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