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March 31, 2010

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The top players of the last 40 years

Anantha Narayanan

Jacques Kallis: a class act in Tests and ODIs, with bat and ball © AFP
This is the third article to round off the series I had undertaken to analyse the players who played ODIs and Tests. The first looked at the top batsmen and the second looked at the top bowlers. This one looks at the top players over these forty years, combining batting, bowling and fielding. The base for this analysis are the two earlier analysis. So detailed explanations will not be given.

The key points are mentioned below.

1. Tests and ODIs carry equal weight of 50 points. I do not subscribe to the view that ODIs should carry lower weight. Over the years the best players have demonstrated equal commitment and performed at the top level in both formats. It would be unfair to treat these two formats differently. Let me confess that I would never accord any form of T20 this equal status.

2. Batting and Bowling carry equal weight, (viz) 45 points each, i-e, 22.5 each for Tests and ODIs. There is a very important adjustment made on these to take care of the specialist players. This is explained below.

3. Fielding carries a weight of 10 points, split equally between Tests and ODIs. 5 points will be given for 500 dismissals in both formats. I know this will benefit the wicket-keepers. Let me say that that is the main purpose, to reward the most difficult of cricketing tasks.

4. In summary, the following adjustments are built in the batting and bowling analysis. This has been given to preempt questions on these.
- Period based adjustment for batting average and strike rate (for ODIs).
- Period based adjustment for bowling average and runs per over.
- Weighted bowler quality for batting and batsmen quality for bowling.
- Quality of wickets captured for bowling.
- Peer comparisons for batting average and strike rate (for ODIs).
- Peer comparisons for bowling average and runs per over.
- Team strengths incorporated in batting and bowling valuations.

6. For the Batting and Bowling analyses, I had set 1000 runs and 100 wickets as the cut-off levels. However I have to do it differently here as otherwise, great specialist players such as Lara and McGrath will miss out. Hence I have kept the cut-off at 20 Tests and 40 ODI matches respectively. The cut-off for ODIs is kept at a slightly lower level of 40 to take care of the early years when a player could play for 5 years and play only 40 matches.

5. Finally the very significant and major adjustment I have done to benefit the specialist players. This is essential since the all-rounders start with a built-in advantage, securing points on both. In fact before this adjustment, 17 of the top-20 were all-rounders. The adjustment methodology is explained below.

- First the total of unadjusted batting and bowling points are determined.
- The proportion of batting points out of this total of batting+bowling points is determined. If this proportion is less than 0.33, the player is deemed to be a specialist batsman (who might or might not bowl) and his batting points are adjusted by upto 12.5%. The 12.5% will be applicable for pure batsmen such as Hayden, Gilchrist, Dravid et al.
- The proportion of bowling points out of this total of batting+bowling points is determined. If this proportion is less than 0.33, the player is a specialist bowler (who could hold a bat almost always) and his bowling points are adjusted by upto 12.5%. There is a slight difference to batting in that the bowlers always bat and will never have zero batting points. The highest adjustment of around 9% is for bowlers who are very average batsmen such as Alderman, McGrath et al.
- This adjustment is done separately for Test matches and ODIs to take care of varying player performances. Tendulkar is only a "batsman who bowls" in Tests, with 44 wickets, but is almost an all-rounder in ODIs, with 154 wickets. Similarly there are bowlers who have performed as a batsman more effectively in ODIs than Tests.

Since the Australia-New Zealand Test finished early on the fifth day I was able to include that Test and make these the end-of-season analysis. The impact of the Test is that Ponting slipped down a place while Johnson and Ross Taylor moved up.

Let us look at the tables. There is so much data that it is impossible to present everything. Since most of the data has been presented and discussed in the previous two articles, only the player analysis related tables are presented here. The first table shows the total points and Test/ODI split.

SNo TotPts Player name        Cty    Test    ODIs

1. 60.80 Kallis J.H Saf 31.06 29.74 2. 57.42 Pollock S.M Saf 27.16 30.26 3. 56.96 Tendulkar S.R Ind 26.57 30.39 4. 55.30 Wasim Akram Pak 23.97 31.33 5. 55.17 Imran Khan Pak 28.10 27.07 6. 54.38 Kapil Dev N Ind 25.24 29.14 7. 53.48 Hadlee R.J Nzl 27.14 26.34 8. 52.83 Waugh S.R Aus 26.92 25.91 9. 52.12 Jayasuriya S.T Slk 21.50 30.62 10. 51.83 Richards I.V.A Win 23.17 28.66 11. 51.75 Botham I.T Eng 27.47 24.28 12. 50.65 Muralitharan M Slk 25.58 25.07 13. 49.59 Warne S.K Aus 26.67 22.92 14. 49.52 Cairns C.L Nzl 23.05 26.47 15. 49.09 Flintoff A Eng 21.66 27.43 16. 49.03 Border A.R Aus 25.86 23.17 17. 47.16 Hooper C.L Win 20.99 26.17 18. 47.09 Waugh M.E Aus 21.97 25.12 19. 46.68 Vettori D.L Nzl 21.68 24.99 20. 46.52 Chappell G.S Aus 23.94 22.58 21. 46.15 Vaas WPUJC Slk 20.46 25.69 22. 45.35 Sehwag V Ind 20.49 24.86 23. 45.28 Gayle C.H Win 18.79 26.49 24. 45.27 Ponting R.T Aus 24.11 21.16 25. 44.97 Gilchrist A.C Aus 20.92 24.05 26. 44.27 Lara B.C Win 24.54 19.73 27. 44.10 Waqar Younis Pak 20.38 23.72 28. 43.82 Marshall M.D Win 24.10 19.72 29. 43.40 Ganguly S.C Ind 18.12 25.28 30. 43.15 Shahid Afridi Pak 14.74 28.40

Kallis sits at the top of this collection of outstanding players on merit. His status as an all-rounder par excellence is fully justified. A self-effacing performer, it is difficult to think of a single match in which he has not performed in one area or other. In international matches his tally of 21456 runs, 512 wickets and 255 catches is unlikely to be surpassed ever. As far as runs/wkts against average opposition teams, let me remind the readers of two things. One is that an adjustment has been made for the team quality. Sceond is that almost every top player, at one time or other would have got some relatively easy runs/wkts.

If there is a surprise at the second-placed player, it will only be an indication of the quiet manner in which the unheralded Shaun Pollock has performed in the international scene. And if there is a criticism of this high placing it will only be in the minds of the biased and partisan. In international matches his tally of 7300 runs, 814 wickets and 168 catches is an indication of his outstanding skills. His bowling average is either side of 24 in the two forms of the game. He Test batting average of 32.32 is higher than that of many an established Test batsman.

Tendulkar is next. What does one say of this great player, inarguably amongst the three greatest players of all time in anyone's book. How can a guy be so good in whatever he does. The best in many batting milestones, no mean bowler in ODIs and helped in Tests by the specialist player adjustment. That his still-increasing tally of international 31045 runs will remain forever the Everest to be scaled, like the 19-wickets capture of Laker, is undisputed. To boot, 188 wickets and 226 catches. Finally how can such a great player be so unaffected by success and adulation. A fairly dubious ball-tampering charge remains the single grey-mark in 21 years of playing at the top level.

Now come two Pakistani great players. First Wasim Akram, among the greatest left-handed bowlers of all time and a fearless attacking batsman. He overcame personal health problems with such a level of performance that he should be a role model for any aspiring sportsman. His international tally stands at 6615 runs, 916 wickets and 119 catches. Undoubtedly a candidate for the best ever left-handed all-rounder.

Then the charismatic Imran Khan. His batting only suffers in comparison to his bowling. His bowling performance against India in the series is among the best ever in the sub-continent. He missed over 15 Tests as a bowler, otherwise he would be placed higher. And let us not forget that his captaincy record is outside the scope of this analysis. His numbers stand at 7516 runs, 544 wickets and 63 catches.

The top-10 list is completed by Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee, Steve Waugh, Jayasuriya and Viv Richards. One could argue on the relative placements. However these ten are among the best players of all time.

Two each from South Africa, Pakistan, India and one each from Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and West Indies comprise the top-10.

Just outside the top-10 are Muralitharan and Warne. Many a specialist great player like Lara, McGrath, Dravid, Gilchrist, Kumble et al are outside the top-10, but in the top-30. This is understandable and should be accepted by all. After all we are talking about players, not batsmen or bowlers.

To view/download the complete table list, please click/right-click here and save the file.

Now for three more support tables. First the table showing the total points, split into batting, bowling and fielding.

SNo TotPts Player name        Cty    Bat     Bow    Fld

1. 60.80 Kallis J.H Saf 35.54 22.71 2.55 2. 57.42 Pollock S.M Saf 23.22 32.53 1.68 3. 56.96 Tendulkar S.R Ind 43.74 10.96 2.26 4. 55.30 Wasim Akram Pak 20.42 33.69 1.19 5. 55.17 Imran Khan Pak 25.33 29.21 0.63 6. 54.38 Kapil Dev N Ind 25.52 27.59 1.27 7. 53.48 Hadlee R.J Nzl 21.08 31.77 0.63 8. 52.83 Waugh S.R Aus 34.36 16.29 2.18 9. 52.12 Jayasuriya S.T Slk 31.08 19.21 1.83 10. 51.83 Richards I.V.A Win 38.07 11.66 2.10 11. 51.75 Botham I.T Eng 24.55 25.70 1.50 12. 50.65 Muralitharan M Slk 7.88 41.11 1.66 13. 49.59 Warne S.K Aus 13.48 34.21 1.90 14. 49.52 Cairns C.L Nzl 25.06 23.69 0.77 15. 49.09 Flintoff A Eng 24.21 23.94 0.94 16. 49.03 Border A.R Aus 35.34 11.01 2.68 17. 47.16 Hooper C.L Win 27.63 17.35 2.17 18. 47.09 Waugh M.E Aus 32.18 12.08 2.83 19. 46.68 Vettori D.L Nzl 20.90 24.61 1.17 20. 46.52 Chappell G.S Aus 33.52 11.57 1.43 21. 46.15 Vaas WPUJC Slk 17.24 28.12 0.78 22. 45.35 Sehwag V Ind 34.76 9.23 1.36 23. 45.28 Gayle C.H Win 28.97 14.66 1.66 24. 45.27 Ponting R.T Aus 41.82 0.28 3.17 25. 44.97 Gilchrist A.C Aus 36.07 0.00 8.90 26. 44.27 Lara B.C Win 41.43 0.00 2.84 27. 44.10 Waqar Younis Pak 10.20 33.41 0.49 28. 43.82 Marshall M.D Win 13.36 30.10 0.36 29. 43.40 Ganguly S.C Ind 31.53 10.18 1.69 30. 43.15 Shahid Afridi Pak 26.69 15.53 0.93

To view/download the complete table, please click/right-click here and save the file.

Now for the second support table. This shows the base numbers in terms of Test matches, runs, wickets, catches and averages.

SNo  Player name        Cty Mat  Runs   Avge Wkts   Avge Ct/S

1. Kallis J.H Saf 137 10843 (54.76) 261 (31.56) 156 2. Pollock S.M Saf 108 3781 (32.32) 421 (23.12) 72 3. Tendulkar S.R Ind 166 13447 (55.57) 44 (52.27) 104 4. Wasim Akram Pak 104 2898 (22.64) 414 (23.62) 43 5. Imran Khan Pak 88 3807 (37.69) 362 (22.81) 28 6. Kapil Dev N Ind 131 5248 (31.05) 434 (29.65) 64 7. Hadlee R.J Nzl 86 3124 (27.17) 431 (22.30) 39 8. Waugh S.R Aus 168 10927 (51.06) 92 (37.45) 112 9. Jayasuriya S.T Slk 110 6973 (40.07) 98 (34.35) 78 10. Richards I.V.A Win 121 8540 (50.24) 32 (61.38) 122 11. Botham I.T Eng 102 5200 (33.55) 383 (28.40) 120 12. Muralitharan M Slk 132 1256 (11.63) 792 (22.71) 72 13. Warne S.K Aus 145 3154 (17.33) 708 (25.42) 125 14. Cairns C.L Nzl 62 3320 (33.54) 218 (29.40) 14 15. Flintoff A Eng 79 3845 (31.78) 226 (32.79) 52

To view/download the complete table, please click/right-click here and save the file.

And the third support table. This shows the base numbers in terms of ODI matches, runs, wickets, catches, averages and strike rates.

SNo  Player name      Cty Mat  Runs   Avge- StRt Wkts   Avge-RpO Ct/S

1. Kallis J.H Saf 298 10613 (45.75- 72.4) 251 (32.01-4.8) 99 2. Pollock S.M Saf 303 3519 (26.46- 86.7) 393 (24.51-3.7) 96 3. Tendulkar S.R Ind 442 17598 (45.12- 86.3) 154 (44.30-5.1) 122 4. Wasim Akram Pak 356 3717 (16.52- 88.3) 502 (23.53-3.9) 76 5. Imran Khan Pak 175 3709 (33.41- 72.7) 182 (26.62-3.9) 35 6. Kapil Dev N Ind 225 3783 (23.79- 95.1) 253 (27.45-3.7) 63 7. Hadlee R.J Nzl 115 1751 (21.62- 75.5) 158 (21.56-3.3) 24 8. Waugh S.R Aus 325 7569 (32.91- 75.9) 195 (34.51-4.6) 106 9. Jayasuriya S.T Slk 443 13428 (32.43- 91.2) 322 (36.71-4.8) 105 10. Richards I.V.A Win 187 6721 (47.00- 90.2) 118 (35.83-4.5) 88 11. Botham I.T Eng 116 2113 (23.22- 79.1) 145 (28.54-4.0) 30 12. Muralitharan M Slk 327 660 ( 6.80- 76.7) 505 (22.74-3.9) 94 13. Warne S.K Aus 194 1018 (13.05- 72.0) 293 (25.73-4.3) 65 14. Cairns C.L Nzl 215 4950 (29.46- 84.3) 201 (32.81-4.8) 63 15. Flintoff A Eng 141 3394 (32.02- 88.8) 169 (24.38-4.4) 42

To view/download the complete table, please click/right-click here and save the file.

A few requests to the readers.

1. Pl check the complete table by viewing/downloading the link before rushing off with questions like "Where is Zaheer Khan" or "I don't see Javed Miandad".
2. Look at this as a list of great players. Apply the "Best amongst equals" philosophy. The best batsman/bowler need not be the best player and vice versa. Here all facets of the game are considered.
3. In your anxiety to push up your favourite player, do not pull down other players or countries. There are blogs and websites for that sort of diatribe. Not in this site or blog, though.
4. The usual request. Do not insult me, a fellow contributor, a fellow reader, any player or another country. Disagree with anything, but in a nice and cultured manner.
5. And finally, without clearly reading and understanding the article, please do not make statements like "Abc greater than Xyz. How can it be". It can be because of the numbers.

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 Murtaza on (October 3, 2010, 14:24 GMT)

"Akram above Imran " Some people are surprised, but not me just look Akram`s bowling Evg. is 23.53 ahead of Imran┬┤s 26.62 in lot of matches. Both Imran and Wasim are my heroes, I am happy that they are in top 10. some people just thinking about #1 and #2..... look at botham he one the best all rounder in the world but he is at #11. so please accepet the fact

Posted by mohanlal on (May 1, 2010, 20:39 GMT)

sir, again a great insightful analysis.But 1 or 2 things surprises.Akram above Imran surprised.But what pleasantly concluded favourably most was the narrowness in both marks and ranks between Imran and Kapil.Had seen lot of opinions in several forums where Imran was highlighted as the clear leader among the 2.But I always thought if longevity, better bowling in one days,huge str: rate in both tests and one days , much better over all fielder etc etc taken into account, the gap would considerably decrease.Ditto !!! Your analysis have proved just that. Also Sachin towering over a lot of genuine allrounders speaks volumes about his numerous qualities that makes him such a phenomenon that he is.

Posted by mark adams on (April 28, 2010, 4:07 GMT)

At last Hooper's contribution to West Indies and indeed world cricket has been acknowledged. There had to be a reason why people of every major cricketing country turned up to see him perform. A testimony to being "a fine cricketer" as E.De Weekes stated. Too much is made of, this and that great bowler or batsman or wicketkeeper. It makes perfect sense to consider the top player a less subjective option than a "who's the greatest" one dimensional cricketer. ."

Posted by William BISHOP on (April 11, 2010, 0:27 GMT)

you people cant be serious about kallis being top of the list .kallis usually start to draw amatch from day one.For kallis to score a double century,he would have to bat three days and a half.if the master Sachin and other players like Lara,Sehwag,Hayden and Pointing batted not to get out like kallis and boycott,they would have all pass 20,000 runs in test.

Posted by marees on (April 6, 2010, 21:06 GMT)

on second thoughts, I begin to appreciate the CSK strategy and how it leads to team balance. Imagine Kapil missed only 1 test due to Injury and in all those matches India had the luxury of an extra pure bowler or pure batsman as per the strategic/tactical requirements

So can I say this list is about obtaining consistency in selection for all conditions. That way Hooper makes more sense than Lara or Ambrose.

Posted by marees on (April 6, 2010, 21:00 GMT)

I am trying to make sense of this "Top Players" and "First among Equals" phrases and the list. Still doesn't make sense to me. Outlier seems to be more intuitive now.

Only thing that is clear is Chennai Super Kings would fight to have such all-round players in their team - and a Bollinger conclusiely proves the Mistake of this strategy.

Posted by Kartik (the original one) on (April 4, 2010, 8:04 GMT)

Boll,

can only assume that these tables have also confirmed the ODI mediocrity of lightweights such as Joel Garner, Glenn McGrath, Brian Lara, Matt Hayden, Inzy and Javed -

Yes, none of them are all-rounders. Why does their low ranking on this table surprise you? How many Test centuries have Garner or McGrath hit? How many ODI 4WMs have Inzi, Lara, or Miandad taken?

I suspect you don't actually understand what this analysis really is.

You are more interested in arguing, than anything else. You might be on the wrong cricinfo blog..

Posted by Xolile on (April 4, 2010, 7:42 GMT)

@ Ananth

If you come up with a MoM algorithm you could also go back an assess matches played before MoM was awarded (circa 1970). You could also award 2nd and 3rd place awards, and then compile something similar to an Olympic medals table.

Take Ponting for example. He only got MoM 1 out of 21 attempts against SA and 1 out of 23 attempts against India. But he often was the main supporting act behind Warne and McGrath. So by looking at 2nd and 3rd we would see a more complete picture.

As for making peace with Boll I agree. There certainly is no point in having a delayed argument with an English teacher sitting halfway around the world.

Posted by Boll on (April 3, 2010, 12:42 GMT)

Absolutely Your Honour - olive branch from Japan (via Australia) extended. [[ Boll I am the umpire rather than the judge !!! Ananth: ]]

Posted by Boll on (April 3, 2010, 12:36 GMT)

@kartik. I can only assume that these tables have also confirmed the ODI mediocrity of lightweights such as Joel Garner, Glenn McGrath, Brian Lara, Matt Hayden, Inzy and Javed - all rated below the current Australian captain in this analysis. Alternatively, check your dictionary.

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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