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August 10, 2010

Tests - bowling

The fearsome fifteen: a look at the great bowlers

Anantha Narayanan
Muralitharan: statistically the best bowler  © AFP
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As I had mentioned in my recent article on Muralitharan, this is the right time to have an in-depth look at the great bowlers of our times and before. We have just seen the retirement of one of the all-time great bowlers and the next active bowler is, in Formula-1 parlance, three laps behind.

I have selected the following fifteen bowlers for analysis. Readers might have their own favourites. However I believe that this collection contains the best ever bowlers, barring personal preferences. I have also tried hard to have as wide a selection as possible, covering all the major test playing countries. I did a Test bowlers analysis last year. However this one has removed all the warts from that and is also at the career-end stage for all the fifteen bowlers. I have a major advantage in doing this analysis. Since the analysis is limited to 15 bowlers, I do not need to worry about the wide disparity which existed between around 60 bowlers who were part of my previous analysis.

Australia:      Shane Warne
Glenn McGrath
Dennis Lillee
West Indies:    Malcolm Marshall
Curtley Ambrose
Joel Garner
Pakistan:       Imran Khan
Wasim Akram
Waqar Younis
India           Anil Kumble
Kapil Dev
Sri Lanka:      Muralitharan
New Zealand:    Richard Hadlee
South Africa:   Allan Donald
England:        Fred Trueman.

A few notes on the selections. I did not select any pre-WW2 bowlers since their figures would have distorted the numbers considerably, especially Sydney Barnes. The three Australian bowlers select themselves. For West Indies I selected their three best bowlers over the past 30 years. Holding for Garner could be an option. However Garner has a bowling average of 20.98 against Holding's 23.69. First I had selected only Imran Khan and Wasim Akram for Pakistan. Then I realized that Waqar Younis led in one key measure (strike rate) and there was no way could miss him. I did not want to drop Wasim Akram since he is the only left-hander in this group.

Kumble selects himself while Kapil Dev, although he has average overall figures deserves a place since he was the leading wicket-taker for quite some time and changed the face of Indian fast bowling. Shaun Pollock is the only one who could challenge Donald's place. I selected Fred Trueman to represent the period between 1947 and 1969. He is also the best modern English bowler. I also followed the basic principle that any bowler who was the best in a key category (wkts/strike rate/rpo) cannot be left out. One could find justifications for including Walsh, Holding, Shaun Pollock, Willis et al. However this is my selection and not a bad one at that. Let me also add that this is not necessarily the top bowlers list. I am sure Holding, Roberts, Pollock et al would be placed higher than a few in this list. However I wanted to have as wide a representation as possible and restricted one country to 3 bowlers.

Now for the measures on which the rating work is done. First let me clarify two fundamental differences to the way I have done such exercises before.

The first is that I have selected ten measures and given equal weight to all. That way I reduce the chances of subjective valuations.

The next is that for each measure, the best gets the maximum points, viz., 10.0 and the others get proportionate points. This reduces the possibility of differential weights and ensures a fair allocation of points.

The following measures are used.

1. Wickets captured.
2. Bowling strike rate (Bpw).
3. Bowling accuracy (Rpo).
(These two are components of the Bowling average, but have been considered
independently).
4. Quality of wickets captured (Average of dismissed batsmen's batting averages)
5. Away bowling average.
6. % of top order wickets captured.
7. Team load borne by bowler (balls bowled and wickets captured).
8. Ratio of bowling average to peer bowling average - all teams.
9. Ratio of bowling average to peer bowling average - other bowlers of own team.
10.Win index (Combination of two ratios)- (% of win wickets to career wickets
and % of win wickets to team win wickets).

Just to summarize, Muralitharan leads in 2 measures (Wickets and Team load factor). The other 8 measures are led by Ambrose (RpO), Garner (Away bowling average), Imran Khan (Dismissed batsman quality), Waqar Younis (Bowling strike rate), Marshall (Peer comparison to all bowlers), Hadlee (Peer comparison to own team bowlers), McGrath (Top order wickets ratio) and Warne (Win index). A very fair distribution of the top positions with nine bowlers leading in one or more measures. There is no domination by one bowler.

There is one point worth mentioning here. There have been a number of comments about the wickets captured by Muralitharan against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. I have thought long and hard and decided not to do anything about it. What is the definition of a weak team. India against Trueman in 1952 were much worse than Bangladesh against Muralitharan. England in 1984 were the rabbits against Marshall. How do we value the English wickets against Australia in 2006. It pains me to say this, what about Pakistan during the past few months. And finally where do we place Sri Lanka itself during its first 10 years. Let us not forget that Warne did not bowl against the strong Australian batsmen, nor Kumble against the great Indian line-up and so on. However the fact that the bowlers in the strong batting lineups did not bowl against their own lineups does not make them any less bowlers. Let Muralitharan not get penalized for playing in a weaker team.

If Muralitharan captured wickets against a team including the Flower brothers, Campbell and Goodwin, how can anyone downgrade these wickets. Where do we draw the line. A test wicket is a test wicket. There are enough measures built in to take care of wickets of batsmen of lower quality. If we start down-valuing performances against Bangladesh, what about Tendulkar's recent 105 out of 243, one of his best ever. For that matter, Gilchrist's 144 or Inzamam's 138 were all truly great match-winning innings. So let us put to rest this red herring, once and for all.

A final point to ponder for those doubting Thomases. Zimbabwe have won 8 of their 83 tests played. India won 8 out of their first 83 tests and New Zealand won 4 of their first 83 tests. Nice to remember that the first away test India won was past the 100th test they played (during 1968). Both Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have won away tests well before this number.

I understand that this analysis favours the fast bowlers slightly. This is primarily because fast bowlers' strike rates are lower and they have a better chance of capturing top order wickets. However we have to consider the contribution to team causes and taking top order wickets and having lower strike rates are very essential to the team cause. As far as Strike rates and Rpo are concerned there is no need to do any adjustment since these are all great bowlers. Only two of these bowlers, Kumble and Kapil Dev have strike rates exceeding 60. Muralitharan and Warne have strike rates comparable to the pace bowlers. Surprisingly the bowler with the best Rpo figure is Ambrose. This clearly shows that there is no need to do any special adjustment.

Now for the tables.

1. Career wickets captured

Bowler            Value   Points

Muralitharan M 800 10.00 Warne S.K 708 8.85 Kumble A 619 7.74 McGrath G.D 563 7.04 Kapil Dev N 434 5.43 Hadlee R.J 431 5.39 Wasim Akram 414 5.18 Ambrose C.E.L 405 5.06 Marshall M.D 376 4.70 Waqar Younis 373 4.66 Imran Khan 362 4.53 Lillee D.K 355 4.44 Donald A.A 330 4.12 Trueman F.S 307 3.84 Garner J 259 3.24

This table is self-explanatory.

2. Bowling strike rate (Bpw)

Bowler            Value   Points

Waqar Younis 43.49 10.00 Marshall M.D 46.77 9.30 Donald A.A 47.03 9.24 Trueman F.S 49.44 8.72 Hadlee R.J 50.85 8.42 Garner J 50.87 8.41 McGrath G.D 51.95 8.18 Lillee D.K 52.02 8.17 Imran Khan 53.75 7.79 Ambrose C.E.L 54.58 7.62 Wasim Akram 54.66 7.60 Muralitharan M 55.05 7.52 Warne S.K 57.49 6.99 Kapil Dev N 63.92 5.61 Kumble A 66.00 5.16

Waqar Younis is the bowler with the lowest strike rate. It is not surprising to see that the three spinners and Kapil Dev prop up the table, although Muralitharan and Warne are not too far from Wasim Akram.

3. Bowling accuracy (Rpo)

Bowler            Value   Points

Ambrose C.E.L 2.31 10.00 Garner J 2.47 9.12 Muralitharan M 2.48 9.10 McGrath G.D 2.50 8.98 Imran Khan 2.55 8.74 Wasim Akram 2.59 8.49 Trueman F.S 2.62 8.35 Hadlee R.J 2.63 8.29 Warne S.K 2.65 8.18 Marshall M.D 2.69 7.99 Kumble A 2.70 7.95 Lillee D.K 2.76 7.61 Kapil Dev N 2.78 7.49 Donald A.A 2.84 7.19 Waqar Younis 3.25 5.02

One would have expected a spinner like Murali to head this table. It is a surprise that the often-underrated Ambrose is on top with a Rpo value of 2.31. Waqar Younis has topped the previous table and is propping up this table.

4. Average quality of wickets captured

Bowler            Value   Points

Imran Khan 25.76 10.00 Lillee D.K 24.58 9.54 Kapil Dev N 23.83 9.25 Hadlee R.J 23.64 9.18 Marshall M.D 22.97 8.92 Garner J 22.18 8.61 Kumble A 20.51 7.96 Waqar Younis 20.34 7.89 Muralitharan M 20.27 7.87 Donald A.A 20.06 7.79 Ambrose C.E.L 20.01 7.77 Wasim Akram 19.56 7.59 McGrath G.D 19.22 7.46 Warne S.K 18.48 7.17 Trueman F.S 17.80 6.91

Imran Khan's wickets were of high quality as proved by his high placing here. Warne's and McGrath's low placing is the result of many late order wickets and the fact that they played for a very strong batting lineup. Muralitharan is also pulled down by the number of wickets against the weaker teams. However his figures are still higher than those of Warne.

5. Away wicket bowling average

Bowler            Value   Points

Garner J 20.33 10.00 Ambrose C.E.L 20.39 9.98 McGrath G.D 21.23 9.70 Marshall M.D 22.25 9.35 Hadlee R.J 22.37 9.31 Donald A.A 23.51 8.93 Wasim Akram 23.97 8.77 Lillee D.K 24.18 8.70 Warne S.K 25.27 8.33 Trueman F.S 26.16 8.04 Imran Khan 26.29 7.99 Waqar Younis 26.29 7.99 Muralitharan M 27.02 7.74 Kapil Dev N 32.69 5.83 Kumble A 37.36 4.26

Garner has captured his away wickets at an incredible average of 20.33, closely followed by Ambrose with an away average of 20.39. In fact Garner, Ambrose, McGrath and Warne have an away bowling average which is better than their home bowling average. Kumble's away bowling average was abysmal. Look at the huge daylight which exists between Murali and Kapil/Kumble.

6. % of top order wickets captured

Bowler            Value   Points

McGrath G.D 0.501 10.00 Donald A.A 0.497 9.92 Kapil Dev N 0.494 9.84 Ambrose C.E.L 0.475 9.46 Lillee D.K 0.468 9.33 Imran Khan 0.462 9.21 Trueman F.S 0.453 9.04 Marshall M.D 0.445 8.87 Hadlee R.J 0.439 8.75 Waqar Younis 0.437 8.72 Garner J 0.406 8.09 Wasim Akram 0.394 7.86 Kumble A 0.383 7.64 Muralitharan M 0.350 6.99 Warne S.K 0.318 6.35

Just over half of the wickets captured by McGrath are top order wickets. The three spinners prop up the table, with figures around a third of the total wickets. This is to be expected.

7. % of team load borne

Bowler            Value   Points

Muralitharan M 0.361 10.00 Hadlee R.J 0.298 8.26 Kumble A 0.296 8.21 Warne S.K 0.281 7.77 Lillee D.K 0.275 7.62 Imran Khan 0.267 7.40 Donald A.A 0.253 7.01 Wasim Akram 0.250 6.92 Marshall M.D 0.249 6.89 McGrath G.D 0.247 6.85 Ambrose C.E.L 0.244 6.76 Garner J 0.243 6.74 Trueman F.S 0.242 6.71 Waqar Younis 0.239 6.63 Kapil Dev N 0.222 6.14

This is a composite value taking into account the work load in terms of balls bowled and the resultant wicket captures. Muralitharan is way out on top having shared captured 39% of his team wickets and bowling 33% of his team balls. 6 of the pace bowlers fall below 25%.

8. Peer comparison of average to all peer bowlers

Bowler            Value   Points

Marshall M.D 1.550 10.00 McGrath G.D 1.527 9.84 Ambrose C.E.L 1.514 9.76 Garner J 1.509 9.73 Muralitharan M 1.478 9.53 Hadlee R.J 1.447 9.33 Trueman F.S 1.435 9.25 Donald A.A 1.433 9.24 Imran Khan 1.410 9.09 Waqar Younis 1.363 8.79 Wasim Akram 1.361 8.77 Lillee D.K 1.332 8.59 Warne S.K 1.295 8.35 Kumble A 1.107 7.14 Kapil Dev N 1.085 7.00

This is a comparison of the bowler's bowling average with that of his peers, exactly measured from his first test to last test. Marshall, McGrath and Ambrose stand at over 150%. Kumble and Kapil Dev just about stay either side of 110%.

9. Peer comparison of average to own team peer bowlers

Bowler            Value   Points

Hadlee R.J 1.534 10.00 Muralitharan M 1.418 9.25 Imran Khan 1.377 8.98 Ambrose C.E.L 1.233 8.04 Donald A.A 1.197 7.80 Lillee D.K 1.188 7.74 Kapil Dev N 1.181 7.70 Marshall M.D 1.170 7.63 Trueman F.S 1.169 7.62 Garner J 1.156 7.54 Wasim Akram 1.151 7.51 McGrath G.D 1.149 7.49 Kumble A 1.125 7.33 Waqar Younis 1.123 7.32 Warne S.K 1.017 6.63

This is a comparison of the bowler's bowling average with that of his peers, from his own team, exactly measured from his first test to last test. As expected, the two so called weak-team bowlers, Hadlee and Murali are on top, Hadlee exceeding 150%. Warne just about goes past 100%, which is understandable. A surprise is Kumble's somewhat low figure. This is a reflection of Kumble's somewhat high bowling average nearing 30. This is not too different from his contemporary bowlers.

10. Performance in won matches

Bowler            Value   Points

Warne S.K 0.500 10.00 McGrath G.D 0.492 9.84 Marshall M.D 0.486 9.73 Muralitharan M 0.477 9.54 Lillee D.K 0.451 9.01 Waqar Younis 0.440 8.81 Donald A.A 0.426 8.51 Trueman F.S 0.419 8.38 Ambrose C.E.L 0.414 8.27 Kumble A 0.401 8.01 Hadlee R.J 0.398 7.96 Garner J 0.393 7.86 Wasim Akram 0.384 7.68 Imran Khan 0.364 7.27 Kapil Dev N 0.198 3.96

This is done by doing a composite calculation involving two ratios. The first is the ratio of the bowler wickets in won matches with his own career wickets. The other is the ratio of the bowler wickets in won matches against the team wickets in won matches. This rewards success and as expected, Warne and McGrath lead the pack. Not so surprisingly Kapil Dev is last, indicating that the Indian wins were probably crafted by the spinners during Kapil's era. The presence of Hadlee, Akram, Imran and Kapil in the last five also indicates that their contributions to their team wins was also with the bat. These four are the best batsmen in this elite group of bowlers.

Now for the summary table.

Total  Wkts BowSR  RpO  WkQty AwAvg TORto  TmLd Peer1 Peer2 WinId

Muralitharan M 87.54 10.00 7.52 9.10 7.87 7.74 6.99 10.00 9.53 9.25 9.54 McGrath G.D 85.38 7.04 8.18 8.98 7.46 9.70 10.00 6.85 9.84 7.49 9.84 Hadlee R.J 84.89 5.39 8.42 8.29 9.18 9.31 8.75 8.26 9.33 10.00 7.96 Marshall M.D 83.36 4.70 9.30 7.99 8.92 9.35 8.87 6.89 10.00 7.63 9.73 Ambrose C.E.L 82.72 5.06 7.62 10.00 7.77 9.98 9.46 6.76 9.76 8.04 8.27

Imran Khan 81.00 4.53 7.79 8.74 10.00 7.99 9.21 7.40 9.09 8.98 7.27 Lillee D.K 80.76 4.44 8.17 7.61 9.54 8.70 9.33 7.62 8.59 7.74 9.01 Donald A.A 79.75 4.12 9.24 7.19 7.79 8.93 9.92 7.01 9.24 7.80 8.51 Garner J 79.34 3.24 8.41 9.12 8.61 10.00 8.09 6.74 9.73 7.54 7.86 Warne S.K 78.63 8.85 6.99 8.18 7.17 8.33 6.35 7.77 8.35 6.63 10.00

Trueman F.S 76.86 3.84 8.72 8.35 6.91 8.04 9.04 6.71 9.25 7.62 8.38 Wasim Akram 76.37 5.18 7.60 8.49 7.59 8.77 7.86 6.92 8.77 7.51 7.68 Waqar Younis 75.84 4.66 10.00 5.02 7.89 7.99 8.72 6.63 8.79 7.32 8.81 Kumble A 71.40 7.74 5.16 7.95 7.96 4.26 7.64 8.21 7.14 7.33 8.01 Kapil Dev N 68.24 5.43 5.61 7.49 9.25 5.83 9.84 6.14 7.00 7.70 3.96

It does not matter which route is taken, be it the high road or low road, be it the country road or the highway, be it the scenic route or the road through the concrete jungle, there is only one destination. The one which proclaims Muralitharan as the best amongst the equals. Let no one forget the X-factor here, the impact Muralitharan has had on Sri Lankan cricket. Glenn McGrath comes in next, a well-deserved place for this outstanding metronome. Richard Hadlee, the legendary fast bowler from down under clocks in the third position. Malcolm Marshall, that fearsome Bajan fast bowling "giant" is in fourth position, closely followed by the other Caribbean giant, this time physically also, Curtley Ambrose.

Imran Khan follows next, a well-deserved position for this wonderful bowler, batsman and born leader of men, despite playing in quite a few tests as a batsman. Dennis Lillee, one of the all-time greats, follows next. He is the highest placed bowler who does not lead in any category. Alan Donald is in seventh position, closely followed by the other West Indian giant, Joel Garner. Now comes Shane Warne, a well-deserved top-10 position for this magician.

The third section of the table is led by the fiery Englishman, Trueman. Now we have arguably the best fast bowling pair ever, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, paired together here also. The two Indian bowlers come in next. First, Anil Kumble, whose contributions to Indian cricket can be matched by only one player, the little master. One could say the same of Kapil Dev. The fact that these two Indian stalwarts come in at the end indicates that India has traditionally relied on its batting. However these two are definitely India's best bowlers ever.

Postscript:

In response to the readers' requests I have added Holding, Botham, Underwood and Shaun Pollock (my choice) and presented the revised table below. Surprisingly, it is Shaun pollock who comes into the table in the 11th position, followed by Holding in 12th position. Underwood comes in the 16th position and is followed by Botham.

I have since added Gibbs and Walsh in response to a few readers' requests. They have not exactly moved the world. Walsh splits the Pakistani pair while Gibbs has taken over the last place from Kapil dev. I have steadfastly not included SF Barnes since he changes the whole dynamics since he leads in couple of meaasures. This rounds off such requests.

Total  Wkts BowSR  RpO  WkQty AwAvg TORto  TmLd Peer1 Peer2 WinId

Muralitharan M 87.54 10.00 7.52 9.10 7.87 7.74 6.99 10.00 9.53 9.25 9.54 McGrath G.D 85.38 7.04 8.18 8.98 7.46 9.70 10.00 6.85 9.84 7.49 9.84 Hadlee R.J 84.89 5.39 8.42 8.29 9.18 9.31 8.75 8.26 9.33 10.00 7.96 Marshall M.D 83.36 4.70 9.30 7.99 8.92 9.35 8.87 6.89 10.00 7.63 9.73 Ambrose C.E.L 82.72 5.06 7.62 10.00 7.77 9.98 9.46 6.76 9.76 8.04 8.27 Imran Khan 81.00 4.53 7.79 8.74 10.00 7.99 9.21 7.40 9.09 8.98 7.27 Lillee D.K 80.76 4.44 8.17 7.61 9.54 8.70 9.33 7.62 8.59 7.74 9.01 Donald A.A 79.75 4.12 9.24 7.19 7.79 8.93 9.92 7.01 9.24 7.80 8.51 Garner J 79.34 3.24 8.41 9.12 8.61 10.00 8.09 6.74 9.73 7.54 7.86 Warne S.K 78.63 8.85 6.99 8.18 7.17 8.33 6.35 7.77 8.35 6.63 10.00 Pollock S.M 78.05 5.26 6.91 9.52 7.86 8.21 8.82 6.42 9.28 8.18 7.58 Holding M.A 77.60 3.11 8.40 7.45 9.81 9.19 9.14 6.37 8.59 6.95 8.58 Trueman F.S 76.86 3.84 8.72 8.35 6.91 8.04 9.04 6.71 9.25 7.62 8.38 Wasim Akram 76.37 5.18 7.60 8.49 7.59 8.77 7.86 6.92 8.77 7.51 7.68 Walsh C.A 76.07 6.49 6.91 8.80 8.02 8.20 8.77 6.59 8.42 6.94 6.92 Waqar Younis 75.84 4.66 10.00 5.02 7.89 7.99 8.72 6.63 8.79 7.32 8.81 Underwood D.L 71.74 3.71 3.52 11.06 8.97 7.62 8.34 6.59 7.78 7.71 6.43 Kumble A 71.40 7.74 5.16 7.95 7.96 4.26 7.64 8.21 7.14 7.33 8.01 Botham I.T 70.06 4.79 7.10 6.38 8.76 7.08 8.08 6.67 7.24 6.84 7.11 Kapil Dev N 68.24 5.43 5.61 7.49 9.25 5.83 9.84 6.14 7.00 7.70 3.96 Gibbs L.R 65.08 3.86 0.48 11.68 7.79 6.30 6.33 7.00 7.12 6.94 7.57

One final request. Please restrict yourself to comments relevant to the article.

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 Harsh Thakor on (August 31, 2010, 19:09 GMT)

It is a great effort ,Anantha but I am still convinced that mere statistics does not tell the true story.In the fast bolwing section I would still rate Marshall and Lillee the greatest.They were more agressive than any of the great fast bowlers,with great versatality,considerable speed and ability to intimidate the opposition in alltypes of conditions.Marshall's incredible strike rate at such a low cost,while Lillee's fantastic rate of 5 wickets per test are statistical evidence that suppport it.Adding the Packer and Rest of the World Series would have reflected his greatness more accurately.Mcgrath and Hadlee had greater control,but were not as versatile or menacing in all conditions than Lillee or Marshall.Imran,a great match-winner did not posess Lillee's repertoire or Marshall's unpredicatability.Statistics does injustice to Andy Roberts,morally the greatest rival to Marshall and Lillee,who was rated by opponents to have been the best paceman of his day.

Posted by Meety on (August 31, 2010, 6:36 GMT)

Interesting read. I haven't read all the comments but I was wondering what you think about the sugestion that the the best and worse score gets dropped? (Like in Olympic judging) - just interested to see what it throws up - I think it would make Murali's gap larger & bring Lillee up the list? [[ Andrew I will have to buy additional insurance if I drop the best performance. In Olympics this is done to cater to biased judging. Here great performances have to be recognized. Ananth: ]]

Posted by raja on (August 28, 2010, 16:30 GMT)

gr8 work anantha.u said that u didnt included sf barnes knowingly.do u think that he was the greatest bowler ever, even better than murali?in my opinion he was the don bradman of bowlers.plz reply. [[ Raja Probably yes although you must consider the fact that the bowling conditions were totally different pre-1914. Ananth: ]]

Posted by wb on (August 27, 2010, 11:01 GMT)

At one time, Indian cricket team had a spin quartet just like the West Indies had a pace quartet. Chandrashekhar, Venkatraghavan, Bishen Bedi and Prasanna managed the bowling for India even on non-Indian pitches and gave test wins for india in india and outside India. The spin quartet also had to bat against the fast bowlers of those times with little protective equipment compared to today's and no restrictions on bouncers to be bowled in an over. There was always a risk that any of the 4 spinners would get retired hurt by a nasty bouncer from Holding or Roberts-remember that 1974 test at the Chidambaram Stadium where Andy Roberts was on fire and Gundappa vishwanath managed to get 97 unbeaten using support from Chandrashekhar and tail enders. And chandrashekhar bowled legspin and even batted with a polio affected right hand-U seem to have forgotten this spin quartet?

Posted by RogerC on (August 24, 2010, 1:28 GMT)

Ananth- kudos on an exemplary compilation. The inquiring mind does wonder about two incremental scenarios. One is the performance of these bowlers in matches where the stakes are raised (win required to square or win the series, win in first test of a series, etc). Another is the performance measure after a team loss. Would either of these alter your standings. Thanks.

Posted by Sumit Sanghai on (August 21, 2010, 10:03 GMT)

Hello Ananth,

I am not sure if the numbers that you have used are entirely accurate. a) I cant believe that the average of all batsmen dismissed can be in the 20s. Most teams average close to 300.

b) Can you verify that you have used correct away averages? I checked for Marshall's and that didnt look correct. [[ Sumit Pl send me your Marshall compilation. Pl remember taht this is the average of ALL wickets. The late order wickets, wickets against Zim/Bang all lower the averages considerably. See the late order wickets of Warne and Murali and the Zim/Bang wickets of Murali. Also remember that raina does not give the bowler 91 value. Only a fraction of that. Just an example. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Ravindra Marathe on (August 20, 2010, 16:32 GMT)

Abhi, I quite agree that Laker's 19 for 90 are a 1-off and so its obviously unfair to compare him with Bradman (Ananth, thanks for the correction on Laker's 10 wickets, not 20 in the tour game) That Laker is less celebrated comes from a more general reading of cricket articles. What I meant by the comment on Ananth's article was that the pre-WW1 bowlers, Barnes in particular, would mount that Best Bowler pedestal on several measures, if included in such analyses. Again nothing against Ananth's or anybody's lists, just Barnes' misfortune that he played in conditions prevalent then which aren't directly comparable today. This 'what-if' has a parallel in physical chemistry- J Willard Gibbs work on energetics could have won more than 1 Nobel Prizes but to his misfortune his work preceded Alfred Novel's birth! Sorry for this digression- I am a cricket-loving chemical engineer.

Posted by Abhi on (August 20, 2010, 4:52 GMT)

Ananth, Though Ravindra Marathe has raised some good points there is one huge difference between what Bradman has done and what Laker etc achieved.

This cardinal difference is that Bradman's 99.94 was a "career" achievement. Reflecting an entire career of unmatched brilliance. The 19 wickets,400,200 etc are by contrast mere "one-offs"...and especially the 400,200 will definitely be passed because all it takes is essentially a good batsman having a "single" good outing and everything "clicking" into place.

This cardinal difference must always be kept in mind when comparing Bradmans freakish average over an entire career over "one off" incidents.

Posted by Ravindra Marathe on (August 19, 2010, 14:44 GMT)

Ananth, On the topic of leaving out outstanding performances, we've so far kept Bradman's average as the yardstick to measure everybody against. However this article being on bowling, do you think it's fair to exclude Grimmett, Barnes Lohmann? Is is because they were truly exceptional or because we (more recent followers) cannot associate with having somebody from a bygone era dominate the bowling charts- not the number of wickets, but the economy, strike rate et al. I do understand that the wickets and also the rules of the game (8-ball overs, 4 for a 0-bounce boundary hit etc) were different then. I believe credit must be given where and when due. Also why is Laker's achievement considered a freakish one- he had captured all 20 wickets in a tour game that same series. I always feel Laker is under-recognised. Speaking of fearsome bowlers, was Nissar+Amarsingh India's first fast pair? Sutcliffe or Hobbs (not sure who) once said he could not hit the bal coz he could not see it! [[ Ravi You have raised quite a few points. 1. I said Laker's 19 wkts was freaky only in a very positive sense. Let me say this differently. I think the 400 would be beaten, Ithe 200* would be overtaken, however I do not think anyone would ever take 20 wickets in a match. In both the innings of the same match, the bowlers, umpire and even the batsman should co-operate. i don't think that would ever happen. 2. Laker did not take 20 wickets in a match. No one has ever done that. What Laker did was to capture the 10 wickets in an innings a second time against Australians during 1956. 3. The only reason why I excluded Barnes was because I personally feel that the bowling conditions during pre-ww1 period were totally different. Hence the figures are not comparable. This is proved in my period analysis article. The pre-ww1 figures are around 30% better than the overall average. Let me say that Barnes would probably be at the top. Lohmann has taken only 103 wickets. Grimmett was as good as Warne as far as figures are concerned but had taken a third of the wickets. 4. Please contrast this with the Bradman era. He was that much better than the others. the period was no different to any other periods. The bowlers were good. Anyhow Bradman scored most of the runs against England which had Larwood, Voce, Bowles, Verity et al. Ananth: ]]

Posted by Mark on (August 19, 2010, 1:08 GMT)

By the way - I'm a bit disappointed this article got hijacked by people commenting on batsmen and all-time XI's.

It's about the bowlers which makes for a nice change. [[ Mark Very true. Despite my requests. I will try and see that this soes not happen in future. Ananth: ]]

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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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