Test cricket December 18, 2009

Eleven players together - for how many Tests?

This one is based on a request by one of the readers - a look at the number of Tests in which a specific set of 11 players played together for a team

This is a continuation of the theme of my previous article. I have tried to do justice to an excellent request put in by Seshasayee. Unlike the one I did in collaboration with Alex Tierno where we had a number of exchanges before I did the analysis, here Sesha has bowled a "googly spinning square" and let me handle it. I thank him for one heck of a suggestion.

I have reproduced below Sesha's specific request.

Ananth in future when you have some time you can consider analysing number of Test matches a group of players in a team have played together...Min 2 to Max 11 :-)

That is a single statement which has multiple analysis of different shades built in. I have done the first one out of these. Let me say that this was one of the toughest bits of analytical work I have ever done. The details would be of interest to some of the readers and I have created a separate document which can be viewed by clicking on the link provided at the end.

The first analysis I have done is to find out the maximum number of Tests played by the same eleven players. A real tough analysis but well worth the effort since it provides us many insights to the teams, their selection methodology and players' fitness.

Readers must remember that the emphasis is on Tests, not series. Also the playing order is not relevant. Let me warn the readers that they would be surprised with the numbers shown.

West Indies leads the list with 11 Tests in which the same 11 players played. This was at their heyday. These 11 Tests were played, not necessarily in close proximity, over a three-year period between 1988 and 1991. The eleven players were

Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Richardson, Hooper, Logie, Dujon, Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh, Patterson.

The Tests are shown below.

1098 1988 Win-Eng Draw
1099 1988 Win-Eng Win
1108 1988 Win-Aus Win
1110 1988 Win-Aus Win
1112 1988 Win-Aus Win
1114 1989 Win-Aus Draw
1166 1991 Win-Aus Draw
1167 1991 Win-Aus Win
1168 1991 Win-Aus Draw
1169 1991 Win-Aus Win
1170 1991 Win-Aus Loss
This was one strong team, one of the strongest of all time. The interesting thing is that Lara made his debut in match #1158 smack in the middle of this run and was then not played for a few Tests. For quite a few Tests in the middle Ian Bishop and Benjamin played. The surprising fact is that this strong West Indian team fared in a below-average manner during these 11 Tests, only winning 6, drawing 4 and losing 1.

Australia is next in the list with 9 Tests in which the same 11 players played. This was at their heyday. These 9 Tests were played over a 15-month period. The eleven players were

Hayden, Langer, Ponting, M Waugh, S Waugh, Martyn, Gilchrist, Lee, Warne, Gillespie, McGrath.

The tests are shown below.

1558 2001 Aus-Eng Win
1565 2001 Aus-Nzl Draw
1571 2001 Aus-Nzl Draw
1573 2001 Aus-Nzl Draw
1576 2001 Aus-Saf Win
1590 2002 Aus-Saf Win
1593 2002 Aus-Saf Win
1595 2002 Aus-Saf Loss
1615 2002 Aus-Pak Win
This was again a strong team, among the strongest of all time. In between, for two Tests, MacGill and Bichel played. The irony was that even this Australian team also fared in a below-average manner during these 9 Tests, only winning 5, drawing 3 and losing 1.

There are three teams which come in next, having 11 players in 6 Test matches each. I have only given the summary information to keep the article length to a reasonable one. It will be of interest to readers that two of these occurences have been during the past year, indicating the settled nature of the South African and English teams.

Smith, McKenzie, Amla, Kallis, Prince, de Villiers, Boucher, M Morkel, Harris, Steyn, Ntini.

South Africa: 2008 (3 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss)
1870 2008 Saf-Ind Draw
1871 2008 Saf-Ind Win
1873 2008 Saf-Ind Loss
1880 2008 Saf-Eng Draw
1881 2008 Saf-Eng Win
1893 2008 Saf-Bng Win
Tancred, Shalders, White, AD Nourse, Hathorn, Faulkner, Snooke, Sinclair, Schwarz, Sherwell, Vogler.
South Africa: 1906-07 (4 wins, 2 losses)
0088 1906 Saf-Eng Win
0089 1906 Saf-Eng Win
0090 1906 Saf-Eng Win
0091 1906 Saf-Eng Loss
0092 1906 Saf-Eng Win
0094 1907 Saf-Eng Loss
Strauss, Cook, Vaughan, Pietersen, Bell, Collingwood, Ambrose, Broad, Sidebottom, Abderson, Panesar.
England: 2008 (4 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss)
1867 2008 Eng-Nzl Win
1868 2008 Eng-Nzl Win
1874 2008 Eng-Nzl Draw
1876 2008 Eng-Nzl Win
1878 2008 Eng-Nzl Win
1880 2008 Eng-Saf Draw
India has had two separate teams of 11 players playing 4 Tests each. Both data sets are given below. Kapil Dev has been an integral part of both sets, although these have been 14 years apart. India has has quite a few 3-match sets of eleven players, twice under Ganguly and once under Dhoni. The main problem has been that the batsmen have had a steady presence. However the bowling combinations have been many. The permutations of spin annd pace bowler combinations have precluded playing the same side for long.

Prabhakar, Sidhu, Kambli, Tendulkar, Azharuddin, Amre, Kapil Dev, More, Kumble, Chauhan, Raju.

India: 1993
1211 1993 Ind-Eng Win
1213 1993 Ind-Eng Win
1214 1993 Ind-Eng Win
1229 1993 Ind-Slk Draw
Gavaskar, Chauhan, Vengsarkar, Viswanath, Yashpal Sharma, Kapil Dev, Kirmani, Binny, Ghavri, S Yadav, Doshi.
India: 1979
0861 1979 Ind-Pak Draw
0863 1979 Ind-Pak Draw
0865 1979 Ind-Pak Win
0866 1979 Ind-Pak Draw
Pakistan has had 6 different sets of eleven players who have played in 3 Tests together. The most recent is shown. Their opening combinations would have split up many a eleven.

Mohd Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Younis Khan, Mohd Yousuf, Inzamam-ul-haq, Shoaib Malik,
Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal, Shahid Nazir, Umar Gul, Kaneria.

Pakistan: 2006
1815 2006 Pak-Win Win
1816 2006 Pak-Win Draw
1818 2006 Pak-Win Win
New Zealand has had 3 different sets of eleven players who have played in 3 Tests together. The most recent is shown.

Franklin, Wright, Jones, M Crowe, Greatbatch, Rutherford, RJ Hadlee, Bracewell, IDS Smith, Snedden, Morrison.

New Zealand: 1990
1136 1990 Nzl-Ind Win
1138 1990 Nzl-Ind Draw
1146 1990 Nzl-Eng Draw
Sri Lanka has had only one set of 11 players who have played in 3 Tests together.

Atapattu, Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, M Jayawardene, Tillekaratne, Samaraweera,
Arnold, Vaas, Fernando, Zoysa, Muralitharan.

Sri Lanka: 2001-02
1581 2001 Slk-Zim Win
1583 2002 Slk-Zim Win
1592 2002 Slk-Pak Win
Zimbabwe has had 5 sets of 11 players who have played in 2 Tests together. Bangladesh has had 3 sets of 11 players who have played in 2 Tests together.

To view an interesting note on the technical complexities in doing this analysis please, please click here. You might have to download/save and view.

At a future date I will do an analysis of lower number of players who have played together, starting with 2 players. That again is a tough analysis and requires different algorithms for each analysis.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on December 24, 2009, 4:37 GMT

    It is a good one. It will be interesting to see for the ODI and T20I. Is it possible to publish the source data and run the query of the web?

  • testli5504537 on December 23, 2009, 20:18 GMT

    I'm also surprised that 11 matches is the "record" for the same 11 players in a team. Just a quick query re the England results: the summary shows won four, drawn one and lost one. The list of results shows four wins and two draws.. Kind of leads on to the question of which team benefits the most from consistency of selection...

  • testli5504537 on December 23, 2009, 20:14 GMT

    I read somewhere that the much-touted pace quartet of Roberts/Holding/Garner/Marshall only played together for 6 Tests.

    The norm was for any three out of those four, with the fourth being a short-termer like Croft, Daniel, Baptiste, etc.

  • testli5504537 on December 21, 2009, 13:04 GMT

    Good stuff once again Ananth.

    I agree that the results are surprising. Not necessarily with who the teams are (ie 80s Windies, 00s Aussies etc) as you would expect winning teams to be more consistent.

    The suprising thing is the low numbers of matches and also the fact that the top 2 teams had worse than average results with their most Settled line ups.

    Also not surprising is that most examples are recent given the sheer volume of matches in the past 10 or 20 years. Previously, the lack of matches per year and the more "amateurish" selection policies would have had a big negative impact on consistency.

    I agree with Pankaj Joshi that the trend may well reverse in coming years, with the bigger emphasis on the shorter game.

    Finally, in reponse to Xolile, in the 122 matches they played together, Tendulkar has (just about) outscored Dravid 10245 runs to 10113, and also has a better average, 55.38 to 54.08

  • testli5504537 on December 21, 2009, 1:10 GMT

    Hi Ananth, Another Masterstroke from you...grt analysis & thanks for taking it up..With due respect to Aussies...heartening to see a list in which Aussies are not on top....but in honourable second..Interestng to note that for most countries, the same XI seems to have played in the same series...may be an evidence for reluctance to change winning combination..As mentioned correctly.. SAF is a well settled Test side now...if only the guys deliver the promise they are serious contenders to #1 spot in tests..If Sumant's analysis is also considered. #11 to #5 is dominated by WI and by Aussies... a reflection of their might...WI would be in the favourite list of any true cricket fan...it is fun to watch the guys who play with the best spirit..grt to see their fight in Aus last couple of weeks..After that #5-#2 dominated by most famous Indian middleorder along with the Gladiator - Kumble..If only India managed to find a grt Quickie(still hunting) India would hve achieved greater laurels [[ Sesha Thanks to you for asking a nice question. The 2-10 players' tables will be posted in the next few days. I will use Sumant's work. Ananth: ]]

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2009, 14:14 GMT

    Nice article, Ananth. Do you have plans to combine the analysis to get the stability of the teams? I mean, publishing list of tests for 11 test players, 10, 9 etc, doesn't give much insight. If you could do a weighted average of this, it would indicate the stability of the teams, right? (may be the timefactor also will pitch in). I'm wondering how this is related to the article S.Rajesh published sometime back in this blog. [[ Unni That is a good idea worth exploring further. For the time being I am going to post the basic tables. Once I complete the other huge analysis you know about I will look at this again to do a weighted analysis. Ananth: ]]

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2009, 2:37 GMT

    ananth,No I am not finding fault with your algorithm or passing adverse comments,I am merely saying that this is a simple way,I have just presented top3 for lack of space,I can give you the entire list as well by country basis,or on overall basis.The algorithm took about 2 mins to complete.I can see in your algorithm that you take something to do with squares of player id which is not required.Anyways I was just thinking aloud.Keep up the good work [[ Sumanth I use Excel for my personal database and for some rare needs (such as the Sehwag article in CastrolCricket.com) and am not wholly familiar with it. My methodology is to spend time on a notebook, do the preparatory work and then move on to a C program to process my proprietary database. There are many reasons. 1. I can do, virtually, anything by this method. 2. I save all the C programs and can re-use. 3. The reports come out in ordered tables which are the basis for my articles. 4. Adding further analysis bits is easy. For instance what Xolile has asked for, which is to compare the averages of the concerned set of 2 players. I would just have to add 10 lines of code. I am certain that your solution is the right method to do a one-off analysis and I like the thought process which has gone into it. But you are probably an Excel-wiz, which I am not. On the other hand, I can claim to be a C-wiz. Thanks for all your inputs. Ananth: ]]

  • testli5504537 on December 19, 2009, 20:13 GMT

    I saw the document you have uploaded about the complexity of finding this solution and I admire how much mathematical your approach is. But at the same time, there was perhaps, another approach to go about this. Assuming that you have a table with all test records, you could try programatically populating a table called TEST_PLAYER (say) with 11 fields, one for each player ID such that PLAYER_1_ID is always numerically less than PLAYER_2_ID and so on. Then, you could get your desired results by writing a simple SQL statement which groups tests by player IDs. The SQL would be:


    This solution could also help in getting 10-player combinations and so on by using SQLs with UNION clause across different 10 player combinations e.g. (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10), (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,11). I know this is a tedious approach My 2 cents [[ Akshay Pl see my reply to Sumant. Ananth: ]]

  • testli5504537 on December 19, 2009, 15:15 GMT

    Ananth, It would be very interesting to see who averaged more / scored more runs, Dravid or Tendulkar, in the 122 matches they played together. I suspect it's Dravid. [[ X Possible. Although it would be unwise to put any money on one since Dravid went through a bad patch after 2007. However his last 7 matches have yielded 800 runs at a high average. Tendulkar has maintained an average around 55 during the last 30 tests. One thing is certain. At the beginning of 2007 Dravid was 4 ahead of Tendulkar (58 vs 54). Now touch and go. Ananth: ]]

  • testli5504537 on December 19, 2009, 13:43 GMT

    Very thorough on the concept as always. These strings of a settled combination will now be more and more unlikely with injuries, IPL and indifference to Tests in the FTP.

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