October 22, 2010

Measuring batting averages effectively

A stats analysis to determine effective batting averages in the 2000s by measuring bowling quality faced

Brian Lara: the highest effective average in the 2000s © Getty Images

The quality of a batsman is usually measured against the bowling and conditions in which he performed. Very few matches in the 2000s have provided the opportunity to witness high quality knocks. The bowling standard has drastically fallen away in the second half of the decade and the pitches have been lifeless. In contrast, the 1990s still had fantastic fast bowlers in each team and run scoring was not the easiest. Zimbabwe's problems and Bangladesh's entry have meant there are ample opportunities for most batsmen to boost their averages.

The average has always been an excellent measure of consistency and quality, but has a flip side because it does not quite consider the difference between a half century made on a minefield (read Sunil Gavaskar's 96) and a century made on a featherbed (most matches at the SSC). A batting average of 50 which was earlier considered elite has now become commonplace this decade due to poor bowling attacks and placid tracks. The 2000s remains the decade with the highest batting average after the 1940s, which was a decade with very few matches. In this piece, I try to come up with a method to measure the true average of batsmen by considering the bowling strength of the opposition and the conditions encountered in the match.

The parameters used for the analysis are quite basic. 1. The bowling average for each opponent (in matches involving the player) is taken into consideration for home and away games. 2. The match average for all the matches is used to measure the difficulty level encountered. In matches involving Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, I do not consider the batting average of the minnows as the figure can skew the numbers badly. In these cases, the measure is purely the batting average of the other team.

The base value to measure the quality of an innings is calculated as the geometric mean (square root of the product) of the batting average (30.61) and bowling average (32.31) since Jan 1 1940. The quality index value obtained is 31.44. For each batsman, the similar values are calculated and measured with respect to the base value to obtain the accurate or effective average. For example if the batting and bowling average are 30 and 32 respectively , then the geometric mean is 30.98 and the quality factor is obtained by dividing the base value by the mean which yields 1.0147.

The table below lists the top run-getters in the 2000s (minimum qualification of 6000 runs). The table provides the details of runs aggregated home and away against each opponent (neutral venues also considered for Pakistan). Read the values as runs (innings played).

Ricky Ponting has had a wonderful decade as can be seen from his position at the top of the tree. After his horror run in India in 2000-01, he was unstoppable for the next six years, but has shown signs of decline over the last two years. Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid have been the rocks of the middle order for their respective teams. Dravid though has been slightly on the wane over the last three years which has seen his average drop from almost 59 to around 54. Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara have contributed immensely to Sri Lanka's rise as a competitive Test team, especially at home. Sachin Tendulkar's recent resurgence has stunned everybody and the early years of the 2000s when his injuries led to some poor performances have now been forgotten completely.

VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag have eased much of the burden on Tendulkar in this decade with some exceptional performances. Shivanrine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara were the best batsmen for the West Indies in an otherwise forgettable decade. Lara retired on a high scoring 21 centuries in the 2000s. Mohammad Yousuf had a brilliant first half of the decade including a record breaking 2006 when he went past Viv Richards' aggregate runs in a calendar year.

** The tables are in two parts for sake of clarity ***Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden played one Test against ICC W XI scoring 54 and 188 runs in two innings respectively. The calculations for these are done separately and included.

Top run-getters in the 2000s (minimum qualification 6000 runs)
Batsman Aus(h) Aus(a/n) Eng(h) Eng(a/n) Ind(h) Ind(a/n) NZ(h) NZ(a/n) Pak(h) Pak(a/n)
Ricky Ponting - - 993(16) 1082(25) 1115(16) 530(18) 496(11) 362(8) 781(12) 440(8)
Jacques Kallis* 700(17) 708(17) 1118(19) 292(13) 327(8) 760(15) 826(13) 354(6) 408(5) 521(8)
Rahul Dravid* 737(24) 972(24) 574(14) 915(15) - - 313(4) 766(14) 524(11) 550(9)
Mahela Jayawardene 185(6) 274(4) 1070(14) 502(12) 863(14) 628(10) 434(7) 194(7) 430(15) 630(15)
Sachin Tendulkar 1173(22) 925(17) 546(13) 629(12) - - 71(4) 444(9) 394(8) 268(7)
Matthew Hayden - - 909(17) 552(18) 861(13) 1027(22) 461(11) 197(7) 128(6) 246(4)
Kumar Sangakkara 112(6) 391(6) 671(14) 336(12) 892(14) 365(10) 317(7) 334(7) 619(10) 695(9)
Graeme Smith* 260(11) 493(14) 696(17) 1083(17) 227(6) 431(12) 220(8) 290(6) 347(9) 358(8)
Virender Sehwag* 763(20) 833(14) 290(12) 237(6) - - 177(4) 180(9) 544(6) 732(8)
VVS Laxman 1082(22) 1034(17) 180(9) 404(11) - - 279(4) 322(9) 375(10) 262(9)
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 699(12) 260(12) 400(12) 1061(20) 863(15) 260(5) 103(3) 276(8) 464(9) 306(9)
Mohammad Yousuf - 367(12) 684(9) 815(15) 741(10) 366(11) 29(1) 718(14) - -
Brian Lara* 533(4) 707(18) 500(7) 503(17) 413(15) - 149(3) 90(5) 331(4) 448(5)
Chris Gayle 186(6) 449(10) 474(13) 721(21) 481(16) 160(5) 280(3) 540(8) 115(5) 324(9)

Top run-getters in the 2000s (minimum qualification 6000 runs)
Batsman SA(h) SA(a/n) SL(h) SL(a/n) WI(h) WI(a/n) Bang(h) Bang(a/n) Zim(h) Zim(a/n)
Ricky Ponting 915(17) 867(17) 207(5) 198(6) 707(19) 846(11) 69(2) 191(3) 259(3) -
Jacques Kallis - - 257(7) 318(10 929(11) 942(22) 254(4) 63(3) 112(2) 388(3)
Rahul Dravid 453(12) 504(16) 542(7) 662(21) 148(5) 1260(22) - 560(10) 504(6) 475(7)
Mahela Jayawardene 1158(12) 314(10) - - 335(8) 294(7) 556(7) 304(7) 167(4) 137(2)
Sachin Tendulkar 414(11) 392(10) 386(9) 485(11) 306(5) 331(8) - 820(9) 616(6) 199(4)
Matthew Hayden 862(18) 540(11) 381(7) 283(6) 681(14) 379(8) 61(2) 107(3) 501(3) -
Kumar Sangakkara 790(12) 392(10) - - 452(8) 238(7) 592(7) 284(7) 255(4) 281(2)
Graeme Smith - - 88(3) 179(4) 717(12) 876(13) 408(4) 335(5) 162(2) -
Virender Sehwag 924(11) 238(9) 547(7) 692(11) 286(5) 357(7) - 176(6) 74(1) 102(3)
VVS Laxman 333(9) 330(9) 370(9) 494(11) 271(4) 731(15) - 117(4) 31(2) 249(6)
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 820(15) 533(11) 130(4) 154(4) - - 108(2) 39(3) 73(3) 186(6)
Mohamamad Yousuf 96(3) 255(8) 285(12) 338(11) 665(5) 549(9) 227(4) 276(2) - 222(3)
Brian Lara 793(15) 531(8) 299(3) 688(6) - - 173(2) - - 222(4)
Chris Gayle 814(20) 545(10) 164(7) 54(6) - - 221(3) 126(3) 46(3) 307(7)

The fact that Ponting played in a top class team meant that victories were assured more often than not and also meant he faced weaker attacks for much of the 2000s. He struggled in the subcontinent, but was very successful at home and in South Africa. The Pakistani attacks were far less potent away in the 2000s after the retirement of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. All this pointed to Ponting facing comparatively weaker attacks in fairly easy conditions which is quite clearly a blot on an otherwise superb decade. Kallis has faced fairly consistent attacks throughout. His run glut against the minnows does pull his average down. Rahul Dravid's best performances usually came when the chips were down and he has been very prolific in almost all away conditions. A considerable proportion of his runs though, have been made against the weakened West Indies and the minnows. Jayawardene and Sangakkara have scored tons of tuns against Bangladesh home and away boosting their averages. They have hardly played and succeeded in Australia and South Africa though Sangakkara's 192 at Hobart was one of the best innings of the decade. Sri Lanka's awesome home record and ordinary away record is very evident from the less impressive showing of these two batsmen in away matches. Matthew Hayden resurrected his career on the 2000-01 tour of India and proceeded to amass 30 centuries at a rate only next to Bradman. He, like Ponting, played in a top team and faced ordinary attacks throughout. His away performance was definitely under par when compared to his home batting.

Tendulkar's prolific recent run has seen him score at a Bradmanesque average and he recently registered his sixth double century. His records in the 2000s against Australia has been excellent but the lack of quality in the attack in recent years does pull down his performance a little. He has also aggregated plenty against the minnows home and away in the past decade. Sehwag and Laxman also average more than 50 in the 2000s. Sehwag has two triple hundreds and four double tons. The Chennai and Lahore efforts though came on very flat tracks and the innings against Sri Lanka in Mumbai was against a highly weakened attack. Laxman usually has reserved his best against the top teams and hardly ever makes massive scores against the lesser opponents which have ensured that his contributions are always valued highly.

Brian Lara played in a team accustomed to losing in the 2000s. Right from the remarkable 2001 tour of Sri Lanka where he scored 688 runs in 3 Tests only to lose 3-0, he has made runs home and away against all opponents. His average against Australia is 47 in matches involving McGrath. His otherwise ordinary showing against England is boosted by the unbeaten 400 in Antigua. His consistency was exceptional in the last 3-4 years as he scored hundreds against Pakistan and South Africa home and away. Chanderpaul's case is similar as he has been part of a very weak outfit for much of this decade and has done brilliantly in losing causes.

Quality measure (bowling average of opposition and runs/wicket in match)- base value: 31.44
Batsman Aus(h) Aus(a/n) Eng(h) Eng(a/n) Ind(h) Ind(a/n) NZ(h) NZ(a/n) Pak(h) Pak(a/n)
Ricky Ponting - - 0.7602 0.8975 0.7362 0.9803 0.7495 0.6821 0.8298 1.2303
Jacques Kallis 1.0493 0.9353 0.9367 0.9295 0.9824 0.8805 0.9599 0.7748 0.9757 0.8589
Rahul Dravid* 0.9357 0.8458 0.9295 0.8048 - - 0.5993 0.9980 0.7167 0.6545
Mahela Jayawardene 1.0799 1.0310 0.9034 0.9935 0.7756 0.8823 0.7634 1.1236 1.0553 0.8867
Sachin Tendulkar 0.9183 0.8893 0.8808 0.8072 - - 0.7478 0.8450 0.8148 0.6840
Matthew Hayden - - 0.7555 0.9176 0.7055 0.9833 0.7476 0.7841 0.7949 1.1382
Kumar Sangakkara 1.0799 1.0465 0.9034 0.99135 0.7756 0.8823 0.7645 1.1236 1.0657 0.7290
Graeme Smith* 1.0679 0.9171 0.9308 0.8195 1.1856 0.8141 0.9921 0.7748 0.9756 0.8589
Virender Sehwag* 0.9356 0.8076 0.9390 0.7216 - - 0.5994 0.9980 0.7741 0.6545
VVS Laxman 0.9584 0.8530 0.8513 0.7994 - - 0.5994 0.9980 0.7899 0.6545
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 0.9517 1.1543 0.9722 1.0476 0.9237 1.0987 0.9347 1.0011 1.0465 1.0459
Mohammad Yousuf - 1.1473 0.8558 0.9556 0.6944 0.7859 0.7107 0.9887 - -
Brian Lara* 1.0891 1.2303 1.0850 1.2345 0.9250 1.0804 1.1582 1.0622 0.9080
Chris Gayle 0.8670 0.9263 0.8804 1.0749 0.9250 1.1637 1.0804 1.0527 1.1037 0.9351

Quality measure (bowling average of opposition and runs/wicket in match)- base value: 31.44
Batsman SA(h) SA(a/n) SL(h) SL(a/n) WI(h) WI(a/n) Bang(h) Bang(a/n) Zim(h) Zim(a/n)
Ricky Ponting 0.8006 0.9059 0.5873 0.9594 0.8462 0.7027 0.3539 0.5627 0.4184 -
Jacques Kallis - - 0.9848 1.1188 0.6881 0.8749 0.4910 0.5941 0.3962 0.3210
Rahul Dravid 1.0164 1.1325 0.6701 0.9353 0.8365 0.9240 - 0.6127 0.4725 0.8009
Mahela Jayawardene 0.8508 1.4016 - - 0.8985 0.9608 0.4264 0.7099 0.5016 0.3336
Sachin Tendulkar 0.9096 1.1583 0.7320 0.7995 0.9168 0.9678 - 0.6139 0.4663 1.1030
Matthew Hayden 0.8052 0.8969 0.7573 0.9623 0.8646 0.6560 0.3533 0.5627 0.4184 -
Kumar Sangakkara 0.8508 1.4016 - - 0.8985 0.9608 0.4273 0.7099 0.5016 0.3336
Graeme Smith - - 1.0559 1.0277 0.6880 0.6903 0.4772 0.6267 0.3970
Virender Sehwag 0.8245 1.1322 0.6957 0.8791 0.8366 0.8608 - 0.6407 0.9945 0.6754
VVS Laxman 0.9350 1.0955 0.7290 0.8358 0.8366 0.9271 - 0.6930 0.3630 0.8692
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 0.9740 1.0715 0.9560 1.6700 - - 0.4079 0.7548 1.3315 0.8383
Mohammad Yousuf 0.8219 1.2829 1.0985 1.0370 0.7561 1.0519 0.5406 0.5872 - 0.8901
Brian Lara 1.0368 0.8171 0.8839 1.0385 - - 0.4079 - - 1.1129
Chris Gayle 1.0411 0.9132 0.9259 1.0385 - - 0.4079 0.7548 1.3315 0.8383

** The quality value for Ponting and Hayden in the ICC World XI match is 1.2964.

The table below lists the effective averages of the top batsmen in the 2000s. Brian Lara is on top in terms of quality of innings played and Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden are at the bottom. This is not a method that questions the quality of a player, but merely an alternative to measure the average effectively.

Effective averages of top batsmen in 2000s
Batsman Actual runs Actual average Effective runs Effective average Quality deviation
Brian Lara 6380 54.06 6572.1 55.69 1.0301
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 6735 53.03 6805.0 53.58 1.0103
Rahul Dravid 8904 53.63 8733.0 52.6 0.9807
Mohammad Yousuf 6633 56.21 5950.5 51.29 0.9124
Jacques Kallis 9277 59.08 8022.3 51.09 0.8647
Kumar Sangakkara 8016 56.85 6800.9 48.23 0.9112
Mahela Jayawardene 8475 55.39 7324.3 47.87 0.8642
Sachin Tendulkar 8399 57.13 6933.4 47.16 0.8295
Ricky Ponting 10158 57.38 8207.3 46.36 0.8079
VVS Laxman 6864 52.00 5920.4 44.85 0.8625
Virender Sehwag 7152 53.37 5838.1 43.56 0.8161
Matthew Hayden 8364 52.93 6803.6 43.06 0.7537
Graeme Smith 7170 50.49 5818.2 40.97 0.8114
Chris Gayle 6007 40.31 5758.6 38.64 0.9585

A similar approach yields an average of 85.23 for Bradman (three weak teams played considered minnows) and 51.45 for Gavaskar. The approach can be further modified to calculate period wise averages to understand the batting quality better. Gavaskar for example averages almost 83 with 10 centuries against the West Indies prior to 1980 when the bowling attack was not at its best, but only 41 after 1980 with just three hundreds in dull draws, in between falling seven times to Malcolm Marshall before crossing 20.

A more detailed approach analysing period wise performance and in matches involving particular bowlers will be taken up later.

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo

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