November 18, 2009


Least number of absences over a long career

Anantha Narayanan
Allan Border on his way to 196, England v Australia, 2nd Test, Lord's June 1985
 © Getty Images

A chance remark by Shankar Narayanan of New Delhi provided the spark for this article. He wanted me to look at the fact that Dravid was rarely injured and almost never missed a Test. I started thinking about and it struck me that I could not even tell when Dravid missed a Test, if ever he did. I knew that Kapil Dev missed a single Test, courtesy Gavaskar, and I started work. Thanks to Shankar for providing the spark.

I decided that I would do this analysis for both Tests and ODIs. And as I started the work, the idea of doing a combined Test+ODIs analysis also seemed feasible especially as I have already done done a lot of work regarding the forthcoming combined batting/bowling analyses.

First let us see why players miss matches.

1. They are injured. This is the most common reason.

2. They opt out. Dhoni did that during the tour of Sri Lanka and a host of English and Australian players have done so for subcontinent tours during the early days. Not now, though, with so much money being available here.

3. In rare cases for top players, they are dropped.

An extended absence from cricket through an outside happening like war is not a reason since both the team(s) and player(s) miss matches.

The cut-off is simple. For Tests it is 50 matches, for ODIs, 100 matches and for the combined analysis, these two numbers form the minimum requirement. The question of determining the number of matches played by the team presented a nice tough challenge since the career span for each player is unique.

1. Test matches: Ordered by the number of matches played

SNo.Player               Cty  Career   <-Mats->    % Missed
Span    Own Team       Mats

1.Waugh S.R Aus 1985-2004 168 189 88.9% 21 2.Tendulkar S.R Ind 1989-2009 159 173 91.9% 14 3.Border A.R Aus 1979-1994 156 157 99.4% 1 4.Warne S.K Aus 1992-2007 145 177 81.9% 32 5.Ponting R.T Aus 1995-2009 136 159 85.5% 23 6.Dravid R Ind 1996-2009 134 135 99.3% 1 7.Stewart A.J Eng 1990-2003 133 154 86.4% 21 8.Kumble A Ind 1990-2008 132 159 83.0% 27 9.Walsh C.A Win 1984-2001 132 142 93.0% 10 10.Lara B.C Win 1990-2006 131 158 82.9% 27

The most amazing players in this group are Border and Dravid who missed a single Test each in careers lasting 15 years. Dravid missed the Motera Test during 2005. The others missed quite a few Tests, none more so than Warne. Surprisingly Kumble also missed 27 Tests, as did Lara. Tendulkar missed 14 Tests, no doubt due to his injuries.

To view the complete list, please click here.

2. Test matches: Ordered by the % of team matches played

SNo.Player               Cty  Career   <-Mats->    % Missed
Span    Own Team       Mats

1.Gilchrist A.C Aus 1999-2008 96 96 100.0% 0 2.Reid J.R Nzl 1949-1965 58 58 100.0% 0 3.Greig A.W Eng 1972-1977 58 58 100.0% 0 Villiers A.B Saf 2004-2009 52 52 100.0% 0 5.Border A.R Aus 1979-1994 156 157 99.4% 1 6.Dravid R Ind 1996-2009 134 135 99.3% 1 7.Kapil Dev N Ind 1978-1994 131 132 99.2% 1 8.Healy I.A Aus 1988-1999 119 120 99.2% 1 9.Dujon P.J.L Win 1981-1991 81 82 98.8% 1 10.Waugh M.E Aus 1991-2002 128 130 98.5% 2 11.Lawry W.M Aus 1961-1971 67 68 98.5% 1 12.Fredericks R.C Win 1968-1977 59 60 98.3% 1 ... 221.Martyn D.R Aus 1992-2006 67 167 40.1% 100 ... 224.Titmus F.J Eng 1955-1975 53 185 28.6% 132

What does one say of Gilchrist. 96 straight Tests and if he had not missed that catch off Laxman would have gone on past 100. This is some level of fitness. Reid and Greig played 58 straight Tests each. Greig broke this sequence since he was involved with Packer. Let us see how long is de Villiers' run. Kapil Dev missed one Test, not because he was injured, but Gavaskar's making him the scapegoat for playing a poor shot. Quite a few others have missed only one Test.

Incidentally Pietersen had a run of 54 consecutive Tests which was broken by his recent injury. Note also the very low % of matches of Martyn indicating his in-out playing career. He also had a long break between 1994 and 2000. What he achieved despite this treatment is amazing. Titmus had a six-year hiatus between 1968 and 1974.

To view the complete list, please click here.

3. ODI matches: Ordered by the number of matches played

SNo.Player               Cty  Career   <-Mats->    % Missed
Span    Own Team       Mats

1.Jayasuriya S.T Slk 1989-2009 440 494 89.1% 54 2.Tendulkar S.R Ind 1989-2009 436 562 77.6% 126 3.Inzamam-ul-Haq Pak 1991-2007 378 450 84.0% 72 4.Wasim Akram Pak 1984-2003 356 478 74.5% 122 5.Dravid R Ind 1996-2009 339 447 75.8% 108 6.Azharuddin M Ind 1985-2000 334 379 88.1% 45 7.Muralitharan M Slk 1993-2009 333 445 74.8% 112 8.Ponting R.T Aus 1995-2009 330 404 81.7% 74 9.Waugh S.R Aus 1986-2002 325 357 91.0% 32 10.Vaas WPUJC Slk 1994-2008 324 399 81.2% 75

At the top it is not easy to even get to 90% which has been achieved only by Steve Waugh. Note the very high number of matches missed by Tendulkar which has pushed his playing % to below 80.

To view the complete list, please click here.

4. ODI matches: Ordered by the % of team matches played

SNo.Player               Cty  Career   <-Mats->    % Missed
Span    Own Team       Mats

1.Cronje W.J Saf 1992-2000 188 191 98.4% 3 2.Tikolo S.O Ken 1996-2009 126 128 98.4% 2 3.Flower A Zim 1992-2003 213 218 97.7% 5 4.Dhoni M.S Ind 2004-2009 151 155 97.4% 4 5.Khaled Mashud Bng 1995-2006 126 130 96.9% 4 6.Dujon P.J.L Win 1981-1991 169 177 95.5% 8 7.Sangakkara K.C Slk 2000-2009 256 270 94.8% 14 8.Boucher M.V Saf 1998-2009 285 303 94.1% 18 9.Border A.R Aus 1979-1994 273 290 94.1% 17 10.Odoyo T.M Ken 1996-2009 120 128 93.8% 8 ... 174.Hayden M.L Aus 1993-2008 161 392 41.1% 231 ... 178.Kambli V.G Ind 1991-2000 104 272 38.2% 168 179.Mushtaq Ahmed Pak 1989-2003 144 402 35.8% 258

The African players rule the roost here, picking up the top 3 places. Tikolo and Andy Flower come from the lesser nations. Dhoni's run of 150+ matches, missing only four, that too a voluntary decision, is commendable.

Note Hayden's extraordinarily low % of matches. After making his ODI debut in 1993, he had a 6-year break until 2000, after which he was devastating. Kambli was in and out. Mushtaq played a single disastrous match three years after his retirement.

To view the complete list, please click here.

5. Test+ODI matches: Ordered by the number of matches played

SNo.Player               Cty  Career   <-Mats->    %
Span    Own Team

1.Tendulkar S.R Ind 1989-2009 595 735 81.0% 2.Jayasuriya S.T Slk 1989-2009 550 636 86.5% 3.Inzamam-ul-Haq Pak 1991-2007 498 586 85.0% 4.Waugh S.R Aus 1985-2004 493 546 90.3% 5.Dravid R Ind 1996-2009 473 582 81.3% 6.Ponting R.T Aus 1995-2009 466 563 82.8% 7.Muralitharan M Slk 1992-2009 462 597 77.4% 8.Wasim Akram Pak 1984-2003 460 609 75.5% 9.Vaas WPUJC Slk 1994-2009 435 532 81.8% 10.Azharuddin M Ind 1985-2000 433 489 88.5% 11.Lara B.C Win 1990-2007 429 532 80.6% 12.Border A.R Aus 1979-1994 429 447 96.0%

The only two players who have 90+% in this top-12 table are Steve Waugh and Border. It is a tribute to their fitness. Tendulkar just about gets past 80%. Note how high Azharuddin's playing %, a tribute to his fitness.

To view the complete list, please click here.

6. Test+ODI matches: Ordered by the % of team matches played

SNo.Player               Cty  Career   <-Mats->    %
Span    Own Team

1.Cronje W.J Saf 1992-2000 256 261 98.1% 2.Flower A Zim 1992-2003 276 283 97.5% 3.Dujon P.J.L Win 1981-1991 250 259 96.5% 4.Border A.R Aus 1979-1994 429 447 96.0% 5.Sangakkara K.C Slk 2000-2009 341 357 95.5% 6.Healy I.A Aus 1988-1999 287 301 95.3% 7.Kapil Dev N Ind 1978-1994 356 375 94.9% 8.Boucher M.V Saf 1997-2009 411 438 93.8% 9.Jayawardene D.P.M.D Slk 1997-2009 416 446 93.3% 10.Marsh G.R Aus 1985-1992 167 180 92.8% ... 106.Abdul Qadir Pak 1977-1993 171 323 52.9% 107.Sidhu N.S Ind 1983-1999 187 357 52.4% 108.Martyn D.R Aus 1992-2006 275 530 51.9% 109.Hayden M.L Aus 1993-2009 264 561 47.1% 110.Mushtaq Ahmed Pak 1989-2003 196 513 38.2%

Again here Cronje is on top, followed by Andy Flower. Australia has three players in the top-10. At the end of the table we have players, barring Hayden, already discussed, who have had chequered careers. Qadir, in Tests, had a poor start, playing 10 matches in 5 years. In case of Mushtaq, his unsuccessful comeback efforts in 2003 have extended his overall career by three years. Sidhu had a 5-year gap after his debut in 1983.

Kepler Wessels has been deliberately excluded since his two-country career spanning 12 years does not lend itself to this type of analysis.

To view the complete list, please click here.

Finally one can see that the batsmen dominate the top portions of the lists. As Goel mentioned, bowlers find it difficult to maintain their playing status because of multitude of reasons.

As Sesha requested I have completed the work on longest treaks and given below is the top-10 streaks. This was one tough job.

Border after missing the fourth test had a long streak, unlikely ever to be broken. Similarly Mark Waugh finished with over 100 consecutive tests once he came back. Gavaskar had a 100+ test run just before the end of his career. Gilchrist's run covered his entire career. Dravid's streak was at the start of his career.

To view the complete list, please click here.

Test streaks: Minimum 50 consecutive tests

Player              Team Mats CareerSpan  <--Streak--> Tests

Border A.R Aus 156 838-1256 849 to 1256 153 Waugh M.E Aus 128 1161-1620 1223 to 1620 107 Gavaskar S.M Ind 125 683-1073 753 to 1066 106 Gilchrist A.C Aus 96 1467-1863 1467 to 1863 96 Dravid R Ind 134 1328-1918 1328 to 1776 94 Viswanath G.R Ind 91 666- 948 684 to 948 87 Hayden M.L Aus 103 1252-1904 1493 to 1857 86 Sobers G.St.A Win 93 386- 738 404 to 697 85 Tendulkar S.R Ind 159 1127-1918 1127 to 1549 84 Boucher M.V Saf 126 1381-1916 1400 to 1710 75

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

RSS Feeds: Anantha Narayanan

Keywords: Trivia

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by female travel companion on (June 18, 2010, 13:28 GMT)

Truly nice blog to pay attention to to my mind. I have a question, why haven't you you add it to social bookmarks? It might bring rather big traffic to this domain.

Posted by Kartik on (December 6, 2009, 4:52 GMT)

Something just occurred to me along these lines.

Tendulkar has played 162 Tests over 20 years.

But he has NEVER been the oldest person in the XI. Even now, Dravid is older than him. In the one Test Dravid missed, Kumble and Ganguly are also older than Tendulkar.

Imagine such a long period, and 162 Tests, without EVER being the oldest person.

This is a record, of course, but the question is, by what distance? Who played the most consecutive Tests without being the oldest, after Tendular? Mark Waugh? Did McGrath ever play in a Test where he was the oldest Australian? [[ Kartik This is the one request which I cannot do since I do not have the dob info. But an intriguing idea, neverthless. Ananth: ]]

Posted by SHANKAR KRISHNAN on (November 30, 2009, 18:28 GMT)

A quick search indicates there were two double- international players for India. Kotah Ramaswami - Davis Cup Tennis & Test Cricket AND M J Gopalan - Hockey & Cricket. Younis Ahmed briefly held the record for the maximum period elapsed between 2 tests- 18 years !1969 to 1987. Until John Traicos beat the record- 22 years - 1970 to 1992. Can it be confirmed please?

Posted by Sesha on (November 27, 2009, 23:59 GMT)

Interesting to the see the concentration of Indians, Aussies in most of the top tables for tests. I could be statistically wrong...but somehow I get the feeling that these two teams have quite a stable line up in the last 10-12 years. Ananth in future when you have some time you can consider analysing number of testmatches a group of players in a team have played together...Min 2 to Max 11 :-) [[ Sesha Like Unnikrishnan, you are coming out with some unusual requests. That is a nice one. Quite tough though. You have to give me some time. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Pelham Barton on (November 27, 2009, 10:21 GMT)

Quick correction to my posting on November 26: Close "only" missed 222 Tests, not 226. He played 22.

Posted by Jeff on (November 27, 2009, 9:43 GMT)

@ Pelham Barton

Very interesting post - I guess it would be very hard to find a player who has missed more than Close given the length of his career and the small number of matches he actually played.

One possible candidate I thought of was Mark Ramprakash. There's a case to say that he should still be in the England team (witness the calls for him to be recalled for the final Ashes test) so if you also include all the matches that England have played since he last played test cricket then he has "missed" 167 matches - still nowhere near Close - but if he continues to play and do well in county cricket for another couple of years then he may get to over 200 missed matches.

Posted by Sesha on (November 27, 2009, 9:20 GMT)

Hi Ananth,

Thanks a lot for your further analysis. Hats off. Great to see bloggers like you with such positive energy and willingness to share resources and knowledge...heartfelt Thanks....

Good to note that Sachin is the first person have a continuous streak of 84 matches from debut later overtaken by Dravid and Gilly....

As you mentioned...Border's record would be unbeatable... Hayden's streak is a testimonial of the strength of his comeback he came back like a Tsunami...Interesting not to see Kapil & Healy's name twice in the list of continuous streaks of 50 matches or more... I guess they should be only 2 guys who achieved it twice...Surprise Exclusions are S.R.Waugh & Ponting...Cant imagine they never played 50 continuous matches... [[ Sesha Very perceptive of you to make the comment on Kapil and Healy. My program only determined the longest streak for a player once. I ran combinations from the first test, determining the streaks and selecting the longest. Steve Waugh played 42 tests from his debut (1033) to 1160. Then he was dropped in favour of Mark. After that he has missed tests once a while. Ponting played 33 tests consecutively from 1516 to 1643. I get the feeling the current rotation policy of the Australian selectors has contributed a lot to this. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Ananth on (November 27, 2009, 6:23 GMT)

This is to inform all readers in general and Seshasayee in particlular, that the Playing streak table, as requested by Sesha, has been posted in the main article.

Posted by keyur on (November 26, 2009, 14:49 GMT)

firstly thanks for putting a fascinating list. Interesting to see the fitness of kapil,dravid,gilchrist. The fitness of c walsh is even more commendable given that bowlers are more prone to being dropped or injured. Also as a suggestion: why not arrange the players into batsman, bowler and all rounder before naming the mos fittest among them? E.g. kapil the fittest all rounder, walsh the fittest bowler and gilly the fittest w.k. This allows for comparison with others whose workload is similar.

Posted by Pelham Barton on (November 26, 2009, 12:55 GMT)

In response to one of Kartik's comments on November 22, that Graham Gooch was the only player who could have played 200 Tests.

It depends what you mean by "could have played 200 Tests". Brian Close made his Test debut in 1949 and played his last Test in 1976. England played 244 Tests during his career span, with no overlapping series as in 1929-30.

Close actually missed 226 Tests - is this the record?

Comments have now been closed for this article


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.

All articles by this writer