C.C        Win  2.00  72  3245 45.07  1082   38410 35.50  1.27
19.Stewart A.J      Eng  3.91  75  3348 44.64  3464  122407 35.34  1.26
20.Vaughan M.P      Eng  2.86  68  3093 45.49  2803  101414 36.18  1.26
```
The three great English openers lead the table. Then Simpson and another top quality English opener, Amiss, although Amiss' contemporary openers posted a high average. Hayden and Gavaskar clock in next despite the somewhat lower peer averages. It is also an indicator that more often than not Gavaskar waged a lone battle. The next three positions are held by openers from the current and immediately precding era.

Alec Stewart is one of the very few batsmen who has scored enough runs in both opening and middle order positions to qualify for both lists. His opening average is considerably better and he is in the 19th position. Readers should not forget that the runs in the table are the runs scored in the opening positions only.

3. Batsman Peer comparisons - Middle order batsmen

```>= 4000 middle order runs

No.Batsman          Cty  BPos Inns Runs  Avge  <------Peer------> Ratio
Avge Out              Inns    Runs  Avge

1.Bradman D.G      Aus  3.65  70  6996 99.94  1841   64844 35.22  2.84
2.EdeC Weekes      Win  4.16  75  4399 58.65  2388   79001 33.08  1.77
3.Sobers G.St.A    Win  5.09 128  7658 59.83  5363  185285 34.55  1.73
4.Barrington K.F   Eng  4.07 113  6604 58.44  3512  122194 34.79  1.68
5.Hammond W.R      Eng  3.70 120  6934 57.78  1628   57387 35.25  1.64
6.Chappell G.S     Aus  4.04 132  7110 53.86  4450  156700 35.21  1.53
7.Compton D.C.S    Eng  4.34 114  5805 50.92  2569   86396 33.63  1.51
8.Ponting R.T      Aus  3.85 201 11267 56.05  9177  344014 37.49  1.50
9.Javed Miandad    Pak  4.24 167  8789 52.63  6639  234403 35.31  1.49
10.Tendulkar S.R    Ind  4.28 233 12758 54.76 11806  437913 37.09  1.48
11.May P.B.H        Eng  3.66  96  4525 47.14  2593   83403 32.16  1.47
12.Kallis J.H       Saf  3.80 188 10277 54.66  8981  336648 37.48  1.46
13.Sangakkara K.C   Slk  3.09 121  6845 56.57  6328  246703 38.99  1.45
14.Harvey R.N       Aus  3.65 126  6147 48.79  3651  122850 33.65  1.45
15.Lara B.C         Win  3.78 223 11828 53.04  9833  359979 36.61  1.45
16.Dravid R         Ind  3.27 191 10334 54.10  8859  332724 37.56  1.44
17.Mohammad Yousuf  Pak  4.71 128  7023 54.87  7884  300580 38.13  1.44
18.Waugh S.R        Aus  5.42 211 10910 51.71  9473  341102 36.01  1.44
19.Flower A         Zim  5.03  93  4786 51.46  6408  230728 36.01  1.43
20.Border A.R       Aus  4.70 220 11116 50.53  5914  209290 35.39  1.43
```
The middle order table shows no surprises. Again Mohammad Yousuf's peer batsmen batting average is quite high, only exceeded by Sangakkara's peer average. The early 50s show the lowest middle order batsman averages.

4. Batsman Peer comparisons - Late order batsmen

```( >=500 late order runs and BPos avge >8.0)

No.Batsman          Cty  BPos Inns Runs  Avge <------Peer------>  Ratio
Avge Out              Inns    Runs  Avge

1.Johnson M.G      Aus  9.03  22   762 34.64   695   11199 16.11  2.15
2.Strang P.A       Zim  8.17  25   737 29.48  2546   36143 14.20  2.08
3.Vettori D.L      Nzl  8.34  98  2959 30.19  4851   73245 15.10  2.00
4.Symcox P.L       Saf  8.44  23   668 29.04  1781   25879 14.53  2.00
5.Broad S.C.J      Eng  8.03  20   628 31.40   635   10389 16.36  1.92
6.Reiffel P.R      Aus  8.40  34   936 27.53  1855   26951 14.53  1.89
7.Blignaut A.M     Zim  8.31  30   835 27.83  1944   29804 15.33  1.82
8.More K.S         Ind  8.33  44  1180 26.82  1458   22140 15.19  1.77
9.Smith I.D.S      Nzl  8.34  60  1667 27.78  2418   38154 15.78  1.76
10.Boje N           Saf  8.10  42  1125 26.79  2843   43787 15.40  1.74
11.O'Keeffe K.J     Aus  8.06  23   606 26.35  1076   16462 15.30  1.72
12.Nash D.J         Nzl  8.82  30   729 24.30  3147   44928 14.28  1.70
13.Vaas WPUJC       Slk  8.09 109  2783 25.53  5557   83365 15.00  1.70
14.Chandana U.D.U   Slk  8.29  21   519 24.71  2567   38534 15.01  1.65
15.Verity H         Eng  8.52  28   620 22.14   506    7101 14.03  1.58
16.Ghavri K.D       Ind  8.53  41   900 21.95  1281   18099 14.13  1.55
17.Wasim Akram      Pak  8.14  97  2160 22.27  4784   70503 14.74  1.51
18.Madan Lal S      Ind  8.18  30   669 22.30  2577   38789 15.05  1.48
19.Wardle J.H       Eng  8.10  26   568 21.85  1197   18002 15.04  1.45
20.Allen D.A        Eng  8.63  34   805 23.68   973   16025 16.47  1.44
```
This is a very interesting table. The additional qualification of Batting position average ensures that only genuine late order batsmen are compared. Mitchell Johnson has recently started batting at no.8. Hence his entry into this table. Soon he will go out of the table as he builds more innings at no.8 and possibly no.7.

Johnson is on top with a ratio of 2.15. The others are good quality late order batsmen. Anyone who has a ratio of greater than 1.4 should be classified as a top quality late order batsman.

If readers want different cut-offs for the tables, they are welcome to suggest the same.

Since the tables cover, with almost no exception, all the top batsmen of the world with variable career spans, I have given below the extreme peer average values in various classifications. The base table shows maximum spread, 10.7% on either side of 28.65, since it includes all batsmen, batting at 1-11. The Opening batsmen table has a spread of 7.4% on either side of 33.78. The Middle order table has a spread of 9.3% on either side of 32.69.

```Base table (All batsmen)
Low:  24.58 1890-1912 S.E.Gregory
High: 32.71 2005-1009 Mike Hussey

Opening batsmen
Low:  33.24 1950s C.C.Mcdonald
High: 38.47 1970s Fredericks

Middle order batsmen
Low:  32.16 1951-1961 Peter May
High: 39.34 2005-2009 Kevin Pietersen

Late order batsmen
Low:  14.03 1930s Verity
High: 16.47 1960s D Allen
```

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

• Waspsting on December 29, 2010, 3:06 GMT

Some surprises on this list.

I would have thought Gavaskar would rate higher as an opener. Greendidge was considered great, and his stats were way of Gavaskar's. Sutcliffe, Hobbs and Ponsford had each other to deal with by comparison. Very surprised to see Bobby Simpson so high up. I would have anticipated Hutton leading the openers pack

Also, Peter May. He had the 3 Ws and Harvey for company, and his record isn't quite as good as theirs. Everyone around thought the world of May, and I was shocked to see his all time highest rating in the ICC rankings being one of the highest ever.

Great thing about this analysis is that it accounts for ALL PLAYERS. going on instinct, i guess we don't remember all the players, but just remember the greats of each period.

• Rohit on August 28, 2009, 13:24 GMT

Ananth, ashish I take the “middle “view. I feel both your views are incorrect/partially correct, as are also the “Sachin is god” views. I play chess (though no GM) and though Anand is phenomenal in his own right you will not hear a single legendary observer of the game state that Anand is the greatest after Fisher, Kasparov etc. (though Ananth is correct when he says cricket is a much more media centric sport-but then so is football. That’s the way it goes). [[ Rohit I don't understand why you make this statement. There are many neutral observers who hold that view. Only player to have won three world titles in different formats, one of only four who has crossed 2800 elo points, winner of 6 Chess Oscars et al. Why is that you will accept Richie Benaud's view on Tendulkar but not Leander Peas' view on Anand. Ananth: ]] On the other hand, Tendulkar is often thought of as the 2nd greatest batsman ever. Not by his fanatical fans of course (they think he’s the greatest!).But when legendary observers of the game such as Richie Benaud categorically and clearly state that Tendulkar is the best batsman they have ever seen, and this opinion is shared by several of the most renowned and knowledgeable observers and players of the game (including of course Gavaskar!!) - Well then to say Tendukar is just “another” big fish is understating the case a bit. Also, it is not just the pure “contribution” to Indian cricket or such a simplistic matter. It is the way he plays, the way he carries himself and the sheer length of time he has been a part of the average Indians life. As with any rivalry, it takes time to develop “legs” and such strength of feeling. It is doubtful whether any Indian sportsman can engender such passions. So, all in all (i.e. all things considered), I would say he was the “2nd biggest fish” in cricket history. And that is a big thing for a country crazy about cricket. [[ Anand, in the way he plays, is what all you say about Tendulkar. Anyhow, let us close this comparison. As I have mentioned in my response to Ashish, all of us are entitled to have our views. I should not have brought in Anand, knowing the type of reaction which would come in. Ananth: ]]

• Ashish Chawla on August 28, 2009, 13:19 GMT

Dear Ananth, with the greatest respect to V Anand and yourself but this is the exact point I was making. How can a chess champion be awarded the highest SPORTING medal/award India has to offer, which Anand was given several years ago? He has also been awarded with the highest decoration a civilian can obtain!!! Everything is blown out of all proportion in India. I will concede that in his field he is top dog.

I disagree with you strongly Ananth when you say Anand is an equally big fish as SRT. I’d wager that Gary Kasparov and even Deep Blue are still more well known world –wide after their battle.

Why isn’t chess as ‘media driven’ or ‘spectator friendly’? I’ll tell you why, because to most people (most meaning, most sports fans) it’s boring to watch two people playing a board GAME (not a sport in my opinion) and thus few people want to read, watch, hear about it (media).

Soccer is the greatest game/sport ever invented…why? Because everyone can kick a ball and every place on earth plays it. Now if India produce a soccer star….god help us. [[ Ashish You are entitled to have your view, which, I am aware, is also the majority view. However the minority, Leander Paes amongst them, are entitled to have their views. Also it is not right to pull Chess down so much. I am sure about 85 countries of the world would consign Cricket to the nearest dustbin. A sport is about a contest, whether it happens on a green top or across a table. I am sure you must be aware that next to Football, Chess is played in a highly competitive manner in most countries. Ananth: ]]

• Ashish Chawla on August 28, 2009, 10:06 GMT

Fair enough Ananth, after sending the post i knew maybe i had gone to far and would cause more anger than was intended. thank you for editing and saving me from the wrath of Tendulkar lovers fury. But i do stand by my comments and i was pleased to see you agree with most of what i had to say. I will repeat it again, SRT is a huge fish in a big pond on an island in the middle of a much larger ocean. [[ To be fair to Ashish, let me clarify that he means that India has almost no sporting icons and hence the adulation for Tendulkar. Let me add V.Anand as another equally big fish, even though he is not in a spectator-friendly media-driven sport. Ananth: ]]

• Ashish Chalwa on August 27, 2009, 14:45 GMT

Ananth...fasinating the way the last few comments have branched off to the subject of SRT.....again! Is there ever going to be a day when the 2nd little master (1st being sunny)can ever be discussed level-headedly? [[ Ashish With regret, I have deliberately cut off the balance of the comments just to avoid further tangential discussions. However be assured that your points make a lot of sense, probably to be made at a different time. Ananth: ]]

• Srikanth on August 26, 2009, 18:44 GMT

I've always been appalled at the way the indian fans and media give tendulkar this godlike status. Are you telling me that someone like ponting doesnt feel as much pressure due to captaining a rebuilding side in a sports mad nation? Yes, its 10 million instead of a billion but after a point it doesnt really matter. Its pressure. If we are bringing in intangibles like pressure, why cant we introduce very measurable concepts like captaincy records? if tendulkar really is great because of the way he handles the pressure, why was he such a mediocre captain? Lastly, gavaskar was highly overrated as a batsman and even more so as a commentator/columnist. He has no idea what he is talking about comparing the pressures of a team sport to individual achievements. The pressure faced by tendulkar would have been nothing compared to the pressure faced by 1948 ashes squad (both teams) as there were 2 nations looking to them to forget the most brutal war in history.

• love goel on August 26, 2009, 17:17 GMT

Pressure of expectations of a billion people matter,but only upto a certain point.Otherwise imagine the pressure on Chinese Olympians! Just imagine about waiting for 4 years, training for 4 years,striving for 4 years for just one day, one moment when everything will fall in place; when everything must be perfect. At least Tendulkar gets a second chance immediately in the same match,he has teammates to perform when he doesn't, not the case in all sports. And if tennis gives you an oppurtunity to make amends after a double fault, remember to win a Grand slam you must win all matches. Lose one, and out you go. While you can win almost any tournament/series in cricket after losing some matches, you can't do that in tennis.So the pressure in tennis is no less, just in different manner, in a different way And I am sure nobody in the world notices Jamaica except when Bolt runs like a Bolt.That is a pressure of different kind,where few million matter more than billion.

• Kris on August 26, 2009, 6:34 GMT

Ananth, The reason you will not get too much flak about Dravid, Laxman, Kumble, Kapil Dev etc. is because they would at best classify as “great” players and perhaps with the exception of Kapil Dev don’t galvanize and stir emotions to a very great or irrational extent. Tendulkar is more often classified, by even the most knowledgeable people in the game (such as Benaud), as a “once in a lifetime” player. What he has done, or not done, for India is difficult to quantify…cricket being as you correctly mention a “team” sport and so it is borderline impossible to distill an individual’s contribution to the total results with any real accuracy.

• Rajiv on August 26, 2009, 6:16 GMT

Hmm Ok, to make it a little less stringent, I will cut out the some bits- But it is my basic argument which is important...viz. it is the expectation which creates the pressure. Also :I don’t see how I’m being “blatantly unfair” to the other players. [[ Rajiv It is comments such as the following which are blatantly unfair to other great players. I agree that there is always MORE expectation on Tendulkar than other players. That is all. Let us close this at that. Ananth: ]] OF COURSE there was less pressure on Laxman and Dravid. Reason? They weren’t really expected to pull off a miracle. Tendulkar was …and had always been expected to!

• Rajiv on August 26, 2009, 5:51 GMT

Ananth…sorry to say this: 1) With your comment you have answered the question yourself and also unfortunately revealed a fundamental lack of understanding of sport/cricket/Tendulkar on your part. And I’m afraid a Gavaskar has a far far far greater understanding of pressure and sport than any of us fellow arm chair critics ever will. [[ Rajiv The rest of the comment has been deleted since the comments are blatantly unfair to the other Indian cricketers who have performed equally well, in some cases, better and have faced the same, in some cases, more pressures. In future, if you are going to send such comments, kindly do not press the "Post" button. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on December 29, 2010, 3:06 GMT

Some surprises on this list.

I would have thought Gavaskar would rate higher as an opener. Greendidge was considered great, and his stats were way of Gavaskar's. Sutcliffe, Hobbs and Ponsford had each other to deal with by comparison. Very surprised to see Bobby Simpson so high up. I would have anticipated Hutton leading the openers pack

Also, Peter May. He had the 3 Ws and Harvey for company, and his record isn't quite as good as theirs. Everyone around thought the world of May, and I was shocked to see his all time highest rating in the ICC rankings being one of the highest ever.

Great thing about this analysis is that it accounts for ALL PLAYERS. going on instinct, i guess we don't remember all the players, but just remember the greats of each period.

• Rohit on August 28, 2009, 13:24 GMT

Ananth, ashish I take the “middle “view. I feel both your views are incorrect/partially correct, as are also the “Sachin is god” views. I play chess (though no GM) and though Anand is phenomenal in his own right you will not hear a single legendary observer of the game state that Anand is the greatest after Fisher, Kasparov etc. (though Ananth is correct when he says cricket is a much more media centric sport-but then so is football. That’s the way it goes). [[ Rohit I don't understand why you make this statement. There are many neutral observers who hold that view. Only player to have won three world titles in different formats, one of only four who has crossed 2800 elo points, winner of 6 Chess Oscars et al. Why is that you will accept Richie Benaud's view on Tendulkar but not Leander Peas' view on Anand. Ananth: ]] On the other hand, Tendulkar is often thought of as the 2nd greatest batsman ever. Not by his fanatical fans of course (they think he’s the greatest!).But when legendary observers of the game such as Richie Benaud categorically and clearly state that Tendulkar is the best batsman they have ever seen, and this opinion is shared by several of the most renowned and knowledgeable observers and players of the game (including of course Gavaskar!!) - Well then to say Tendukar is just “another” big fish is understating the case a bit. Also, it is not just the pure “contribution” to Indian cricket or such a simplistic matter. It is the way he plays, the way he carries himself and the sheer length of time he has been a part of the average Indians life. As with any rivalry, it takes time to develop “legs” and such strength of feeling. It is doubtful whether any Indian sportsman can engender such passions. So, all in all (i.e. all things considered), I would say he was the “2nd biggest fish” in cricket history. And that is a big thing for a country crazy about cricket. [[ Anand, in the way he plays, is what all you say about Tendulkar. Anyhow, let us close this comparison. As I have mentioned in my response to Ashish, all of us are entitled to have our views. I should not have brought in Anand, knowing the type of reaction which would come in. Ananth: ]]

• Ashish Chawla on August 28, 2009, 13:19 GMT

Dear Ananth, with the greatest respect to V Anand and yourself but this is the exact point I was making. How can a chess champion be awarded the highest SPORTING medal/award India has to offer, which Anand was given several years ago? He has also been awarded with the highest decoration a civilian can obtain!!! Everything is blown out of all proportion in India. I will concede that in his field he is top dog.

I disagree with you strongly Ananth when you say Anand is an equally big fish as SRT. I’d wager that Gary Kasparov and even Deep Blue are still more well known world –wide after their battle.

Why isn’t chess as ‘media driven’ or ‘spectator friendly’? I’ll tell you why, because to most people (most meaning, most sports fans) it’s boring to watch two people playing a board GAME (not a sport in my opinion) and thus few people want to read, watch, hear about it (media).

Soccer is the greatest game/sport ever invented…why? Because everyone can kick a ball and every place on earth plays it. Now if India produce a soccer star….god help us. [[ Ashish You are entitled to have your view, which, I am aware, is also the majority view. However the minority, Leander Paes amongst them, are entitled to have their views. Also it is not right to pull Chess down so much. I am sure about 85 countries of the world would consign Cricket to the nearest dustbin. A sport is about a contest, whether it happens on a green top or across a table. I am sure you must be aware that next to Football, Chess is played in a highly competitive manner in most countries. Ananth: ]]

• Ashish Chawla on August 28, 2009, 10:06 GMT

Fair enough Ananth, after sending the post i knew maybe i had gone to far and would cause more anger than was intended. thank you for editing and saving me from the wrath of Tendulkar lovers fury. But i do stand by my comments and i was pleased to see you agree with most of what i had to say. I will repeat it again, SRT is a huge fish in a big pond on an island in the middle of a much larger ocean. [[ To be fair to Ashish, let me clarify that he means that India has almost no sporting icons and hence the adulation for Tendulkar. Let me add V.Anand as another equally big fish, even though he is not in a spectator-friendly media-driven sport. Ananth: ]]

• Ashish Chalwa on August 27, 2009, 14:45 GMT

Ananth...fasinating the way the last few comments have branched off to the subject of SRT.....again! Is there ever going to be a day when the 2nd little master (1st being sunny)can ever be discussed level-headedly? [[ Ashish With regret, I have deliberately cut off the balance of the comments just to avoid further tangential discussions. However be assured that your points make a lot of sense, probably to be made at a different time. Ananth: ]]

• Srikanth on August 26, 2009, 18:44 GMT

I've always been appalled at the way the indian fans and media give tendulkar this godlike status. Are you telling me that someone like ponting doesnt feel as much pressure due to captaining a rebuilding side in a sports mad nation? Yes, its 10 million instead of a billion but after a point it doesnt really matter. Its pressure. If we are bringing in intangibles like pressure, why cant we introduce very measurable concepts like captaincy records? if tendulkar really is great because of the way he handles the pressure, why was he such a mediocre captain? Lastly, gavaskar was highly overrated as a batsman and even more so as a commentator/columnist. He has no idea what he is talking about comparing the pressures of a team sport to individual achievements. The pressure faced by tendulkar would have been nothing compared to the pressure faced by 1948 ashes squad (both teams) as there were 2 nations looking to them to forget the most brutal war in history.

• love goel on August 26, 2009, 17:17 GMT

Pressure of expectations of a billion people matter,but only upto a certain point.Otherwise imagine the pressure on Chinese Olympians! Just imagine about waiting for 4 years, training for 4 years,striving for 4 years for just one day, one moment when everything will fall in place; when everything must be perfect. At least Tendulkar gets a second chance immediately in the same match,he has teammates to perform when he doesn't, not the case in all sports. And if tennis gives you an oppurtunity to make amends after a double fault, remember to win a Grand slam you must win all matches. Lose one, and out you go. While you can win almost any tournament/series in cricket after losing some matches, you can't do that in tennis.So the pressure in tennis is no less, just in different manner, in a different way And I am sure nobody in the world notices Jamaica except when Bolt runs like a Bolt.That is a pressure of different kind,where few million matter more than billion.

• Kris on August 26, 2009, 6:34 GMT

Ananth, The reason you will not get too much flak about Dravid, Laxman, Kumble, Kapil Dev etc. is because they would at best classify as “great” players and perhaps with the exception of Kapil Dev don’t galvanize and stir emotions to a very great or irrational extent. Tendulkar is more often classified, by even the most knowledgeable people in the game (such as Benaud), as a “once in a lifetime” player. What he has done, or not done, for India is difficult to quantify…cricket being as you correctly mention a “team” sport and so it is borderline impossible to distill an individual’s contribution to the total results with any real accuracy.

• Rajiv on August 26, 2009, 6:16 GMT

Hmm Ok, to make it a little less stringent, I will cut out the some bits- But it is my basic argument which is important...viz. it is the expectation which creates the pressure. Also :I don’t see how I’m being “blatantly unfair” to the other players. [[ Rajiv It is comments such as the following which are blatantly unfair to other great players. I agree that there is always MORE expectation on Tendulkar than other players. That is all. Let us close this at that. Ananth: ]] OF COURSE there was less pressure on Laxman and Dravid. Reason? They weren’t really expected to pull off a miracle. Tendulkar was …and had always been expected to!

• Rajiv on August 26, 2009, 5:51 GMT

Ananth…sorry to say this: 1) With your comment you have answered the question yourself and also unfortunately revealed a fundamental lack of understanding of sport/cricket/Tendulkar on your part. And I’m afraid a Gavaskar has a far far far greater understanding of pressure and sport than any of us fellow arm chair critics ever will. [[ Rajiv The rest of the comment has been deleted since the comments are blatantly unfair to the other Indian cricketers who have performed equally well, in some cases, better and have faced the same, in some cases, more pressures. In future, if you are going to send such comments, kindly do not press the "Post" button. Ananth: ]]

• Zeeshan Ahmed Siddiqui on August 26, 2009, 5:27 GMT

Dear Ananth, If we select best eleven from different eras and teams, I think following team can be selected.

Gavaskar and Hobbs as an opener Bradman / Lara at no. 3 (Mostly are in favour of Bradman) Tendulkar at no. 4, Sobers at no. 5 (All-rounder), Llyod (Captain) at no. 6 Gilchrist (Wicket Kepeer) at no. 7, Sydney Barnes at no. 8, Marshall at no. 9, Warne at no. 10 and Murli at no. 11.

From India, dream team may be Gavaskar and Sehwag as an opener Dravid at no. 3, Tendulkar at no. 4, Vishwanath / Azuruddin at no. 5, Ganguly (Captain) at no. 6., Kirmani (Wicket Keeper) at no. 7, at no. 8 Kapil Dev Kumble at no. 9, Bedi at no. 10 and then Srinath at no. 11

From Pakistan, it may be Saeed Anwer and Hanif Muhammad as an opener, at no. 3 Younis Khan, No. 4 Inzamam / Yousuf, No. 5 Javed Miandad, no. 6 Salim Malik No. 7 Imran Khan (Captain), No. 8 Rashid Latif (Wicket Kepeer) No. 9 Wasim Akram, no. 10 Abdul Qadir No. 11 Waqar Younus

• Ananth on August 26, 2009, 5:13 GMT

Since the Gavaskar article has been brought in, my summarized comments on that. 1. Gavaskar has compared a team sport with individual sports without getting a clear understanding of both. Even in Tennis, the Davis Cup is a totally different pressure cauldron altogether. 2. I think the pressure aspect, especially the over-used billions of people term is overrated. No sportsman can ever do well if he/she cannot handle such pressures. 3. Why is that when Tendulkar and Dravid and Kumble play together, it is only Tendulkar's pressure which is highlighted. Does it mean that Dravid or Kumble experience less pressures or expectations. At Kolkatta in 2001, pray what was the pressure on Laxman and Dravid. When Sehwag/Gambhir walk out to bat at Melbourne, do they experience less pressures. What happens to the "billions" then. 4. By such comparisons the readers and media people are only undervaluing the wonderful achievements of the other other Indian players. It was indeed an eye-opener to me in 2001 that, virtually no one questioned me why Laxman's 281 was in sixth place, not first or were lauding that wonderful player. Instead the only questions were on Tendulkar. Let me unequivocally state that this trait has succeeded in taking the sheen off the other great Indian players/performances. It is not a healthy situation. One day I will prove analytically that Kumble/KapilDev have contributed as much or nearly as much to Indian cricket as Tendulkar. Ananth

• Saf on August 26, 2009, 4:10 GMT

I feel there are a couple of things involved here: 1) The peculiar nature of the Indian fan: It is not the case now but till a few years back, the stadiums used to fill up when word spread Tendulkar was batting and the crowds exit en masse as soon as he was out. Crowds out, TVs off. However cocooned a lifestyle Tendulkar may decide to live, a vague idea of the level of fanaticism would certainly have filtered through. I think only the European and South American football fans have the same degree of fanaticism. Sure there was pressure on Lara, Ponting and others. But the attitude of other fans is a bit more rational -as they say in the Caribbean “Hey the ball round and it’s only a game, maan!!”. In South India, for e.g., fans routinely put up Temples of their favourite film stars!! They are literally worshipped. If this is done in any other country, please let me know.

2) The peculiar nature of batting itself: In tennis a double fault or mishit may not cost you much unless it is at the fag end of 5 sets. I mean at least if done before the end you have several chances to redeem yourself. You have had 5 sets and endless shots to work off your nerves. Similarly in Golf, you have 72 holes and 4 days to do so. In cricket a bowler may completely mess up a few overs and still end up with great figures. So over 5 sets or 72 holes the better player will inevitably win. No such luck in batting. In batting one single nervous muscular twitch, one edge/mishit off the first few balls–and you are gone-ta ta, goodbye. So in a way the pressure is acutely compounded in batting in a way it is not in other sports.

• Hieronymus Merkin on August 26, 2009, 2:55 GMT

Posted by: Engle at August 25, 2009 10:50 PM

There's no question that off all the good batsmen of his era, no one had it as good as Ponting, which is probably why he was bypassed in favour of Border and G.Chappell into Cricinfo's AT Aus XI

Tendulkar, Lara, Sangakarra, Kallis would walk into their AT XI ----------------- Err you really think Lara would walk into his all time XI ? I can understand the rest of them they stand out from the limited quality players their countries have produced , but anyone with any commonsense would find it hard to fit Lara in a WI XI. With Richards, Weekes Walcott, Sobers, Headley I have no idea how he would fit. And by the way GS Chappell is heads and shoulders over Ponting for sheer quality of runs. He's heads and shoulders over all the players you mentioned too. [[ HM Probably Lara would open the batting. And Walcott cannot walk in purely as a batsman. And if he gets in as keeper-batsman there is a batting slot available. Anyhow if one picks up an WI all time XI without Lara, it is their loss. Ananth: ]]

• Youvi on August 25, 2009, 23:26 GMT

I am an Indian team supporter. Ananth, I can understand your exasperation at the irrational arguments put forth by some. I am reminded of Nobelist Amartya Sen's book "The Argumentative Indian" about historical tradition of public debate in India. When it comes to Tendulkar, however, often reason is overtaken by emotion. You attempt to be scientific in your analyses. I am a great fan of Gavaskar but in his column cited herein, SMG's reasoning is rather tenuous. For any top sportsman there is always tremendous pressure especially to sustain the same over a period of time. This kind of dominance in certain sports in recent years- the few that I followed and understand- I can think of Michael Jordan, Jehangir Khan (squash), Federer, Woods, Lara Tendulkar, to mention a few. But really, to compare some of these great sportsmen and suggest one is better than others based on purely intangible elements, I think SMG's reasoning is flawed more so when comparing across different sports. [[ Youvi Well put. Pl see the response to Salim. Ananth: ]]

• Engle on August 25, 2009, 22:50 GMT

There's no question that off all the good batsmen of his era, no one had it as good as Ponting, which is probably why he was bypassed in favour of Border and G.Chappell into Cricinfo's AT Aus XI

Tendulkar, Lara, Sangakarra, Kallis would walk into their AT XI

• Salim on August 25, 2009, 21:29 GMT

@'Neil' and 'Channa'. Forgive me fellow cricket lovers but I wasn’t talking about 'pressure'. I was talking about the achievements of sportsmen. What Pele and Tendulkar done on the pitch, what Roger F does on the court, Ali in the ring and Tiger on the course!

Sunny called tendulkar 'the greatest' sportsman. He may or may not be the greatest cricketer at the moment but his deeds on the field are no greater than Tigers majors’ wins or Rogers open record. If we are discussing 'pressure' then tendulkar would have a strong case, but would it be any stronger than when Clay/Ali refused to go to war in Vietnam. He was stripped of his titles, criticised and victimised by the American public and government (monitored and surveilled). Now that’s pressure. How easy do you think it was for Tiger and his father to make it to the top in a sport dominated by white players and white golf courses and establishment? That’s pressure also. Unfortunately when the subject of Tendulkar arises it comes hand-in-hand with ‘pressure’ for some tendulkar fans. I read the same argument when Lara was found to be second to Bradman in Ananth’s amazing analysis of a couple of months back. Even though the stats say one thing the ‘pressure’ card was played by several ST fans. I agree that pressure can affect players performances, but not the likes of ST, or BCL or SWaugh. These are harden pro’s that are used to pressure and actually feed off it. The greater the stakes the greater the performance.

When I say I love ST batting I truly mean that, but guys quit with the ‘pressure’ excuses, I was only commenting of performances on the field of play NOT what might or might not be going through someone’s mind.

As Ananth said above, I think sunny should stick to writing about cricket and cricket only.

Thank you and good night.

p.s. Neil ,does it really matter where I come from? and yes I have seen Tendulkar bat twice live. Awesome! [[ Well said, Salim Pressure is part and parcel of any top players' game. All top players have to handle this. Else they are out. The number of spectators is not the criteria. Also how does one compare a team game with individual games. Federer's followers spread across 100+ countries and the Swiss form a small part of this group. Towards the end of the recent Wimbledon final, what sort of pressure was faced by Federer. Same towards the last two holes of the PGA recently by Woods. One won and the other lost. Tendulkar's greatness is because of the game he has played, the way he has played, the balanced head on his shoulders and the way he has steered off any form of controversy. That is all. Ananth: ]]

• Channa on August 25, 2009, 15:53 GMT

@Salim There is no comparison to the pressure Tendulkar has faced to any other sportsman. I remember during his back injury phase some teenage fans committed suicide as there were concerns that his career may be over. Most recently an octogenarian woman who has never met Tendulkar said she treats him like a son, with his poster on the wall and “feeds” him everyday. The Tendulkar “fan club” is not only huge; it is far more irrational than the Tiger and Federer one. I wonder how many fans reacted any where near as similarly during Tigers recent knee operation. Also, though the Americans and general public may have a deep connection to Tiger and Federer, they are always acutely aware that after all is said and done, it is only a “game”. Try telling that to some of Tendulkars legion. In this matter Sunil Gavaskar is absolutely spot on. It is truly doubtful whether any sportsman has faced such ridiculous pressure ,that too for so long a time.

• Hieronymus Merkin on August 25, 2009, 14:37 GMT

I think Salim certain people fail to recognize that the world has nearly 7 billion people and not just 1 bilion. Before Gavaskar runs his mouth, he should go and try to do something to help most of those 1 billion who live on less than USD\$1 a day.

• Neil on August 25, 2009, 13:41 GMT

Salim, Ananth I just read the Gavaskar article too. What he is saying is that in terms of achievement Woods, Federer and Tendulkar are similar. What differentiates Tendulkar he says is the performance inspite of greater pressure and perfect decorum and behavior as compared to the other two. I agree. As Salim says –you cannot quantify “pressure” .True. You cannot put a number on it. Well, I don’t know where you’re from (Salim), but I’m from India and have watched a few matches with Tendukar live in the stadium- 2 in the 90s. And let me tell you, nothing but nothing in sport comes anywhere near it. Your hair literally stands on end for hours.It is beyond any sporting spectacle you’ll ever see. I’ve seen Federer live too (in Dubai) and had a quick hello and handshake with him. (in the “Ikea” mall of all places, where his then girlfriend (now wife) was shopping pushing the cart around herself! No airs). He is the most lovely and gentlemanly guy. Also, the crowds love and adore Federer, but let me assure you the atmosphere at the tournament was nothing, not even remotely close to a Tendulkar at the crease. Also, as Gavaskar says, both woods and Federer showed their dark sides the moment things started going against them. I haven’t seen Woods live. So, both in terms of pressure (though you can’t quantify it) and behavior Tendulkar definitely does come out on top (which is what Gavaskar is saying). But, again…I would have to agree with Ananth. I absolutely love Vishy too…and he is definitely either on par or even superior to Tendulkar in his achievements and his classy, supremely dignified behavior. But again, though the expectations on Vishy are huge…till a few years back the expectations from Tendulkar were simply inhuman.

• Salim on August 25, 2009, 10:00 GMT

Hi Ananth, great work again. I'd like to throw this into the mix. Sunny Gavaskar wrote today that Tendulkar is the greatest sportman today over Roger F and Tiger W. Comparing sporting peers is very difficult if not impossible. Sunny talks about the millions of fans Tendulkar has alone in India and how property and homes and people are hurt and damaged when he fails. IS THIS REALLY A MEASURABLE FACTOR? How much peoplego mad when their hero fails? Ithink it says more about certain Tendulkar fans than his sporting greatness. In my opinion Tendulkar is just as great as Tiger or Roger in his own field but no greater. In fact Woods is far more well known the world over than Tendulkar will ever be, as Pele and Ali are. Tendulkar is top of the tree in India and maybe even the cricketing world but not the sports world.

thank you...Salim [[ Salim The only comment I will make is that Mr.Gavaskar, a great cricketer and a very good cricket writer, should restrict his writing to cricket. He should not write about other sports about which, it is obvious, he knows very little. More so when there is another Indian, going by the name Anand around. I suggest readers do not jump at me without reading the response fully. I have not questioned Mr.Gavaskar's cricketing credentials at all. Ananth: ]]

• Abhi on August 25, 2009, 6:41 GMT

Hieryonous, one last post. Then I give up: 1) Let’s look at some figures from Tendulkars debut to 01/01/2003: Tendulkar: 169 inn;8811@57.6; 31 100s S.Waugh: 194inn; 8326@51.7; 26 100s M.Waugh:209 inn;8029@41.8;20 100s Lara: 157 inn;7572@49.5;18 100s M.Taylor:171 inn;6619@41.6;17 100s Kirsten: 154 inn;6114@43.1;16 100s Dravid: 118 inn;5614@53.5;14 100s Ponting: 99 inn;4246@48.8;14 100s Kallis: 106 inn;4455@50.6;11 100s Inzy: 138 inn;6122@49.0;17 100s

In this period 4 Batsmen avg over 60. And they have played a max of 18 inns in this period (Imran). So basically not a single batsman has avg over 60 over this 13yr period.

2) After the 2003 WC-2006, here’s a short bio of Tendulkar: April 2003: Hand surgery-2 months out. Most of the next 2 seasons affected by Tennis elbow. At one point in 2004 could not pick up a bat for 6 months. Prematurely brought back after attempting conservative for tennis elbow after India lost the first 2 home tests to Aus. With the inevitable result-more pain and a forced May 2005: for elbow surgery. April 2006: shoulder surgery. Tendulkar has had some injuries before but they were not all compressed into a short period so recurring. (1998: back injury, 2001 broken toe). So, you have time to get back your rhythm after injury, provided you don’t again get another one.

3) Observations from above stats? The inn/runs/100s ratio from 1989-2003 is way less than during the 2003-06/07 period.

My conclusions? 1) Tendulkar out ahead during the 90s. I certainly didn’t say that he was No.1 immediately on debut or any such. That was your conclusion. 2) Till Tendulkar relatively fit…still out on top 3) Most unfortunate time possible to get injured.( possibly the WORST time for a batsman to get injured in the history of cricket!!) 4) Your peak period for a batsman theory is correct, but in this instance it doesn’t hold good: because ALL top, fit batsmen (whatever their ages) had the best consecutive years of their careers in this very same period. For eg. Lara at a ripe old age of 34 now has the 4 best consecutive years of his career! 5) You would say injuries are part and parcel of sport. Indeed they are. But did any other batsmen on that list get repetitive injuries at a particularly golden period for batting? No. 6) To stress again, if you simply take arbitrary peak periods a batsman such as Hussey is the best. Basically game,set and match Hussey! 7) Ponting is a great batsman, no doubt. But not because of a glut of mid 2000s run scoring. But because he has been performing for a long period now, year after year, test after test (to quote Flintoff from his most recent interview)

• Hieronymus Merkin on August 24, 2009, 15:25 GMT

Abhi your suggestions above are really ridiculous: 1) You are saying that Tendulkar was better than his peers from 1989 to 2002, No he was not. According to you on test debut Tendulkar was instantly #1 and stayed that way ? 2) 90s were tougher than now yes but Tendulkar wasn't exactly good against the top bowlers. What was his average against SA, Pak and WI, it was mediocre. And of course in 1995 Sachin would be ahead of Ponting, he was on debut !? 3) So Ponting made runs during a period where Tendulkar was mediocre, other people made runs too so Ponting should be discredited ? How about we penalize Sachin for his medicore batting ? The Ponting didn't bat against McGrath and Warne is outright nonesense. What do you do about Richards, Chappell, Miandad, Bradman, Sutcliffe etc discredit them for not facing their own bowlers ? Take a good look at the period a batsman should peak, 27-35, this coincides with Pontings' stats peak. Tendulkar failed for a portion of his peak period.

• Unni on August 24, 2009, 15:22 GMT

What is the point in evaluating a player for 13 years or 4 years without seeing all of he has to offer? So, Tendulkar or Ponting or whoever, we cannot say anything until they hang up their boots. Just think what would have the table looked like if Ananth published this table last year. Hussy would have been right on top. How to review a film before its climax? @Ananth : What you can add is a * with each player who has not yet retired.

• Kris on August 24, 2009, 14:05 GMT

Bravo Alex! Your ratings are fine with me, only… My opinion has been that Tendulkar shades the generation as the best and Lara a close second, not Ponting-of course, that is my opinion. Ponting has demonstrated a clear weakness in India against top class spin. Tendulkar and Lara don’t have such glaring weaknesses. The oft quoted Tendulkar average in SA again fails the “peer test”, because if you compare his performance with his team members and peers in the 90s against SA in SA it is quite OK. Similarly, Lara against India is cancelled out not only “peer” wise but by his handling of Murali and Warne…I mean if you can play the best offie and leggie of the generation easily…then surely you can play spin. And also Lara corrected his SA record in the 2000s. But good job, nonetheless…and I’m sure you put in a lot of work! [[ Kris/Jeff I wanted to respond to Jeff's comment. However it was published without my approval by mistake. I like Jeff's suggestion and will look at it later. Ananth: ]]

• Jeff on August 24, 2009, 13:08 GMT

This is lower than the straight peer average of 30.58, indicating that Bradman played relatively more often against England than his peers and as such his performance was actually even better, with a ratio of 3.31.

To satisfy my own curiosity, I repeated this exercise for Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting.

The results were that Ponting’s peer average moved up from 30.9 to 31.3, showing that he was indeed benefitting from not having to face Warne/McGrath.

Lara’s peer average fell from 30.3 to 29.4 and Tendulkar’s fell from 30.7 to 30.3.

All this meant that the final ratios ended up at:

Tendulkar 1.802 Lara 1.801 Ponting 1.786

Nothing to choose between them!

It took me quite a long time to do this – not sure if it’s something you can easily do for all players…

• Jeff on August 24, 2009, 13:06 GMT

Thanks for the analysis Ananth. I haven’t got the heart to read all the comments so apologies if this has already been suggested, but one refinement that I personally think would improve an already great job is the following:

Weight the peer average for each player according to the innings they played against each country. This would remove bias such as the fact that Ponting didn't have to face Warne/McGrath (but his peers did)

To do this you need to produce a peer average against each country each player played against (rather than one single one against all teams for the period of a players career)

Using Bradman as an example, he played 63 inns vs England, 6 vs India, 5 vs SA and 6 vs Windies.

Peer averages vs these teams were: 28.97 vs England, 36.38 vs India, 37.24 vs SA and 30.15 vs Windies.

Weighting these by the no. of inns Bradman played against each team gives a weighted peer average of 30.15.

To be continued...

• Kris on August 24, 2009, 9:50 GMT

But Hieronymus, This is the entire purpose behind “peer comparisons” isn’t it? If Tendulkar outshone his peers by X amount for 13 years; and Ponting also outperformed his peers by the same X amount, but for only 4 years…this is what counts. The 4 years where Ponting did so may have had radically different conditions from another period-which, of course, is exactly what transpired. The mid 2000s are not comparable to the mid 90s. That is the whole beauty of peer comparisons in different periods.

• Abhi on August 24, 2009, 9:01 GMT

Here’s another sample stat: Hussey from his 2nd match after debut to 02 Jan 2008.2090@90.1, 8 100s, 8 50s. This is literally 2nd only to Bradman. Sure he had a golden 2 years. But does this make him the best batsman of the generation? Or does he require to demonstrate that he is CONSISTENTLY above his peers over a sustained period of time in varied conditions? So , if Tendulkar had a peer ratio of say 1.8 SUSTAINED on an average for 13 yrs , but Hussey had a peer ratio of 3.0 for those 2 years …what does it tell us? It tells us that Hussey was in top form for a while …that all. If Hussey did what he did (or even a lower level) for a generation…then we can be sure (as with the Don) he was the best of the generation. But to take out an arbitrary, relatively small period in a career (especially and most importantly when all and sundry are scoring runs) and hold it out as a candle as some symbol of excellence over ALL peers is confounding.

• Abhi on August 24, 2009, 8:38 GMT

Hieronymus merkin My logic goes something like this: 1) Through the 90s and till 2002 Tendulkar was better than all contemporaries, including Ponting. 2) The 90s were a tougher time to bat. Also, a good 7 years or so into Pontings career Tendulkar was ahead of him. 3) From 01/01/2003-31/12/2006 Ponting 5077 runs @ 72.5,19 hundreds. 4) If ONLY Ponting had piled up big runs and hundreds in this short period, I too would have immediately agreed that there was something unique about Ponting. But pls take a look at the stats. There are 21 players who avg more than 50!! 10 who avg more than 60! 11 who scored more than 3000 runs.10 who scored more than 10 centuries. 5) In this same period Tendulkars stats: 1779@44.5, 4 hundreds!! 6) In the same period Hussey even out averages Ponting. So, does that make Hussey at his best better than Ponting at his best? 7) This is why I love this peer comparison. Ponting filled his boots during this time, but then so did numerous others. It is blatantly obvious to someone who has even vaguely followed Tendulkars career how continuous injuries /surgeries robbed him off this fertile period. 8) Tendulkar scored runs for longer, in more difficult conditions, over his peers for a longer period. OF COURSE this is an indication of a superior batsman. Bradman was averaging freak numbers THROUGHOUT a 20 yr career. NOT just in a particularly juicy sweet spot conducive to batting. He was ahead of his peers throughout his career. 9) For eg.Hussey had a better “peak” than Ponting. So-He was more “bradmanesque” for a while? He has played poorly for over a year now. NO injuries, nothing. A top class player cannot be “out of form” for over a year.

My basic point? If the STATS show that from 2003-06 some 30 or more batsmen all fared better than Tendulkar so are you implying that because of this one period they were all better? Isn’t it valid that till Tendulkar was relatively fit he was better than the whole lot?! For over a decade? So, to twist this period to make out Ponting to be a better batsman than Tendulkar is ridiculous.

• Xolile on August 24, 2009, 8:17 GMT

@ Abhi Out of the 15 calendar years in which both Tendulkar and Ponting played test cricket, Ponting averaged more than Tendulkar on 10 occasions (67%). In the last 10 calendar years, Ponting has averaged more than Tendulkar on 8 occasions (80%). In the 9 completed calendar years since the start of the decade, Tendulkar has only once averaged more than Ponting, and that was in 2004 when Tendulkar scored his career best 248 not out against Bangladesh. So, Abhi, it doesn’t matter how you slice and dice the numbers, Ponting is always going to come out on top when you look at averages over time. By the way, personally I prefer Tendulkar as a player. He is more stylish, more charismatic and more of a gentleman. He is also more efficient than any of his contemporaries at putting Australia and England to the sword. That’s why we all love him.

• Heironymous Merkin on August 24, 2009, 5:21 GMT

Abhi Sachin scoring runs over a longer period does not make him better than Ponting because Ponting has done the same in a shorter space of time, that is silly. He has also played in more tests per year than Sachin, around 15 per year from 2003 - 2009. You look at the 1000 runs in a calendar year and Ponting is on there 4 or 5 times, Sachin is hardly on there.Look at their career stats right now, Ponting is better at runs & 100s per match and innings. It got that way because from Jan 2003 to 23 Aug 2009 he had 73 tests scoring 7099 runs at 61.19 with 24 hundreds. It's just 6 years but that's 73 tests. You limit that to 2003-2006 and you get 46 tests 5077 runs at 72.52 with 19 hundreds. Bradman had 52 test over "20 years". Sachin from 1989 to 2002 played 105 tests 8811 runs at 57.58 with 31 hundreds. I say set and match Ponting. [[ HM I am happy that at least someone is comparing Tendulkar and someone other than Lara. It is also possible that Ponting is better at Tennis than Tendulkar. However I will reserve judgement on cricket until I do the more detailed analysis referred to in my earlier response to Abhi. Ananth: ]]

• Abhi on August 24, 2009, 2:57 GMT

• Anonymous on August 23, 2009, 17:55 GMT

Posted by: Saatwik at August 22, 2009 6:47 AM

I really like the idea of highest peer ratio. Despite being an archetypal (read rabid) Sachin fan, I can live with the fact that at his peak he was better than Ponting has ever been (*grin*). -- That is untrue you will find that Ponting at his peak was better than Sachin at his peak. He could never be better than Sachin on Ananths' table by having a lower peak than Sachin, especially given his slow career start and shorter career overall. He made up for that by being almost Bradmanesque. [[ I am posting this only because you have made a valid point. Next time try giving your name even if it happens to Heironymous Merkin or something similar !!! Ananth: ]]

• Mike on August 23, 2009, 17:27 GMT

Thanks Anath! I thought about own-team peer comparison; it removes all the variations wonderfully but a downside is a decent player in a poor team (Habibul Bashar?) would have a better peer-comparison than a good player in an excellent team (Darren Lehmann?). The wider problem seems to be: the fairer the peer comparison, the fewer comparable innings and therefore more statistical noise and uncertainty. One solution would be a weighted peer average. Take a 1930s Eng player who played vs Aus (70% of matches), SAf (20%) and WI (10%). To see how peers performed against equivalent bowling, split peer innings by opposition and find the peer batting averages vs Aus, SAf and WI. The weighted peer average is calculated using weights of 0.7, 0.2 and 0.1. Peer innings against other bowling attacks (NZ, Ind and obviously Eng) are ignored since the player never faced them. To compare across pitch conditions too, you could split by opposition and location (so "vs Aus in Aus" and "vs Aus in Eng"). [[ Mike What you are opening is not one little Pandora's box but a Pandora's steamer trunk. But I like the idea since I am a great fan of weighting. Let me look at it for a later date. Re your example Habibul Bashar should get due credit for outperforming his peer own team players, say, by a factor of 1.51 as compared to Lehmann whose own number might be 1.41. If we wanted to look at their absolute figures the batting averages are always there. Lehmann would have an average of just over 45 and Bashar just over 30. Ananth: ]]

• romel on August 23, 2009, 9:37 GMT

Dear Ananth, I like to know some thing about timeless test and how those affect Hobbs and Surtcliff's record.

Thanks

• Mike on August 23, 2009, 4:31 GMT

When calculating peer averages for e.g. Ricky Ponting, could you discard innings by (in this e.g.) non-Australian batsmen playing against Australia? I appreciate this has its flaws. Especially for players from the era when only Australia and England fielded high quality teams, the peer averages would become rather noisier (for the earliest era, the number of peer innings would be halved). The validity of the comparisons may also slip slightly since batsmen play about 50% of their innings in home conditions - and in theory, comparisons to those conditions are fairest. As it stands, generally far less than half of the peer innings will be played in each batsman's home country, but by discounting innings by overseas batsmen in that country, this will drop even further. On the other hand, there is a big plus point that (in my example) the fact that Ponting never had to face the generally strong Australian bowling is accounted for, as all the peer innings were against non-Aussie attacks too [[ Mike In my follow-up article which will be posted in a day or two, a new table which I will show is a comparison with OWN TEAM peer players. I did this, you might remember, in the ODI Strike Rate peer analysis. This will ensure that Ponting will be compared, in this table, only with his own team peers. Now we can safely conclude that there would not be variations in match status, bowlers faced, pitch conditions et al. Ananth: ]]

• Unni on August 23, 2009, 3:30 GMT

It is curious that the peer average remains almost same across periods. Is it another indicator of human limit like 10 seconds for 100 meter? Anyway, even though the original idea of taking the peer performance a great one, for batting average now it doesn't contribute anything since it remains almost same everytime !! Now your original list is almost similar to a list sorted on batting averages. [[ Unni There are still enough variations in Peer averages to make these comparisons interesting. Note how high Pietersen's peer average is. To get a ratio of 1.75, he would have to average nearly 70. These are new insights. Ananth: ]]

• Saatwik on August 22, 2009, 6:47 GMT

I really like the idea of highest peer ratio. Despite being an archetypal (read rabid) Sachin fan, I can live with the fact that at his peak he was better than Ponting has ever been (*grin*). I can also accept that his performance has declined. But to actually recognize the greatest batsman from the ODI era, we must take into account the ODIs being played nowadays. An analysis for the ODI format would be nice. Not literally asking you to waste time on this, Ananth, just a suggestion. [[ Saatwic No work by me reacting to a suggestion by a reader is taken as a waste. Ananth: ]]

• Kris on August 22, 2009, 6:24 GMT

1) “abhi” is vaguely on the right track but not fully. In fact, even the peer average requires to be taken as a moving average and the individual batsman’s moving average compared to this, not a block figure from the date of a batsman’s debut to his retirement or ctd. This “block” will works accurately only when comparing directly with other batsmen who have also debuted at the same time OR if conditions haven’t appreciably changed in the interim. This is particularly important when dealing with well known “inflexion” points such as the difference in batting difficulties faced in the 1990s as compared to the 2000s. Several batsmen who debuted in the late/mid 80s retired by the late 90s/early 2000s. This, of course, will always take place as a continuing “wave”, but at clear inflexion points such as the mid 2000s run glut the figures start getting distorted.

2) “xolile”: as usual great comments. As Ananth says (and I mentioned before) your comments are real good

• Abhi on August 22, 2009, 5:01 GMT

Alright, one last attempt at my argument then! It is not a question of “accepting” some “2%” difference. It is that a single final end point figure does not give lead to an accurate interpretation of chronological events. (and a “peer” comparison necessarily requires that chronology be incorporated). I gave you an actual, “realistic” example. But here’s an “unrealistic” one: Batsman avg.35 for 5 yrs. One golden yr avg. 100. Total avg say 50. Therefore “better” than his peers over a six year period? No… “On par” with peers for 5 years. Better for ONE year.

• Abhi on August 22, 2009, 4:44 GMT

Ananth ?? That’s precisely my point. As “arjun” has mentioned till 2002 Tendulkar was ahead of his “peers” (including Ponting)…Thereafter Ponting goes ahead of Tendulkar. So does that mean Ponting was ahead of Tendulkar all the way from his 95/96 debut? No. [[ Abhi We are going nowhere. If you are unwilling to accept that, in this particlular measure, Ponting is 2% ahead of Tendulkar, over a 20 year career, that shows an ultra-parochial view and I am not going to be able to do anything. Sorry I give up. Ananth: ]]

• Abhi on August 22, 2009, 3:16 GMT

Here’s an example of what several folks mean: Taking a batsman over a 15 yr career. Years 1-10: avg.45. Years 11-15:avg.60. Overall avg. perhaps mid 50s. (Some batsmen actually have these sort of figures) So for the first 10 yrs of his career his Peer comparison ratio would be around 45/33=1.4. Last 5 yrs 60/33=1.8. If using a final avg. of say 55, then 55/33=1.7. All approx figures.

So, we can say safely that during the 1st 10 yrs of his career the batsman was about 1.4 times as good.1.8 times as good in the last 5 yrs. But we CANNOT say that the batsman was 1.7 times as good as his peers over 15yrs. This is totally incorrect.

So, perhaps we should be using some sort of moving average and consistency and longevity index to actually judge total peer comparison for batsmen, especially those with long careers. [[ According to the table the following are the relevant numbers. Ponting 1.81 Tendulkar 1.78 Lara 1.75 In other words Ponting is ahead of Tendulkar by lt2% (less than 2%) as far as this measure is concerned. Does it become that much of a problem. Ananth: ]]

• ted on August 21, 2009, 12:48 GMT

tongue in cheek about ponting but he is a good player.on your pandoras box boon had to face the west indies at there best does that make him better.then i even think.tongue in cheek [[ Ted I do not understand your tongue in cheek statement. If Boon averaged 45 against very good bowlers his numbers would be escalated by the required factor. If Ponting averaged 55 against poor bowlers his numbers will be downscaled. This is probably the nth time I have mentioned it. Ananth: ]]

• Zeeshan Ahmed Siddiqui on August 21, 2009, 6:34 GMT

Nice article once again! Don Bradman is no. 1 among his contemporaries and this is true that he is 3.27 times more among his peers as per your research and this ratio is the highest among all in test history. That's why he is legend and greatest one.

Sir Don Bradman batting average is 99.94 and then from same period batting average is 60.83 of Headley. Headley batting average is 71.23 against England with one timeless match as compare to Bradman average is 89.78 against them but when matter came to Australian attack, his batting average drastically changed to 37.33 due to Ironmonger and Grimmett in bowling attack. If Headley had 8 to 10 timeless matches in his career against England, he could definitely improve his average from 71.33 to how much we do not know, may be 80 or more. His first class batting average is 69.86 with highest score 344 not out. I think he is no. 2 or no. 3 (in case if Hammond is no. 2) of Sir Don's era.

• Xolile on August 21, 2009, 5:41 GMT

Ananth, I hear you. So please ignore the following if you so feel. I was not proposing that you create any additional tables, but that you replace the peer averages in all four the existing tables to the same batting benchmark (i.e. the average for batsmen No 1 to No 5 during the player’s career). This gets rid of the statistical noise over the years. It also has the added benefit that you can use this number as a fairly true measure of whether someone could be classified as a “specialist batsman”. I have not seen the numbers, but would guess that the following table would apply: Ratio >1.75: Legendary (Bradman) >1.50: All-time great (e.g. Sobers) >1.25: Period great (e.g. Sangakkara) >1.15: Good (e.g. Kirsten) >1.00: Standard (e.g. Atherton) >0.80: Consistent performer (e.g. Kapil Dev) >0.55: Occasional performer (e.g. Akram) >0.30: Regular contributor (e.g. Kumble) >0.10: Tail ender (e.g. McGrath) <0.10: Chris Martin [[ Deon I am publishing without even going through in depth. However your idea, at the outset, seems very sensible. Your commentshave a ring of common-sense and that is very essential. Will look into it later in the day since I am off now. Ananth: ]]

• Vij on August 21, 2009, 3:24 GMT

1) As some ppl suggest a more accurate assessment of a player would be a figure incorporating peer comparison, consistency of this ratio, and length of time or matches it has been maintained over. The Ponting example is quite educational. It shows that for the initial 9 years or so of his career Ponting would not have as great an edge over his contemporaries. This however shoots up in the following 3 / 4years. So, the career end figure hints that Ponting was X times better than his peers throughout his career. A blatant falsity. Here again the Don would stand miles above all other batsmen because he has managed to maintain his high average consistently throughout a 20yr career. It is doubtful whether any sportsman, in any sport, can claim to have been “3 times” as good as his average contemporary for 20 yrs! Just boggles the imagination. As a statistician, of course, you have to disregard most “subjective” factors or simply assume that “all” players encounter them in “equal” and “self cancelling” doses…but in actual, real life …the story is quite different. [[ Vij I think this is a clear case of twisting facts. You are wrong in saying career-end because these are in reality career-whole, achieved over 20+ years. The players do not jump to their career-end figures by magic. These are the result of years of hard work. This applies to Bradman, Tendulkar, Ponting, Lara et al. Ananth: ]]

• Ananth on August 21, 2009, 3:12 GMT

I have been requested to create a few more tables to get a better insight into the peer comparisons. My initial idea was to post these into the current article itself. However that is a difficult process and makes the article unwieldy. Hence I have decided to do a continuation article and post this on or around Monday. As of now the following additional tables will be posted. If readers have any furtherl requests, these can be communicated. Arjun: Batsman Maximum Peer ratio achieved. Rohan: High and low Peer ratios. Deon: Table for 1000-2000 runs Floating middle order (3-6 & say, 7 only if >30-35) Base table with only 1-6 and ~7, not 1-11. Ananth

• Xolile on August 20, 2009, 14:42 GMT

Ananth, Maybe it is not necessary to classify individual batmen as top, middle or lower order? If you measure their entire career average against the specialist test batsman benchmark for that period, then you could compare tail-enders among themselves as a sub-group. To illustrate, take the example of a genuine tail ender who averaged 8.50 runs during his test career. During the same period all batsmen batting at No 5 and higher have averaged, say, 40.50 runs. His ratio would therefore be 0.21 (8.50/40.50). In other words – he was worth as much as 0.21 “standard specialist” test batsmen during his era. This ratio takes on added significance as it would suggest that any player with a batting ratio of greater than 1 would in all likelihood have been selected as a specialist batsman in the majority of test teams that were active during his era. [[ Deon Even now if you see the main table, which has a minimum requirement of 2000 test runs (can be changed to 1000 or 500) the last three entries are given below. This is clearly in line with what you have enunciated. 250.Evans T.G 91 2439 20.50 1946-1959(198) 29.26 0.70 251.Kumble 132 2506 17.77 1990-2008(743) 30.73 0.58 252.Warne 145 3154 17.33 1992-2007(646)30.63 0.57 So it is only a matter of getting more batsmen into the net. Just as an exercise let me get the batsmen between 1000 and 2000 runs and produce a list. Only problem is that I have already committed about 5 tables and I have no idea how I am going to show all these. Looks like I have to do a follow-up article !!! Otherwise this article is going to look weird. Ananth: ]]

• Yash Rungta on August 20, 2009, 8:14 GMT

I agree that Tendulkar's fans(I'm one of them) shouldn't just pin-point to his period prior to 2002. If Sachin felt his body wouldn't be able to deliver its best after 2002, he should have retired. But he didn't! So he(and his fans) will have to pay for it that his performance dropped. But yes, his performance from 1989 to 2002 was staggering!

Off-topic note(might want to not publish it on the blog): Before posting a blog with stats, it would be better if you could take suggestions by starting out a blog. For eg., for the best batsmen's innings, I have a suggestion. Instead of giving base points on the score(like 70.25 for laxman's 281 and 38.25 for Lara's 153), you should take the sq root of the score, 16.76 and 12.37 in this case. Otherwise, a small but very important innings' value might get diminished and you'll get Lara's 400/375 and similar innings very high instead of his 153*.

Best innings within the past 2-3 yrs would be Sehwag's 201* vs S Lanka and Duminy's 166 vs. Aus [[ Yash You are always welcome to comment at any time and suggest. However I cannot make every article a co-operative affair. One reason why I do so many of such follow-up articles. Ananth: ]]

• Xolile on August 20, 2009, 7:51 GMT

Ananth, Thank you for getting back to me on these points. If you look at the middle order table, what jumps out is that Peter May’s peer average (32.16) is 17.5% lower than Sangakkara’s (38.99). As a result May ends up above Sangakkara in the table, despite averaging almost 10 runs less. Looking closer at this difference in peer averages for the 1950s compared to the 2000s, it is noticeable that for positions 1-4 the difference is 10% but for positions 5-7 it is 23%. This is mainly due to structural changes in the game such as the emergence of bowling all-rounders in the 1980s and wicketkeeper-batsmen in the 1990s. The overall depth of quality has also improved as the game grew. I therefore still consider that you should remove No 7 from your benchmark (preferably No 6 as well – there have been too many “failed experiments” coming in at No 6 over the years). By doing so you would certainly reduce the statistical noise across the decades. [[ Deon There is no problem in removing no.7. But where do we classify no.7. If we move them to the late order group, the late order figures get distorted in a big manner. Maybe the idea is to have a true middle order of 3-4-5 and a late middle order of 6-7. The other idea is to have a floating no.7. If it is Gilchrist batting at no.7, consider that as a middle order. However if it is Parthiv Patel or Streak, consider it as a late order position. Let me have your views. Ananth: ]]

• Marcus on August 20, 2009, 6:30 GMT

Ananth, you mention the high ratios of Ponting, Kallis and Tendulkar and then say, "this, despite the commonly percieved notions of weaker teams, and hence cheaper runs." But all three batsmen made their debuts, and in fact played a significant amount of matches, in the late-80s to mid-90s. I tend to think that the standard of bowling in the 90s was pretty strong, and that it's declined somewhat in the '00s. I don't know if the figures bear that out, but with the undeniable decline in strength of West Indies and Pakistan, and arguably South Africa, England and India, I suspect that they would.

I can't remember if you've already done this, but I'd be interested to see a table with the mean batting averages for each decade as a support for this analysis. [[ Marcus Can you refer to the article on Test Tables published couple of months back. Also Tendulkar made his debut in 1989 (virtually 1990) while Kallis and Ponting in 1995. I agree that between 1995-2000 Ambrose, Walsh, Donald were playing. Ananth: ]]

• Sanjeev on August 20, 2009, 2:26 GMT

LOL Ananth Sorry for coming across as your typical rabid Tendulkar fan!! Let me see if I can make my point clearer without bubbling over! 1)If we are using “peer” comparison over a “period” of a “career”….then we need to take the ratio at several stages right through the careers to make it meaningful. Because ,by definition, a players peers extend right through his career.

2) If towards the end of a career a batsman (such as Ponting) increased his average substantially, it doesn’t really mean that he was better than his peers. i.e. if we just use a single figure end point average it will show that Ponting was say “1.8” times better than his peers and that he did better relative to Tendulkar and Lara than their peers. But this is not the case. Suppose you take a Nadal winning the grand slam next year. He will then achieve a “high point” peer ratio well above Federer. But this does not mean he was best among peers in the preceding 5 years.

3) I don’t know how to calculate this mathematically, which is why I am using the Ponting e.g. i.e. 8 yrs into his career (a long span) his “peer” average would be lower than Tendulkars and Laras. But just 4 more years after that…his “peer” ratio ends up higher!

4) Defeats the purpose, don’t you think?

[[ Sanjeev My apologies. My strong comments were also because you did not seem to be the typical Tendulkar supporter. My only point is that bad periods have to be part of anyone's career. The 15 month period of Federer between 2008 Jan and 2009 Mar when he won one GS (out of 5) will always be part of his career and would always be referred to. The ascendance Nadal over Federer during this period was real. However the way Federer has bounced back with 3 out of the last 4 GS titles is the stuff of the greatest-designates. Just as the way Tendulkar bounced back from his troughs of early 2000s. Let me do what Arjun suggested to see what further insights we do get. I will repeat what I have told earlier. Instead of splitting hairs as to who is better, let us feel privileged to have watched two of the greatest ever at the same time. Just as in Tennis. Today Federer might be considered by many (most his peer players) as the greatest. A few years from now, if Nadal gathers a bagful of GS titles and consistently wins all GSs at least twice each, maybe he would edge ahead. We all have our favourites. But let us enjoy the greats without any rancour. Ananth: ]]

• Sanjeev on August 19, 2009, 16:06 GMT

Ananth: (you may delete the table below, if the post is unwieldy. I used an excel format for it and then posted it here)

To continue my theme: I have used figures provided by you from your earlier blogs: From 1990-2003: P/R =peer comparison ration. I have used a peer avg. of 29.43 for both. Tendulkar Lara avg P/R avg P/R 1989 35.83 1.2175 0 1990 41.44 1.4081 24.5 0.832 1991 19.5 0.6626 0 1992 41.9 1.4237 32.5 1.104 1993 91.43 3.1067 58.6 1.991 1994 70 2.3785 71.14 2.417 1995 29 0.9854 67.89 2.307 1996 41.53 1.4111 25.11 0.853 1997 62.5 2.1237 40.9 1.39 1998 80.88 2.7482 43.43 1.476 1999 68 2.3106 59.43 2.019 2000 63.89 2.1709 29.24 0.994 2001 62.69 2.1301 63.94 2.173 2002 55.68 1.8919 35.1 1.193

Avg PR(avg of above avgs): Tenduklar -1.90 ; Lara -1.56. This clearly tells us how Tendulkar and Lara have done from Debut to 2003. In only 3 out of those 12 years has Lara performed better than Tendulkar, out of which 2 years there is a marginal difference.

So, now batsman such as Ponting and several others have also done…they then pump up their averages in a few good years towards the end…this does not imply that they have outshone their peers by X amount through out their careers. This is the misleading conclusion that the single figure numbers in your table result in.

[[ Sanjeev You should have the overall perspective. A career should not be broken into parts just to prove that one player is superior to the other. At the end of the day, any batsmen, be it Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting et al have to be adjudged on their complete careers, injuries, loss of form, poor umpiring decisions, bad luck, support, lack of support and anything else notwithstanding. What do you really want me to do. If it pleases you and a million others, I will accept that Tendulkar is the greatest batsmen ever. I have no problems with that. After all I have anyway been saying that he is the first amongst equals. I have no problems in changing that statement. Ananth: ]]

• Sanjeev on August 19, 2009, 14:32 GMT

Alright Ananth, I understand. Also, please note, it is not just that the “high point” has been achieved after a considerable length of time. MORE importantly : It is whether the “high point” or thereabouts has been SUSTAINED till that point of time.

As mentioned all the good modern batsmen (almost without exception) have had their best years from around 2003 -07. So, for a lot of batsmen their high points would be achieved then. For eg. Ponting was avgeraging below 50 till 2003, almost 8 years into his career!! So, perhaps a Ponting will have a “peer comparison ratio” of say 1.5 till 2003, which will then rocket up after a few years.(Lara and Tendulkar would probably also achieve a high ranking sometime in the 90s.) But this does not mean that Ponting (or other batsmen) has maintained this difference over his peers ALL through his career. This is the CRITICAL point.i.e how long has this “high point” (or near high point) been maintained for? So, in Pontings career of around 13 yrs now, for how long has he maintained a high peer comparison ratio? I hope I have made myself clear and that some stats whizzes like arjun can figure out a way to factor these things in.

• Xolile on August 19, 2009, 12:14 GMT

Ananth, Regarding your analysis above: 1. The peer averages for the openers and middle order batsmen do not appear to be correct. For instance, in the middle order table you indicate Tendulkar’s peer average as 33.57 runs. According to StatsGuru the batting average for batsmen 3 to 7 since 15 November 1989 was 37.42 runs. Could you please investigate. [[ Deon Many thanks. I have gone into the calculations and there is a mistake. No problems with Runs or Innings but in a programming oversight, the Not outs have been missed. I have since corrected the tables. However the problem was only with the specialist position tables. Also do not forget that I have taken away the individual batsman numbers from the full set. In Tendulkar's case, with over 12500 runs at 55+ average, this makes an impact. Ananth: ]] 2. I suggest you exclude No. 7 from the middle order. Since WWII batsmen No 3 to No 6 averaged 38.40 whilst No 7 averaged 27.56. Also, in my view, only Gilchrist could be referred to as a “quality batsmen”. All the other No 7’s you mention average below 38. [[ I get your point. However if I exclude 7 from the middle order then this position has to go to Late Order which seems to be much worse than including this position in Middle order. How can we ever think of Gilchrist, Botham, Kapil, Imran et al as late order batsmen. It does not make much of a difference though. Ananth: ]] 3. To be consistent with your bowler peer analysis, I recommend in your main analysis you also compare all batsman (top, middle, lower orde) to the specialist benchmark – i.e. the average for batsmen No 1 to 6. I say this because the vast majority of bowling in test cricket is done by specialists. Your batting benchmark should therefore also be at the specialist level. [[ Initially I had done two classifications. One comparing with 1-11 and another with 1-7. Then when I got the three specialist tables going I reverted to the standard 1-11. Let me tell you that there were virtually no differences between the two tables. Proportionately the ratios were lower. That is all. Let me do one thing. Within the next day or two, I will post the 1-7 comparison table also. Once again many thanks. When one juggles with nearly 100 programs at a time mistakes creep in. Ananth: ]]

• Ravi on August 19, 2009, 11:05 GMT

@arjun Your analysis makes the most “sense”. And it is also why Ananths “best batsman” analysis met with so much resistance and bewilderment, since it did not correspond with judgments made with the batting viewing of people who have watched cricket all the way through from the 80s. Naturally the most recent and younger fans, who have watched cricket for only the last decade or so, corresponding with Tendulkars injury ridden decline, will consider Tendulkar as either on par or not as good as Lara and Ponting. But If you factor in (peer comparison/ number of matches/ number of years) somehow in one unit…SRT would probably be better than even Bradman (sacrilege?!) for sheer length of time/matches over which he was considerably better than the rest of the field.

• Arjun on August 19, 2009, 10:58 GMT

Hi Ananth,

Can a new table be created that shows highest peer ratio achieved in career ? Tendulkar achieved his high at '2.00' after 93 tests. Ponting's high is 1.94.

This ratio should only be calculated after a player has played minimum of 25/30 tests or 50/60 innings. otherwise player like Hussey/J Adams will be on top of the table.

Arjun. [[ Arjun That is a great idea. Then we can compare the player peak from start, however late this stretch runs. Only problem is that this is a tough one and will take a couple of days. I will do this, post the table and then come in with a comment. Also it removes the arbitrariness from my suggestion. However let us work on the basis that if a player played only 52 tests, a la Bradman, his peak will be for his entire career. That is where the minimum of 50 tests come in. Possibly by Friday, then. Thanks. Ananth: ]]

• Sanjeev on August 19, 2009, 10:22 GMT

Ananth: You miss the point. This is not a “golden period” we are talking about. This is at the end of a THIRTEEN year continuous period from Debut! Not some arbitrarily picked span in the midst of some careers. Also this period covers not only 13 continuous years but ALSO 93 Tests and 286 ODIs (where he probably is again the best!)spanning over these years. This is why most “experts” reckon that at his best Tendulkar was first among contemporaries. I can guarantee you that the best Lara, Ponting, Dravid etc golden years will fall between around 2003 and 2007…a period when all and sundry were piling on the runs. [[ Sanjeev Let us see whether some other batsman, with a long career span, is also able to reach a high figure at some point. Arjun has suggested to me that I myself can do the peak from career start. Your other comments are deleted since I do not want to start another stream of such comments. Comments must be limited to the matter at hand, which is "comparison of a batsman with his peers" on a selected measure. Enough such comments have been made already. Ananth: ]]

• Arjun on August 19, 2009, 8:02 GMT

Hi Ananth,

This is specially for Tendulkar's fans. He was considered 2nd best batsman after bradman during late nineties and early 2000s. From 2002 his numbers have been good but not extraordinary. I have calculated his peer ratio in two parts which indicate his postion in Test history.

Overall figures. Runs- 12773, Avg.- 54.59, peer avg.- 30.69, Ratio- 1.78

His figures upto April 2002, Port-of-spain Test against Westindies. Runs- 7869, Avg.- 58.92, peer avg.- 29.43, Ratio- 2.00

His figures since May 2002, Bridgetown Test against Westindies. Runs- 4904, Avg.- 49.04, peer avg.- 32.54, Ratio- 1.51

His ratio of '2.00' during first 13 years(1989-2002) shows that he was among Best 3 batsmen in history. Last seven years his performance ( ratio of 1.51) has been bettered by many batsman. However, his overall ratio of '1.78' is still very good.

Arjun. [[ Arjun This also shows that for all top batsmen, there is a golden period, say with a minimum of 25 tests, during which they reach the zone. Maybe the basis for an article. I would appreciate if you can locate the golden period for Ponting and Lara, again using your own intuition. Arjun, let me change the minimum to 50 tests. Thanks. Ananth: ]]

• Rohan on August 19, 2009, 4:56 GMT

How about a list of the top players and their highest and lowest peer comparison ratios? And also how long these ratios were sustained for(time or length of matches). Will give us an idea of the impact of a player. For eg. a player with a very short career scoring high on such a table doesnt really tell us much.

• Jay on August 18, 2009, 15:45 GMT

Ananth, in your scheme, all else being equal, a batsman's Ratio is inversely proportional to the Peer Average he encountered during his span. This is not clear from reading the following passage: "Then Simpson and another top quality English opener, Amiss, although Amiss' contemporary openers posted a high average. Gavaskar clocks in next DESPITE the somewhat lower peer average." But there is a bigger question here. Table 4 tells me that Compton with a Ratio of 1.66 is marginally 'better' than Ponting at 1.65. Yet, Ponting achieved his 1.65 with a stronger Peer Average (than Compton's) deflating his Ratio. To complicate matters further there is a positive correlation (R ranges from +0.32 to +0.42) between Average and Peer Average in Tables 2,3 and 4 although in Table 2 you'd have to exclude Bradman as an outlier. Can you argue that dividing by the Peer Average neutralizes this 'benefit'? But this correlation could be spurious and we should stick to Batting Averages. [[ Jay The only way you can see sense in this type of analysis is if you accept that this is only to compare a player with his peers. If Compton played at a time difficult for batsmen, his own batting would have been subject to such difficulties. As such his ratio makes sense. Similarly if Ponting played at a time when batting was relatively easy his own batting average is higher partly because of his batting at such an era. So his ratio makes sense. Anyhow have I at any point presented this as a substitute for Batting Average. That would be sacrilege. This is only another comparison measure. Don't read too much into it. However it opens the door on many insights on batting during different eras.. Ananth: ]]

• ted on August 18, 2009, 11:41 GMT

doesthis mean ponting is better then tendulkar lara.as a good aussie i thought so.but it does confirm that maybe boon is abit better then he gets credit for [[ I have done months of work on Batsmen analysis. This is one small aspect of the whole series of analyses. This only says that Ponting, on the whole, has performed at a slightly better manner relative to his peers than his two illustrious contemporaries. However he did not have to face the Australian bowling. That line of argument will open about 100 Pandora's boxes. Ananth: ]]

• Xolile on August 18, 2009, 8:36 GMT

Ananth, I know this is slightly off topic, but I hope that you could humour me and allow the following partly AR-related comment. You have used a run-to-wicket ratio of 25 to calculate the overall contribution per test in your AR analysis. Earlier you have used one of 20. One of the other analysts/authors used a ratio of 14 when looking at the “Best Balanced AR”. I have always thought that a run-to-wicket ratio of around 16 is appropriate. If you apply this constant to the career runs and wickets for all players you get a fairly balanced list, with Warne leading the way among specialists and Tendulkar not too far behind. This is obviously a fairly important constant in cricket analyses, particularly when looking at ARs, but also when comparing specialists. It would therefore be useful if you could be a little more scientific in calculating this constant and also a little more consistent when applying it. Perhaps you could then update your AR analysis (if you feel the need). [[ Deon I do not want to encourage other topics since that will get us side-tracked. However I will one day re-visit the All-rounder analysis since I have done a whole lot of individual Batsmen and Bowlers analysis since I came out with that article a few months back. 16, I think, is too low. That is a gross under-representation of the bowling efforts. I think 20+ is needed. Ananth: ]]

• Arjun on August 18, 2009, 8:09 GMT

I think there is some error in numbers of jayawardane, he started in 1997 and not 2001. sangakhara in 2000 and not 2002, their peer numbers will change.

There is huge diff. in no. of tests in career span of players what can be done about that ? Armstrong and habibul bashar both had played 50 tests each but their career span test is 79 and 353 respectivly. less test will only reflect small effect of peer numbers as compared to more tests. [[ Arjun There was a slight problem with four Sri Lankan batsmen's span determination (Sanga, M Jaya, P Jaya and Guna). Has since been corrected and the tables revised. No major moves except that Sanga and Worrell exchange places and Sanga is now in no.20 position. No change to the middle order positions. Thanks Ananth: ]]

• Sanjeev on August 18, 2009, 5:36 GMT

I used the middle order table for my previous comment… I also feel if you take it decade wise Tendulkar will fare higher up the table in the 90s. Conversely Lara will do better in the 2000s.

• Sanjeev on August 18, 2009, 5:26 GMT

Besides the Don’s expectedly eye popping stats ,the other thing that hits you straight on first viewing of the table is the sheer volume of runs scored in Tendulkars career span! It is 77934 runs more than the next batsman (Lara).i.e. almost 22% more than Lara’s. 27% more than Ponting’s! So, we may have here another version of the “longevity” factor. i.e. how long a batsman has managed to sustain a particular standard.

• Yash Rungta on August 18, 2009, 4:14 GMT

I couldn't understand why players like Vettori, Warne, Vaas etc. haven't been mentioned in the late order analysis. What do you mean by: "possibly no.7. Warne (8.3), Kumble (8.3), Vass (8.1) do not qualify because they are too good to be classified as genuine late order batsmen"

What does 'BPos avge >= 8.50' mean?

Xolie has a done a good all-rounder calculation! :) Thanks! [[ Yash To understand Bpos Avge please go back to It Figures archives and read the article on Batting Position averages. It is the average of the batting positions batted in by the batsman. In this analysis I have considered only batsmen who have a BpA of 8.5 and above. In other words they are more likely to have batted at no.8/9 and higher (or more aptly lower). Warne and Kumble have 8.3 indicating that they have batted more often at 8/9 and lower. Vaas is 8.1. Anyhow how do you call Vettori, who has scored more runs and centuries than Srikkanth at an average of 28.25 (against S's 29.88) as a late order batsman. Make a suggestion after perusing the BpA article. Ananth: ]]

• Ashik Uzzaman on August 18, 2009, 2:39 GMT

This is another interesting topic from Ananth. Thanks for finding new areas to analyze. I will go through it first before I come up with my comments.

• Xolile on August 17, 2009, 16:17 GMT

Ananth, Since you have already published the same bowling analysis, I presume this should enable us to start looking at all-rounders? I have had a quick look at the combined batting and bowling ratio for 12 of the more famous post WWII allrounders. The number are as follows: 1 Sobers 2.86 2 Kallis 2.84 3 Imran 2.65 4 Miller 2.60 5 Pollock 2.49 6 Goddard 2.35 7 Hadlee 2.34 8 Greig 2.31 9 Botham 2.24 10 Cairns 2.21 11 Dev 2.10 12 Flintoff 2.07

It is also worth noting that Miller is the most complete all-rounder on this list, since his score for his weaker dicipline (batting in his case) is the highest of the group at 1.25 - Imran is 2nd with 1.24 and Goddard 3rd with 1.17. Any chance that you could publish a complete list at some point? [[ Deon A few months back I had done a comprehensive All-rounder analysis. Ananth: ]]

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• Xolile on August 17, 2009, 16:17 GMT

Ananth, Since you have already published the same bowling analysis, I presume this should enable us to start looking at all-rounders? I have had a quick look at the combined batting and bowling ratio for 12 of the more famous post WWII allrounders. The number are as follows: 1 Sobers 2.86 2 Kallis 2.84 3 Imran 2.65 4 Miller 2.60 5 Pollock 2.49 6 Goddard 2.35 7 Hadlee 2.34 8 Greig 2.31 9 Botham 2.24 10 Cairns 2.21 11 Dev 2.10 12 Flintoff 2.07

It is also worth noting that Miller is the most complete all-rounder on this list, since his score for his weaker dicipline (batting in his case) is the highest of the group at 1.25 - Imran is 2nd with 1.24 and Goddard 3rd with 1.17. Any chance that you could publish a complete list at some point? [[ Deon A few months back I had done a comprehensive All-rounder analysis. Ananth: ]]

• Ashik Uzzaman on August 18, 2009, 2:39 GMT

This is another interesting topic from Ananth. Thanks for finding new areas to analyze. I will go through it first before I come up with my comments.

• Yash Rungta on August 18, 2009, 4:14 GMT

I couldn't understand why players like Vettori, Warne, Vaas etc. haven't been mentioned in the late order analysis. What do you mean by: "possibly no.7. Warne (8.3), Kumble (8.3), Vass (8.1) do not qualify because they are too good to be classified as genuine late order batsmen"

What does 'BPos avge >= 8.50' mean?

Xolie has a done a good all-rounder calculation! :) Thanks! [[ Yash To understand Bpos Avge please go back to It Figures archives and read the article on Batting Position averages. It is the average of the batting positions batted in by the batsman. In this analysis I have considered only batsmen who have a BpA of 8.5 and above. In other words they are more likely to have batted at no.8/9 and higher (or more aptly lower). Warne and Kumble have 8.3 indicating that they have batted more often at 8/9 and lower. Vaas is 8.1. Anyhow how do you call Vettori, who has scored more runs and centuries than Srikkanth at an average of 28.25 (against S's 29.88) as a late order batsman. Make a suggestion after perusing the BpA article. Ananth: ]]

• Sanjeev on August 18, 2009, 5:26 GMT

Besides the Don’s expectedly eye popping stats ,the other thing that hits you straight on first viewing of the table is the sheer volume of runs scored in Tendulkars career span! It is 77934 runs more than the next batsman (Lara).i.e. almost 22% more than Lara’s. 27% more than Ponting’s! So, we may have here another version of the “longevity” factor. i.e. how long a batsman has managed to sustain a particular standard.

• Sanjeev on August 18, 2009, 5:36 GMT

I used the middle order table for my previous comment… I also feel if you take it decade wise Tendulkar will fare higher up the table in the 90s. Conversely Lara will do better in the 2000s.

• Arjun on August 18, 2009, 8:09 GMT

I think there is some error in numbers of jayawardane, he started in 1997 and not 2001. sangakhara in 2000 and not 2002, their peer numbers will change.

There is huge diff. in no. of tests in career span of players what can be done about that ? Armstrong and habibul bashar both had played 50 tests each but their career span test is 79 and 353 respectivly. less test will only reflect small effect of peer numbers as compared to more tests. [[ Arjun There was a slight problem with four Sri Lankan batsmen's span determination (Sanga, M Jaya, P Jaya and Guna). Has since been corrected and the tables revised. No major moves except that Sanga and Worrell exchange places and Sanga is now in no.20 position. No change to the middle order positions. Thanks Ananth: ]]

• Xolile on August 18, 2009, 8:36 GMT

Ananth, I know this is slightly off topic, but I hope that you could humour me and allow the following partly AR-related comment. You have used a run-to-wicket ratio of 25 to calculate the overall contribution per test in your AR analysis. Earlier you have used one of 20. One of the other analysts/authors used a ratio of 14 when looking at the “Best Balanced AR”. I have always thought that a run-to-wicket ratio of around 16 is appropriate. If you apply this constant to the career runs and wickets for all players you get a fairly balanced list, with Warne leading the way among specialists and Tendulkar not too far behind. This is obviously a fairly important constant in cricket analyses, particularly when looking at ARs, but also when comparing specialists. It would therefore be useful if you could be a little more scientific in calculating this constant and also a little more consistent when applying it. Perhaps you could then update your AR analysis (if you feel the need). [[ Deon I do not want to encourage other topics since that will get us side-tracked. However I will one day re-visit the All-rounder analysis since I have done a whole lot of individual Batsmen and Bowlers analysis since I came out with that article a few months back. 16, I think, is too low. That is a gross under-representation of the bowling efforts. I think 20+ is needed. Ananth: ]]

• ted on August 18, 2009, 11:41 GMT

doesthis mean ponting is better then tendulkar lara.as a good aussie i thought so.but it does confirm that maybe boon is abit better then he gets credit for [[ I have done months of work on Batsmen analysis. This is one small aspect of the whole series of analyses. This only says that Ponting, on the whole, has performed at a slightly better manner relative to his peers than his two illustrious contemporaries. However he did not have to face the Australian bowling. That line of argument will open about 100 Pandora's boxes. Ananth: ]]

• Jay on August 18, 2009, 15:45 GMT

Ananth, in your scheme, all else being equal, a batsman's Ratio is inversely proportional to the Peer Average he encountered during his span. This is not clear from reading the following passage: "Then Simpson and another top quality English opener, Amiss, although Amiss' contemporary openers posted a high average. Gavaskar clocks in next DESPITE the somewhat lower peer average." But there is a bigger question here. Table 4 tells me that Compton with a Ratio of 1.66 is marginally 'better' than Ponting at 1.65. Yet, Ponting achieved his 1.65 with a stronger Peer Average (than Compton's) deflating his Ratio. To complicate matters further there is a positive correlation (R ranges from +0.32 to +0.42) between Average and Peer Average in Tables 2,3 and 4 although in Table 2 you'd have to exclude Bradman as an outlier. Can you argue that dividing by the Peer Average neutralizes this 'benefit'? But this correlation could be spurious and we should stick to Batting Averages. [[ Jay The only way you can see sense in this type of analysis is if you accept that this is only to compare a player with his peers. If Compton played at a time difficult for batsmen, his own batting would have been subject to such difficulties. As such his ratio makes sense. Similarly if Ponting played at a time when batting was relatively easy his own batting average is higher partly because of his batting at such an era. So his ratio makes sense. Anyhow have I at any point presented this as a substitute for Batting Average. That would be sacrilege. This is only another comparison measure. Don't read too much into it. However it opens the door on many insights on batting during different eras.. Ananth: ]]

• Rohan on August 19, 2009, 4:56 GMT

How about a list of the top players and their highest and lowest peer comparison ratios? And also how long these ratios were sustained for(time or length of matches). Will give us an idea of the impact of a player. For eg. a player with a very short career scoring high on such a table doesnt really tell us much.