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August 17, 2009

Batting

Comparing Test batsmen with their peers

Anantha Narayanan
Don Bradman plays and misses during his innings of 138, England v Australia, 1st Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day, June 11, 1948
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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.

To view the complete list, please click here.

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.

To view the complete list, please click here.

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.

To view the complete list, please click here.

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.

To view the complete list, please please click here.

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

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Posted by 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.

Posted by 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: ]]

Posted by 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: ]]

Posted by 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: ]]

Posted by 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: ]]

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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!

Posted by 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: ]]

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anantha Narayanan
Anantha spent the first half of his four-decade working career with corporates like IBM, Shaw Wallace, NCR, Sime Darby and the Spinneys group in IT-related positions. In the second half, he has worked on cricket simulation, ratings, data mining, analysis and writing, amongst other things. He was the creator of the Wisden 100 lists, released in 2001. He has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket, and worked extensively with Maruti Motors, Idea Cellular and Castrol on their performance ratings-related systems. He is an armchair connoisseur of most sports. His other passion is tennis, and he thinks Roger Federer is the greatest sportsman to have walked on earth.

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