Bowling September 17, 2010

ODI Bowlers: a totally new look through BCG charts

This article is a completely different graphical look at the ODI bowlers and is a continuation of a similar article on ODI batsmen

Glenn McGrath: in the right BCG quadrant almost all the time © Getty Images

This article is a completely different graphical look at the ODI bowlers and is a continuation of the similar article on ODI batsmen.

Just to recap, Bruce Henderson of BCG (Boston Consulting Group) had created these charts during 1968 to study the Growth-Share aspects of products/business units. This is an excellent way to study two related variables together. These are plotted on a graph which is split into four equal (or unequal) size quadrants. The placement of a particular player, gives excellent insight into the bowler's position in the galaxy of bowlers. However please do not forget that this is clearly a two-dimensional graph between two related variables. Also these are all career figures.

Bowling is a far more cleaner and crisper playing aspect which lends itself to excellent analysis. There are only two independent variables, bowling strike rate and bowling accuracy, in the form of Rpb. These two together can be used to generate the bowling average, which is a single measure incorporating the two constituent parameters very clearly, unlike the batting average which has the dicey not outs concept embedded within. The bowling strike rate is represented in X-axis and the bowling accuracy (Rpo or Rpb, it does not matter what we take) in the Y-axis. The only special requirement is that, in bowling both variables have reverse-effectiveness in that the lower these are the better the bowler is. hence I have laid down the axis from the highest to lowest values.

© Ananth Narayanan

The above represents a typical BCG chart. The bowlers in the top-right quadrant, the red one, are the "Top bowlers". They are to the right of the Bowling strike rate line and above the Rpo line. The ones in the bottom right quadrant, the green one, are the "Attackers". They capture wickets quite frequently but go for plenty of runs. Certainly an asset, but could do better. Similarly, the top left quadrant, the blue one, contains the "Defenders". They take more balls to capture a wicket but are miserly. They are equally valuable as the Attackers. The bottom left quadrant, the orange one, represents the "Also rans". They fall behind in both areas and lag behind the others.

As I explained in the batsmen article, the two central dividing lines can be drawn in two ways. One is to draw the same right in the middle. However this does not take into account the distribution of values. The alternative method is to draw the lines around the median value so that we get around half the bowlers on top of the mid line of the Rpo and around half the bowlers to the right of the mid line of the Bowling strike rate line. This leads to unequal quadrants but would make analysis of the bowlers far more meaningful. Let me add that the drawing of the asymmetrical central lines is my own idea and most of the BCG charts have only centrally located divider lines. However my idea of asymmetrical dividing lines ensures a fairer distribution of players across quadrants.

Finally the chart is drawn on two criteria. The top wicket-takers and the top bowlers based on bowling averages, the minimum wickets requirement for the later selection being 100 wickets.

I have also changed the graph presentation method. I have used Gaurav's suggestion and drawn fixed diameter circles supported by numbers. There is a legend at the right hand side to link the numbers to the bowler names. It has come out very well and the graph is now uncluttered.

The first chart is drawn with the wickets captured as the criteria. 200 wickets are the cut-off for selection. Anything fewer will clutter up the graph. Already I feel we are over-populated. The median Strike rate is 38 and the median Rpo is just short of 4.3. The dividing lines are drawn around these figures. These lines split the distribution approximately equally on either side. Let us now look at the chart.

Graph of runs scored
© Ananth Narayanan

The "Top performers" are led by Glenn McGrath and closely followed by Muttiah Muralitharan and Wasim Akram. Donald and Saqlain have excellent strike rates and quite good Rpo figures. Hence they are also in this quadrant. Warne and McDermott have taken more balls to capture a wicket but are also comfortably in the top bowlers quadrant. It is difficult to question the credentials of any of these ODI greats.

The "Attackers" group is led by Lee, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. Incidentally these two Pakistani greats are almost like Siamese twins with almost identical figures (30.5/4.69 and 30.7/4.69). Agarkar has excellent strike rate but is a millionaire when it comes to conceding runs. Ntini has similar strike rate but is far more economical. Srinath, Gough and Zaheer just about make it to this quadrant.

The "Defenders" group is led by Ambrose and Pollock. they are followed by Kapil Dev and Walsh. A few other modern spinners, Harris, Vettori, Kumble and Harbhajan are at the border-line.

The "Also rans", has Afridi and Jayasuriya as prominent members. These are followed by Streak, Razzaq, Cairns and Kallis.

Lee is the outlier as far as the strike rate is concerned with a sub-30 Bpw figure. The three Pakistani greats have just over 30. Ambrose is the outlier as far as Rpo is concerned with a sub-3.5 figure. Pollock and Kapil Dev follow next.

The second chart is drawn with the Bowling average as the criteria. 26.00 is the cut-off with a minimum of 100 wickets. The median Strike rate is around 34 and the median Rpo is around 4.2. The dividing lines are drawn around these figures. These lines split the distribution approximately equally on either side. Let us now look at the chart. The selected bowlers are distributed around the whole graph quite well.

Graph of runs scored
© Ananth Narayanan

This selection is far more stringent because of the dual cut-offs. There are only two bowlers in the "Top performers" quadrant. Only McGrath and Donald make the cut. Their positioning is also intriguingly close to the middle lines. McGrath is more economical but takes a few extra deliveries per wicket. Donald is the other way around. Two of the greatest of ODI bowlers ever.

Lee leads in the "Attackers" group and is closely followed by the Siamese-twins, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. Saqlain is also very close to the top performer quadrant. Bond is another exciting new entry who is in a similar position. Maharoof and Flintoff are also in this group.

Lillee and Muralitharan are the leaders in the "Defenders" group and these two are quite close to the top performers. Joel Garner is a well-deserved new entrant here and has an outstanding economy rate. Wasim Akram is well-placed here. This group also has other wonderful ODI bowlers like Hadlee, Pollock, Ambrose and Holding.

Warne is in the fourth quadrant but is very close to the Rpo dividing line. Fleming is close to the Strike rate dividing line. Because we have taken only bowlers of average 26 and below, there are very few poor performers.

Lee is the outlier as far as the strike rate is concerned with a sub-30 Bpw figure. Bond follows him. Garner is the outlier as far as Rpo is concerned with an amazing 3.1. Hadlee and Holding follow him.

There is a clear trend here. Where the bowlers are clustered together, the concentration is on the middle performance quadrants. There are very few bowlers in the high performance and low performance quadrants. This trend is different to the wickets based graph where the bowlers are scattered all over the graph. Hence there are more players are present in the extreme performance quadrants.

I have also drawn the charts for the top players by Strike rate. Unlike the corresponding batting chart, this has got excellent distribution all over the graph. This is mainly because the Bowling strike rate values are closely bunched together. The top group is led by Donald, Saqlain and Bond. The chart can be seen below.

Graph of runs scored
© Ananth Narayanan

The last one is the chart of the top bowlers by Rpo. Here also there is good distribution. The leading bowlers are Lillee, Hadlee, Holding, McGrath, Wasim Akram and Muralitharan. What a collection of greats. The chart can be seen below.

Graph of runs scored
© Ananth Narayanan

I will attempt a similar analysis on Test Batsmen/Bowlers. I think I have got the two variables for batting identified. That will be the Batting average and Average career weighted bowling quality faced. The results seem to be coming out very well. Readers are welcome to give their suggestions.

An important announcement to the readers. In one of my comments I had mentioned that I would create an open mail id to which readers could send their suggestions. To start with I would appreciate if readers can send in their suggestions on batting and bowling performances in the third innings or the Test batting BCG charts. I will complete my work and depending on the reader responses will incorporate a few popular performances amongst these. Please note that this is a one-to-one communication and the contents will not be published. Please continue to use the blog posting method for the comments you want to be published. This is not my mail id and has been created only for this purpose. To separate the spam, it will be a nice idea if all readers can follow a simple idea of making their title as "It Figures Blog: ..............".

The mail id is

Since the readers would have to use a mail route I give the readers my assurance that the mail id is safe and will never be used by me for anything other than communicating with the reader specifically. This will not be part of any group mail nor will mails be cc'd.

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

  • fanedlive on October 5, 2010, 16:37 GMT

    Nice work! But I'd think you should have standardised Averages, SRs and ERs for the comparison. For an example during 80s the ER of most bowlers were 4.4 (Avg total 220) compared to that of 00s where ER os close to 5.5 (Avg total 275). You can compare each parameter of a player to his peers during the period he played. That will allow the distortions taken by the trends in the games to neutralise. It's not very difficult exercise as well because it involves a simple function in a spread sheet. [[ I have already done very extensive work on Peer comparisons. Pl see last year's article. Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on September 24, 2010, 20:50 GMT

    Hi Ananth, That last 'Anonymous' was me. Didn't realize it would let me post on my laptop when my name is not entered (different from how it works when I post from my blackberry). If you have control over it, please feel free to change the last Anonymous (addressed to Alex) to my name. And, keep the wonderful work going. Thanks. -Amit.

  • fanedlive on September 24, 2010, 17:27 GMT

    Alex, thanks for the correction and nice observation on the yorkers. The reverse is also true - if you try bowling yorkers and dont get it right, all your overpitch balls and full-tosses with get you miserable economy rate. Case in point - Agarkar.

  • fanedlive on September 24, 2010, 9:30 GMT

    Amit - Nice observation. A minor correction: Garner began as the strike bowler (position 1 or 2) at age 31, starting WC '83. He remained so till his retirement in '87 barring a couple of ODIs.

    The era of treating the first 15 overs as the slog overs really started with Greatbatch of NZ in the '92 WC although a few openers such as Srikanth had always treated this phase (or any) as slog. So, for the early strike bowlers, outstanding SR says more than outstanding RPO ... to me Garner's RPO=3.1 is more like RPO=3.5 in 90's and his SR=36 is more like SR=33 in 90's.

    Across all eras, I think the bowlers who excel in the death overs possess great yorkers: Garner, Thommo, Malinga, Holding, Waqar.

  • fanedlive on September 24, 2010, 4:09 GMT

    Hi Ananth, I wonder if you have the info about when these bowlers bowled in the course of the innings. Most good fast bowlers have the luxury of bowling the first few over (when economy rate was typically lower, alleast until Gilchrist, Hayden and Sehwag came along), but is offsetted having to bowl at death overs. If my menory serves me right, Garner bowled at first change (except WC83) and then 'always' at the death overs. I remember him him bowling maidens in final overs to win tight games. It would be good to know which of these bowlers bowled with a disadvantage and still excelled. -Amit. [[ Amit This sort of information is available only during the past 10 years or so. It is also not available in the public domain. Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on September 22, 2010, 13:56 GMT

    Ananth - re all-rounders, you seem to apply the traditional definition. I like to think of great wkt keepers, great captains, and great fielders as all-rounders as well. [[ Alex For this type of two-dimensional graph based analysis it is better to stick to the traditional definition. For a different type of analysis such as multi-disciplinary contribution to team cause I would look at the wider definition. Ananth ]]

    A quote of I Chappell who loves Mark Waugh: In a late 90's ODI distinguished by Steve Waugh's brilliance, Tony Greig commented on Steve Waugh "this guy has to be the best all-rounder in the world" to which Ian Chappell replied "Tony, he is not even the best all-rounder in his own family!"

  • fanedlive on September 22, 2010, 7:25 GMT


    I have to admit that I enjoyed this article (and its batting counterpart) simply because of the way you're using different (and to me, new) techniques. I might have been a first-class scorer for 13 seasons (3 with Wellington, 10 with CD - when I moved to the Wairarapa) but that doesn't make me a stats geek.

    I'm interested in a similar analysis of all-rounders, mainly because I have this nagging doubt that Richard Hadlee doesn't quite belong in the same category as Sobers, Botham or Imran. Undoubtedly one of the great bowlers (seeing his 7 for 23 remains one of my most cherised memories - I wagged school to see it) but I doubt that the NZ selectors ever seriously considered playing him as a specialist batsman in a big match.

    The obvious axes for all-rounders would be batting and bowling average but what about comparative strike rates? The explosive all-rounder as opposed to Mr Reliable? Just a thought... [[ Craig I myself have pushed Test all-rounders ahead of the Test batsmen because of the intricacies it offers. After another very interesting post late this week I will do the All-rounders' article next week. Totally dispassionately speaking, which all-rounders could have been 100% certain of playing in either capacity. Kallis: probably not as a bowler. Kapil: as a batsman, only because of the weakened Indian batting. This argument is applicable to Hadlee as well. If we take the next step, both could not have played for Australia as batsmen. Botham: almost the same as Kapil and Hadlee. And what about Vettori. His batting average is better than Greatbatch, McClean, AD Nourse, Mahanama, Srikkanth, Grant Flower et al. But he probably would not make to many teams as no.6. That leaves us with two players who probably could have played in any team in either capacity. Sobers (poor bowling average but an excellent double-pronged skill) and Imran. And I would venture to add Miller.. However let us wait for the analysis. Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on September 20, 2010, 18:18 GMT

    Another good article Ananth. Here are my 2p for observations from the charts: 1. Batsmen in the first ODI decade were more orthodox (not necessarily slow scoring)in their approach- build, consolidate-slog for 20 overs each. Also true for 50-over games in the first decade. Possibly therefore seamers had lower RPO than modern ones. Old gen spinners went for more RPO than seamers. GGilmour WC75 sf, Garner WC 79final, W Davies7-51 as examples among many such excellent ones. [[ Ravi Price, Murali, Maninder and Harper are the only bowlers who have bowled 500+ overs and have an Rpo value below 4.0. Only Maninder belongs to the previous generation. Ananth: ]] 2. Fully fit bowlers or those playing in 1 or 2 formats (not all 3) have done well on the SR. To be fair T20 isn't applicable to any except the very recent bowlers. 3. One can't failto notice the WI domination in the firt decade- Holding & Garner's excellent economy rate but slightly lower SR than the very best is a reflection of the slightly more relaxed nature of batting. [[ Also the reduction of risks taken. Ananth: ]]

    4.Wonder if we see any evidence of the effect of the no. of minnow teams? [[ We have minnows such as East Africa even in the 1970s. Ananth: ]]

    5. Just a question: Were there ever 8-ball overs in ODIs? [[ Yes. About 10 or so matches at the beginning, including the first one. However that does not matter since I store the balls information and all my Rpo values are for 6-balls. Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on September 20, 2010, 15:16 GMT


    Sriram's suggestion on having dividing lines non-parallel to the axes may be an excellent idea for the BCG graphs on all rounders. I am sure with your knowledge and understanding you can some up with some very interesting analysis of all rounders. One thing that has made me wonder is that neither the West Indies team of the 80's nor the Aussies of the 2000's had the top all rounder of their times. I mean in the 2000a Australia had Symonds, Harvey, Watson and in 80s Marshall and Holding were no push overs with the bat but as "all rounders" I dont think Symonds/Harvey compare with Kallis or Marshall/Holding compare with the fab 4 all rounders. But still they dominated the game. It is well known that all rounders make the team stronger but to what extent compared to specialist top class batsmen and bowlers? Would love to see your analysis on that. [[ Anand I am beginning to see two excellent sets of variables for the all-rounder analysis. We will get different perspectives. Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on September 20, 2010, 10:00 GMT

    Hi Ananth,

    Thanks for the great work. May I suggest that a "SUMMARY" graph of ODI bowling performances based on - minimum 100 matches, - SR of < 35.0, - RPO of < 5.5, a - average of < 32, and - mimimum 150 wkts will give you revealing & eye popping but OVERALL PERFORMANCE. That will tell you who the real GREAT PERFORMERS are in ODI bowling. [[ Raj Once you take the SR and Rpo, the average is superfluous since that is the product of SR x Rpo / 6. And the wkts have been already incorporated in selection. So whatever you need is already incorporated. Ananth: ]]

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