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