February 25, 2011

# Test team strengths: a complete re-look

A detailed analysis of team strengths in Tests across the years
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A number of readers had asked me to do a complete analysis of the Test team strengths. I had done some work on this earlier. However there is a need to throw out that lot and completely do this from scratch since the following related needs have been expressed at various times.

1. Completely integrate the career-to-date (c-t-d) values into the Team strength analysis.

2. Build in period based adjustments.

3. Allow no dilution into the process, especially the Bowling strength determination where a fifth weak bowler might completely distort the index values.

4. Give some weight for Bowling strike rates since these are Test matches.

Hence I blanked out the Team strength data and determined the Team strengths based on the following factors. By far, this turned out to be one of the most complex tasks undertaken by me since various adjustments had to be built in. The final selection of unique teams also presented quite a few problems.

1. Use only c-t-d values. Make adjustments during the early phase of the player's career. Essential for players like Mike Hussey, Brett Lee et al, whose first third of career was way better than the next two-third. I have been quite tough in this regard. During the first 50 innings or until 100 wickets have been captured, I have capped the c-t-d values at the career average, if it goes higher. Perfect example is Hussey. He had an average of 86.33 at the end of his 30th innings. But this has been capped at 52.50, which is his career average. Brett Lee had captured his first 50 wickets at 22.82. This has been increased to 30.82, which is his career average. I know it is quite tough on these players. However this has ensured that there are no spikes.

2. Determine the best 7 batsmen and use these batsmen figures to determine the Batting strength. This is to take care of night-watchman situations and genuine cases where the no.8 batsman in the batting order is better than the no.7 batsmen. The lower four batsmen are thus excluded. They might turn to be useful but do not really add to the strength.

3. After a lot deliberation I decided to do the Bowling strength determination with the best four bowlers only and not bring into consideration the fifth bowler. Traditionally most strong teams have had 6 batsmen, a keeper and 4 bowlers. The fifth bowler only provided additional support but the team's bowling success really depended on their top four bowlers.

4. There is no separate weight for all-rounders since the top all-rounders would find their place into either the top-7 batting or top-4 bowling or both. If Imran Khan bats at no.7, he brings to the table a 37+ batting average and sub-23 bowling average. That is his strength and will be reflected in the team strength index.

5. Do a period-wise adjustment. This is the one area where I have done something radically different and a complete change to the existing process. Until now I had done adjustment based on the adjustment factor for the decade (or period) in which the Test was played in. I was aware that this had the following major shortcomings.

- The adjustment is done based on the decade/period the Test was played in. However the player could have played during that decade, the previous and in some cased the previous one. So the adjustments are not perfect.
- The adjustment factor is the same whether the batsman is Tendulkar (22 year-career), Dravid (16 years), Yuvraj Singh (8 years) or Raina (1 year). Not exactly good and has to be improved significantly.

As I sat for hours on end watching the WC simulations rolling by in the desktop, I kept on fiddling with ideas and then one day I had a spark. I kept looking at Peer comparisons and then suddenly discovered that I had the solution staring at me. Why not adjust each batsman's career-to-date values dynamically and independently, with his own peer values. It was a natural process to zero down to an adjustment based on the Peer value for the batsman himself, in other words, from his debut test to the current test.

Easier said than done. However I set about creating database segments containing data values, such as batting average and bowling average for all teams, for each batsman, for each test he played in. Needless to say, the Batting averages were only for the best 7 batsmen in each test. Also the adjustment for each player will kick in only after he has played 10 matches since there is insufficient data in the early stages. The adjustment is done by determining the ratio of 35.99 (the all-time average of the best 7 batsmen in each innings for 1989 tests) to the concerned batsman's C-t-d Peer average. If the C-t-d Peer average is higher than 35.99 then it has been a batsman-friendly x-tests era and the ratio would be below 1.000. If the C-t-d Peer average is below 35.99 then it has been a bowler-friendly x-tests era and the ratio would be above 1.000. A similar working for the bowlers, for whom the all-time bowling average is 31.76.

It was impossible to split the, already complex, players's c-t-d peer bowling average into Pace and Spin. Hence I have done this based on a composite bowling average and done the bowling type adjustment at a later stage. The spinners have their bowling averaged lowered by a fixed factor.

It has worked beautifully. This allows for the changes which take place during a player's career. If there was a glut of runs during a phase of 2/3 years, it would be reflected instantly.

6. In view of the importance of Bowling strike rates in Test cricket I have computed the Team strike rates for the four best bowlers separately and multiplied the Team Bowling index by a pro-rated value based on this.

7. The adjustments are done separately for Pace bowlers and Spinners.

The last but very important point. After hours, nay days of struggling to make an equitable adjustment and exasperation, I decided to bite the bullet and exclude 64 Test matches played before 1900. The problem was mainly with bowlers. The 1800s were downright crazy. 10 bowlers, who had captured 50+ Test wickets, had averages below 20 and this distorted everything else. However it must be mentioned that very relevant players such as Clem Hill (1896), Trumper (1899) and S.F.Barnes (1901) are included. The only serious players we would miss out are Lohmann, S.E.Gregory and W.G.Grace. Lohmann, with his 100+ at 10+ single-handedly wrecked all analysis. Based on numbers, Lohmann was the greatest bowler ever, by a few miles, may his soul rest in peace.

Finally a note on the tables. Teams like the 1945 Australians, 2005 Australians, 1990 West Indies would have multiple entries in the table since quite a few of these teams were quite strong. Now that I would be using Career-todate values there would be changes from match to match even if the eleven remains the same. Hence I have extracted one representative and best team amongst this group and presented here a unique team table. This means even if there are 25 Australian teams of 2005-06 era, having almost the same team combinations, I will select one amongst these 25. However the team selected will be a real life team from a played Test. In other words there would be only one 1948 Australian team, one 2005 Australia team and so on. At the same time if two West Indian teams had radically different bowling line-ups, say 1980 and 1990, both have been included. Of course the complete table contains all the entries and can be downloaded.

While selecting the teams out of this collection of teams, I have followed the common-sense based principle that two bowling teams which have two of the four bowlers changed and the batting team which had 3 of the batsmen (out of seven) changed, will be considered different teams. The selection had to be manually done by me. While I have tried to be careful, it is not certain that I have included all teams qualifying. If readers note any misses, they are requested to inform me so I could include the same. I had also to do quite a bit of cutting and pasting. Hence there might be minor errors.

I have used two further criteria in selecting these teams. One is that the selected team should be in the top-100 in the concerned table. The other is that there should be a rough correlation to the population of teams in the top-100 while looking for as much representation as possible.

Let us now look at the tables. First the top-10 Batting teams of all time.

```1. Australia:    49.81
MtId: 1661-2003      CtdAvg PeerAvg  Adj  FinalAvge
Gilchrist A.C         58.80  36.92  0.975  57.31
Hayden M.L            52.01  35.86  1.004  52.20
Waugh S.R             51.07  35.90  1.002  51.19
Ponting R.T           51.12  36.01  0.999  51.09
Martyn D.R            46.38  35.89  1.003  46.51
Langer J.L            45.86  35.90  1.002  45.97
Lehmann D.S           44.95  36.39  0.989  44.45

2. ICC XI:       49.67
MtId: 1768-2005
Dravid R              58.30  36.76  0.979  57.08
Kallis J.H            56.88  36.74  0.980  55.72
Lara B.C              54.09  36.50  0.986  53.34
Sehwag V              55.81  38.96  0.924  51.56
Smith G.C             55.50  38.94  0.924  51.29
Inzamam-ul-Haq        50.80  36.54  0.985  50.04
Flintoff A            33.43  37.32  0.964  32.24

3. Australia:    46.98
MtId: 0303-1948
Bradman D.G          101.39  38.24  0.941  95.43
Harvey R.N            43.58  42.51  1.000  43.58
Barnes S.G            50.00  41.64  0.864  43.22
Morris A.R            46.49  41.61  0.865  40.20
Hassett A.L           46.20  41.94  0.858  39.64
Miller K.R            36.97  39.64  0.908  33.57
Loxton S.J.E          33.24  40.72  1.000  33.24

4. England:      46.86
MtId: 0176-1928
Hobbs J.B             61.28  33.22  1.083  66.39
Sutcliffe H           60.73  36.68  0.981  59.60
Mead C.P              49.38  33.88  1.062  52.46
Jardine D.R           43.20  26.37  1.000  43.20
Hendren E.H           43.03  36.26  0.993  42.71
Hammond W.R           35.35  30.26  1.000  35.35
Chapman A.P.F         28.91  36.68  0.981  28.37

5. Australia:    46.02
MtId: 0237-1934
Bradman D.G           95.35  37.62  0.957  91.23
Woodfull W.M          46.00  37.08  0.971  44.65
McCabe S.J            42.27  35.95  1.001  42.32
Ponsford W.H          43.67  37.15  0.969  42.30
Brown W.A             37.16  42.59  1.000  37.16
Kippax A.F            36.12  36.81  0.978  35.32
Chipperfield A.G      29.22  42.59  1.000  29.22

6. India:        45.87
MtId: 1964-2010
Tendulkar S.R         55.57  37.25  0.966  53.69
Dravid R              53.75  37.59  0.957  51.46
Gambhir G             54.86  38.93  0.924  50.72
Sehwag V              53.53  39.18  0.919  49.17
Laxman V.V.S          46.64  37.62  0.957  44.62
Dhoni M.S             42.60  39.48  0.912  38.83
Yuvraj Singh          35.63  39.28  0.916  32.65

7. West Indies:  45.76
MtId: 0544-1963
Sobers G.St.A         60.95  33.30  1.081  65.87
Worrell F.M.M         53.41  34.40  1.046  55.88
Kanhai R.B            48.75  35.29  1.020  49.72
Hunte C.C             44.30  35.08  1.026  45.45
Butcher B.F           43.11  34.97  1.029  44.37
Solomon J.S           34.00  35.05  1.027  34.92
McMorris EDAStJ       24.17  34.78  1.000  24.17

8. Australia:    45.54
MtId: 1863-2008
Ponting R.T           58.02  37.03  0.972  56.39
Hayden M.L            53.20  36.83  0.977  51.99
Hussey M.E.K          51.10  38.36  0.938  47.94
Gilchrist A.C         47.90  37.86  0.951  45.53
Clarke M.J            44.79  37.70  0.955  42.76
Symonds A             40.61  38.22  0.942  38.24
Jaques P.A            36.00  38.49  1.000  36.00

9.West Indies:   44.96
MtId: 0405-1955
EdeC Weekes           58.62  35.24  1.021  59.87
Walcott C.L           56.69  35.24  1.021  57.90
Worrell F.M.M         49.49  35.01  1.028  50.87
Sobers G.St.A         42.75  28.67  1.000  42.75
Stollmeyer J.B        42.33  35.76  1.006  42.61
Holt jnr J.K          33.08  31.25  1.000  33.08
Atkinson D.S.t.E      26.67  34.71  1.037  27.65

10. West Indies: 44.69
MtId: 1006-1984
Richards I.V.A        53.98  35.43  1.016  54.84
Greenidge C.G         49.69  35.43  1.016  50.48
Gomes H.A             46.44  35.10  1.025  47.62
Lloyd C.H             46.60  35.87  1.003  46.76
Richardson R.B        43.15  36.78  0.979  42.23
Haynes D.L            39.08  35.31  1.019  39.83
Dujon P.J.L           31.94  36.93  0.975  31.13

```
As expected the table is headed by the 2003 Australian team. One sentence describes this team. Gilchrist, the best batsman in this test, batted at no.7 !!! The purists might scoff and say that the next team was a disparate set of talented individuals. But the second place is taken by the ICC XI which played Australia during 2005. This team might not have had Tendulkar. It still boasted of 6 top batsmen with a 50+ average.

Now comes the mighty Australians in Bradman's farewell test during 1948. Let us not forget that they had Lindwall, with his 2 centuries yet to come, at no.8. This, despite Bradman's 101.39, his average at the beginning of the test, being reduced by 6%. England, of vintage 1928, with Hobbs, Sutcliffe and Hammond, clocks in next. A slightly different Australians of 1934 are the next team. As compared to the 1948 team, this team had only Bradman.

In sixth place is the 2010 Indian team. As in the first team, this team had Dhoni at no.7, the statement which defines the batting strength admirably. The West Indian team of 1963, with Sobers, Kanhai, Butcher and Solomon, is in seventh place. In eigth place is the recent Australian team, with Hussey, Clarke and Symonds.

The table is rounded off by two West Indian teams of different ages. The 1955 West Indian team, with Sobers and the three W's is in ninth place. The table is rounded off by the Richards-led West Indies team of 1984. Not one of these 10 teams is out of place and almost all top batsmen of the world, barring Gavaskar, Kallis, Chappell, May, Compton, are represented.

Now for the best bowling teams.

```1. West Indies:  49.89
MtId: 1158-1990
Marshall M.D          20.72  31.97  0.993  20.58  46.8
Bishop I.R            24.29  34.49  0.921  22.37  52.3
Ambrose C.E.L         23.97  33.11  0.959  22.99  54.6
Walsh C.A             23.91  32.84  0.967  23.13  57.9

2. Australia:    49.85
MtId: 0373-1953
Lindwall R.R          20.31  32.38  0.981  19.93  59.9
Miller K.R            20.50  32.38  0.981  20.11  61.5
Johnston W.A          22.02  31.93  0.957  21.07  69.1
Davidson A.K          24.64  19.42  1.000  24.64  74.8

3. West Indies:  49.53
MtId: 1068-1987
Marshall M.D          21.23  31.63  1.004  21.32  46.8
Garner J              21.17  31.27  1.016  21.50  50.9
Holding M.A           23.29  31.32  1.014  23.62  50.9
Walsh C.A             25.16  32.80  0.968  24.36  57.9

4. England:      48.48
MtId: 0434-1956
Tyson F.H             18.57  27.31  1.163  21.59  45.4
Laker J.C             21.50  30.42  1.004  21.59  62.3
Wardle J.H            22.24  30.29  1.009  22.44  64.7
Statham J.B           24.85  28.89  1.099  27.31  63.7

5. West Indies:  47.91
MtId: 0901-1981
Garner J              19.44  29.38  1.081  21.02  50.9
Croft C.E.H           21.19  29.38  1.081  22.91  49.3
Roberts A.M.E         25.18  30.28  1.049  26.41  55.1
Holding M.A           25.13  29.95  1.060  26.65  50.9

6. Australia:    47.87
MtId: 1731-2005
McGrath G.D           21.40  32.42  0.980  20.96  52.0
Warne S.K             25.50  32.39  0.943  24.06  57.5
Gillespie J.N         24.90  32.70  0.971  24.18  55.0
MacGill S.C.G         29.22  32.85  0.930  27.18  54.0

7. England:      47.50
MtId: 0881-1980
Botham I.T            18.69  30.28  1.049  19.61  57.0
Underwood D.L         25.30  31.47  0.971  24.56  73.6
Willis R.G.D          24.78  31.79  0.999  24.76  53.4
Hendrick M            25.84  30.85  1.029  26.60  71.4

8. South Africa: 46.99
MtId: 1860-2008
Pollock S.M           23.19  32.98  0.963  22.33  57.8
Steyn D.W             24.08  34.16  0.930  22.39  40.0
Ntini M               27.88  33.34  0.953  26.56  53.4
Nel A                 31.34  34.56  0.919  28.80  62.0

9. Pakistan:     46.80
MtId: 1158-1990
Waqar Younis          23.56  34.25  0.927  21.85  43.5
Imran Khan            22.87  31.91  0.995  22.76  53.8
Wasim Akram           25.10  32.86  0.967  24.26  54.7
Abdul Qadir           32.54  31.80  0.961  31.26  72.6

10. Australia:   46.41
MtId: 0765-1975
Lillee D.K            23.73  33.46  0.949  22.52  52.0
Mallett A.A           26.15  32.29  0.946  24.74  75.7
Walker M.H.N          27.48  33.50  0.948  26.05  73.1
Thomson J.R           28.01  33.50  0.948  26.55  52.7

```
There is a mild surprise at the top. the West Indian attack of 1990, comprising of the magnificent quartet of Marshall, Bishop, Ambrose and Walsh is ahead, by the thinnest of margins, of the 1953 Australian team, with its four top-quality bowlers, Lindwall, Miller, Johnston and Davidson. It is necessary to mention that West Indies is ahead only because of the superior strike rate index and that Davidson is not credited with his career bowling average, this test falling in his initial tests stage. Now comes another wonderful West Indian quartet from 1987, Marshall, Garner, Holding and Walsh.

Then comes the first of two English bowlins attack in this list, the 1956 foursome of Tyson, Laker, Wardle and Statham. Just behind them is the wholly different Caribbean pace quartet of Garner, Croft, Roberts and Holding, of vintage 1981.

The Australian batsmen have dominated the tables. However they also had top class attacks. The modern Australian attack is the one during 2005 and had McGrath, Warne, Gillespie and MacGill. Two attacking fast bowlers, a world class spinner and an excellent medium pacer complete the second English team of Botham, Underwood, Willis and Hendrick.

The fearsome South African pace attack of Pollock, Steyn, Ntini and Nel comes in next. Now the most balanced attack in this list, each a giant bowler, of Waqar, Imran, Akram and Qadir. The top-10 list is rounded off by the classical Australian attack of 1975, comparing of Lillee, Mallet, Walker and Thomson.

The Indian attacks miss out since they never had four really world class bowlers together. Even with adjustments, spin-dominated attacks, with averages between 25 and 30 are unlikely to fare well. For the record, the best Indian bowling attack was the one which played Test# 1782 (during 2006), with 42.39 points. The attack comprised of Kumble, Zaheer, Harbhajan and R.P.Singh. Same applies to New Zealand and Sri Lanka, Hadlee and Muralitharan notwithstanding.

Now the top-10 teams of all time.

```MtId: 1744-2005 Australia   : 95.34 (48.28+47.06)
Langer J.L
Hayden M.L
Ponting R.T
Martyn D.R
Clarke M.J
Gillespie J.N
Katich S.M
Gilchrist A.C
Warne S.K
Kasprowicz M.S
McGrath G.D

MtId: 1768-2005 ICC World XI: 93.00 (49.67+43.33)
Smith G.C
Sehwag V
Dravid R
Lara B.C
Kallis J.H
Inzamam-ul-Haq
Flintoff A
Boucher M.V
Vettori D.L
Harmison S.J
Muralitharan M

MtId: 0999-1984 West Indies : 91.80 (44.36+47.44)
Greenidge C.G
Haynes D.L
Richardson R.B
Gomes H.A
Richards I.V.A
Dujon P.J.L
Lloyd C.H
Marshall M.D
Holding M.A
Garner J
Walsh C.A

MtId: 0300-1948 Australia   : 91.74 (45.41+46.33)
Barnes S.G
Morris A.R
Hassett A.L
Miller K.R
Brown W.A
Johnson I.W
Tallon D
Lindwall R.R
Johnston W.A
Toshack E.R.H

MtId: 1539-2001 Australia   : 91.20 (44.60+46.60)
Slater M.J
Hayden M.L
Langer J.L
Waugh M.E
Waugh S.R
Ponting R.T
Gilchrist A.C
Warne S.K
Gillespie J.N
Miller C.R
McGrath G.D

MtId: 1824-2006 Australia   : 90.21 (44.49+45.72)
Langer J.L
Hayden M.L
Lee B
Ponting R.T
Hussey M.E.K
Clarke M.J
Symonds A
Gilchrist A.C
Warne S.K
Clark S.R
McGrath G.D

MtId: 0222-1933 Australia   : 89.20 (44.55+44.65)
Fingleton J.H.W
Woodfull W.M
McCabe S.J
Ponsford W.H
Richardson V.Y
Oldfield W.A.S
Grimmett C.V
Wall T.W
O'Reilly W.J
Ironmonger H

MtId: 1319-1995 Australia   : 88.44 (43.62+44.82)
Slater M.J
Taylor M.A
Boon D.C
Waugh M.E
Waugh S.R
Ponting R.T
Healy I.A
Reiffel P.R
Warne S.K
McDermott C.J
McGrath G.D

MtId: 0530-1962 England     : 87.98 (42.89+45.09)

Pullar G
Cowdrey M.C
Dexter E.R
Graveney T.W
Barrington K.F
Parfitt P.H
Allen D.A
Millman G
Lock G.A.R
Trueman F.S
Statham J.B

MtId: 1168-1991 West Indies : 87.87 (40.12+47.75)
Greenidge C.G
Haynes D.L
Richardson R.B
Hooper C.L
Logie A.L
Richards I.V.A
Dujon P.J.L
Marshall M.D
Ambrose C.E.L
Walsh C.A
Patterson B.P

```
The best team table is dominated by six Australian teams down the ages, led by the 2005 Australian team, with very strong Batting and Bowling sub-teams. This is followed by Australian teams of 1948, 2001, 2006, 1933 and 1995. The second position is occupied by the very strong ICC Eleven, very strong on paper, poor on the field. West Indies has two teams, from 1983 and 1991. England has a single representative team, from 1962.

For the record, the strongest teams from the other countries are given below.

```South Africa Test# 1860 (2008) against West Indies, with 86.24 points.
India        Test# 1782 (2006) against Pakistan,    with 84.96 points.
Pakistan     Test# 1443 (1999) against India,       with 84.92 points.
Sri Lanka    Test# 1691 (2004) against Australia,   with 83.28 points.
New Zealand  Test# 1700 (2004) against England,     with 78.14 points.
Zimbabwe     Test# 1511 (2000) against New Zealand, with 66.64 points.
Bangladesh   Test# 1905 (2009) against Sri Lanka,   with 54.60 points.

```

I would like to inform the readers that I will be taking a month off to handle range of commitments I have during the World Cup. As things stand, I will be back after the completion of World Cup.

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems

• Ashish Shekhar on July 5, 2011, 15:05 GMT

Entire analysis is misleading. In the analysis i see the ranking is going high becoz of some lagendery players at fag end of their career and nowhere near their prime are contributing to points tally becoz of their excellent carrer average. Take the case of 1990 west indis team - it had Marshell, 1987 west indis team had Holding and garner, 2008 SA team had Pollock, 1990 Pak team had Imran khan and Quadir. All these players were well past their prime and are contributing to ranking becoz of their excellent overall career average. Same is the case with batting too...

• TJ on June 14, 2011, 1:39 GMT

Anand! Your analysis is exceptional but just thought of showing you some flaws in it you might have thought not that significant. Though Hayden Started playing for Australia in 1994 he became a regular member of the side in late nineties /2000. But if you check for the peer averages in the team that he chose for the best batting team (2003 Australian) Hayden has the peer average->adjustment factor similar to S.R Waugh just because of the fact that he made his debut in early nineties. But the truth is he belonged to the era starting from late nineties just as Gilchrist and his adjustment factor had to be similar to Gilchrist's. If it was done like that propely, Hayden't adjusted final average drops from 52.2 to 50.6. Same theory applies to Damien Martyn. His adjusted final average should drop down from 46.51 to 45.14. The overall sum reduces from 49.81 to 49.39.

That drops Aussie team to the second position from the top in that list. This error carries on for other results.

• TJ on June 12, 2011, 9:05 GMT

Let me tell you Anand, I appreciate your work but I didn't like your answer to Joe. You should watch the movie fire in Babylon and it gives you the solution to windies 1975 defeat. The same reconditioned team defeated australia comprehensively in 1979. Do I have any idea what I answered. No sir, not from a distance of 10000 kms.

• Alex on March 18, 2011, 5:39 GMT

@Ananth: I am not blaming SRT-Gambhir exclusively. As said, they both are great and were terrific overall in that innings. The historic collapse was a one-off event triggered by greedy/insecure thinking by #4 onwards. So, the real issue, to me, is to explore if SRT-Gambhir should have scored a bit faster in the middle stage.

I think the reason it didn't happen is the rivalry between SRT & Gambhir. SRT-Gambhir combo hasn't clicked to its full potential in ODI's: they are capable pulling a Ganguly-Dravid at Taunton (or SRT-Dravid at H'bad). Let's hope it does click big-time over the next 4 matches. What with its bowling & fielding, looks like India needs its top 3 to fire in every match!

• Abhi on March 18, 2011, 5:19 GMT

Alex, A top of the hat estimate would give you 99% of ODIs when the scoring rate dips in the middle overs. This is the routine middle over/build up/stabilising stage - this is absolutely common to keep wickets in hand for the last overs. To make this out to be a one-off situation is inaccurate -to say the least.

In hindsight,perhaps Gambhir should bave stayed. But with 8 overs to go and 4 known hitters to come(out of whom Dhoni or Kohli could easily have performed the "anchor" function if need be) it was fine then ,if you ask me.

Looking back at the fiasco, I wouldn't be surprised if Tendulkar decides to stick around for at least 45 (not 42) overs from now on. [[ Abhi Would not be a bad idea. He should be bloody minded about it and score, if required, a run-a-ball 150. He should not even think about whether there is a power play on. Let the other guys score the required 200 in 150. Maybe the only way for India to win. Can this happen three times running, That is the 64k\$ question. Ananth: ]]

• Alex on March 18, 2011, 4:15 GMT

@Abhi: Ananth has replied in detail. I will again point out what happened overs 24 onwards since that has been a trend in the SRT-Gambhir rivalry.

Background: Ind was in the driver's seat at 169/1 off 23 overs with SRT near his best (70 off 55) and Gambhir set (15 off 18). Kohli, Yuvraj, & MSD are trained to play long innings as well.

Given this, runs over the next 8 overs read: 4,1,10,4,4,1,4,6. Gambhir had 14 off 25 while SRT had 18 off 23. Barely 34 off 8 overs on a belter! That is no consolidation ... that is a suicide recipe. They took 65 off the next 57 deliveries and then departed one after another. Now, can others be expected to come in & score 80+ in final 10 overs? [[ Alex On this point, Yes, certainly and emphatically. That is their job. Not individually, but collectively as a team. If you keep out Tendulkar's and Gambhir's dismissals, coming as happened after two substantial innings, the way Yuvraj, Pathan, Kohli and Zaheer were out was stupid and irresponsible. In this case, blame them. Let us not go overboard on the two guys who took the score to 267 for 1 and were diismissed in two overs. Gambhir should have stayed on, but did not. It happens. But what happened to the others. I hope Dhoni was far more strident in private. Can we blame Russell yesterday for getting out. As far as 8 overs and 34 runs are concerned, these things happen in partnerships. It does not make them incompetent. Probably they put too much faith in the so called finishers coming after no.4. I stand by my statement that when Power play was called and one of them, Tendulkar, naturally more suited to attack, took on the role as an attacking batsman, with attendant risks, it is Gambhir's duty to stay on and let the other guys biff and bash. Ananth: ]]

The catch is that Gambhir needed a good score. He is a terrific anchor and wants SRT's anchor role. When they bat together, they compete for it on-field, thereby slowing down the proceedings. They both are in good form now and need to bury this rivalry over the next 4 matches for India's good.

• Abhi on March 18, 2011, 3:09 GMT

Ananth, Considering the limitations of statsguru (and my own computer limitations) I wonder if you could run some numbers on your statsbases: 1)What is the avg. score for the opening pair in ODIs. 2)How many overs do the openers last for – on average. 3)Is it beneficial for the openers to stay till the end? Or after the 40/45 th overs? i.e Does the scoring rate in general dip or pick up if the openers hang around till then? 4)In order for the batting team to put up the best “last 10 over” score- what is the optimal wickets to have fallen till then? Etc. No way I will be able to manage to get this kind of info on my own. [[ What you have asked for makes eminent sense even though your objectives are quite clear and for a specific purpose. I will add this to my work tray. Ananth: ]]

• Abhi on March 18, 2011, 2:53 GMT

Ananth, Everything you(and Alex) say may be considered true – but only, and exclusively, with the benefit of hindsight. In reality, Tendulkar had more than done his bit. He and Sehwag had not only negated, but taken apart, the best new ball attack in the world. Laid the best foundation possible. With 8 overs remaining ,if the remaining power hitters had conversatively scored at even 10 an over – that would mean a total of 360+. If Tendulkar had pottered around,taking singles- you would have had another group screaming over that. “What’s he doing? Let the power hitters come in and do their thing. See, how he’s slowed the scoring down?” etc etc…(As it is on the one hand you have Alex cribbing on how Tendulkar slowed down in between.That is not ok.But it is apparently ok to slow down after 42 overs ,at 267-1,with 8 wickets in hand)…Complete and utter No Win situation for the man. (The fans comments sometimes seriously leaves me scratching my head) What’s Tendulkar to do now? He gets India off to a good start- then stabilises the middle overs, lays a great platform- when relatively tired hands over to the power hitters ,only to see their idiocy- and then Tendulkar is to blame. I wonder what the % of opening batsmen staying till the 50th or even 45th over is in ODIs. This is seriously too much- why bother playing 7 batsmen [[ Abhi You are over-reacting because Tendulkar is the "commented" party. I wonder whether you would do the same thing if it was, say, Ganguly. Let me emphasize that I think it is necessary for ONE OF THE PARTNERS in a long partnership to continue to the end. This is not told just by me. Every time Gavaskar says this also. Let us say Tendulkar was out going for a big hit. I am not blaming him at all, what with power play and so on. Then IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT GAMBHIR CARRIED ON. And to Tendulkar's credit, when it happened the other way, the 200, he carried on. In England's case, the unplayable ball happened second, that is all. Ananth: ]] .

• Ananth on March 18, 2011, 1:26 GMT

Is England going to do a Pakistan 1992. 4 big hits from an early departure and barely survived. It should be remembered that England has not lost to a top side in the tournament. Australia also have not, but have still to play against Pakistan. The following table is interesting and packs a story. England 2.5 - 0.5 South Africa 2 - 1 India 0.5 - 1.5 (plus 1) West Indies 0 - 2 (plus 1) Pakistan 1 - 1 (plus 1) Sri Lanka 0.5 - 1.5 (plus 1) Australia 1.5 - 0.5 (plus 1) New Zealand 1 - 1 (plus 1). For my third stage simulation I have considered these numbers as one measure. England leads !!! Their on-field performance is exemplary. Two key reviews went against them. No tantrums, not even a twitching of the face. Other players should learn. Strauss's run across the field after the last wicket was wonderful to see. Ananth

• Abhi on March 17, 2011, 7:05 GMT

Alex, If England don't make the quarterfinals - Then Strauss is wholly to blame( as per your peculiar logic) So,henceforth whatever Tendulkar scores (say T)he should somehow insure he scores T+2 before he gets out. That ,of course,is all it takes for the to team to always win individual matches and by extension eventually the World Cup. [[ Abhi You might remember that I had also absolved Tendulkar and Gambhir of any blame. However I feel what Alex means that either of the batsmen involved in a long stand should stay on till the end, especially if the stand has been a good, not a fast one. If either Tendulkar or Gambhir had stayed on till the end, Inda would have scored 325 and won. Similarly if either Strauu or Bell had stayed on till the end, England would have won with an over to spare. If it means theses batsmen took singles and eschewed forcing shots, so be it. In the England case, Strauss would not be blamed since he got an unplayable delivery. But Bell should take the blame . Ananth: ]]

• Ashish Shekhar on July 5, 2011, 15:05 GMT

Entire analysis is misleading. In the analysis i see the ranking is going high becoz of some lagendery players at fag end of their career and nowhere near their prime are contributing to points tally becoz of their excellent carrer average. Take the case of 1990 west indis team - it had Marshell, 1987 west indis team had Holding and garner, 2008 SA team had Pollock, 1990 Pak team had Imran khan and Quadir. All these players were well past their prime and are contributing to ranking becoz of their excellent overall career average. Same is the case with batting too...

• TJ on June 14, 2011, 1:39 GMT

Anand! Your analysis is exceptional but just thought of showing you some flaws in it you might have thought not that significant. Though Hayden Started playing for Australia in 1994 he became a regular member of the side in late nineties /2000. But if you check for the peer averages in the team that he chose for the best batting team (2003 Australian) Hayden has the peer average->adjustment factor similar to S.R Waugh just because of the fact that he made his debut in early nineties. But the truth is he belonged to the era starting from late nineties just as Gilchrist and his adjustment factor had to be similar to Gilchrist's. If it was done like that propely, Hayden't adjusted final average drops from 52.2 to 50.6. Same theory applies to Damien Martyn. His adjusted final average should drop down from 46.51 to 45.14. The overall sum reduces from 49.81 to 49.39.

That drops Aussie team to the second position from the top in that list. This error carries on for other results.

• TJ on June 12, 2011, 9:05 GMT

Let me tell you Anand, I appreciate your work but I didn't like your answer to Joe. You should watch the movie fire in Babylon and it gives you the solution to windies 1975 defeat. The same reconditioned team defeated australia comprehensively in 1979. Do I have any idea what I answered. No sir, not from a distance of 10000 kms.

• Alex on March 18, 2011, 5:39 GMT

@Ananth: I am not blaming SRT-Gambhir exclusively. As said, they both are great and were terrific overall in that innings. The historic collapse was a one-off event triggered by greedy/insecure thinking by #4 onwards. So, the real issue, to me, is to explore if SRT-Gambhir should have scored a bit faster in the middle stage.

I think the reason it didn't happen is the rivalry between SRT & Gambhir. SRT-Gambhir combo hasn't clicked to its full potential in ODI's: they are capable pulling a Ganguly-Dravid at Taunton (or SRT-Dravid at H'bad). Let's hope it does click big-time over the next 4 matches. What with its bowling & fielding, looks like India needs its top 3 to fire in every match!

• Abhi on March 18, 2011, 5:19 GMT

Alex, A top of the hat estimate would give you 99% of ODIs when the scoring rate dips in the middle overs. This is the routine middle over/build up/stabilising stage - this is absolutely common to keep wickets in hand for the last overs. To make this out to be a one-off situation is inaccurate -to say the least.

In hindsight,perhaps Gambhir should bave stayed. But with 8 overs to go and 4 known hitters to come(out of whom Dhoni or Kohli could easily have performed the "anchor" function if need be) it was fine then ,if you ask me.

Looking back at the fiasco, I wouldn't be surprised if Tendulkar decides to stick around for at least 45 (not 42) overs from now on. [[ Abhi Would not be a bad idea. He should be bloody minded about it and score, if required, a run-a-ball 150. He should not even think about whether there is a power play on. Let the other guys score the required 200 in 150. Maybe the only way for India to win. Can this happen three times running, That is the 64k\$ question. Ananth: ]]

• Alex on March 18, 2011, 4:15 GMT

@Abhi: Ananth has replied in detail. I will again point out what happened overs 24 onwards since that has been a trend in the SRT-Gambhir rivalry.

Background: Ind was in the driver's seat at 169/1 off 23 overs with SRT near his best (70 off 55) and Gambhir set (15 off 18). Kohli, Yuvraj, & MSD are trained to play long innings as well.

Given this, runs over the next 8 overs read: 4,1,10,4,4,1,4,6. Gambhir had 14 off 25 while SRT had 18 off 23. Barely 34 off 8 overs on a belter! That is no consolidation ... that is a suicide recipe. They took 65 off the next 57 deliveries and then departed one after another. Now, can others be expected to come in & score 80+ in final 10 overs? [[ Alex On this point, Yes, certainly and emphatically. That is their job. Not individually, but collectively as a team. If you keep out Tendulkar's and Gambhir's dismissals, coming as happened after two substantial innings, the way Yuvraj, Pathan, Kohli and Zaheer were out was stupid and irresponsible. In this case, blame them. Let us not go overboard on the two guys who took the score to 267 for 1 and were diismissed in two overs. Gambhir should have stayed on, but did not. It happens. But what happened to the others. I hope Dhoni was far more strident in private. Can we blame Russell yesterday for getting out. As far as 8 overs and 34 runs are concerned, these things happen in partnerships. It does not make them incompetent. Probably they put too much faith in the so called finishers coming after no.4. I stand by my statement that when Power play was called and one of them, Tendulkar, naturally more suited to attack, took on the role as an attacking batsman, with attendant risks, it is Gambhir's duty to stay on and let the other guys biff and bash. Ananth: ]]

The catch is that Gambhir needed a good score. He is a terrific anchor and wants SRT's anchor role. When they bat together, they compete for it on-field, thereby slowing down the proceedings. They both are in good form now and need to bury this rivalry over the next 4 matches for India's good.

• Abhi on March 18, 2011, 3:09 GMT

Ananth, Considering the limitations of statsguru (and my own computer limitations) I wonder if you could run some numbers on your statsbases: 1)What is the avg. score for the opening pair in ODIs. 2)How many overs do the openers last for – on average. 3)Is it beneficial for the openers to stay till the end? Or after the 40/45 th overs? i.e Does the scoring rate in general dip or pick up if the openers hang around till then? 4)In order for the batting team to put up the best “last 10 over” score- what is the optimal wickets to have fallen till then? Etc. No way I will be able to manage to get this kind of info on my own. [[ What you have asked for makes eminent sense even though your objectives are quite clear and for a specific purpose. I will add this to my work tray. Ananth: ]]

• Abhi on March 18, 2011, 2:53 GMT

Ananth, Everything you(and Alex) say may be considered true – but only, and exclusively, with the benefit of hindsight. In reality, Tendulkar had more than done his bit. He and Sehwag had not only negated, but taken apart, the best new ball attack in the world. Laid the best foundation possible. With 8 overs remaining ,if the remaining power hitters had conversatively scored at even 10 an over – that would mean a total of 360+. If Tendulkar had pottered around,taking singles- you would have had another group screaming over that. “What’s he doing? Let the power hitters come in and do their thing. See, how he’s slowed the scoring down?” etc etc…(As it is on the one hand you have Alex cribbing on how Tendulkar slowed down in between.That is not ok.But it is apparently ok to slow down after 42 overs ,at 267-1,with 8 wickets in hand)…Complete and utter No Win situation for the man. (The fans comments sometimes seriously leaves me scratching my head) What’s Tendulkar to do now? He gets India off to a good start- then stabilises the middle overs, lays a great platform- when relatively tired hands over to the power hitters ,only to see their idiocy- and then Tendulkar is to blame. I wonder what the % of opening batsmen staying till the 50th or even 45th over is in ODIs. This is seriously too much- why bother playing 7 batsmen [[ Abhi You are over-reacting because Tendulkar is the "commented" party. I wonder whether you would do the same thing if it was, say, Ganguly. Let me emphasize that I think it is necessary for ONE OF THE PARTNERS in a long partnership to continue to the end. This is not told just by me. Every time Gavaskar says this also. Let us say Tendulkar was out going for a big hit. I am not blaming him at all, what with power play and so on. Then IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT GAMBHIR CARRIED ON. And to Tendulkar's credit, when it happened the other way, the 200, he carried on. In England's case, the unplayable ball happened second, that is all. Ananth: ]] .

• Ananth on March 18, 2011, 1:26 GMT

Is England going to do a Pakistan 1992. 4 big hits from an early departure and barely survived. It should be remembered that England has not lost to a top side in the tournament. Australia also have not, but have still to play against Pakistan. The following table is interesting and packs a story. England 2.5 - 0.5 South Africa 2 - 1 India 0.5 - 1.5 (plus 1) West Indies 0 - 2 (plus 1) Pakistan 1 - 1 (plus 1) Sri Lanka 0.5 - 1.5 (plus 1) Australia 1.5 - 0.5 (plus 1) New Zealand 1 - 1 (plus 1). For my third stage simulation I have considered these numbers as one measure. England leads !!! Their on-field performance is exemplary. Two key reviews went against them. No tantrums, not even a twitching of the face. Other players should learn. Strauss's run across the field after the last wicket was wonderful to see. Ananth

• Abhi on March 17, 2011, 7:05 GMT

Alex, If England don't make the quarterfinals - Then Strauss is wholly to blame( as per your peculiar logic) So,henceforth whatever Tendulkar scores (say T)he should somehow insure he scores T+2 before he gets out. That ,of course,is all it takes for the to team to always win individual matches and by extension eventually the World Cup. [[ Abhi You might remember that I had also absolved Tendulkar and Gambhir of any blame. However I feel what Alex means that either of the batsmen involved in a long stand should stay on till the end, especially if the stand has been a good, not a fast one. If either Tendulkar or Gambhir had stayed on till the end, Inda would have scored 325 and won. Similarly if either Strauu or Bell had stayed on till the end, England would have won with an over to spare. If it means theses batsmen took singles and eschewed forcing shots, so be it. In the England case, Strauss would not be blamed since he got an unplayable delivery. But Bell should take the blame . Ananth: ]]

• Ramesh Kumar on March 17, 2011, 6:28 GMT

Gerry,

I feel that spinners don't flight the ball that much these days, probably due to ODI/T20 influence. When they flight, going to the pitch of the ball used to be the best option and I feel Gavaskar is the best amongst Indian batsmen. Obviously they are not scoring shots and it may not look glamorous like paddle sweep or inside out cover drives. I feel Vishwanath & Laxman play their shots more by their hand eye cordination and while they look elegant, they can be inconsistent. Vishwanath, imo, was brilliant against fast bowling and many those days used to place him higher than Gavaskar in this point. But he was not spoken that way against spinners. I feel that Laxman is of same Vishy style. Tendulkar is much more solid and can attack as well though he fails himself some times when he tries to manufacture some shots behind the wicket which are high risk/low reward shots against spin.

regards,

Ramesh Kumar

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 17, 2011, 3:50 GMT

...but back then, batsmen such as Gavaskar, who were not heavy stroke players, were much better off against pace than spin.

Vishwanath, Laxman and Tendulkar manufactured some strokes of their own - the inside out cover drive, the on-drive to leggies bowling around the wicket and the paddle sweep, respectively, and used them as safe test match shots. Gavaskar was extremely orthodox, quite opposite.

For these reasons i cant help feeling that under NTP (normal temperature and pressure), Gavaskar was not all that hot against spin, and the great modern batsmen, and some of the older ones like Vishwanath (a better timer of the ball) were superior.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 17, 2011, 3:45 GMT

Ramesh, the other point is, though this may be a bit cynical, I always thought that since Gavaskar played in the era of non-neutral (and frequently, obviously biased) umpires, he should have averaged much better in home matches than away, as was the norm for all batsmen of the time. Rather in his case, curiously, it was the other way round.

I believe that when India toured, their batsmen usually underperformed by 10-15%, and at home outperformed at home similarly. If one takes that into account, the home advantage for Gavaskar seems neutralised by his relative inability to face good spinners. This is only relative though...

The last point was that while he occassionally let his hair down and played the Steve Waugh like slog sweep, he generally stuck to orthodox methods. In the 80s, pitches in India were dead pitches, and while they offered no help to the bowlers, they were equally unhelpful to the batsmen. Nowadays, in the interest of promoting one-day, all pitchers are belters...

• shrikanth on March 17, 2011, 3:12 GMT

Trumper seems to have been the Viv Richards of his time

Not very sure. He was, I agree, a very rapid scorer. (going by the Test scorecards on cricinfo) But though he was an opener, he appears to have had a much better record in the middle order. Also, he has a brilliant record against SA googly attack, but somewhat less successful against English new ball bowlers.

Going by what I've read, Trumper was a brilliant player of spin. Probably better than Ranji in this regard.

Ranji, on the other hand, was primarily a "fast-wicket batsman" (read this in an article by a contemporary), who was brilliant square of the wicket at using the pace of bowlers. I guess he'd have loved to play on the true and fast Australian pitches of today.

• shrikanthk on March 17, 2011, 3:04 GMT

A lot of players supposedly used to throw their wickets away during that period to further confound matters

Wasp: I'm not too sure about that. Given that a lot of great batsmen of that era were professionals (Hayward and Hobbs included). In fact, I'd say Ranji was more likely to underperform given that he was a royal amateur hardly dependent on cricket for a living.

Actually, this is a piece on WG per se. He doesn't explicitly say that these three are the best of all time. Yet, one can infer that given that he consciously wonders about the "relative merits" of the three. He also says that both he and WG believed that Ranji was superior to WG in terms of pure technique. Doesn't discuss Trumper much, though he did rate him highly.

I suspect Ranji might have been eulogised more had he been white. It must've been quite an achievement for a colored man in 1900 to establish himself as the most popular English cricketer!

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 17, 2011, 2:54 GMT

Alex, i listened to the commentary of the 1979 Oval test, but have forgotten details. my video shows the lunch time score of 192/0, Gavaskar 114*. You can work it out for yourself - it was perfectly paced. Gavaskar says in the post match interview that it was their decision to be positive (not quite the same as chasing it down). But they reached 213/0 at a decent clip.

Ramesh, it must have been incredible to watch - high quality bowling against a master batsman - and a good bit of needle. I meant that i have seen him struggle against Iqbal Qasim, Mohammed Nazir etc, but tighten up under pressure against the same bowlers, and play with assurance. I have always viewed him as a pressure batsman in the Laxman mould, though he was extremely prolific run getter, in the first half of his career (I doubt if anyone has more centuries than his 20 after 50 tests except Bradman).

• shrikanthk on March 17, 2011, 2:46 GMT

Ananth: Yes. You'll always have anomalies like Merchant and Woodfull - very high FC averages. But I believe figures don't lie completely. They must've been damn good players. No approach is perfect. Even I'd use Test figures wherever possible. But in cases where # of tests is < 30, I'd look closely at FC figures as well. [[ Woodfull at least scored against strong Australian attacks. The 1930s/40s Indian FC scene was quite dicey, what with Parsis/Mohammadens/Hindus et al. Ananth: ]]

I'd take English FC figures seriously, especially from the early part of the century when the standards were reasonably high (relying on Hobbs' writeup that I linked to). Mainly because of the sheer grind of the FC schedule and the variety conditions encountered. It isn't easy to perform day in and day out throughout the summer against paid professionals under conditions which are notoriously fickle.

Even a giant like Frank Woolley averaged barely 40 in FC cricket, though he played in the 20s - an era when pitches in genenral were a lot flatter than in Ranji's day.

• Waspsting on March 16, 2011, 20:28 GMT

re: Victor Trumper

@Shrikanthk - I was wondering what Fry had to say about Trumper in the artilce you mentioned in which he suggests that the 3 best batsmen were Grace, Ranji and Bradman. Could you write a bit about this? Trumper seems to have been the Viv Richards of his time - almost everyone, English and Ausralian, - ranks him as the best, although he had statistical equals (and even superiors). Curious.

Even when Bradman came about, old timers insisted Trumper had been greater.The claim was that Bradman unsportsmanlikely pursued big scores while Trumpe didn't - thus accounting for the differnce in their averages.

Bradman answered this very well. He pointed out that even his ratio of 50-to-innings and 100-to-innings was VASTLY superior to Trumpuer's. [[ Just as I have always said "Pl praise Tendulkar but do not put down Lara or Ponting", here it is a case of the need to praise Trumper without putting down Bradman. I am not sure how Trumper, with his batting style, would have handled bodyline and the aftermath. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on March 16, 2011, 20:21 GMT

@Shrikanthk - Ranji and Fry's statistical superiority over thier contemporaries might have something to do with the flat conditions at Brighton, and Fry's ordinary record in test cricket suggests that its hard to conclude that Ranji was as far ahead of his contemporaries as Bradman was (don't know much about Grace). A lot of players supposedly used to throw their wickets away during that period to further confound matters - Hobbs and Trumper prominently among them. I don't know enough about it to conclude anything either way.

Gavaskar was fine player of spin - but yes, he has a poor record against Underwood in general.

• shrikanthk on March 16, 2011, 18:08 GMT

Shrikanthk, do not put too much store by FC numbers. In 1980, Richards had a FC average of 48, and test average of 59

Gerry: I'm not suggesting the use of FC figures to judge a Richards or a Gavaskar who've played more than 100 test matches. But they do come in handy to judge players like WG or Ranji who hardly played in 20 tests. Take for instance Barry Richards. For me, his FC average of 55-56 is far more reliable than his Test average of 71 (over 4 tests) against a jaded Australian side.

First-class figures often convey a LOT. The Yorkshire attacks that Ranji and Fry plundered with great regularity in the early 1900s consisted of Rhodes, Hirst, Haigh, Wainwright and FS Jackson. An attack far more distinguished than the New Zealand "Test" attacks plundered by Wally Hammond in the 30s!

Just because you play someone who hails from a different country does not automatically make the standard high. The challenges of cricket are the same, be it a University game or an MCG test. [[ The only country where there has been a consistently high quality of first class cricket played is Australia probably because of the fewer teams. How much can we infer from Merchant's very high FC avge. You must have seen my reference to New Zealand attack against which Hammond scoired 336. The five bowlers would finish with a combinbed career haul of Test wickets of 35 at 60+ avge. The NSW or Yorkshire attack would have been about 10 times more potent. Ananth: ]]

• Ramesh Kumar on March 16, 2011, 11:56 GMT

Gerry,

surprisning comments on SMG vs spin. I always felt that he was the best amongst the top batsmen from India against spin. I have followed his FC exploits against Bedi, Chandra,Prasanna and others in rank turners and he was brilliant. Underwood used to be a dangerous bowler only in certain wickets and conditions and everybody used to struggle against him. Otherwise, he was ordinary in other conditions.

Ramesh Kumar

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 16, 2011, 9:36 GMT

• Alex on March 16, 2011, 8:27 GMT

@Gerry & @Abhi: No idea why I am copping so much flak!

1. IMO, SMG's 221 was epic and SMG is a legend. However, Ind (& SMG) really played for a draw until the final 2-3 hours and that cost them the victory.

2. SMG was selfish in ODIs until @1986. Mostly, he would bat on at SR<55 and others were supposed to score a lot faster on this "platform".

3. Ind played 2 tall-scoring matches, lost one by 2 deliveries, and tied the other ... you must look to batsmen who batted the most and wonder if they could have given maybe 5-10 runs more. Gambhir was cautious till 40 while SRT slowed down near his 100. That cost Ind 5-10 runs and that was the match. You can't expect others to enter at fag end and start hitting 4's & 6's (SRT did the same with Pollard at IPL3). India's real batting problem is in overs 24-35 & not in overs 38-50.

4. Somehow, SRT-Gambhir combo has never clicked to its full potential. Maybe that treat is in store over the next 4 weeks.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 16, 2011, 7:03 GMT

Shrikanthk, do not put too much store by FC numbers. In 1980, Richards had a FC average of 48, and test average of 59. On Gavaskar being selfish, have a look at the full video - he runs desperately even for Vengsarkar's runs. Critisizing 221 as selfish, while praising Waugh for a 4th innnings strike rate of 24 would attract charges of racism if Gavaskar had been black. Alex, Gavaskar scored 72 runs each in morning and afternoon session. This when Hendricks was bowling. Must have taken some doing for an orthodox batsman. I don't think Gavasar was a very good player of spin bowling. Not in the Tendulkar / Laxman / Vishwanath league. His innings of 96 against was better than any innings they have played in terms of conquering conditions on a turning track, but i suspect more because of the focus and keenness which came from the extreme pressure of that chase. I have seen him struggle against Underwood etc. But he was as good a player of spin as any good Indian batsman normally is.

• Abhi on March 16, 2011, 4:14 GMT

Boll, Yes- The Borders,Waughs and Gavaskars will live long in our memories.Nevermind the recent glut of batsmen who avg.more.

Waspsting, The Gavaskar "leave" was a work of art in itself. To me it was on par with any great shot produced by other batsmen. His class evading of the short ball almost produced a response -"shot"! It was that good. You only realise how good it was when you see other batsmen either resort to "happy hooking" (for want of the technique/ability to duck/weave) or get themselves in all sorts of a tangle against the quick stuff.

Alex, Regarding Tendulkar...to paraphrase Johnny Mac "You cannot be Serious?!" What else is the guy supposed to do now. In any case I think he read Ananth's article about runs against "minnows'.Now that he is part of a strong batting lineup he seems to be throwing away his wicket against them. Fortunately, at this stage he can now resort to this luxury and leave the others to get the runs. [[ Abhi I would not blame Tendulkar and Gambhir even slightly for India's debacle at Nagpur. The problem was both them getting out but that happens often. They did what could be done and a lot more. They left the score at 268 for 3 and 8 overs to go. Common sense batting would have taken them to 325. Pathan, Yuvraj, Kohli, and Zaheer played like morons. Going for glory has been an Indian disease for long. Dhoni was mild in his criticism. I hope he was far more strident in priivate. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on March 16, 2011, 3:00 GMT

That's right. But bear in mind that the 1920 Aus team pummeled a very weak post WWI English side. The 1902 team only barely managed to beat a very competitive English side that year. In fact, the 1902 Ashes along with the 2005 Ashes ought to rank among the most entertaining Anglo-Australian series.

Talking of the huge gulf between pre WWI cricket and post 20s cricket, it's interesting that Hobbs is one figure who bridged the two eras. Here's a very perceptive write-up by him upon his retirement from FC cricket in '34 in which he compares cricket in his youth (1900s) with cricket in the Bradman era (early 30s). Very interesting. Must read I'd say :

http://www.espncricinfo.com/wisdenalmanack/content/story/151786.html

• Alex on March 16, 2011, 2:48 GMT

@Wasp:

1. SMG & DBV played for a draw in SMG's epic 221. India did not plan on winning (unlike WI in Greenidge's famous 214*) and accelerated towards the end only, by which time it was too late. I too think DBV (rather than SMG) cost India the win.

2. I have seen Waugh pull quite well ... almost every good Oz batsman plays the pull shot well. Hook is a different story.

3. Memo to SRT & Gautam: pl don't bat out 180+ deliveries at SR=100 when the safe par score is @320 ... that cannot cover sub-par batting from your team-mates to follow: statistically, 2 of those 4 are bound to fail badly. Either one of you or Kohli must be there till the end even if that means a loss of 15-20 runs in the best case scenario.

I think SRT & Gautam were terrific overall but the slow batting during overs 31-34 and the ensuing greedy/insecure thinking by batsmen #4 onwards did India in vs SA ... we can blame the batsmen only because not much is expected from India's bowling anyway.

• shrikanthk on March 16, 2011, 2:39 GMT

@shrikanthk: Best not to mix FC & tests. CB Fry, e.g., was almost a case of Graeme Hick as a batsman.

Perhaps. But the point is that we glamorize Test matches a lot. A Test match against NZl in Nagpur may not be as challenging as a four-day game against Western Australia at Perth. An all-time Barbados XI will beat an all-time New Zealand or even an Indian XI hands down.

Yes. Hobbs may have been prolific in Tests prior to WWI. But why was he significantly less prolific in pre WWI FC circuit?

FC cricket is most useful to judge pre WWI cricketers since they afford a much larger sample size. The greater the sample of matches, the more reliable the statistics.

Wasp: Trumper is a bit of a romantic figure. Great batsman no doubt. But going by FC numbers, he doesn't stand out like Ranji or the early WG. In his own team, you had someone like Hill who matched him in terms of run-scoring. Also, his health was a major factor that affected his on-field consistency.

• Waspsting on March 15, 2011, 17:52 GMT

@shrikanthk - Where does Fry place Victor Trumper in all of this?

As far as I know, Grace mastered forward play and Ranji back, so between the two of them, they covered most of the bases (as far as Bradman goes, 'nuff said, lets leave him out of this discussion).

Everyone of that period seems to have been in raptures of Trumper though,and I know a couple of fancy compliments Fry payed him - "he had no style but he was all style... he had 6 shots for every ball" - and was wondering where Fry rated him.

Back to topic of this article. 1920 Aus team was considered great - Gregory, MacDonald and Mailey leading the bowling. So was 1902 Aus team - Trumper, Hill and that lot. [[ I have a book on the Joe Darling-led 1902 Australians, written by Brown. The description of Trumper in this book should levae no one in any doubt that he was nearly as good as Bradman. And C M-J in his classic "Who's who of Test cricketers" says that Trumper possessed "style and grace", not the strong point of Bradman. Ease of posture, supple wrists, union of hand and eye, moving into strokes with effortless balance are the words used by C M-J. Ananth: ]]

• Alex on March 15, 2011, 17:01 GMT

@shrikanthk and @Ananth: While we look up 120+ years old history on WG & Ranji, let us not lose the sight of the history made by Ind vs SA at Nagpur on March 12. In terms of #runs scored while losing the final 9 wickets, it was 2nd worst collapse in WC history and 4th worst in ODI history. But in terms of #overs it took to lose the final 9 wickets, it was hands down the fastest collapse ever: 9 overs only --- that's 1 wkt per over!

India beat its nearest rival by a whopping 2 overs on this count. [[ Alex About an year back I did an article titlled "Momentous collapses in ODIs" in which I lcompared the potential score at the fall of each wicket and the actual score reached. The following were the top 10 entries Test For Vs Interim score Final score EstScr Diff

1529 Zim Slk 100/1 in 20.0 to 150/10 in 37 325 175 1963 Can Win 155/1 in 21.0 to 202/10 in 42 372 170 2484 Ken Can 110/3 in 20.0 to 144/10 in 35 302 158 2868 Slk Pak 130/2 in 23.4 to 175/10 in 36 322 147 2887 Ind Slk 105/2 in 20.0 to 168/10 in 37 315 147 1699 Aus Ind 111/2 in 20.2 to 181/10 in 35 326 145 1808 Win Pak 127/3 in 21.3 to 181/10 in 34 323 142 2254 Bng Aus 113/2 in 23.4 to 139/10 in 35 280 141 1517 Win Pak 92/3 in 20.0 to 117/10 in 31 252 135 1946 Bng Can 106/4 in 20.5 to 120/10 in 28 254 134 2845 Aus Pak 100/2 in 20.0 to 168/10 in 38 300 132 2934 Slk Ind 165/1 in 22.3 to 239/10 in 44 371 132

Based on this measure the Indian collapse was not not that great since mostly the situation around 20 overs was taken in and India probably fell 50 runs short. However in terms of overs this takes the cake. Comparable to the Win team against pak above. 9 wickets in 11 overs. On the subject, compare two big heaves, both going for 4/6 and getting out. One was by Zaheer Khan, a stupid, selfish and mindless shot and the other, a selfless team-before-self shot by Duminy, playing at 99. Maybe this X-factor separates the South African and Indian teams. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on March 15, 2011, 15:52 GMT

Alex - are you joking???

re: hook shots - Gavaskar had a very good one, he chose not to play it usuallly (like many players, lara and tendulkar included). when he did, he played it as well as anyone.

re: ouside off-stump - which batsman isn't vulnerable out there?

re:Waugh's horizontal bat shots - he cut well, but didn't hook or pull AT ALL. not even long hops from spinners!

re: Blows to body - everyones taken knocks, but Waugh is on in a different league, and certainly took more than Gavaskar, who evaded the short ball wonderfully.

re: Waugh in 4 innings - he didn't score many runs, and he scored them painfully slowly - is this the point of the stat you've given us?

re: pacing - your criticizng the pacing of a fourth innings double hundred chasing 440+???

re: SRT & Gambhir scored 180 of a 176 balls. How did they lose the match for India?

Seriously - were you joking when you wrote this post???

• Alex on March 15, 2011, 4:15 GMT

@shrikanthk: Best not to mix FC & tests. CB Fry, e.g., was almost a case of Graeme Hick as a batsman.

I think it a shame that Cricinfo's All Time XI of Eng did not consider Ranji. Cardus also cut him out in his "Wisden's six giants of the century" (1963). Over 1902-06, Ranji was scoring heavily in FC but was not picked to play tests while Eng played almost 20 tests. In an era where stalwarts played tests well into their 50's (Rhodes, Grace, Hobbs, Hendren, etc.), Ranji played his final test at age 30.

Hobbs' averaged 57.2 in tests before WW1 and 56.7 after WW1. He must have been a real treasure but I think it instructive that the Don believed a few batsmen who arrived after 1930 were better than Hobbs & Trumper. It is a case of Lillee & Hadlee. Hadlee modeled himself after Lillee and became, probably, an even greater bowler.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 15, 2011, 3:11 GMT

Shrikanthk, Gavaskar was 42* at the end of the 4th day, 114* at lunch on the 5th day and 186* at tea on the 5th day. He did not leave others too much to do. the culprit was Vengsarkar, with 53 in 156 balls out of a stand of 153. He was to repeat this feat against Pakistan in Delhi next year, making 100 runs in a full day and leaving the team at 364/6 chasing 390.

India needed ~110 in the last 20 overs with 9 wickets in hand. considering that we were initially left with 4 sessions to survive, it was a great come back. Have not seen too many opening batsmen make a 200+ score to take their team to victory. Only Greenidge, once, and chasing a smaller score.

On your points about hooking, we are in disagreement on facts, so little to debate. Since i did not see Waugh play hook / pull too often. In fact the Waugh brothers i would say.

• Boll on March 15, 2011, 2:55 GMT

@Abhi. Thanks for your concern mate. Thankfully we`re OK down here in Kumamoto at the moment, and like many, watching with concern the horrible scenes further east.

Had to laugh at your memories (transistor and all) of Gavaskar in the 80s. It so clearly mirrors my childhood memories of Australian cricket in the late 70s and early 80s. Australia always seemed to be 5 for 80 odd, but thankfully the first question we asked mum after getting off the school bus `Is Border out?` was almost always met with `No, he`s still in` - and normal breathing could resume!

re. the Steve Waugh/Sunny Gavaskar debate, very difficult to compare the two I think; allrounder/middle order batsman vs opener. Interesting to note that they played against each other in Waugh`s debut test (Melbourne, Boxing Day 1985) - Border MoM (163 2nd innings) and 2nd test in Sydney, (Gavaskar 172) with Top 3 (Gavaskar, Srikkanth, Armanath) all scoring centuries. I remember it well.

cheers all

• shrikanthk on March 15, 2011, 2:43 GMT

I think that would be justified, given the particular difficulties of opening the batting.

It works both ways. Openers have a relatively easier time in the 2nd innings, i.e they are more likely to get starts against the new ball on the 4th day, whereas middle-order players often have to face spin in helpful conditions as soon as they reach the crease.

Waugh had a brilliant 1st innings record by the way. An average of 61 with 30 hundreds. Brilliant for someone batting at No5.

Gavaskar, I agree, was a more complete batsman though. Easier on the eye and prettier to watch.

• shrikanthk on March 14, 2011, 19:00 GMT

Just to put the records of Ranji and the young WG into proper perspective:

I looked at Hobbs' FC averages across seasons. If you closely observe his pre-War career, he used to average in the 30s and 40s in most seasons. It's only after WWI that he started averaging 50+ on a consistent basis. It just goes to show how hard it was to average 50+ in the county circuit prior to WWI.

That's what makes Ranji's career and WG's record in the 60s/70s so very remarkable.

Just now, I read CB Fry on the subject of WG. In that essay, even he gives the impression that WG, Ranji and DGB are the greatest of all batsman (this piece was written in 1939). Now Fry was a fine theorist of the game. So, I suppose his opinion must count for something.

Ofcourse, the game evolves. Maybe a WG or a Ranji lacked the technical polish of a Chappell or a Dravid. But that's beside the point. It's a bit like saying Newton isn't as great a mathematician as Ananth since he wasn't aware of Regression models.

• shrikanthk on March 14, 2011, 18:24 GMT

doesn't Gavaskar rank higher than Waugh?

Wasp: I'm fine with that. Not a lot to choose between the two. I'd have no qualms with someone making a stronger case for Gavaskar. Nevertheless, Waugh (young or otherwise) was always a more aggressive cricketer than Sunny. But yes, Gavaskar was an opener who played for a weaker side. Fair enough.

To imagine that the current state of cricket has extra rigour which would have brought his average down is incorrect

Gerry: When I say "rigour", I don't mean to be condescending. I am referring to the difference in playing conditions - the extinction of timeless Tests, slower overrates, the decline of spin/slow bowling, the change in the LBW rule in favour of the bowler. All this would've had some downward impact on the average.

But then, as I mentioned earlier, whatever adjustment we come up with needs to be applied to 120 and not 99. Hence, an extrapolated average of 80+ seems reasonable.

Nice analysis of Gavaskar vs Waugh btw.

• shrikanthk on March 14, 2011, 18:14 GMT

These are astounding figures. Maybe, he was up against crappy bowlers. Nevertheless, to show such greedy, consistent appetite for runs in an age when cricket was still graduating slowly from the village greens is remarkable.

What were others averaging during those seasons? I don't have stats readily available. But I suspect nobody was close. I remember reading Cardus that in the '71 season, WG averaged 71. The next best was 39. Not even in Bradman's heyday did anyone establish such a gargantuan lead over the 2nd best batsman in a given season.

Regarding Ranji: Like WG, he was a revolutionary, who popularised on-side strokes and back-foot play.

His FC average is an astonishing 56! Here are the averages of some of his contemporaries : CB Fry - 50 Trumper - 45 Hill - 44 Hayward - 42 JT Tyldesley - 41 MacLaren - 34 Jessop - 33

Nobody except Fry come close. Can't think of anyone besides a young WG and Bradman who averaged about 10-15 runs more than most other top batsmen in FC history.

• shrikanthk on March 14, 2011, 18:03 GMT

Do you have the stats to fully illustrate shrikanthk's points on WG and Ranji?

Alex: I am referring to FC stats ofcours, since Test stats are too meager to draw conclusions. [[ And I do not have FC data. Ananth: ]]

Regarding WG: The problem is that a lot of people remember him as an obese 60 year old playing awkward shots in the nets in the early 1900s clips. That's not the WG we regard as the founder of modern batsmanship.

The WG we ought to revere is the young, lissom athlete who first showed the world that overarm fast bowling can be handled in the 1860s and 70s. It's interesting that WG's FC debut nearly coincided with the legalisation of overarm bowling. But for his success, who knows...the laws might have reverted back to underarm!

His overall FC average may be just 39. But that's over 40 years. You gotta judge him by his record in his youth. Here are some of his FC averages in the 60s/70s : 1866 - 53 1867 - 31 1868 - 65 1869 - 57 1870 - 55 1871 - 78 1872 - 54 1873 - 71 1874 - 52 1875 - 33 1876 - 62

TBC

• Abhi on March 14, 2011, 14:29 GMT

Gerry, All valid points about Gavaskar( I tend to agree with 1 out of 10 of your comments in general!) From an Indian standpoint - For most of the ‘80s Gavaskar was the fulcrum of Indian batting. With the old transistors to keep track of the score (including in classrooms) the standard question used to be 1) “What’s the score”? and 2)“Gavaskar”?

Similar to Tendulkar in the ‘90s and Lara in the 2000s. I too feel Gavaskar was a fantastic batsman .He just had this “polish” which very few batsmen have- Like Tendulkar and Lara…..Other batsmen mayhave similar averages now…but that extra veneer and Class is missing.

It is one thing somehow bumbling through fast bowling- Quite another facing it with seemingly lots of time in hand and Elan.

As Ananth mentions -the “peer averages” show both Gavaskar and Waugh at similar levels relative to their peers.

But, the point is not just runs. It is also so many other things as well. Seeing off the new ball, consolidation, saving games etc etc….Pure runs scored don’t tell you the full story. A Sehwag may come out blazing and end up with a decent average (Though his “peer average” is still way below Gavaskar and Waugh)…but that sort of approach may be OK with a great batting lineup to follow. ..How helpful would a run-a-ball 50 be with a poor batting lineup then exposed to the new ball? How helpful would a similar approach be on the 4/5th day trying to save a Test match?

So, pure averages or even “peer averages” which are essentially pure runs scored require to be seen in the overall context of things – Which you have rightly done. Bravo!

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 14, 2011, 14:02 GMT

Ananth, in response to your response to Waspsting's 6:03 AM's post - The peer average in Gavaskar's case came in an era which produced 5 of the top 10 bowling line ups in your ranking. In Waugh's case, 3/10 and in the lower half. [[ Yes,. However that is effectively taken care of in the "Quality of bowling faced" measure. You have probably missed the same in the earlier article. The average quality of bowling faced by Gooch is around 32 while the same figure for Jayawardene is around 39. Ananth: ]]

• Alex on March 14, 2011, 14:00 GMT

@shrikanthk: S Waugh underwent a change of personality (much like Pavlov's animals) after getting dropped @1990 and became a defensive batsman ... check his SR.

@Gerry: SMG was my boyhood hero. He was a better player of spin bowling and had a better technique but Waugh is at least his equal on most other valid metrics.

1. SMG did not have a good hook shot and was suspect outside the off-stump.

2. S Waugh was one of the best ever at horizontal bat shots.

3. SMG too took blows on body & hand a few times to tackle the WI pace.

4. Waugh averages only 28 in 4th but those runs are scored at SR=24(!!), i.e., he batted at least 100 deliveries ... this highlights his defensive grit.

5. SMG's 221 was poorly paced. He batted too slow and left others to score 100-odd in 15 overs: this selfishness was evident in his ODI batting too until his final few matches. We are seeing its shades in SRT & Gambhir in this WC ... cost Ind the match vs SA but no one is talking about it!

• Waspsting on March 14, 2011, 13:40 GMT

I think that would be justified, given the particularly difficulties of opening the batting.

Openers inevitably get out early more often than middle order players because they start against fresh bowlers, a ball that moves and bounces more and often when the pitch is at its livliest. Also, they have fewer chances to bolster their record with not-outs. [[ Short of doing a comparison amongst openers only there seems to be nothing which can be done. There could be contra arguments that the openers might also get a fresh good track while the middle order gets a worn out track making scoring runs a difficult option. The Quality of bowling faced measure takes care of all these. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on March 14, 2011, 13:33 GMT

@Gerry - agree with you on Waugh and the short ball, but in its own way, it became a strenght for him (!). He looked so vulnerable that it got the fast men bowling persistently short at him - although, however helpless looking, however many blows he took - he was never likely to get out to the short ball. It was almost as if he suckered the fast men's ego drive to scare him to bowl to him in areas where his wicket was safe!

Fun thing I read about Gavaskar's skull-cap somehwere. A scientist calculated with the design of the gear placed next to his head, if he'd been hit on the guard, it would have ENHANCED the impact of the ball, not protected against it - and would likely have killed him!

@Ananth and Sri - can't argue with stats, though on intuition, it seems strange that Sunny and Waugh rate the same on peer comparison given the relative number of contemporaries each had averaging int he same ball park. Is there a factor accounting for being an opener? (continued)

• Ramesh Kumar on March 14, 2011, 13:12 GMT

Gerry,

While your points are valid, there is a bit of subjectivity in your statements. I think it is fine as all cricketing points can't be incorporated in any number crunching ananlysis. I have followed SMG & Steve waugh's career and I would put SMG ahead of Steve for many reasons including some of your points. But that is my opinion and may not stand to scrutiny of some good analysis. But pure stroke players like Viv Richards survive this analysis more easily. His numbers in tests are not of top gear, but his style has left us to feel that he belongs there. While all of us would still stick to our choices, these analysis brings out new dimesions and if we have open mind, would enjoy the surprise findings.

regards,

Ramesh Kumar

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 14, 2011, 12:03 GMT

Steve Waugh also did not have a very good defensive or attacking technique against the short ball. Unlike Gavaskar, who uncorked the hook when harassed beyond a point by Marshall, Waugh preferred to take blows on the body. Brave, but not great batting. Gavaskar also had a fairly safe method in tackling bouncers, and did not get hit on the head more than once in his career if I am not mistaken (Georgetown, 1982).

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 14, 2011, 12:00 GMT

Did Gavaskar have it in him to accelerate when it mattered? I suppose his 200 in six hours against WI, the acceleration during 221 at the Oval, 100 in 94 balls against WI (1983), 90 in 120 balls on a minefield in Ahmedabad against the WI (I have not seen a better innings in my life), 90 in the tied test — hardly point to a batsman trapped in a defensive mindset like Boycott or the post 2005 Dravid.

But in terms of pressure absorption capability, I would rate both of them at the top.

There have been many more aggressive batsmen even from India than Gavaskar – Vengsarkar, Azharuddin etc. But no one was surprised when it was Gavaskar rather than these other batsmen who responded to the run chase in 1987 n Bangalore against Pakistan. I think aggressive batting must certainly be given weightage, but not beyond a point.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 14, 2011, 11:53 GMT

His record against WI is impressive, far more than that of Waugh. Gavaskar has an excellent record against Pakistan, the other good fast bowling team. He did not have a great series against Aus in ’81 (the tracks were hardly bouncy, rather the opposite), but played the critical innings of the series, and otherwise has a fine record against them.

His failure came in ~15 tests against visiting English teams where the bowling consisted of second string names. These failures were costly for us. But for these his average would be at least 54. By contrast Waugh punished England during 1989-2001, a period of meagre bowling resources (largely Gough), and when Eng were generally the whipping boys of the test world (but good batsman). Waugh’s record against SA is good, but not outstanding, like Ponting’s. Waugh has a poor 4th innings record, which is significant as the average bowling quality must necessarily be higher in the 4th innings (you don’t often need to chase 300 against Bangladesh).

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 14, 2011, 11:46 GMT

It is fashionable to play up modern greats, but this discussion has been erudite. Even so, i must strongly state that putting Steve Waugh in the same company as Gavaskar is surprising, to say the least. IMO, Gavaskar was significantly superior. It is true that Steve Waugh was a ruthless captain, but with his limited resources, several times, Gavaskar was forced to be defensive driven by similar ruthlessness rather than timidity. This cannot be taken to imagine that Gavaskar was an inherently defensive batsman in the Boycott mould. I have three books by esteemed writers commenting on this - Dexter, Hutton and Bailey, and their opinions of Gavaskar dont seem to characterize Gavaskar as a cautious / defensive batsman.

Steve Waugh was a more dominating batsman, without doubt. Is that sufficient reason to rate him higher? Gavaskar was an opening batsman, without serious fast bowlers in his team, which meant well grassed pitches when touring.

• Alex on March 14, 2011, 7:22 GMT

@shrikanthk & @Ananth: Do you have the stats to fully illustrate shrikanthk's points on WG and Ranji?

I think if we take IPF as the metric then Viv Richards will beat his nearest rival in ODI's over 1979-87 by 30% (approximately). [[ I have and can do. Problem is resource already explained in my response to waspsting. Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 14, 2011, 6:33 GMT

Ananth - regarding Shrikanthk's post of 3/11 (3.25PM). Dont you now have the tools of the team strength rating by batting and bowling - so that the averages can not only be adjusted as per global averages, but also by opposition rating. For instance, an adjusted average for a two batsman in the period may be 51, but they may have faced significantly different quality of bowling attacks as measured by your rating. So the next level of adjustment should be possible. Similarly for bowling of course. If at least such 1 loop is completed, then you would be able to see the trend.

I remember that in your all-rounder analysis, every wicket was given different weightage according to the calibre of batsman dismissed, so at least for bowlers, this should be quite easy (may not be so easy to figure out which run was scored off which bowler, but that would be a needless level of hair-splitting - better to leave it at the level of runs scored off an "attack with a numerical rating"). [[ With the galaxy of erudite and knowedgeable readers I have I have all the tools and suggestions. My next Team Strength analysis will incorporate most of these. What I however lack are resources, both time and effort. Very limited, one person, and deployment my own resources to do justice to all on the plate is nightmnare. Anyhow let me see. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on March 14, 2011, 6:03 GMT

If we measure players from different eras according to how they compare against their own contemporaries, doesn't Gavaskar rank higher than Waugh?

Gavaskar only has a handful of statistical equals amongst his contemporaries - Richards, Chappell, Miandad, Border (and none of them opened, which means they didn't get out early as often and could bolster their averages with not outs to a greater extent)

Steve Waugh had Lara, Tendulkar, Kallis, Dravid, Ponting, Hayden, Jayawardena, Sangakarra, Chanderpaul, Inzamam, Younis Khan, Mohammed Yousuf (have I missed anyone?) [[ Won't the peer comparisons throw the light. The peer average for Gavaskar is 35.76 (ratio 1.43) and Steve Waigh is 35.87 (ratio is 1.42). So they have similar measures in this comparison. Just to validate these two figures, I have given Sehwag's peer batsman average which is 39.10 and about 9% hiugher.

Ananth: ]]

Shouldn't Gavaskar rate higher by this logic?

• Waspsting on March 14, 2011, 5:54 GMT

@Alex - agree - combination of a) quality of attack b) conditions make an innings.

For example, Walcott thrived on flat wickets - didn't seem to matter much what the quality of attack was like. With Weekes, weak attacks seemed to mean more than conditions. Worrell was the best against good attacks and difficult conditions.

@shrikanthk - i agree with you about overdoing the quality of attack factor. you can only score against what your up against. I like to see it as No pulling down a performances against 'weak' team, but Applauding a performance against a 'strong' one.

Disagree about Steve Waugh. During his early aggresive phase, he was a decent bat, decent bowler. After establishing himself as a top quality bat, he was much more passive. Appreciate the runs he scored, but he was as ugly a player as i've seen. The OPPOSITE of having "lots of time to play the ball" - with a short, quick pick up and a quick jab down, he looked rushed every shot. Theres a flaw in your logic.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 14, 2011, 3:19 GMT

I am a bit lost on why Bradman would have averaged 75 over a longer career. He played for 20 years. If he had played 52 or 75 tests it would have made no difference - he was a run scoring machine. To imagine that the current state of cricket has extra rigour which would have brought his average down is incorrect.

We already have the data points. Bradman's 1948 normalised average is 95.43 (team 3 in batting strength). Gavaskar / Gooch / Border etc. played 15-25% of their tests against the WI. Gooch / GS Chappell / Gavaskar were exceptions - the typical example is of Border and S. Waugh - the former averages 55 if you ex out WI. Waugh sank to a low of 32 v/s WI before recovering during Ambrose's absence and subsequent slowdown. So if we take Border / Waugh as the norm, then Bradman would also have had his averages knocked down (rather than raised) by WI 4 man attack.

If as we have said earlier, he would have done ~70 against the WI, his career average 20% loaded with WI would be ~ 89.

• Abhi on March 14, 2011, 1:54 GMT

Ananth, Good to know about Boll.

Alex, Well,I agree.No substitute for watching the game. The stats may well be incorrect too- just ran them through once.No double checking.Too tedious with statsguru. And yes- The stats are just vague figures.

• Alex on March 12, 2011, 5:58 GMT

@Abhi: You have turned this topic also into a discussion on SRT. I think even the averages worked out by you can be a bit misleading. E.g., when it comes to playing sheer pace, facing Akhtar on a flat track is a lot easier than facing Merv Hughes on a conducive pitch. The Indian batting line-up that went to pieces in NZ back in year 2004 thrived grotesquely a few months later vs Shoaib on the flat Pak tracks in year 2004 ... on paper, the Pak pace attack was superior to the NZ pace attack.

I think stats are best used to identify anomalies and trends (as Ananth does several times). For a finer understanding, there is no substitute to watching the game itself.

• Abhi on March 12, 2011, 2:13 GMT

How's Boll? Isn't he in Japan? [[ Abhi, Thanks for the concern. I had mailed Boll on this and he seems fine. Let us all pray for all the people affected. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on March 11, 2011, 15:36 GMT

There is only one fair way of evaluating greatness among peers, in my opinion. That is to examine the extent to which a batsman outstrips his contemporaries.

If "dominance over contemporaries" is regarded as the sole and prime criterion of greatness, there are only three batsmen in the history of the game who stand out :

- WG Grace in the 1860s-70s : During those two decades, Grace was nearly as far ahead of the next best batsman as Bradman was in the 30s/40s. By the 1880s, he was no longer as dominant facing stiff competition from the likes of Shrewsbury.

- Ranji during the 1890s : The most underrated batsman in the history of the game. Period. The man averaged 56 in FC cricket in an era when most great batsmen were averaging around 35-40. Enough said.

- Bradman (1930-1938): He was about 40 runs ahead of everyone else during those 8 years. Less dominant in the 40s.

To me, these three are the "holy trinity" who stand out.

• shrikanthk on March 11, 2011, 15:25 GMT

There's been a lot of well-informed discussion concerning batsmen on this thread. But, the tendency among all posters (including myself) is to "rate" batsmen on the basis of their performance against what we think is the "strongest" opposition.

To my mind, this approach is flawed. Mainly because the "quality of opposition" is something the batsmen is not responsible for. It is an exogenous factor that he does not control.

We cannot hold the fact that Chappell did not tour India against him. Nor can we upbraid Tendulkar with the fact that he didn't get to face the four-pronged WI pace attack. Nor is it possible to use "familiarity of opposition" as an argument against Bradman.

TBC

• shrikanthk on March 11, 2011, 14:46 GMT

All aspects included, I definitely put S Waugh above SMG.

So do I. I didn't object to your rating of Waugh. What I disagree with is the observation that he was a batsman in the Gavaskar mould.

I don't think Waugh ever subscribed to the theory of yielding the bowler the first hour and asserting oneself in the next five. He was always a strokemaker, first and foremost. Which is why it is a little inappropriate to mention him alongside defensively minded batsmen like SMG and Dravid, who often consciously made attempts to curtail their strokes.

Ofcourse, Waugh wasn't quite a Lara in terms of his range of strokes. That obviously limited his ability to force the pace. But he always chose to force the pace if he could.

Talking of great batsmen over the years, I often wonder why we don't discuss these names more often : Weekes, Walcott, Worrell, Barrington.

• Abhi on March 11, 2011, 10:11 GMT

Combining ALL the above players. i.e in matches “involving” any of ALL the above. We get the foll. Avgs.: SRT : 7130 @ 55.7 Stev: 5420 @ 48 Lara: 5999 @ 45.1 Pont: 6196 @ 52.5 Kalli: 5676 @ 49.4 Drav: 5932 @ 46

The foll. points perhaps can be gleaned (again open to interpretation) 1)Lara,Dravid were not too good vs. extreme pace (as some persons such as waspsting have intuitively gleaned) 2)The best allround uniform record is SRT - considering all factors such as length of time, bowler variety, all conditions. 3)Ponting not too bad vs. spin (his travails against Harbhajan notwithstanding)

etc

• Abhi on March 11, 2011, 10:06 GMT

CONT...

avg. 41.8 in matches “involving” these 3. So probably got his runs against some others he preferred to play against. This reasoning applies to individual clumps of matches too when we use “averages” in matches “involving” players. Another point is that the “Old Guard” of Tendulkar and Lara have actually played almost all of the bowlers mentioned, in varying conditions, inc. right through the ‘90s. Tendulkar has played vs. all the fast bowlers mentioned. Lara all the spinners. This ,again, puts a spin on things.

It goes without saying that “averages” vs. bowlers and figures in matches “involving” bowlers are merely very,very vague indicators (at best).Blatantly wrong and innacurate at worst. Perhaps they are even gross distortions of reality. But I’ve just put these up for fun. Not to be taken too seriously.

• Abhi on March 11, 2011, 10:04 GMT

I ,of course , feel that Tendulkar is not just the greatest batsman “after” Bradman. I feel he is simply the greatest batsman ever. Bradman would classify as the “Best Test batsman”- and it would be difficult ,if not impossible, to argue with that assessment. Tendulkar would classify as the “Greatest ‘batsman’ ” (IMO!)

Ananth, (redoing the whole thing- removing “own” team players!) Just to spice things up: Vs. the best spinners since the ‘90s Warne, Murali, Saqlain, Kumble, Vettori, Harbhajan: We get the foll. avgs: SRT : 54.7 Stev: 52.9 Lara: 49.4 Pont: 54.1 Kalli:52.5 Drav: 46.4

For the express pace bowlers. Consistently above 140ks : Donald, Akram, Waqar, Walsh, Ambrose, Lee,Shoaib, Steyn SRT : 51.5 Stev: 49.1 Lara: 38.0 Pont: 53.4 Kalli: 46.0 Drav: 39.1

It is quite possible that a batsman may have found one (or a few) of these bowlers much easier than the others and so scored more heavily of them etc. For eg. Ponting was not too hot vs. Donald,Walsh,Ambros

• Abhi on March 11, 2011, 9:24 GMT

Ananth! STOP the press!

I just realised a mistake: In matches "involving" a player ....EVEN if the player is in OWN team it is "included"! Ha...so ,that means Ambrose for Lara, Kumble for Tendulkar, Lee for Ponting etc!!

SO....will have to check ALL again...DAMN tedious! Will see if I have the inclination to do so...and will get back!!

• Abhi on March 11, 2011, 9:12 GMT

Combining ALL the above players. i.e in matches “involving” any of ALL the above. We get the foll. Avgs.: SRT : 13717 @ 57.6 Stev: 8843 @ 52.6 Lara: 9091 @ 49.4 Pont: 11206 @ 56.6 Kalli: 9127 @ 51.6 Drav: 11504 @ 51.4

In some cases the averages are ABOVE career averages!- So,these guys seem to have lost on out attacks NOT containing any of the above spinners and fast bowlers!

Clearly,the modern Greats have for the most part earned their runs.

• Abhi on March 11, 2011, 7:27 GMT

I ,of course , feel that Tendulkar is not just the greatest batsman “after” Bradman. I feel he is simply the greatest batsman ever. Bradman would classify as the “Best Test batsman”- and it would be difficult ,if not impossible, to argue with that assessment. Tendulkar would classify as the “Greatest ‘batsman’ ” (IMO!)

Just to spice things up: Vs. the best spinners since the ‘90s Warne, Murali, Saqlain, Kumble, Vettori, Harbhajan: We get the foll. avgs: SRT : 58.2 Stev: 52.9 Lara: 49.4 Pont: 56.7 Kalli: 52.5 Drav: 51.4

For the express pace bowlers. Consistently above 140ks : Donald, Akram, Waqar, Walsh, Ambrose, Lee,Shoaib, Steyn SRT : 51.5 Stev: 51.0 Lara: 48.7 Pont: 61.2 Kalli: 51.5 Drav: 39.0

It is quite possible that a batsman may have found one (or a few) of these bowlers much easier than the others and so scored more heavily of them etc. For eg. Ponting was not too hot vs. Donald,Walsh,Ambrose –avg. 41.8 in matches “involving” these 3. So probably got his runs against some others he preferred to play against. This reasoning applies to individual clumps of matches too when we use “averages” in matches “involving” players. Another point is that the “Old Guard” of Tendulkar and Lara have actually played almost all of the bowlers mentioned, in varying conditions, inc. right through the ‘90s. Tendulkar has played vs. all the fast bowlers mentioned. Lara all the spinners. This ,again, puts a spin on things.

It goes without saying that “averages” vs. bowlers and figures in matches “involving” bowlers are merely very,very vague indicators (at best).Blatantly wrong and innacurate at worst. Perhaps they are even gross distortions of reality. But I’ve just put these up for fun. Not to be taken too seriously.

• Alex on March 11, 2011, 5:01 GMT

@Wasp: Lara's problems vs express pace get exaggerated, IMO. At any rate, those should be tempered by observing that he was possibly the greatest ever batsman of spin bowling.

• Alex on March 11, 2011, 4:52 GMT

@Wasp & shrikanthk:

1. Ian Chappell's recent book has a great chapter on S Waugh. S Waugh had all the shots but batted in SMG's mould; he was also in a quite different league at mental aspects. All aspects included, I definitely put S Waugh above SMG.

2. Ponting & Chappell are similar ... attacking batsmen, decent captains, and arguably the best fielders of their times. Chappell had a better technique while Ponting is probably better in pressure situations.

3. SMG was c Dujon b Marshall @36 (!?) during the 236* ... the ball had brushed the top of his left glove. Dujon later dropped him off Roberts @182. However, it was a great innings and his battle with Roberts was something to behold.

We should not devalue an innings based on drops & bad decisions. E.g., Taylor's recent 131* vs Pak should not be devalued because of the two early drops ... that should be held not against him but against Kamran, the Accountant of Bowlers' Past 7 Lives!! [[ My comments are on similar lines. One reason I always analyze based on scorecard data. The only subjective elements in my analysis are the weights allotted. Otherwise I can substantiate any analysis with backup data. Once we open the door even slightly then other relevant but subjective factors will come in. Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 11, 2011, 3:40 GMT

But Gavaskar was a much more fluent hooker than Tendulkar, who top edges the hook everytime he tries it. He plays the pull shot and all other shots a lot better though. But it is tough beyond a point to compare stroke players...When Dhoni just touched the ball in the Cape Town test, it sped away to the cover boundary. Whereas in old tapes i have, when i see Richards viciously whack the ball, it travels much more slowly.

Inzamam seems to have a lot of time to play strokes against fast bowlers, but has a poor record against Australia. Miandad also struggled against WI, but was a courageous batsman, though he lost his nerve in the 1987 Bangalore test against India.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 11, 2011, 3:35 GMT

...were 100 in Sydney, 63* (Port Of Spain) and 200 (Jamaica) in 1994-95, in the tests Ambrose played. In the latter two, Ambrose was coming off a shoulder operation, though they still were high class innings. His averages improved post 1996-97 series as Ambrose slowed down. Dravid has 1 century and too many failures in South Africa, and his success against Australia have come in matches when McGrath / Warne were absent. Kallis / Ponting / Lara were better than Waugh / Dravid. Waugh was the most courageous of the lot.

I rate Gavaskar as the most bloody minded batsman ever produced by India. He led innumerable fightbacks from difficult positions, and his displays of courage and ability to absorb pressure are, IMO, unparalleled by any Indian batsman barring Laxman. But Tendulkar is more prolific, is significantly better technically than Gavaskar, who often played the cover drive in a strange manner, keeping both feet together and leaning forward, and sometimes playing with an angled bat.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 11, 2011, 3:28 GMT

Greg Chappell scored a bucketful of runs against the 75-76 WI. That WI team had Roberts at his peak, but Holding making his debut, and no one else in the elite league. Aus was very strong. Excluding that, but including all his runs against the World XI in packer (and of course WI), he averages 46. This 46 was against the 3/4 man attacks whether WI or World XI. When i compute Gavaskar's average, i always exclude the 1979 ex-Packer WI, w/o which he does 46 against the Lloyd / Holding teams (where at times, Daniel was the 3rd pacer). With that he does 46, and that attack did have Clarke and Marshall (who was not included in all tests). Gooch has equally good record overall, always playing the toughest WI teams, and in 1986, on dodgy pitches, but more test matches (~30 tests). I too would pick Gooch as the top performer against WI. On comparing Dravid / Kallis / Waugh - Look at Steve Waugh's record - against the WI, his good scores in the pre-1996 period when Ambrose was in his prime...

• Waspsting on March 10, 2011, 18:41 GMT

@Alex - interesting thoughts on comparing acorss generations.

I rate Gavaskar ahead of Dravid/Kallis/Waugh on the basis of the attacks he faced. All but Waugh looked shakey against the fast rising ball, of which there was a lot of in Sunny's time.

I rate Chappell ahead of Ponting for the same reason - quality of attacks faced. and Chappell was a destroyer of weak attacks as much as anybody.

Miandad and Inzie - equals. Inzie looked more at ease and got lots of bad umpiring decisions. Miandad scored heavier, was protected by home and targetted by abroad umpires. Hard to call - both fine players.

Richards ahead of Lara on the basis he played fast bowling much better. Lara always looked shakey against the express men - never got a 100 against Donald, Akram or Younis (in fact, failed to reach 50 in 6 innings on flat pitches in Pakistan) [[ Richards did not play against the best fast bowling on view at that time !!! Ananth: ]]

Tendulkar is the best I've seen.

(should note, these are all MARGINAL choices - they're all great players)

• Waspsting on March 10, 2011, 18:34 GMT

(Sunny says the ball came of his arm guard). Surviving the inital spell was a terror against those boys, and Gavaskar was as fragile as anyone (more so probably since he was opening), but when it came to stepping on it once he was set, I'd say he's right at the top with the best of them.

@Gerry - agree that there's little to choose between Ponting, Kallis, Lara, Dravid and Tendulkar, but I don't like to intermingle outside factors as you have. If we did, Gilchrist might be the best batsman of them all! What a man does at the crease is the standard, regardless of other things, IMO. Lara's weak-team handicap is debateable. Ted Dexter thought such players were at an advantage as bowling sides wouldn't bother targetting them as hard (mentions how his side would just try to get Sobers off strike and work on the others)

• Waspsting on March 10, 2011, 18:26 GMT

@Alex - I too am a huge Gooch fan, and marvelled at his ability to take on the WI quicks, as well as Akram and Younis. Wonderful player of fast bowling. I'd give the lead spot to Greg Chappell as the best player of WI quicks though (and Miandad averaged 27 against WI, if i'm not mistaken)

@Srikanthk - I agree Bradman is far and away the best of all - but I don't think we can re-adjust his health patterns for our own benefit! "If he was healthy..." sounds good, but he wasn't! Brings home the point of difficulties of comparing across eras - in modern era, he'd have been forced to work harder on fitness and wouldn't have had to worry about making a living as he did - who knows what the results would have been?

re Gavaskar's 236 and 180 odd against Marshall at Lords - the mastery he showed against the bowling speaks to his skill, but note a couple of things. They say he was out plumb LBW to Marshall early at Lords, and the WI players claim he was out caught behind early on in 236... [[ WS In my opinion (not IMO), innings should not be devalued based on so called fielding blemishes. Penalize the fielding side in whatever way you can but why penalize the batsmen. The batsman's innings should not carry ** to indicate the possible lives he might have had. Ross Taylor might have been lucky, that is all. Another day Akmal might have caught these. But it is Pakistan's call that they are compromising on keeping ability. What about a DRS reprieve. If a batsman gets such a reprieve do we question that innings. Barring matches of the past 10 ytears, there is no record. Eveything is hearsay. If Gooch was missed at 37 by More, what do we know about the catch. Easy or tough. Let us credit Gooch and Gavaskar with their big innings. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on March 10, 2011, 16:08 GMT

having seen the 70's onwards batsmen bat, one can safely say that Kallis-Dravid-Waugh are SMG's equivalents, Ponting is Chappell's equivalent, Inzy is Miandad's equivalent

Alex: Kallis and Dravid...very well. But Steve Waugh is by no means SMG's "equivalent". He was always a very aggressive cricketer on the lookout for runs. In fact, he had this reputation of being a rather compulsive strokemaker early on in his career. Bill O'Reilly went to the extent of calling him a re-incarnation of Stan McCabe! Unfortunately, his strokeplay was doomed to be compared with that of his remarkable brother.

Ricky Ponting is not as flawless a batsman as Chappell. But definitely more aggressive. Ponting and Lara, I suppose, scored their runs quicker than most great batsmen in Test history, barring Richards and Sehwag. In fact, Bradman, Ponting and Lara are all very close to each other in terms of Strike-rates.

• shrikanthk on March 10, 2011, 15:45 GMT

G Chappell's much discussed failure vs WI in '81 was his only failure vs WI

Right. I was just checking the scorecards of that series. It's just that he got out very early several times in that series (mostly single-digit scores with 2 first-ball ducks). You really can't pass judgment on somebody based on such brief performances.

To evaluate the quality of a batsman (or lack of it), it is necessary to actually see him in action for several overs at a stretch. Only then, we can say whether he is struggling or exuding comfort at the crease.

The other thing that strikes me about Chappell is that he is such a free-stroking batsman (as evidenced by his strike-rates). 12 of his 24 hundreds were scored at an SR of over 60!! Only 5 of them were scored at an SR of less than 50.

Those are very impressive numbers. Not as rapid a scorer as Richards (who was in the Sehwag league). But way ahead of someone like Wally Hammond who has the reputation of being a flamboyant "strokemaker".

• Alex on March 10, 2011, 13:04 GMT

@Gerry: Ananth had done an extensive analysis for test cricket @Feb '09 and had planned to revise that list.

IMO, it gave just a little too much importance to volume. It had Bradman at #1 with a score of 70. Then, Lara (50.5), SRT (49.5), Ponting (48.5), Kallis-Dravid (46), SMG (45), Viv (44), Chappell (43), etc. Ananth had disregarded the Packer scores ... including those, Viv moved upto 46 and Chappell moved upto 45.

Re Viv/SMG/Chappell vs modern greats: having seen the 70's onwards batsmen bat, one can safely say that Kallis-Dravid-Waugh are SMG's equivalents, Ponting is Chappell's equivalent, Inzy is Miandad's equivalent, Lara a bit better than Viv in tests, etc. To me, Bradman is #1 by a distance followed by a bunch of batsmen, including some of these, forming a tight band around the #2 spot.

But has there ever been a worse national wicket-keeper than Kamran, the Badshah of Butter Fingers, the Columbus of Dropped Catches? [[ Alex/Gerry As and when I decide to re-do that analysis, I would have lot more quality measures since then developed/improved, mostly conbtributed by the readers. Innings Index, Peer comparisons, A far better way of determining bowling quality dynamically, a far better way of determining the support received and so on. If Pakistan does not change Kamran at once, he may very well drop the cup for them in one of the knock-out rounds. Ananth: ]]

• Ken on March 9, 2011, 7:23 GMT

Interesting fact about Australian team v Bangladesh 2003. Eight of the team scored a first class 200 or more with Love, Hayden. Lasnger and Lehmann all with a topscore over 300. Their cumulative top scores for first class were over 2400 runs. What actual team to walk on a first class field has had more than 6 double century makers and with a higher accumulated total of first class scores? What team had the highest first class average and test average? [[ I do not have first class scores. I had done an analysis somewhat similar to this but considering test matches only. Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 8, 2011, 4:24 GMT

Ananth - Tendulkar fans believe that he is the greatest after Bradman. I have the view that there was not much difference between Tendulkar, Ponting, Kallis and Lara at their peaks - Tendulkar gets more points for longevity, but so does Ponting for captaincy, Kallis for bowling contribution, and Lara for a weak team handicap. So if one of them is better than all others after Bradman, then so must all of them be. It may sound absurd, but for a minute, let us believe that it is indeed so - that Tendulkar / Lara / Kallis / Ponting are better than Gavaskar / Richards / GS Chappell / et al. Assuming that they faced identical bowling attacks but in different eras, the latter group should have lower batting averages. To complete the scenario, let us imagine that the ratio of averages across the two groups is the same as the ratio across the two eras (all batsmen). But your normalization would bring the adjusted averages to parity for both groups. How do you resolve this? [[ I have an issue only on captaincy. A successful captain is not necessarly a great captain. I believe a great captain is one who has consistently over-achieved with the quality of resources available. One day I should do an analysis of the relative team strengths and the results achieved. You probably have missed my earlier articles analyzing batsmen on most of these aspects. Ananth: ]]

• Alex on March 8, 2011, 4:14 GMT

@Gerry: Suggest you look up Gooch's stats on Cricinfo. He was not a failure in '88, '89, and '91.

1. SMG scored only 20 in Kolkata test and it was terrible batting: nothing like Sehwag ... SMG was just throwing his bat around. After failing in '83 Kanpur test vs WI, SMG tried this strategy till the Chennai test. In such 8 innings, he succeeded only twice: 124 & 90 (his best innings in that series). After receiving flak from fans, media, and even WI players, he went back to his old self and was great again in 236* at Chennai.

2. People talk about SMG, AB, & Miandad being great successes vs the WI but, IMO, Gooch was clearly the best performer vs the real WI in official tests.

3. AB only had 2 great series vs the WI: '81 and '84 ... after that, he was completely sorted out by the WI.

4. G Chappell's much discussed failure vs WI in '81 was his only failure vs WI ... prior to that, including the Packer series, he had been a big success in 4 consecutive series vs WI.

• shrikanthk on March 7, 2011, 17:56 GMT

if Bradman were even 10% better than SRT and had stayed injury-free (like Viv/Sobers/Lara/Ponting) then, given his run hunger & focus, he would definitely have averaged 75+ in the modern era over 20 years

Actually, the thing is that during his 52-Test career, he was beset with illnesses and injuries. He played through the '34 series battling appendicitis. Very nearly lost his life at the end of the series. Was out of action for 2 years after 1934. After the war, he often suffered from bouts of muscular spasms and fibrositis. A fully fit Bradman between '28 to say '42 (assuming no War, no Bodyline and no sticky wickets) may have averaged around 120!

So, any downward adjustment to account for the "rigour" of modern cricket must be applied to 120 and not 99! I'd apply a fairly large downward adjustment say 30%. That makes it around 84! Only an ultra-cynical man will think of an estimate less than 80.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 7, 2011, 5:54 GMT

Alex, spot on about Sunny, Boycott and Gooch. Sunny did have one inexcusable black mark though - he scored some 40 runs in 20 balls in 4 innings in Bombay and Calcutta tests in 1983, as he got carried away by his attacking successes in the previous 2 tests. There were plenty of hooks in the 236*, but also sedate batting, and that was the equilibrium he, and indeed all other batsmen had searched hard for. Gavaskar played Marshall quite comfortably in the 188* in 1987 against World XI, though Marshall was scattering everyone else in his initial spells.

You may mention Allen Lamb also, who scored 6 centuries against the Elite WI attack, but he averaged only 34. Gooch was overcome in 1986 and 1988, before a part revival in 1991 (154*); Border was broken down in 84-85; '88-89; '90-91 and finished with a pair in Perth 1992-93, and Greg Chappell failed utterly in 1981, and retired just before the 1984 WI tour. Except for Gavaskar and Boycott, the Windies pacemen got them all in the end.

• Live IPL Score on March 7, 2011, 3:54 GMT

It is a great post on the analysis of team strength. Such an exhaustive information.

• Waspsting on March 6, 2011, 16:51 GMT

re: Gavaskar in 82/83 - ANYONE can have a bad series, especially against those kinds of bowlers. wouldn't read too much into it. He played some great innings against them next year - incluidng his highest score and his fastest 100. Sunny was always the type of player who either got out early or made it count big ("give the first hour to the bowler, the next 5 are mine). Chappell I rate VERY HIGHLY because of the way he scored against West Indies paceman, especially in Packer. (he also needed psyhcologigal help and had his eyes tested after his form completely collapsed soon after that period!)

• Alex on March 6, 2011, 10:36 GMT

@Ananth - I don't doubt the 75+ figure. Just that, working from different angles, I arrived at 65+ as a quite conservative lower bound which should be acceptable to most. Indeed, Barry Richards averaged 70+ in the ultra-competitive Packer series.

As the final argument, consider SRT age 18 onwards: in many ways, the closest batsman to the Don. Excluding the sub-par 2005-06 (his injury-related period), SRT averages 60.6 over 17 years! And we all know that SRT never reached his full potential due to injuries starting year 1998. So, if Bradman were even 10% better than SRT and had stayed injury-free (like Viv/Sobers/Lara/Ponting) then, given his run hunger & focus, he would definitely have averaged 75+ in the modern era over 20 years.

Having said enough for the Don, I will not utter a word again on this topic! May the Don rest in peace!

• shrikanthk on March 6, 2011, 7:13 GMT

Also, based on my understanding of his career, Bradman's "weakness" (if you can call it that) was against the slower stuff. Not against fast bowlers.

Bowlers who dismissed him often include naggingly accurate leg-cutter bowlers like Tate and Bedser and spinners who turned the ball away from the right-hander like Verity, Grimmett(in FC cricket) and Peebles.

His main challenge in the modern era wouldn't have been the WI pace attack. But an attack comprising Kumble and Chawla on a crumbling Kanpur deck.

I don't think offspinners/chinaman bowlers troubled him much. He dominated Laker in '48 as well as Fleetwood Smith in FC cricket.

Also, he was susceptible to get clean-bowled very often (because of his somewhat closed-face technique and a slightly crooked backlift). That would have been exploited by bowlers who bowl fast and straight with a low trajectory (Eg: Waqar and Malinga).

Having said that, his "closed-face" technique did ensure that he very seldom got caught behind the wicket!

• shrikanthk on March 6, 2011, 6:31 GMT

Surely if the 40-year old Boycott managed ave=42 over 9 tests, the Don would average 65+ over his entire career (age 20 through 40) vs attack of this quality.

Exactly. As I've mentioned elsewhere, the sensitivity of batting averages to the quality of opposition attacks is not very high. Especially, if you're already a Test-class batsman. Otherwise, one would expect someone who averages 50 in Tests to be averaging 70 in FC cricket! But that never happens. People average more or less the same in all forms of the game. Ofcourse, you've exceptions like Hick and Ramprakash (but those guys aren't Test-class to begin with).

Ofcourse Don would've averaged a little less than 99 if he had played from 1989 to 2009. But that would be mainly because of the slower over-rates and more defensive field placings. Not because of a lack of skill.

• Alex on March 6, 2011, 5:21 GMT

@Gerry: SMG's '83 failure in WI was more due to the mental state. He was sacked as a captain after the Pak tour at age 33. Up to that point, getting sacked as an Ind captain had meant the end of career as well. To SMG's credit, he hung around for 5 more years. He remained a shadow of his former self but winning the B&H World Championship in Feb '85 as India's captain liberated him fully. He started enjoying cricket and did well till his retirement in '87.

@Ananth: Boycott was 40 yrs old while facing the very best WI attack in non-benign conditions in '80 & '81. Over 9 tests (18 innings), he scored a hundred and four 50's at ave=42! Gooch averaged 52 in these 9 tests. Strangely, it is not fashionable to talk about these two but this was terrific batting by an opening pair. I rate them both very highly. Surely if the 40-year old Boycott managed ave=42 over 9 tests, the Don would average 65+ over his entire career (age 20 through 40) vs attack of this quality. [[ Alex, pl re-read my response. I am saying that Bradman would have averaged not 65+ but 75+ over his career, against all bowling attacks, Lohmann to Imran Tahir. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on March 5, 2011, 12:33 GMT

3 pacers, 2 spinners i think is a good balance, though i agree with you on the 2/2 combo being off

Again a lot depends on the conditions and circumstances. Back in the 1890s, England could boast of Richardson, Lockwood, Kortright and Barnes (all of whom were tearaways) (Yes, even Barnes was a tearaway in his early days). Yet, most English Test teams of that era accommodated only 1 or at the most 2 fast bowlers. Mainly because the circumstances didn't suit fast bowlers (Old LBW rule, Single ball per innings).

Similarly, a four-pronged pace attack strategy suited WI in the 80s given the fact that pitches were seldom rain-affected and over-rate regulations were not strictly observed!

Fielding spinners became fashionable again in the 90s since administrators became more over-rate conscious.

There is no such thing as a perfect balance. Everything boils down to conditions. Eg: It was probably regarded as foolish to field an off-spinner in the 20s given the old LBW rule. [[ I was talking about balance from the alternate point of view of viewers also. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on March 5, 2011, 12:12 GMT

With names like Laxman, Dravid, Tendulkar faced by Aussies in a single season, what are you trying to prove

I'm not proving anything. All I'm saying is that the India-Pak teams thrashed by Australia in '99-00 were not necessarily weaker than say the Australian/Indian teams in 1984. I suspect that's what even Ananth might discover if he were to compare these teams using his methodology. Also, I never said Australia faced significantly stronger opposition than Lloyd's West Indians! [[ If you see the article the strongest Pakistani team was the 1999 Delhi team (Kunble's tenner) with 84.9 points. Ananth: ]]

they were at their best 78-83..... they killed Australia then

As earlier discussed, that was an Australian team comprising names like Laird, Wood, Dyson, Hughes and Hookes - none of whom was a consistently dominant performer even in Shield cricket. I suspect the Aussies of 2000 were a much, much better batting unit. (unless ofcourse you want to argue that even Shield cricket bowling standards in 1980 were significantly higher than they were in 2000's)

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 5, 2011, 9:29 GMT

I would agree that Pakis '99 were stronger than Aussies 1984, as there was a disruptive change of leadership in the Aus team, forced by West Indies. Also in my previous post, I meant Gavaskar's average in Michael Holding tests, not Lloyd. Apologies.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 5, 2011, 7:51 GMT

On Bradman averaging 65+, seems reasonable. On a sustained basis, the gold standard against West Indies was Greg Chappell, Gavaskar and Wasim Raja. Gavaskar did have a pretty ordinary series against WI in 1982-83, but i would say that since he finished at the bottom of the averages, there was something seriously wrong with his frame of mind, being stripped of captaincy and being made to play under Kapil Dev, that too on a West Indies tour. Including this, he averages 46 against the WI against Clive Lloyd's teams (15 tests) and excluding this, 53. Greg Chappell is ~56, with or without Kerry Packer. Raja is 57. So Bradman (the gold standard also) could have been 33% higher (99 v/s 74 of Ponting), so actually 70+ against the 4 man attack is possible.

• Alex on March 5, 2011, 7:18 GMT

@Ananth: Ganguly & Kumble are outstanding on TV. The closest Indian thing to Benaud/Imran/Lloyd.

@Gerry and shrikanthk: Bradman was the best batsman of fast bowling in his era. I think he would have averaged @70 vs WI of '79-'91. The reason being that there were quite a few instances of a batsman to averaging 65+ in a series vs the "real" WI (Amarnath, Gooch, Border, Miandad, Laird, Lamb, etc.). It just that they themselves never reached the same heights vs the WI again: Amarnath being the extreme horror illustration.

Even in Bradman's days (and since), quite a few batsmen averaged 90+ in a single series but rarely did so again in their careers. Bradman's USP was that he did it series in series out. If we accept that since Border averaged 65+ vs the WI in a single series, Bradman would also have such a series vs the WI then it is no stretch to accept that he would average at least 65+ across the whole career vs them. [[ I would venture to say that any career extrapolation of Bradman below 75 is sacrilegious. If there has been another Bodyline series, even under the same rules, he would have found a way to reach 65+. You might remember the article on Test batting streaks. Pontimg, in his golden period of 52 tests averaged 74. That puts everything in perspective. Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 5, 2011, 5:52 GMT

4) 90 overs a day - that is certainly one reason for keeping bowlers fresh - points to the merit of the averages of batsmen of those times.

5) On 4 quicks - the WI dont just come close - they were the works - Garner was the 4th bowler (with those stats) for 6 years, then Walsh for the next 6 years. You are right that few teams had 4 quicks - but that is the point - this is the ONLY team.

6) Ananth - Imran / Akram / Qadir / Younis were certainly more balanced - but intrigued by some previous posts - i just checked - Imran / Akram / Younis all have excellent averages in Pakistan, but suffer by comparison abroad - Imran averages 15 and 28 in Pakistan and Aus respectively.

The only fast bowlers with consistently great averages everywhere are the WI quicks, McGrath and Hadlee. Even Lillee flopped in Pakistan (but one can give him the benefit of doubt).

So bottomline - with Lee in top form + Gilchrist at his peak, i would rate the WI 52-48 against the Aussies. In Sydney, favorites.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 5, 2011, 5:43 GMT

1) Google for "Holding gets annoyed at Brian Close" and "Walsh and Bishop target Robin Smith". There is no selection bias - this was the way it was 2) With names like Laxman, Dravid, Tendulkar faced by Aussies in a single season, what are you trying to prove - one can come up with equally illustrious names form the past - Border, GS Chappell, IM Chappell, Gooch, Gower, Boycott, Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Vishwanath, Lillee, Thompson, Imran, Miandad, Qadir, Hadlee - (all in 1980-82 period) - the names just dont stop...and Why Akram - he was washed up in 1999. Anecdotally anything can be argued. We are talking statistically here.

3) Barring Zimbabwe none was weak - are you forgetting the string of 50s West Indies racked up - must be a world record of sorts for a team score - in 2000 - even England was beating that team black and blue - the the Aussies trumped them 5-0 (the 5-0 against England in 2007 was far more creditable). Aussies had some great victories, but this easy meat raises the %.

• Waspsting on March 5, 2011, 5:01 GMT

@ Ananth - the '54 England side had two pacers, backed up by the pace bowling all rounder Trevor Bailey and two spinners. 3 pacers, 2 spinners i think is a good balance, though i agree with you on the 2/2 combo being off

@Shrikanthk - I sympathize with Hutton's ploy of slowing down the over rates. They were eight ball overs - and that for a fast bowler in boiling hot conditions (especially when a guy like Tyson exerted so much energy every ball) would lead to bowlers burning themselves out. Hutton's ploy probably had a good deal to do with the fast mens match winning performances.

@Alex - by '88, the WI pace attack was already on the downslide. IMO, they were at their best 78-83. Including Packer matches, and accounting for Greg Chappell's fabulous performances, they killed Australia then (though i reckon the 2000+ Aussies were a better overall batting unit)

• shrikanthk on March 5, 2011, 4:55 GMT

It's not the names that counts but the team

I never claimed that SRT's team was "great" by any stretch of imagination. All I'm saying is that it wasn't a "weak" team. Nor were Akram's Pakis "weak" in '99. Atleast on paper, they were, in my humble opinion, stronger than the Aussie team WI thrashed in '84-85. I'm sure that's what Ananth will discover if he were to compare the Aus team of '84-85 with India/Pak circa '99-00.

• shrikanthk on March 5, 2011, 4:17 GMT

Another point regarding WI dominance of the 80s that I need clarification on is the Overrates.

I'm sure Alex/Wasp/Gerry are better informed than me about 80s cricket. Did those West Indian bowlers succeed in bowling 90 overs on a regular basis in a day's play??? [[ No, not at all. 70 was a good number. Ananth: ]]

I've often heard that the two teams notorious for their poor overrates are Lloyd's West Indians and Hutton's Englishmen. But I don't have stats ready with me in this regard. Suppose they were bowling only 70-80 overs a day most of the time, then I'd say that's a HUGE advantage to the bowlers. Especially to outright fast bowlers who can conserve their energies and bowl their fastest stuff all the time.

The Aussies of the 90s/00s didn't enjoy such luxuries. They HAD to bowl 90 overs come what may. This probably caused their fast men to bowl within themselves for certain stretches in the game.

• shrikanthk on March 5, 2011, 3:35 GMT

Bradman must exert a massive influence with his monstrous averages (they would have come tumbling down though against Croft Garner et al - bodyline avg 56

Not too sure about that. Bodyline was not just about short pitched bowling. What troubled him was the leg-side field.

Against orthodox pace attacks, however strong, I can still see him scoring runs heavily albeit at a lower strike rate.

Anyway, the fact remains that sustained brute-force pace is not particularly good for the game. It slows down the game. Dries up the runs. Increases physical danger. Discourages skilful slow bowlers. No wonder the 80s wasn't a great decade for Test cricket. Nor were the 50s (when Hutton did very nearly what Lloyd did 30 years later).

We all want to see fallibility on the cricket field. We all want to watch the drama a third-finger leggie brings to the game. The thrill we experience when a Piyush Chawla follows up a rank long-hop with an unplayable googly. That's what was missing in the 80s [[ For sheer balance and pleasure of watching I cannot think of a better attack than Imran/Waqar/Wasim/Qadir, assuming that Imran was at his full flowing bowling form. Each a master, with great numbers and bowling pedigree to support these. There is variety at the top level, no compromises at all, not like the Aussie 200x attacks where there was no great left arm pacer and the third pacer was below par. One can marvel at the ferocity at the two distinct West Indian bowling attacks, but there was a sameness, 4 right armed fast bowling demons, sending over after over, at the rate of 5 minutes per over. The 1953 Australians had a good attack with Benaud as the fifth bowler. The 1955 England had two pace + two spin, which, I feel outside India is probably not balanced. Ananth: ]]

• Alex on March 5, 2011, 2:59 GMT

@Wasp: Over '88-'95, Aussie batsmen performed well vs WI. So, the real, and easier to answer, question is to determine whether the Aussies of '99-'05 were better batsmen than Aussies of '88-'95. I think we can confidently say that they were just about as good. so, it follows that they would have adapted decently to face WI of '79-'93.

@shrikanth: It's not the names that counts but the team. Aus vs Ind of '99 highlights poor leadership+captaincy qualities of SRT. If he were the skipper, Aussies would surely have swept India 3-0 _in_ India in 2001 instead of losing that series 2-1 to Ganguly's team. BTW, Lloyd's WI of '79-'85 encountered a bunch of who's who in every series. He too would have whipped SRT's teams. [[ Ganguly was an "Australian" captain, one of the rare Indians to be such. Now when I hear Ganguly, I feel he is the most articulate, balanced commentator. He does not have the bias which most other commentators have. He also has the grace not to settle scores. When someone asked him a question on the downright silly accusation on Australia scoring 30 odd in 10 overs, he was totally supportive of Australian tactics and said it was the prerogative of a captain to decide on issues like this. Even Gavaskar would have taken a left-handed dig at the "western" captain. And when you see Sidhu almost personally attacking lesser players/commentators like Symcox/Doull/Reeve you see the qualities of Ganguly. My respect for him has increased now. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on March 5, 2011, 2:55 GMT

I am surprised you haven't argued for Walcott over Dujon!! A far better bat but probably a very ordinary keeper.

I go with Bradman's theory in picking his dream-team that if your top 6 batsmen can't score 500 on a regular basis, who else can! No point picking a batsman-wicketkeeper to bolster a batting lineup that is already close to invincible.

re: Constantine. You should read his book. he's a little delusional!

I actually have his book "Cricket and I" with me. Though I haven't read it completely from cover to cover. What is it that you found delusional?

• shrikanthk on March 4, 2011, 18:44 GMT

His start was dramatic, but from the Ashes onwards in England in 2001, he appeared totally out of sorts. So really the Aussies had McGrath, Gillespie and Warne as their major strike bowlers

That's right. But that's the case with most teams. Very seldom do you find a side with four great strike bowlers all in great form all the time (WI of the early 80s probably came close).

Even in Bradman's 1948 side, we had Lindwall and Miller as the strike bowlers. Johnston did pick a lot of wickets then. But not in the same class as the other two. Toshack was basically a stock bowler who used to attack leg-stump relentlessly.

3 strike bowlers bowling well most of the time in my opinion is a luxury enjoyed by very few sides in history! Australians had it for a long time. Also, their fourth bowler was not bad at all (be it Lee or Kasprovicz, Bichel or sometimes even McGill). They've all helped Australia win matches at some point.

• shrikanthk on March 4, 2011, 18:30 GMT

too many Aus wins against weak teams

As on most threads, the "weak team" remark raises its head!!! Gerry: I don't see any of the Test playing nations in the '99 to 03 period as "weak" besides perhaps Zimbabwe. Australia annihilated Pakistan and India 6-0 in '99-00. Those weren't weak teams! Some of the legends in the opposition ranks included names like Akram, Anwar, Inzamam, Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Kumble. I'm not sure if Clive Lloyd's West Indians were ever up against that many truly great players in a single season's cricket!

And yet, I find people talking about Australian dominance as though it were a product of circumstances.

Steve Waugh created the machine like scoring executed by Hayden / Ponting

Machine like, yes. But thrilling to watch. I've lost count of the number of mornings when I got up early only to discover Aus stepping on the gas at just the right time to enable Taylor to declare soon enough for Warne to get a wicket at the close of 4th day's play!

• Alex on March 4, 2011, 17:10 GMT

@shrikanthk:

1. Worrell must have been a superb batsman and a useful 2nd change bowler. That puts him in the Sobers-Kallis category, perhaps just a peg below them (discounting his leadership & aura). I personally feel Lloyd, the batsman, was on par with a better 3rd & 4th innings record.

2. Constantine would make mouth water batting at #8 and bowling at #4 on fast pitches (one prefers at least one of Gibbs/Ramadhin/Valentine on spinning tracks). However, Marshall averages the same with the bat (i.e., 19) and was a much better bowler ... so, I put Marshall at #8 and go for the kill with the greatest bowlers at #2---#4 slots. However, the attack of Marshall-Ambrose-Holding-Constantine does sound good and looks like an upgrade of Marshall-Garner-Holding-Baptiste that did play at times in the '84 5-0 blackwash of Eng.

3. I am surprised you haven't argued for Walcott over Dujon!! A far better bat but probably a very ordinary keeper.

• Alex on March 4, 2011, 16:29 GMT

@Ananth - I am not uncharitable to your work ... why else would I be spending so much time on this blog? However, as someone who earns living out of mathematical modeling, I feel too many factors are hidden out here so that a reasonable end-result is impossible. Also, does it really matter what average Bradman would have managed vs the current SA, etc.? To me, any answer to such questions is pure fiction.

Personally, I like analyses that help answer questions such as how can we make use of all possible data to help improve the standard and reach of cricket, etc.

• Waspsting on March 4, 2011, 12:49 GMT

@Srikanthk

Marytn was a fine player and could handle the quicks, though not at his best against them (few are) - agreed.BUT.... I'm guessing you didn't watch a lot of cricket in the 80s? - do you remember that spell Donald bowled to Atherton after a caught behind was not given? Thats pretty much how they used to bowl ALL the time. It was SICK. Seeing how the Aussies struggled against Eng quicks in 2005 (none more than Martyn, while Hayden's 'charging' stuff was nowhere to be seen)...I wouldn't expect them to survive against that kind of a sustained barrage.

re: yorkers - good point about low arm bowlers and yorkers. Garner probably an exception.

Agree with you about Worrell the batsman. underrated because his figures are overshadowed by the other Ws. But he always outperformed them in Aus and Eng - two biggest challenges (i also believe he has the best record in all matches the three played together)

re: Constantine. You should read his book. he's a little delusional!

Cheers,

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 4, 2011, 8:05 GMT

http://blogs.espncricinfo.com/itfigures/archives/2010/04/a_test_series_for_the_gods_par.php

and

http://blogs.espncricinfo.com/itfigures/archives/2010/04/a_test_series_for_the_gods_par_1.php

Ananth: ]]

Alex, i also think that Greenidge, Fredericks, Lloyd, Richards, Kalli, Gomes, Rowe, Haynes, Richardson, Lara - that was one more fabulous assembly line, which has also gone to sleep. With more money coming in via T20, hopefully things will revive. Else a generation later, people will not believe that there was ever a 4 pronged pace attack. To get a good hang of what sort of pressure this resulted in, one should read "In the fast lane" by Geoff Boycott. A magnificent book, by a very intelligent and accomplished batsman.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 4, 2011, 5:50 GMT

Alex, agree, except - if a simulation is undertaken, i hope it is not for all-time XIs since i don't see what the point is. If Aussies don't win, something is wrong with the software - Bradman must exert a massive influence with his monstrous averages (they would have come tumbling down though, against Croft, Garner et al - bodyline avg 56). 1980x v/s 2000x would be great, but there are so many subtleties this discussion has thrown up that i am wondering how it can become realistic. [[ Gerry, When I did the Times simulation I also did couple of other simulation exercises to let the Times team evaluate the simulation programs. While C M-J wanted Post-war England vs Post-war RoW, I also did an all-time England vs all-time RoW, this time including Bradman.I played 6 tests, 2 each in England and Australia and 1 each in Saf and Win. RoW won 5-1. In case you have not seen the Times Test simulation articles published middle last year, pl let me know. I will upload to my site and provide the link here. Ananth: ]]

I may add another one here - WI batsmen were quite sleepy in the first innings, and brutally turned on the heat in the 2nd innings often, whereas Steve Waugh created the machine like scoring executed by Hayden / Ponting etc. Also, the massive dominance of their bowlers meant that the WI batsmen usually underperformed relative to their true abilities (i suspect).

Finally that i don't believe the % win comparisons - too many Aus wins against weak teams (also many great victories, but the weak ones skew).

• Alex on March 4, 2011, 4:07 GMT

@Gerry - I hope Ananth does not undertake such a simulation. Such articles give us a perspective on the history and evolution. Anything else is fancy/nostalgia. [[ Alex, I think you are uncharitable towards the simulation process. I have already talked enough about the simulation project which has many man-years of effort behind it. That is not some half-assed effort. Please go through the Times project articles. It has been tested, understood, validated and accepted by people led by C M-J. The result was 3-2 for the Post-War ROW against Post-War England. I would not do such a simulation exercise for the heck of it especially as I probably have to put in 3-4 month's effort. I am not sure when and whether I could do it. But if I do it, it will be a thorough and objective effort and I would expect all serious followers to accept the outcome. I myself do not know how the Australian batsmen (or for that matter the Indian 2008 batting) would fare against 4-pronged pace attack. On that battle hinges the outcome of such a contest. The 2000s Australian bowling and the 1980s West Indian batting have been very good but not the best ever. Ananth: ]]

What we do know is this:

1. Lloyd's WI were harder to beat than Taylor's/Waugh's/Ponting's Aussies.

2. These Aussies played a far more result-oriented cricket (almost 90% result vs 65% result for the WI) and won more often.

3. WI domination relied a lot on great pace bowlers who started arriving in abundance beginning '75 & stopped arriving in '89 ... the final entry (Bishop) had a tragically short career. Directly, the WI were no longer the No. 1 team after '95.

4. Aussie domination relied a lot on excellent batsmen who started arriving '90 (except '85 for S Waugh) and stopped arriving in '04: the final entry (Hussey) was already 30 yrs old. Unless a couple of "great" batsmen arrive soon, the Aussie domination is over for good. This is '84 again just that there is no AB around and no S Waugh on the horizon either.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 3, 2011, 8:30 GMT

Should also note that Brett Lee blew hot and cold for quite some time (few years). His start was dramatic, but from the Ashes onwards in England in 2001, he appeared totally out of sorts. So really the Aussies had McGrath, Gillespie and Warne as their major strike bowlers over a sustained period of time. Lee's return in 2003 was dramatic at Perth, and only after this point did he feature consistently in the team, before raising his game with McGrath's departure. He had problems with the way S Waugh handled him. So between 2001-2003, the Aussies were essentially a 3 man attack, and in India this created a problem for them - they were clearly short of firepower when India made 657-7 and 526, though not against the WI 2000 who they easily decimated. With the WI it was usually 4 great bowlers with 1-2 more in reserve.

• shrikanthk on March 3, 2011, 5:32 GMT

I think he was more ruthless about winning, better at tactics, and better at batting

There is no reason for me to believe that Lloyd is a significantly better bat than Worrell. The only thing in Lloyd's favour is that he has been seen on Television unlike poor Worrell.

Worrell averaged over 50 for a large part of his career. His average dropped a notch only during the last 2 years ('61-63). He scored hundreds against Lindwall, Miller, Bedser, Laker, Lock, Trueman, Statham, Mankad and Gupte. His figures speak for themselves.

Fielding standards keep improving.

General fielding standards do keep improving. But I don't think the standards of the best fielders across generations are too different. I don't think I miss out on a lot by choosing Constantine ahead of Holding. Learie is a better fielder, a better batsman and a more powerful personality. Learie averaged 30 with the ball in Tests despite bowling mostly against batsmen like Hobbs, Bradman and Hammond all the time

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 3, 2011, 3:44 GMT

Ananth, if you did undertake the simulation between the 1980x WI and 2000x Australia, the distortion in the latter's averages due to playing a higher proportion of weak teams would first need to be corrected - else as Boll's % win stats suggest, Aussies would emerge as clear winners. I also feel that it would be worthwhile if possible, to compute the equivalent of the batting and bowling averages of 35.99 and 31.76 (also restricting to top teams) for both the 1976 - 1985 WI and the 1999-2004 Aus, excluding all other period, and compare with the averages of the same period against the champion WI ans Oz teams. In other words, it could be that the 1976-1985 global batting average was 37, and against the WI in the same period it was 30. Similarly for bowling - that would highlight the extent of dominance a bit more clearly. Perhaps food for thought for your next article. [[ Simulation is already quite complicated. The form the player carried into the test is important but anything else would make that go out of hand. Even now for my ODI simulation I give weight to recent form (least for any 2009 performances, normal for 2010/11 performances and higher for WC performances. However to downvalue performances against, say, Ireland will, after last night, be sacrilege. Even in Tests can one downvalue Tendulkar's 105 against Bangladesh. Then context has to come in. There is no end to it. But for a stand-alone article whatever you say makes sense. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on March 3, 2011, 3:31 GMT

Also note, Sobers' bowling strike rate is 93

The problem is - a lot of bowlers from the 50s and 60s have ordinary strike rates (even the likes of Miller). This is mainly because of the prevalence of highly negative and careworn batting during those decades. Sobers or Miller today will have much better strike rates, mainly because batsmen take more chances and hence are more likely to get out. I'd expect their economy rates to be worse. Hence, their averages shouldn't change much. But strike rates should be a lot better.

Lindwall. they say he was as accurate as anyone, express pace, good yorker (probably first fast bowler to use it regularly)

That's right. It's interesting that the bowlers with the best yorkers have a slightly round arm action. Lindwall, Waqar, Malinga! They all bowl with a rather low arm, thus ensuring a low trajectory, which is the key to bowl a yorker.

More orthodox bowlers with high-arm actions find the yorker more difficult to execute (eg: Lillee)

• shrikanthk on March 3, 2011, 3:23 GMT

Look at videos on u-tube - you'll see Thomson and Lillee's good length flying by chest high outside off stump.. Could moderns play that stuff?

The problem with youtube is "survivorship bias". We only get to see the best and most hostile deliveries. We don't get to see the umpteen long hops and full tosses bowled by Lillee and Thomson! The Moderns, thanks to ODI cricket, are better equipped to punish the marginally bad deliveries than the "Ancients". That, to me, is the difference between a Langer and a Boycott.

I always feel that a guy who doesn't get across his stumps much (Cronje, Sehwag) would struggler against red hot pace

Martyn's home ground is the WACA. He has hundreds against very good pace attacks (Pak, South Africa), to go with his brilliant record against spin. I don't visualise him having too much of a problem. Yes, he doesn't go back and across. Which is why he is better placed to put away marginally wide deliveries for four.

• Alex on March 3, 2011, 3:23 GMT

@shrikanthk:

1. I am not big on Mahatma Gandhi at all (a political equivalent of Botham and a spiritual equivalent of Hooper).

2. As he himself says, Lloyd studied Worrell and viewed it his responsibility to take Worrell's great work forward by making the individuals gel as a team. I think he was more ruthless about winning, better at tactics, and better at batting & fielding.

3. Davidson says "Worrell was Sir Frank Worrell ... capital S, capital I, capital R". Behind-the-scene work is important (see Wright & Kirsten) ... best to make Worrell & Constantine the managers (or CEOs)!

4. Viv opens with Greenidge. He is the best ever batsman of fast bowling anyway and opened very well vs Lillee-Thommo at their peaks.

5. Fielding standards keep improving. Hypothetically, if Constantine were born in '73 then he might give Ponting a run for the money. However, as things stand, Harper is probably the best all-around WI fielder and Ponting is the best all-around fielder of all-time.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 3, 2011, 3:05 GMT

Just like Richards in 56 balls. Last thrashes of a declining team. Hence the right definition of the period of dominance would be 1999-2004. Your % wins calculations cannot be taken seriously - you should include tests against India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, England and NZ only - not Z, BD and WI (in 2000-2001, they had no bowlers of international repute - even Walsh / Ambrose's oxygen ran out). Finally, on Imran being a great bowler, i would like to mention something few would have known - Pakis prepared very poor quality pitches when WI visited in 1980 and 86 (when WI collapsed for 53, but hit back with an innings victory after making only 218). In 7 tests, in my memory, only 1 century was scored, 120 by Richards. He averaged almost 60, but several frontline batsmen in both teams averaged single digits (shows the great man's stability despite his casual appearance). Imran collected some very cheap wickets here - but still an all-time great fast bowler.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 3, 2011, 2:59 GMT

Boll, I had originally not considered the Pak 1976-77 series as the starting point as 2 of the 3 bowlers were debutants (Croft and Garner), but since we are talking about the 9 year period of dominance under Lloyd, it is fair to include that series as well - so 1976 visit to England till 1984-85 visit to Australia. In this sequence, excluding Kallicharran's teams, WI dropped no tests against Eng, India; 1 in 1977 against Pak; 1 controversial 1 wkt loss in NZ; 1 live and 1 dead rubber test in Aus. So in effect, just two genuine test losses. I called the Barbados 1999 second innings as a collapse as the other 3 scores in the test were 490, 329 and 311, so 146 does seem a bit out of place. I can now see that the period of batting dominance coincides with Gilchrist's peak. Once Flintoff got the better of him (and advancing years, i might add), the Aussies started going downhill. They thrashed England 5-0 at home, just as the WI did, with Gilchrist making a 57 ball century in the last test.

• shrikanthk on March 2, 2011, 19:29 GMT

My all-time WI: Greenidge, Viv, Lara, Headley, Sobers, Lloyd (c), Dujon, Marshall, Holding, Ambrose, Gibbs/Roberts.

Alex: To my mind, a West Indian All-time XI without Frank Worrell as captain is equivalent to a course material on Indian independence movement without a mention of Mahatma Gandhi.

Also, who's opening with Greenidge in your team?

I'd go with this team : Greenidge, Hunte, Richards, Lara, Sobers, Worrell, Dujon, Constantine, Marshall, Ambrose, Gibbs. 12th Man: Headley

I know leaving out Headley is tough. But I couldn't possibly leave out Richards or Lara.

A lot of people might pick Roberts or Holding ahead of Constantine. I wouldn't. Constantine, at his best, could be nearly as fast. Also, his bowling average is misleading, given that he bowled in an era of very flat pitches. Last, but not least, Constantine was, according to many a judge, the greatest all-round fieldsman in the history of the game!! [[ I would not miss out on Headley. Why Hunte. We could as well open with Headley. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on March 2, 2011, 19:13 GMT

His exclusion shows the strength of the Aussie team, but i think he should have been there. Class player in my book.

Imran was as good a fast bowler as THERE HAS EVER BEEN. Botham was not. relatively short span at top, and mostly against weakened opposition and at home. As batsmen, Botham was better to watch, but wouldn't want him batting in a "must win" situation as much as i would Imran. Agree that Botham hit peaks at same times more than Imran, but I'd still rate Imran higher.

Also note, Sobers' bowling strike rate is 93. That's worse than Sehwag's, about the same as Tendulkar's (make of that what you will). [[ The only difference is the number of wickets and WpT. Sehwag 39 at less than half a WpT and Sobers two and a half WpT. Ananth: ]]

IMO - Conditions are everything. Look at videos on u-tube - you'll see Thomson and Lillee's good length flying by chest high outside off stump (West Indian wickets were similar). Could moderns play that stuff? If they were exposed to it, I'm sure they'd make a fist... but Aus failures in 2005 makes me think they'd be overwhelmed as they were.

Great discussion, Guys!

• Waspsting on March 2, 2011, 19:04 GMT

reply to a bunch of things.

I saw Bishop bowl VERY FAST, and swing the new ball away well. Bond didn't move it much. Steyn i rate over them because of reverse swing. He's as deadly with the new ball as anyone i've seen, and pretty hot with the old, too.

Lindwall. they say he was as accurate as anyone, express pace, good yorker (probably first fast bowler to use it regularly), good bouncer, great outswing and later added the inswinger. Mcgrath was very smart... but didn't do a with the ball (someone - maybe Miller - notes Lindwall being the best assesser of weakeness' of anyone bar Bradman, and his writings show him to to be very cricketing intelligent)

Martyn was a stylist, but I always feel that a guy who doesn't get across his stumps much (Cronje, Sehwag) would struggler against red hot pace. Lloyd was an all wicket all types player by contrast.

Lehmann got a raw deal. He was a SUPERB player, could have been an all time great. no idea why he wasn't given the chance (cont)

• Alex on March 2, 2011, 17:51 GMT

@Boll: You don't have to fit in Lara-Hooper-Ambrose. Quite a few of the '79-'85 units will do just fine. E.g., consider this:

1. Nov '84 vs Aus: Greenidge, Haynes, Richardson, Gomes, Viv, Lloyd, Dujon, Marshall, Holding, Garner, Walsh/Harper.

2. Aug '84 vs Eng: Greenidge, Haynes, Gomes, Viv, Lloyd, Dujon, Marshall, Baptiste/Walsh, Harper, Holding, Garner.

3. Jan '80 vs Aus: Greenidge, Haynes, Viv, Kalli, Rowe, Lloyd, Murray, Roberts, Garner, Holding, Croft.

These WI teams are probably superior to your pick of Aussies if we bring down the average of Aussie batsmen down by a few runs to account for the quality of the WI attack.

My all-time WI: Greenidge, Viv, Lara, Headley, Sobers, Lloyd (c), Dujon, Marshall, Holding, Ambrose, Gibbs/Roberts. 12th: Harper. Replacing Lloyd with Kanhai/Weekes to get a better (at least a right-handed) batsman makes sense but this team needs a good leader and Lloyd was on a very different level as a skipper. [[ I would ask (okay suggest) that Sobers practices left arm spin a few days before the match and play Roberts. II will rotate 12th man duties between Harrper, Logie and Constantine. Ananth: ]]

• Boll on March 2, 2011, 15:07 GMT

@ Alex...re.your previous post, I thought you`d also posted this one (apologies, it was delmeister of course). Not quite sure of the meaning of `eligible` here.

However, despite Aus' greater balance in bowling attack, I still believe the WI quicks would do the job. Out of interest, here are the 2 line ups I would have out of all eligible players, for that series :- WI Aus Greenidge Hayden Haynes Langer V.Richards Ponting Lara M.Waugh Lloyd (capt) S.Waugh (capt) Hooper Hussey Dujon (wkt) Gilchrist (wkt) Marshall Warne Holding Lee Ambrose Gillespie Garner McGrath

A little unfair to the Australians here, as their posted team is, I`m fairly sure, one which actually took the field together. (No Lillee, Thomson, G Chappell,Border?). In that case, including Lara, Hooper, Ambrose in a team with Lloyd is a little cheeky. I can see why you`d think Lloyd`s best might edge the Aussies. I would like to think Warney might just have made the difference.

• Boll on March 2, 2011, 13:55 GMT

Just thought the following might be of interest - performances of the Top 10 rated test match batting sides...(top scorer)-match result.

1. Aus vs Zim 2003, WACA (#1661) 6/735 (Hayden 380) - win

2. ICC XI vs Aus 2005, SCG (#1768) 190 & 144 (Sehwag 76) - loss

3. Aus vs Eng 1948, The Oval (#303) 389 (Morris 196, Bradman 0!) - win

4. Eng vs Aus 1928, Brisbane (#176) 521 & 8/342 (Hendren 169) - win

5. Aus vs Eng 1934, The Oval (#237) 701 & 327 (Ponsford 266, Bradman 244) - win

6. Ind vs SL 2010, Galle (#1964) 276 & 338 (Sehwag 109) - loss

7. WI vs Eng 1963, Lords (#544) 301 & 229 (Butcher 133) - draw

8. Aus vs Ind 2008, Adelaide (#1863) 563 (Ponting 140) - draw

9. WI vs Aus 1955, Georgetown (#405) 182 & 207 (Weekes 81) - loss (Aus bowling rated at 47.02 in this match)

10. WI vs Aus 1984 SCG (#1006) 163 & 253 (Lloyd 72) - loss

Anyone got the patience/time to run through the bowling sides?

cheers [[ Looks like being strong is only "on paper", especially for recent teams. Don't forget this is not a result analysis. Anhyhow, good idea. Ananth: ]]

• Alex on March 2, 2011, 13:44 GMT

@shrikanthk: I actually have conceded you the point on Martyn & Lehmann ... terrific batsmen both. My original argument was that the Aussies of '79-'82 had a super batting line-up which was not that weak compared to Aussies of '96-'05.

@Boll & Gerry: Even IC agrees that the '75 WI were much better than what the 5-1 bottom-line suggests. WI were young and just not ready yet. That was Holding's debut and he needed 5-6 tests to put it together. Once the Roberts-Holding pair hit its groove with Garner & Croft looming on the horizon, it was all over.

Incidentally, the famous '75-'76 Aus-WI series shows what a great pace attack & a great skipper can do ... that was the peak of Lillee-Thommo. The WI batsmen were young but extremely talented and yet Thommo-Lillee made the result 5-1 Oz! IMO, this is why Lloyd's best team would win a "best of 7" series vs any of the '96-'07 Aussie teams despite a slight handicap in batting & fielding.

• Alex on March 2, 2011, 12:14 GMT

@Ananth - BTW, where does this analysis place Armstrong's Aus (1921) and Eng circa 1911-14? I couldn't locate them in your txt file. [[ During the period 1921-22, both England and Australia have exceeded 70 points, with a maximum of Australia at 76. However since I have listed only the top-400 where the cut-off happens to be 81+ they are not listed. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on March 2, 2011, 7:00 GMT

Hughes was excellent till '84, Laird actually top-scored vs WI in a series, Hookes was maybe as good as Lehman, Wood was OK

I'm sure each of these guys were fine cricketers. But when we are discussing names like Martyn and Lehmann, we are talking about some of the finest batting talents of the past 20 years. You can't possibly compare these two or even Hayden/Langer with batsmen who could barely average 40 even in Shield cricket.

For all Martyn doubters, here are some highlights from his innings against Bhajji/Kumble in 2004. Hard to imagine better back-foot play against the turning ball.

• Boll on March 2, 2011, 6:54 GMT

@Gerry - `Might as well add, that the Aussies also collapsed in Barbados in 1999, which led to a WI victory.` C`mon Gerry, how about a little more merriment... or at least perspective. The mighty Lara scores a scarcely believeable 150 not out, no other batsman on either team passes 40 in the 2nd innings, Windies win by 1 wicket, and that`s your take on the game?

My earlier comment about a certain brittleness to the WI batting, referred, as I clearly stated, to the team circa 1991. Ananth`s ratings for this team have the batting at about 40 (notably outside the top 400! batting sides of all-time) the bowling at 47. Their still fearsome bowling line-up was able to cover for this deficiency to a great extent. However, from the early 90s onwards, WI started to lose tests, if not series, on a far more regular basis. Even until late 1997, they had only been beaten in a series by Australia (x2). I`m well aware of how brilliant some of the WI batting was. The team of 1991 was not up there.

• Boll on March 2, 2011, 6:30 GMT

Whoa, sincere apologies to Sri Lankan fans - another excellent team of the last decade which the Australian teams have had to face.

• Boll on March 2, 2011, 6:16 GMT

@ srikanthk

They also lost 3 series during this period, in Australia, India, and NZ Boll: I suspect those were the Packer-weakened sides.

(apologies for no italics, need to sort that out!). India was a Packer-weakened team, Aus (1975/6) the prelude to WI dominance and NZ, the fairly controversial loss by pretty much a full-strength team.

• Boll on March 2, 2011, 6:13 GMT

@Alex. Not sure if the `interesting angles` you refer to is a compliment or not!?, but thanks. Nothing wrong with my stats, I was simply stating the Windies record from 1976-1985, as initially raised by Gerry. If you want to change the parameters to begin with the Indian series, end it slightly later, and remove the Packer years (as I said, probably gives us a far better perspective), fair enough.

1. Granted, the series loss to NZ was very controversial, although they again struggled in 1987.

2. By my stats, Aus 1999-2007, played 102, w76, d13, l13. Winning percentage 75%/ losing percentage 13%. By your stats, WI 71, w37, d29, l5. Winning percentage 52%/ losing percentage 7%

3. I think Aussies had quite a few serious challengers - India, South Africa, Pakistan and England. WI had a slight overlap with IC`s Aussies, (results not included in your stats though) where they were comprehensively beaten) and obviously Pakistan, England, and NZ. I think much of muchness here.

• Boll on March 2, 2011, 5:40 GMT

@Gerry, the WI loss I was referring to was the 1975/76 series (in Aus), where Lloyd`s team went down 5-1. Aus didn`t beat the Windies in WI from 1973 until 1995. Fair enough to exclude Packer decimated teams from the analysis, particularly since Aus and WI obviously suffered the most. Not sure where you keep coming up with the statement `the main team lost only 1 genuine match` though. Even if we exclude the losses to Aus in 1975/6, and Packer affected teams, and losses due to dodgy umpiring, and dead rubbers...this team lost a live test to India in 1976, a live test to Pakistan in 1977, the test you mention against Aus in 1981, a live test against Pakistan 1986, (in which, if you want to mention batting collapses, they were bowled out for 53) NZ again in 1987...Even at their best they were beatable, and beaten, and very occasionally fell apart, like any team.

• Alex on March 2, 2011, 4:51 GMT

@shrikanthk: I accept your opinion on Martyn so long as he is rated alongside Lloyd & Richardson as a batsman. Lehman --- yes, it is easy to forget how good he was. All said, Aussies of '99-'05 indeed had terrific batting line-ups and one of those deserves the #1 place awarded in this analysis.

I also feel that the era of the real WI dominance is '76-'86 only. Starting late '86, they lost tests quite frequently ... it is just that they still managed to not lose a whole series till @1995. Lloyd was a big reason behind the WI aura; Viv was ordinary as a leader and as a captain. In ODI's, WI lost their aura soon after Lloyd's retirement. It is fitting that we restrict the real WI dominance to '76-'86.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 2, 2011, 4:11 GMT

As a matchwinner with the bat, Botham was certainly in a different league. Only Alan Davidson's tied test performance comes close to Botham's 1980 Jubilee Test performance (India) in which he took 13 wickets and made a century. Kapil Dev, Imran and Border had similar feats but there were qualifying factors. However, Botham has a poor track record against West Indies, and folks blame selectors for making him captain against WI, but the same thing happened to Kapil Dev, and he acquitted himself much more impressively. I think here the scales tip decisively in favor of Imran - for me, the finest test matches played were the 6 tests between WI and Pak in 1986-88, with both series tied 1-1. Imran was the main factor, as captain, and there were some incredibly courageous performances from the Paki batsmen, who often came out to bat with broken forearms. Pakis were strong 3-4 years post Imran, which shows the strength of his leadership, and elevates him to a different plane than mere players.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 2, 2011, 3:58 GMT

Might as well add, that the Aussies also collapsed in Barbados in 1999, which led to a WI victory. Delmeister, spot on about the boomerang swing of Marshall, at a fairly nippy pace (but not red hot). Swing at red hot pace i have seen only in the Paki bowlers, Bishop and Steyn. Of the Pakis, Imran in my opinion did not do much of reverse swing - it was really started by Waqar. But Imran the all rounder is more interesting - i viewed him as a fast bowler who could bat a bit, in the Hadlee / Marshall mould, until he reduced his bowling to a minimum and focused (quite successfully) on batting. Kallis is the exact opposite. Kapil Dev came the closest to Botham in this respect - from 1976-82, Botham was a genuine match winner, with the ball AND the bat. In almost every test in this period, he was striking telling blows with bat or ball and often with both. Sobers comes closest to this definition. Imran appeared to be a steady scorer of 20s and 30s but didnt scare bowlers outright.

• shrikanthk on March 2, 2011, 3:26 GMT

genuinely swung the ball away, at express pace, significantly later than any genuinely fast bowler I have seen on video bar Lindwall and Trueman, the former (in England)actually being able to do so from OUTSIDE leg stump at times

Wow. You've actually seen Lindwall in action!? Lucky you! You're probably one of the few people on earth who can claim to have watched both Lindwall and Steyn in their prime! Are you English? [[ On video, any of us could have watched Lindwall and Steyn. And Youtube. My first test match was 1966-67 for a day at Brabourne (Chandra's match) and I saw Hall/Griffith. My last Test match was India-Australia in 2004 when Gilchrist's masterpiece was played in deafening silence. When I clapped my hands for a boundary, people looked at me as if I was from Mars. That day I decided that I would not watch any cricket in India. Watching cricket was great way back, but not now. For that matter television viewing has become an exercise in exasperation. Ananth: ]]

But I saw both him and Law a lot in England,and while the former SOMETIMES had a technique that could be slightly suspect(admittedly only v the very best),Law always looked just awesome.

delmeister: It is probably not fair to compare the two. Law was an orthodox, conservative right-hander unlike Lehmann who was a wristy left-handed stylist unlike anybody else I've heard about. Maybe Woolley was similar. But Lehmann has a better record in FC cricket than Woolley. (going by averages).

• shrikanthk on March 2, 2011, 3:20 GMT

I have heard of those Indian left armers, esp the first 2,but you will be a better judge of them than me.How do they compare in terms of quality with Dilip Doshi?

delmeister: I'm no better judge not having seen them in action. Nevertheless, I take first-class figures seriously while judging a cricketer. All three of them average less than 20 in FC cricket (more than 500 wickets). That's better than the FC averages of the spin trinity or even Dilip Doshi. It's not easy to average that low on dry Indian featherbeds that are seldom affected by rain unlike English pitches. Given the amount of cricket played these days, it is quite possible that each of them is worth 300 test wickets, if given ample opportunities.

• shrikanthk on March 2, 2011, 3:04 GMT

They also lost 3 series during this period, in Australia, India, and NZ

Boll: I suspect those were the Packer-weakened sides.

seriously, Damien over Greenidge?

Alex: I am basing my judgment on figures. Maybe Martyn couldn't lay an attack to waste as a Lloyd could do. But was there a better sight in World cricket in the early 2000's than Martyn in full flow? Also, he was one of those rare back-foot stylists in an era dominated by front foot lungers. Lastly, one of the few batsmen of our era who tamed Muralitharan, Harbhajan and Kumble in their own backyards. Not by scoring pretty 40s and 50s like my boyhood idol M.Waugh. But by scoring big 2nd innings hundreds. Same goes for Lehmann. By the way, Lehmann was one of the most unique left-handed stylists in the history of the game. Unlike anybody else I've seen/read about. If these two were from India/Pak, commentators would've gone gaga over their "wristy oriental artistry".

• Alex on March 2, 2011, 2:45 GMT

@Boll: you keep coming up with interesting angles on this thread. However, your stats on WI are not entirely correct. Let's say that the real dominance of WI started vs Ind in '76 and ended vs Eng in '86. Over this 11-year period, its stats excluding the Packer era (i.e., disregarding Kallicharran's team) are as follows.

A. 16 series: 14 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss. B. 71 tests, 37 wins, 29 draws, 5 losses.

1. Their only series loss (1 test lost) was to NZ and could be attributed to really bad umpiring in NZ.

2. Aussies of '99-'07 gave result in a whopping 75% matches while these WI gave result in 60% matches.

3. Aussies of '99-'07 had no serious challenger at any time whereas WI of '76-'86 have a slight overlap with Ian Chappell's great Aussies of '72-'77 and competed with Greg Chappell's very good Aussies of '79-'82. Eng and Pak were also good '78-'82. [[ Looks like I should devote one article each to the two great eras, 1975-1990 for West indies and 1995-2008 for Australia. Will do in April/May. Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 2, 2011, 2:43 GMT

Boll, the losses to Australia (in WI) and India (in India) were by the ex-Kerry Packer WI teams led by Alvin Kallicharran. The future players emerging here were Gomes, Clarke and Marshall, but they were not the force they were to become. Packer also took away not the best 11 but the best 13-14 players, which suggests something about the WI bench strength. It is also a comment that i completely forgot about this other WI team, so far removed were they from the real deal. So therefore the main team lost only 1 genuine match 1981 MCG (there is too much controversy around the 1980 NZ loss by 1 wicket, and the 1985 Sydney loss was a dead rubber).

• Boll on March 2, 2011, 0:26 GMT

@Gerry the Merry, the brittleness I was referring to was directed towards the WI team of 1991 (ranked 10th overall here), not the one of the early-mid 80s, which I think in terms of batting was considerably better. Richards, Greenidge and Dujon all retired in 1991, Haynes was soon to follow. I think it`s fair to say that by this time they were all past their best.

Not too sure of your stats for the WI team of 1976-1985. Statsguru has them playing 80 tests during this time, winning 35, losing 10 and drawing 35. They also lost 3 series during this period, in Australia, India, and NZ - a record not quite as impressive as you suggest.

• Alex on March 1, 2011, 15:45 GMT

@Ananth - a solution which others must have suggested is this: compute the net rating as the summation of the product of every bowler's rating and the fraction of overs bowled by him. [[ Alex, I am not opening that Pandora's Box. If a team is dismissed by three bowlers why should the fourth bowler not be considered in determining the team strength. What happens if Waqar and Wasim run through a team. What do we do for the second innings. If Hooper bowled in the second innings, should he be considered. This is the equivalent of determining the batting strength based only on the batsmen who batted. 410 for 1 by India should not just have Dravid and Sehwag. No this is the overall strength of the team which took the field. The only point I accept is the case of Imran Khan. In 7 tests he played as a batsman. In these he should not be considered. That is all. Ananth: ]]

- i.e, the attack that bowled, say, 90 overs with 4 greats bowling 80 overs and Hooper only 10 is superior to the one that had the 4 greats bowling 70 overs and Hooper bowling 20 overs.

However, I feel a somewhat inferior bowler bowling 20 overs/day is preferable if he is tight and adds variety since that upsets a batsman's rhythm and adds a surprise. For example, Harris for SA --- not a great bowler but very tight and a crucial cog in SA's bowling attack. So, I welcome Hooper! In fact, Lloyd's WI did look for him but had to make do with Gomes & Harper!

Hence, I don't think Pak of '99 or Oz of '99-'05 were that inferior to WI of '79-'91 or Oz of '79-'81.

• Alex on March 1, 2011, 14:20 GMT

@delmeister: I just looked up Hooper to refresh the memory and take back my reservation ... feel free to play him at #6 in your WI team :)

Starting 1993, he averaged 40 with bat and took 1.3 wkts/test at ave=47: a pretty useful spinner all-rounder at #6 to support the great pace quartet. Very good fielder too! Dujon at #7 & Marshall at #8 makes it a formidable batting line-up. I would probably replace Garner with Roberts since Ambrose was Garner version 2.0 and since Roberts was the leader of WI bowlers over 1974-82.

Hooper was an enigma ... he was touted to be the next Sobers and never lived up to that expectation but was clearly better than what his career figures suggest. All the same, he should walk in the All-Time ODI team of WI at #6 (Greenidge, Gayle, Viv, Lara, Lloyd, Hooper, Dujon, Roberts, Holding, Garner, Ambrose). [[ The only time Hooper creates a problem is if I have to include him as the fifth bowler in # 1158. He singlehandedly brings down the pace bowling quartet a remarkable feat the best batting teams of 1990s found it difficult to do !!! Ananth: ]]

• Alex on March 1, 2011, 12:52 GMT

@delmeister: I don't understand the need to trumpet Botham ... he was excellent till 1982 and rank ordinary after 1983. As is its habit, the British media had hyped up a British guy to appear much better than he actually was.

Even in '90, Imran was a quality bowler. In fact, he was the best bowler in the away series vs WI in '88-'89 ... ahead of Marshall & Ambrose. Any analysis that places Botham ahead of Imran as an all-rounder is terribly flawed. IMO, Imran is simply the best all-rounder ever, esp. if we factor in his leadership skills.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 1, 2011, 11:12 GMT

Boll, the West Indies were a very stable and powerful batting line up between 1976 and 1985. Their batting became somewhat brittle after the retirement of Lloyd and Gomes, though they were still formidable. But in this 8yr period, some of their batting recoveries (I always had the impression that they were a bit lax in the first innings - in 1984, in England, there actually seemed to be a good contest going on in the 1st innings in Lord's, Headingley and Oval) were amazing, as were their chase of runs (they chased 240 in 4 hours against Australia, 180 in 2 hours against India, 344 in 5 hours against England). They almost never collapsed in a live test except in NZ in 1 test and against Australia at the MCG in the 1981 test. Their only other loss during this period was in the dead rubber test in Sydney. Not only did they not lose, but their batting had rock like stability during these 8 years. By contrast the Australian batting collapsed thrice against India and twice in Eng 2001-05.

• delmeister on March 1, 2011, 8:44 GMT

Alex-forgot to say,I said Bishop more talented than Ambrose, but do not think he was as good.The same reason as Imran rating, correctly in my view,Holding and Wasim the most talented quicks he saw, but Lillee and Marshall the BEST. Ananth and Alex-agree that captaincy best not done by stats, but how about this for an idea anyway? Measure the performances of individual players and/or teams under a chosen great captain, then compare figures with those when players play under other captains.Very far indeed from perfect, and prob won't work when assessing long-serving (and hence prob the best captains)- but food for thought perhaps?

• delmeister on March 1, 2011, 8:40 GMT

...but surely there would not have been a difference between them like that? Interestingly, when Botham batted at 5 instead of 6,he played himself in much more calmly and made bigger scores more frequently.This was while still opening the bowling btw.But credit to Imran for having the superior judgement on that score...Incidentally, people make the same mistake when they laud Wilfred Rhodes to the skies as a pure allrounder.When at his absolute best as bowler, was a tailender.When he concentrated on making himself an opener for Eng,he barely bowled a ball in tests.I will say tho, in county cricket,he batted in middle order and bowled quite a lot-imo his true level, NOT prob best slow left armer and top test opener together.Still a great allrounder, but not a candidate for no.2 behind Sobers.Perhaps a better version of the superb Mankad?

• delmeister on March 1, 2011, 8:22 GMT

... his average went from just below 35 to well over 37, while Botham's, over 36 for most of his career inc when bowling constantly,plummeted to 33 when he played in fits and starts after wrecking his back permanently before 1988 series started.Good on Imran for managing his career far more shrewdly near the end than Botham,but like you, I want to stress this point firmly.This is why Botham finished second to Sobers ahead of Imran in Ananth's brilliant allrounder analysis ages ago,as Imran's infrequent bowling cost him points,and would have done better still had extra marks been awarded for absolutely stellar allround performances in a single match, at which he was in a league of his own in tests.Had he taken the advice of Imran himself in the Telegaraph after 89 Ashes and batted higher in county cricket and bowled a little less (tho still more than Imran did), I believe the picture would be very different.Nobody can say who would have had the better figures TBC

• delmeister on March 1, 2011, 8:09 GMT

... that era and earlier Windies deserve to be, imo,regarded as ahead of all other rest cricketing dynasties.(I was narked tho that Bell was chosen ahead of Thorpe I have to say).Like proper champs, they got up, dusted themselves down, and vowed to do Eng in the rematch.Thanks to injuries and Flintoff preferred to Strauss as captain (which I was even nore annoyed about than Thorpe/Bell), they whitewashed them.I reckon under Strauss, perhaps 3-0 instead. Gerry-I agree that marshall was not the sublime demon he had been, but was still a quality change bowler, boomeranging the ball off his shorter run, albeit not as late as some people seem to think.I heartily agree with yr comments about Imran being a back up bowler,like Symonds,when he was making all those runs.I am heartily sick of people saying it is automatic that he was a greater allrounder than Botham as his batting average was much higher in addition to his undoubtedly being the greater bowler.In Imran's last 9(Ithink) tests, TBC

• delmeister on March 1, 2011, 7:57 GMT

Boll-I didn't mean series was not close, because statistically, of course,it was.What I meant was that the quality of cricket Eng played after Lords was of a higher standard,I believe anyway,than their opponents right the way through the line ups,except for Bell and prob Jones(at least with gloves).So I think that Aus were maybe lucky to be in series for as long as they were,esp to the point where Warne's drop was so important.However, it shows something as to how, by hook or by crook,Aus kept themselves in series for so long.Firstly,Warne performed like the remarkable champion he was to get 40wickets.Secondly,Ponting,who was way above his much vaunted colleagues against that quality of bowling,saved them with a superlative knock at Manchester.But perhaps the most important reason of all,which illustrates the findings of Ananth's analysis beautifully,is that that team had been such a supreme outfit for so long that they simply didn't know how to go away quietly!lol That is why TBC

• delmeister on March 1, 2011, 7:36 GMT

...not QUITE authorative enough when he replaced Mark Waugh,a magnificent player,at no.4.Agree about Waugh's statistical underachievement,but at least we all know how good he truly was. I have heard of those Indian left armers, esp the first 2,but you will be a better judge of them than me.How do they compare in terms of quality with Dilip Doshi? (anyone else please feel free to interject as well).If better than that highly underrated performer,then they were top.But my own (limited)info is that they were not really flighters of the ball,maybe a bit flat.Are my sources wrong here perhaps?

• delmeister on March 1, 2011, 7:23 GMT

Shrikanth-Thanks very much for yr comments on my team.Other candidates would be Frank Foster and Duleepsinjhi,nephew of one of yr favourites (both retired after too few seasons, and at their peak) and Ken Wadsworth (died). Maybe FS Jackson in terms of leaving the scene prematurely.I have seen you say previously that Ranji was most underrated player od all time, but 'Jacker'may well be even more so. I also regard Lehmann highly,and am glad Australia gave him some tests late in his career, apparently as a tribute to his ability and bad luck,and needless to say he excelled.But I saw both him and Law a lot in England,and while the former SOMETIMES had a technique that could be slightly suspect(admittedly only v the very best),Law always looked just awesome.I hear that a big reason he never got a look in was that he was too spiky even for the Australians!But I think they were both defo superior to Martyn, which is saying something!'Marto'was unbelievable at no.6,but for me was TBC

• delmeister on March 1, 2011, 7:12 GMT

Alex- good points there. Richardson a much better player than Hooper, whom I only really had in for his bowling!lol Many would say Viv could do the job, but Hooper better bet for the role, and WHEN HE PUT HIS MIND TO IT was a top player against the best bowling.Sadly, that was far too infrequent-unlike Richie.Don't underrate Bishop's skill tho-when I saw him first (England 1988)he genuinely swung the ball away, at express pace, significantly later than any genuinely fast bowler I have seen on video bar Lindwall and Trueman, the former (in England)actually being able to do so from OUTSIDE leg stump at times, with the control and change of pace of Hadlee, plus defo faster!Bishop did it from off stump or so,and kept this up for Derbyshire,but I agree with you on Steyn's skills as he certainly swung it more.I still believe that Bishop and Bond would be better v the VERY top players,largely because of their steeper bounce,but may be wrong and take yr good points fully

• Alex on March 1, 2011, 7:11 GMT

@shrikanthk: seriously, Damien over Greenidge? I can understand Damien over Haynes but not Damien over Lloyd/Richardson.

Damien was certainly a very good batsman with super consistency. I think the Aussies were probably a better batting unit (across No. 1 through No. 8), had a better bowling variety with Warne & McGill, and were certainly better at fielding. One of those Aussie teams deserves the all-time No. 1 tag. However, even in year 2010 conditions, the WI pace attack can cause havock --- just look at what Steyn is doing now and note that WI had four Steyns operating at the same time!!

If we look across tests & ODI's, Aussies of 00's might be the No. 1 team of all time. It's basically them vs WI of '79-'85 ... WI has the bowling edge but better fielding and better batting at No. 6 & 7 might clinch it for the Aussies on batsmen-friendly wickets (as are encountered more often than not).

• Alex on March 1, 2011, 5:58 GMT

@Gerry - On Ambrose & McGrath, they both retired at age 37. Their final 7 years:

McGrath: 61 tests, 262 wkts @ave=21. Ambrose: 59 tests, 212 wkts @ave=20.7.

Ambrose's fewer wickets suggest that (1) his striking ability got reduced a bit and (2) WI got weaker so that he lost out on a few 3rd & 4th innings wkts. The second factor did not happen to McGrath since Aussies were very strong over '00-'07. This is where the loss of a prime-time Bishop and world-class opening batsmen hurt WI the most.

@shrikanthk: Hughes was excellent till '84, Laird actually top-scored vs WI in a series, Hookes was maybe as good as Lehman, Wood was OK ... of course, it is impossible to get a direct correspondence between two teams but I feel Aussies of '79-'82 were not that weak on batting compared to Aussies of '96-'05. I do admit that Oz of '96-'05 were at better fielding and Taylor was probably as good a captain as Lloyd. Also, regardless of Chappell/Warne say, S Waugh was a great captain to me.

• shrikanthk on March 1, 2011, 4:40 GMT

Strange. I didn't mention Damien Martyn in that roster of Australian batsmen in the previous comment. Martyn was as good as anybody in that 80s WI lineup (barring perhaps Richards). Yet, he couldn't cement a place in the Aussie side of the late 90s! How's that for depth of cricketing talent! [[ Not to forget the no.8 batsman who averaged 17.33 and top-scored with 99 and the no.9 guy who averaged 18.78 and had a farewell innings of 201*. Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 1, 2011, 4:09 GMT

But getting back to the original point, i was of the opinion that Marshall was coming to the end of his career, and Bishop was scaling up (which he did quite fast), and fast bowlers improve over 2-3 years before hitting their peak. Hence i was initially surprised to see the #1 ranked bowling team as the 1990 team, though looking at the criteria, it became clear. Also the #3 bowling team being the 1987 WI team was a also a surprise - the same bowlers were in the beginning of a great streak in 1984 with Garner (great stats once he took the new ball), Marshall and Holding having a lethal combination of pace and experience(though Walsh made his debut then), and i would have expected that team to have the higher ranking. Makes me think that along with recent 3-4 year performance, minimum contribution (Imran Khan in 1990 was almost purely a batsman) and absolute quantum of experience can be criteria which can be considered.

• shrikanthk on March 1, 2011, 3:56 GMT

Alex: Fair enough. I just checked Ambrose's career average post 1996. It is around 20. I suppose I did overstate his decline with age.

Regarding WI vs Aus in '79-80 and '81-82 : I agree Lillee/Pascoe/Dymock or Lillee/Alderman/Lawson combo compares favourably with McGrath/Gillespie/Lee. Nevertheless, I don't quite agree with your sanguine assessment of Aussie batsmanship of that era. Yes. Greg Chappell and Border were great. But Weiner, Laird, Wood, Dyson, Hughes???? None of them averages even 40 in Tests. In fact, nearly all of them average less than 40 in FC cricket. How can we possibly compare them favorably with Langer,Hayden, Taylor and Slater with the likes of Blewett, Elliot, Lehmann, Hussey and Law waiting in the wings!! Let's not forget class acts like Waughs and Ponting.

Would these Aussie batsmen dominate the WI quicks? Very much possible. I've seen them dominate extremely potent Pakistani attacks (not always but often enough). That's good enough for me.

• Gerry_the_Merry on March 1, 2011, 3:19 GMT

Alex, Shrikanth, Ambrose did play once earlier, when Imran Khan played as a pure batsman, in Pakistan, 3 tests and ran up excellent numbers, very similar to McGrath. That series was the 3rd consecutive series which ended at 1-1 (1986, 1988, and now 1990). In terms of comparing Ambrose with McGrath, IMO, McGrath was an all-time great, but lacked the violent explosive bursts Ambrose summoned up at crucial times. In the twilight of his career, in early 1997, Ambrose scattered a very powerful Aussie batting line up in Perth and Melbourne. In the same tests, a brittle WI batting was tested by McGrath (who had definitely entered his best years, and 3 months later took 8-38), but they did OK, despite Warne also being there. Ambrose just blew through the Aussies like a tornado. Nevertheless, McGrath kept it going over a longer career, and also had a remarkable ability to generate reverse swing fairly early in the innings, as footage of the 1999 Barbados test will confirm.

• Abhi on March 1, 2011, 2:30 GMT

Ananth, Just to needle you . You must be fed up with all these rational,logical people and their deep comments.

So, I thought I might add one from the more normal, regular joe fan (like the crazy ones you see on TV!) [[ I am sure you are not the fan whose only objective is to be shown on the big screen, identify that instantly and make weird faces. Ananth: ]]

Here goes: My Greatest team of all time: 5 Tendulkars, 3 Akrams , 1 Steyn, 1 Warne , Gilly.

Now beat that. [[ Abhi Even you would get fed up with the right-handed pocket dynamos coming one efter another. I have no idea who is your favourite left-handed batsman. Replace the fifth Tendulkar with that one and let him bat at no.3. As far as getting fed up with the comments. You know that I am not here for money. If I puit this effort elsewhere I will probably get 10 times the money. I love the banter, partly with me and partly amongst yourselves. Ananth: ]]

• Ramesh Kumar on February 28, 2011, 14:04 GMT

Ananth,

Thanks for such a detailed work. On two great teams-80s WI and later Aus team-is it possible to do domination study across the 10+ years or so? More than the best line up they could put up in any test(which came up in this study), what made them memorable is the dominance over other teams over 10+ years with different players. If we do an analysis of 1976-90 WI teams and compare them with another period, do we get another bowling outfit which has so many bowlers with great figures over 10+ years? Similarly for Aussies dominance period?(tweak on your earlier work)

IMO,80s WI was built on great bowlers but a bit weak on Batting. Later Aussie team had great batsmen and were lucky to have two world class bowlers who played for a long period. IMO, with protective gears, Aussie 00 team would win the series with 80s WI team as it has more variety & balance but conditions-Mcgrath & Warne should never get injured, should be played in 2011 and not in 1980s and with protective gear [[ Ramesh What with my daily match simulation work, daily performance work, mid-tournament simulation of tournament incorporating actual results and other articles, I am not sure who is supporting which era's team. Three things I know. 1. You all love the game from the heart. Not the type of crazy obsession I see on TVs nowadays but a genuine abiding love for the game and its nuances. 2.You all respect each other. 3. None of you has malice at heart. That is sufficient for me. What you say is true. The two great periods cannot be dumped as part of the 133 years analysis. They have to be analyzed between themselves in all detail. One day in the future when I have time !!! Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on February 28, 2011, 13:04 GMT

Alex, excluding his success against the visiting Indians, where he did bowl some ferocious spells, his stats beginning Aus 1988-89 are 5/17/29/68 (tests/wkts/avg/SR); 2/3/44/118 (Eng, 1990); 3/6/27/65 (Pak, '91); 5/21/21/45 (Aus, 1990, good one); 5/20/22/51 (Eng 91). Given his own mighty standards, and WI team, he was hanging on by his finger nails. I have seen many of these matches on TV, and there is no doubt he had slowed down significantly, compared to his lethal bowling of 1983-88 (have repeatedly seen all 6 matches of India 1983, and 5 of Eng 1984). Also Shrikanth, we are talking about a 35-yr old Ambrose in 1998 in Pakistan - in those times, I remember even Jonty Rhodes and Colin Miller pulling Ambrose for 6. Many fast bowlers (except Lillee) have succeeded in Ind/Pak conditions - Hadlee / Imran (1980) / Steyn / Marshall / Holding / Daniel (averaged 22) / Tony Gray (86). No reason Ambrose in his prime would have failed.

• ObelixtheFat on February 28, 2011, 13:00 GMT

@ shrikanthk, Lindwall was express pace and a genuine swing bowler, McGrath was never really considered a swing bowler or express, in his prime he was pretty quick high 80s but a genuine seamer. Would be unfair to compare them.

• Alex on February 28, 2011, 12:47 GMT

@shrikanthk

1. Ambrose was 33 years old in 1998 and played only 2 tests in that 3-0 brown-wash of WI by Pak. He played only 3 tests in subcontinent: 2 vs Pak & 1 vs SL.

2. IMO, McGrath one of the 3 greatest pace bowlers since 1970 alongside Lillee & Marshall. Just that I award the same pedestal to Ambrose also who, if anything, was even more accurate & miserly than McGrath.

@Ananth: Pl give me your take on this ....I think WI of 1976-84 has an edge over Aussies of 1995-2005. The rationale is based on WI vs Aus in Aus in '79-'80 & '81-'82 as follows. 1. Over combined 6 tests, WI beat Oz 3-1. 2. These Aussies had terrific batting line-ups that compare with the '95-'05 versions and probably superior bowling attacks with Lillee, Hogg, Dymock, Lawson, Thommo, Pascoe, & Yardley. 3. I think the WI pace attack and Lloyd's captaincy was the difference. 4. Warne will be a factor but WI of 1979-84 could play spinners very well (Viv, Lloyd, Greenidge, Haynes, Rowe/Kalli/Dujon). [[ Pl see Ramesh's comment. Only way out of this is to a complete analysis of only these two periods. Ananth: ]]

• Boll on February 28, 2011, 12:26 GMT

cont`d...I couldn`t help but laugh when I read on these pages that Steve Waugh had exemplified the era of ugly Australianism, with his `appalling verbal attack on Ambrose` in that match - standing up to perhaps the scariest man to hold a cricket ball in his own backyard and telling him to go back and xxxxxxxx bowl. This of course after hours of constant verbal and physical intimidation, and hearing his brother branded a coward, for having the temerity to back away to leg and hit bouncers over the slips for boundaries.

Fittingly, it was the match in which the baton of world cricket supremacy passed back to Australia. And that`s what it took; a willingness to look the hardest men in the eye, tell them where to go, and not give an inch- and then when you got on top, grind them into the dirt. Waugh knew it, the Windies (including the jovial LLoyd) knew it, Border knew it, Bradman knew it. Jardine and Illingworth, mean as they come, knew it very well. That`s the one constant in 1-10.

• Boll on February 28, 2011, 12:02 GMT

@SrikanthK, glad someone has had the courage to mention the negative aspects of the period of West Indian supremacy; terribly slow over rates, consistent short-pitched bowling as a negative and of course intimidatory tactic, and god forbid, a win-at-all-costs mentality.

Perhaps because of increased TV coverage, or technological improvements such as stump microphones et al., they are not mentioned in the same breath as the recent Aus teams when it comes to pushing the boundaries of gentlemanly conduct.

Make no bones about it, they were early masters of the game of `mental disintegration`, as much as they were the great entertainers we know as the `calypso kings`. The great Steve Waugh knew what it would take to beat them, as typified by his memorable stand-off with Curtly in Jamaica in 1995.

• Boll on February 28, 2011, 8:46 GMT

@Obelisk the Fat `A balanced All Time side from any of the other test nations would give the WI a run`? Yep, I`d guess that SAf, WI, Aus, Pakistan and England would be the Top 5 if they had all former players to choose from. Not much to choose between any of them I`d expect, apart from the extra 50 runs per innings from the mighty Don!!

• Boll on February 28, 2011, 8:00 GMT

Note also the ICC World XI, second highest rated batting side and (a relatively weak bowling line-up notwithstanding) the second rated team of all-time, played 5 innings against Aus (2 in tests and 3 in ODIs) and managed to pass 200 only once!

• Boll on February 28, 2011, 7:31 GMT

Apologies for so many posts, just so much of interest here - West Indies team of 1991 (10th place all-time) case in point. They have by far the weakest batting of any team in the 10 (the great Richards, Haynes, Greenidge and even Dujon past their best) and a weak middle order (Hooper, Logie), but the best bowling line-up. I remember seeing a lot of them at this time, and as the stats suggest, their batting was brittle, their bowling still incredibly formidable.

Their results in 1991 were actually fairly average, a drawn series in Pakistan, a 2-1 win in a 5 test series against Aus in WI and then a 2-2 series against a fairly weak England in England. They often looked as if they would lose a series, but incredibly managed to hang on until 1995 (an almost unbelieveable 15 years without a series defeat) when the Aussies finally beat them in that memorable series in the Caribbean. Maybe those who suggest that the bowling component deserves slightly more weight have a point. Awesome team!

• Boll on February 28, 2011, 6:49 GMT

Not sure if anyone has mentioned this, but interesting that the 2 top-rated teams of all time came within a whisker of meeting - Aus (test1744) vs World XI (test1768).

A better argument for `a team is more than the sum of its parts` would be find hard to find, Aus winning the ODIs 3-0 by an average of about 100 runs, and the one-off test by 200 plus. Perhaps a fitting finale for such a great team.

As others have suggested, love to see how the great Supertest teams would rate.

• Alex on February 28, 2011, 6:45 GMT

Waspsting: Waqar's "raw deal" is more because of these popular beliefs: (1) Akram was the man and (2) Waqar benefited from bowling alongside Akram. Before the 1994 injury, Waqar's stats-sheet was a wonder: 33 tests, 192 wkts @ave=19, SR=36 (vs good opponents too!). After the injury, it read 53 tests, 183 wkts @ave=28, SR=51 ... still very good but not the stuff of legends. In ODI's, he remained an excellent striker even after the injury.

The injuries of Bishop & Bond affected their spinal cords (much like Lillee's) and were more serious than those of Waqar. Still, with his yorkers and reverse swing, Waqar possibly had a greater skill level than Bishop who (like Holding) relied more on the old-school pace, bounce, and off-the-pitch movement. I don't recall him bowling yorkers that much.

• Arjun on February 28, 2011, 6:22 GMT

For 7th batsman or 5th bowler,a simple tweak in calculation method will do.

Instead of averaging 7 batsman/4 bowlers, why don't you just sum batQ and bowQ. thus team strength will be Sum of 'sum' of batQ and 'sum' of bowQ.

or

Treat top-7 batsmen as 6.5 batsmen(half quality of 7th rated batsman) and top-5 bowlers(half quality of 5th bowler) as 4.5 bowlers [[ Arjun I am still not sure about Test # 1158. Can you apply Hooper's miserable numbers to the other four and see where a great attack lands. I will, when I get the time, do an additional exercise. I will run through all tests and find out the number of wickets captured by the top 4 bowlers (on the current metric) and the number of wickets captured by the fifth bowler. THEN we can take a view. When ??? That is the \$ 64k question what with daily match simulations. daily performance analysis, mid-point tournament simulations et al. Ananth: ]]

• Boll on February 28, 2011, 6:14 GMT

@delmeister. Lots of very valid points, particularly re.Simon Jones, wonderful talent. But 2005 series not as close as it seemed? C`mon, the two tests England won were by 3 wickets and 2 runs (if Aus had won that it was all over), and but for Warne dropping KP, the final test was looking like another cliffhanger. Not close!!!!!????

• Boll on February 28, 2011, 5:55 GMT

@pkm, Yes, during their heyday Australia struggled more against India than any other team. (Note their near- perfect record against South Africa, consistently the 2nd ranked test team of the time though).

To suggest their record in India was consistently dismal is, however, completely misleading. For a start, you conveniently include the 2 most recent series in India, in which neither Australian team features in Ananth`s analysis. In fact, of the 5 series played between the countries in the 2000s prior to this, (3 in Aus, 2 in India) Australia won 3, 1 was drawn, and India won that great 2001 series by a whisker. And Chennai a fait accompli? 50/50 call at best!

The fact remains that during this period Australia beat, often whitewashed, every team both home and away. They rarely drew a match, let alone a series, and when they were defeated it took supreme performances by great players/teams on their home turf to do it. Statistically, and on the field, they were as dominant as any.

• shrikanthk on February 28, 2011, 5:25 GMT

Gerry : Ambrose was quite brilliant, I agree. But he often struggled in the subcontinent, unlike Marshall. I remember Ambrose failing to pick any wickets at all against Pakistan in a 3 test series sometime in '97-98. That's where McGrath scores over him. His ability to pick wickets against the strongest of batting lineups on the flattest of decks. Remember McGrath's extraordinary average (15 I think) on the 2001 Indian tour??

It's strange people talk so much about the likes of Bond and Bishop. It's almost unglamorous to talk about McGrath in the same breath. But boy..wasn't he terrific. I don't recall watching McGrath bowling down the legside EVER. I doubt if there was ever a more accurate bowler than him. Bedser maybe. But he operated at medium pace unlike McGrath.

I recently watched Lindwall bowling several overs on the British Pathe website. Faster yes. But not in McGrath's league when it comes to accuracy. He appears to spray several deliveries down the legside every now and then

• Boll on February 28, 2011, 5:18 GMT

Thanks to statsguru, which makes a genius out of all of us, here are some obvious reasons why 2 Aus teams of the last decade are in the top 10 all-time. Many people have pointed out the 2005 Ashes loss, or the 2001 loss in India as blights on their record. Hardly! - 2 of the greatest series I`ve ever seen, both 2-1, both series which could easily have gone either way.

Anyway, between Oct 1999 and Oct 2008, Aus played exactly 100 tests, winning 76 of them, losing 11 and drawing 13. Only 4 teams won test matches against them in this time; India 5 of 18, England 4 of 20, South Africa 1 of 12, and Windies 1 of 15. They played 32 series, won 28, lost 2 and drew 2. They lost 3 of 55 tests at home. 18 series were whitewashes, including everyone in Australia at least once, and teams such as Sri Lanka and South Africa away.

3 of their team, at least, would not look out of place in a World All-time XI. For good measure they also won 3 World Cups. Not the most loved team, but the best.

• Alex on February 28, 2011, 5:11 GMT

Ananth: On captaincy, it is very tough to evaluate from scorecards and results. Best to avoid doing it using stats.

For example, IMO, Krish Shrikanth was an excellent captain but his results do not reflect that. Likewise, Mark Taylor and Border were better captains and leaders than Ponting but Ponting has the better record. [[ Captaincy is a very objective measure. Anything we come out with could be wrong. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on February 28, 2011, 5:05 GMT

Wasp: Fair enough. But an "all-time" XI should perform under all possible conditions right? The '2000 Australians definitely fit the bill better in this regard. Also, bear in mind that the WI quicks often bowled against batsmen who grew up without wearing helmets. Even though helmets did become popular from the early 80s onwards, the techniques on display still had their roots in the pre-helmet era. Aggressive front-foot play against fast-bowlers received a boost in the 90s thanks partly to both helmets and ODI cricket.

Also, I have a personal bias towards the Australians! The West Indians contributed a fair bit to Test cricket's decline in popularity through their slow overrates. The Aussies, on the other hand, revived Test cricket with the radically fast run-scoring and emphasis on results.

Also, the Aussies were a better fielding/catching unit at their best.

Disclaimer : My comments are based only on second-hand sources. Never saw the West Indians of the 80s in action.

• Alex on February 28, 2011, 5:05 GMT

Gerry: 1. Marshall simply was not a shadow of his former self by 1989. His year-wise stats in tests '89-'91: 1989: 5 tests, 26 wkts @ave=17, SR=42.7 1990: 5 tests, 9 wkts @ave=33, SR =82.8 1991: 10 tests, 41 wkts @ave=21.43, SR=48.

I agree that Ambrose became the best WI bowler (in tests) in '88 ... albeit, in '89, Marshall had a better series vs Ind in which Ambrose flopped. In '89, Bishop emerged as the world's fastest. Naturally, the 31-year old Marshall became a first change but still remained a great bowler.

2. I put Marshall & Ambrose on just about the same level in tests, Ambrose a bit better in ODI's, Ambrose just a bit ahead of McGrath in tests and on the same level overall.

Waspsting: Bishop had serious fractures twice ('91 & '94). He came back well after '91 but '94 finished him. As said, his skill level was limited and he needed express speed to be effective. He was no Lillee but, IMO, still good enough for 400+ wkts @ sub 25 average; certainly better than Walsh.

• Boll on February 28, 2011, 4:57 GMT

cont`d. @Viv Richard Yes, I saw both of those teams as well, live and on TV,and to suggest that it would be anything but a great contest is hard to accept.

Yep, the Windies beat India in India in 83 or something, but a strong team? c`mon, this was the Indian team in the midst of a 30plus tests without a win run.In fact they didn`t win a match home or away for about 3 years, between Nov 1981 and Nov 1984. And yes, Australia have beaten India in India (4 times in fact) - most recently in 2004 (basically the team ranked first in Ananth`s analysis), against a far better team than the Windies faced.

Can we not agree that they were both simply awesome teams?

• Boll on February 28, 2011, 4:31 GMT

Another late Christmas present for stats fans! - also one which is sure to create lots of controversy.

@Viv Richard, just a couple of things. I would agree with the inimitable Alex(?) that great teams are more than just the some of their parts. As you suggest there is more to a great team than averages, be it fielding, captaincy, whatever. But surely, most of the great teams are represented here. Averages are only part of the game, but on average, if you average more than another team, on average you will win.

Many seem to agree with you that the great Windies team of the 80s was the best ever. Ananth`s stats have them at 3, hardly a complete snub. Australia refused to play them? - 4 test series (18 tests) in the 80s suggests otherwise. I also beg to differ with your suggestion that the great Aussie teams of the 90s/00s wouldn`t stand a chance - hyperbole surely.

• Obelix the Fat on February 28, 2011, 1:18 GMT

I have serious doubts about any WI side against spin, when you have Allan Border taking 11 wickets against them something is wrong there. To me the great 80s and 90s WI sides are a bit overrated, they played in an era where other teams were in decline and they were rarely tested. Only Pakistan had a competent outfit to test them and Pakistan is not exactly stable, they have their own inner demons to contend with. A balanced All Time side from any of the other test nations would give the WI a run especially if they have competent batsmen against pace. SA and Australia come to mind.

• Waspsting on February 27, 2011, 23:27 GMT

Lloyd had respect of players (good leadership), though part of it might have been they were a professional bunch (point b). Tactically? All he had to do was give one of the four greatest bowlers that ever lived the ball and say "bowl". [[ "Results" would put an average but successful captain to the fore. The other traits are subjective. Ananth: ]]

Re: Ian Bishop - i didn't see much of him pre-injury so i have to be cautious. He seems to have been as deadly as anyone - a future "all time great" - but the way the injury finished him as a force must count against him. See Lillee for a contrast. In a sense, ALL fast bowlers are measured according to how they did after they lost first wind of pace. Tyson faded away, though he was as deadly as anyone has ever been for a short while. Ambrose just kept on going. Waqar got a raw deal because he was SO GOOD before injury that we saw his record post-injury as weak. It was actually as good as you could want from a bowler, just not good compared to how good he had been. Steyn's lost a little pace, but his swing still makes him deadly - 5 stars.

• Waspsting on February 27, 2011, 23:20 GMT

Ananth, IMO "captaincy" is impossible to assess, particularly statistically, but even otherwise.

How do you compare a Pakistan captain to an Autralian one? The pakistani character is such that they seem to be happy to underperform if they don't like the captain (see the troubles both before and after Imran Khan - all the way up to today). By contrast, Australian players seem to put aside personal differences when it comes to doing the job on the field. Bradman's pre-war teams are one example and look at how Steve Waugh and Warne were never on the same page.

An analysis of captaincy would (if it were possible) would have to contain something to gauge -

a) "leadership skill" - Imran, Worrell score high here b) cooperative efforts of team - (as illustrated above) c) tactical skill - Bradman, Brearly score high

Imran reckoned Gavaskar as good a brain as Brearely - but very hard to investigate. Boycott great tactician - but astonishingly -ve on leadership. (continued)

• Waspsting on February 27, 2011, 21:45 GMT

@shrikanth (your not "Shrikanthk" are you?) [[ Yes he is. Ananth: ]]

Agree - its of course all hypothetical how teams from different eras would stack up against one another. But why 1895 rules for this match... neither team ever played under those rules!

Under the rules they did play under... Australia never had it in them to take both MacGill and Warne in the same match apart from in Sydney which was a HUGE turner. they didn't even take them together in the must win match at Oval 2005.

IMO, if you have four bowlers, 2 pace/2 spin is very risky... because the paceman need rest if they're to be at their best. you need at least 3 to keep them rotating.

Take the Australian teams... they had McGrath, Gillispe and Warne... but almost always preferred a 3rd pacer to Macgill... although Macgill was GREAT match winning bowler compared to the third paceman (often Kasprowicz, who was never a lethal force at test level). [[ Gillespie was..but MacGill's strike rate is exceptional Ananth: ]]

I agree the match would come down how the WI handled Warne. Hell of match anyway!

• Gerry_the_Merry on February 27, 2011, 15:16 GMT

the Australians with a very strong batting line up (Waugh Brothers, Taylor, Slater, Boon, Jones, Healy), and Ambrose often single-handedly laid them waste, something which Marshall had not quite done so often. Had Ambrose played for a stronger team, his averages would automatically have been significantly better than McGrath (who got many more opportunities to pick up cheap wickets in the 3rd and 4th innings). Bishop certainly had the potential to be ranked as one of the greatest, but Ambrose was the most lethal bowler of his time by a very big margin. Ananth, one other observation is that everyone in the Indian team suffers from normalization, whereas in other pieces you have done, Laxman's not feasting on Z / BD has usually led to mark-ups in his averages. That leads me to think that practical considerations permitting, the ideal (and hopefully convergent) solution would be to incorporate team ratings into player averages, and feed that into team ratings, and so on, till equilibrium.

• Gerry_the_Merry on February 27, 2011, 15:06 GMT

Ananth, i must insist - Imran was not productive as a bowler towards the end of his career, though he was perhaps one of the top 3 batsmen, good enough to come 1 down in a World Cup final in a desperate pressure situation. Perhaps some simple productivity linked stats can be considered (e.g. minimum number of overs bowled / wickets taken). Alex - you are mistaken about Marshall. In 1988-89 itself, he was a shadow of the bowler he had been in England and it was only the miraculously rapid progress of Ambrose (who swiftly assumed the lead bowler's role) that prevented WI from struggling. In 1990, Ambrose and Bishop were the lead bowlers against England in WI, and Ambrose operated in a completely different plane in England. Further, even with Bishop in his pomp, it was always Ambrose (by no means a slouch on the speed gun) who was the terror. Further, i would say that a (CAREFUL) look at Steve Waugh's record against WI would confirm the impact Ambrose had. Even the 1989-1995 period saw...

• shrikanthk on February 27, 2011, 11:54 GMT

I also believe the great Windies teams of 79-91 would have beaten the great Aussie ones of 1999-2006

That's not an obvious conclusion. When we pick an XI for "all-time", it is important that the chosen side does well under all material and legal conditions that have prevailed since the commencement of Test cricket in 1877.

Let us suppose the WI side of 1981 is pitted against the Aussies of 2000 in a match played under the legal conditions of 1895. That would mean two things : 1.) The old LBW rule wherein the ball has to pitch in line and hit in line for a dismissal. 2.) A single ball throughout the innings.

Given these rules, I'm sure Aussies would field both Warne and McGill in this hypothetical Test series. And I'm also fairly confident that the West Indians would struggle!

Takeaway: The Aussies of 2000 were better balanced and better prepared to adapt to a wider variety of circumstances and oppositions than the West Indians of the early 80s.

• shrikanthk on February 27, 2011, 11:29 GMT

@delmeister: Nice list of unluckily curtailed cricketers. You didn't mention Darren Lehmann. To my mind, a better bat than Law. And one of the great first-class records of all time. I guess Mark Waugh kept a lot of great Australian batsmen out during that era. But I've no complaints. Waugh was one of Australia's greatest match-winners of the 90s, despite underachieving in terms of averages.

Also, you've cases like Padmakar Shivalkar/Rajinder Goel/VV Kumar in India of the 60s/70s. Each one of them probably worth 300 test wickets, but they were unlucky to have been contemporaries of the Indian spin quartet.

• Alex on February 27, 2011, 9:10 GMT

delmeister:

1. I would play Richardson at #5, Lloyd at #6 and get rid of Hooper who was simply a way over-rated test-level talent.

2. IMO, Bishop was not as talented as Ambrose (who really was a better bowler) but definitely more lethal than Walsh & Donald. Bishop, Bond, Shoaib, and Lee fall in the same category. Among these 4, maybe Bishop was the best in tests while Bond & Lee were the best in ODI's. He might have been the fastest of this lot as well: Dujon reckons that Bishop of '89-'90 was faster than Patterson of '86 and as quick as Holding of '81.

3. I wouldn't put Bishop/Bond above Steyn in tests (in ODI's, yes): Steyn is too good on the skill level ... he can make the ball talk like Marshall/Imran.

• Waspsting on February 27, 2011, 8:39 GMT

@ Alex - agree that bowling strength should get slightly heavier weighing. [[ All of you send your comments. I feel the WK should have a weight, say 5% (for both keeping - straightforward dismissals/test and batting). Then batting can be the best 6 (45%) and bowling 50% (only the best four until someone explains how Hooper's case in 1158, already outlined by me in a direct comment, is taken care of). Captaincy ?? What are the parameters. Successes ? Ananth: ]]

@Shrkanthk - agree that the two great team dynasties were WI late 70s-90 and Australia mid 90-mid 2000s. re: 48 Australian side - perhaps the war denied them the chance to have a dynasty, so that Bradman only played three series. If Lindwall and Miller (who i think are the key to the side) had debuted in say 42, that'd given the side a chance to be achieve a longer term dynasty. Bradman though, is Bradman, ill or not. He averaged 89 in 1st class season in 48 - and he was throwing his wicket away sometimes so everyone could have a bat. Sure he'd have scored fewer against the paceman England came up with a few years later, but I reckon he'd still outscore everyone else. After 48 tour, bradman faced Miller and Lindwall in his testimonial match. Lindwall thought the hook he played the best shot anyone had played to one of his bouncers. Miller got hooked for 4 too, before getting the wicket with the bouncer

• Alex on February 27, 2011, 7:53 GMT

Ananth and Waspsting - how well a team performs is a case of whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Ananth's metric is a case of the sum of its parts. Leaders like Lloyd, Worrell, and Imran could gel the teams and get those to perform at incredible levels. That factor is missing out here.

All other things remaining the same, I think a team with a slightly weaker batting unit but a slightly stronger bowling unit will beat the other team in a "best of 7" series. So, I would probably assign different weights to bowling & batting strengths to compute the team strength. However, that is nitpicking for an impossible quest.

• Alex on February 27, 2011, 7:20 GMT

Ananth - on Mahela vs Viv: Viv should be considered better even in tests since even the score-cards don't tell the whole story. I like Mahela but compare his avg outside the subcontinent to Viv's. Also, as I keep repeating, Viv & SRT are ahead of all other 1970-onwards batsmen on % of innings with 50+ runs (an important consistency factor).

Gerry - Marshall remained a great bowler until 1992 (age 34) ... not washed out at age 30 as you say. Inexplicable WI selection policies forced Viv & Marshall to retire.

Waspsting - I agree that WI of '79-'81 vintage were a bit better bowling unit than WI of '84. But the '84-'85 had both Garner & Marshall at their peaks with Holding consistent and still capable of great spells (e.g., 6 for 21 vs Aus in '85) ... it was so good that Wayne Daniel (career avg = 27) was not guaranteed the 4th spot: WI tried out the likes of Harper for variety.

Venkatesh - When he puts his mind to it, SRT possibly has the best defensive technique of all time.

• Anand on February 27, 2011, 6:22 GMT

(Continued) Those who write off today's batsmen should also write off bowlers of the likes of Marshall, Holding etc because their pace with lack of swing in today's pitches(isnt that what many people, think? Today's pitches offer nothing to bowlers..) would be ideal to be carted around, so they were just "lucky" to be bowling on under-prepared pitches to batsmen with no protective gear... Doesnt that sound stupid? That is how it sounds when people write off batting efforts of today. Greatness comes to those people who overcome the challenges of their times and take the game to the next level. One cannot write off the fundamental equations of motion by Newton as something too easy and cannot write off inventions like iphone as well.

Sure one cant compare batting averages or bowling averages across eras but cant write off anyone's achievements too. Believe me chasing 400+ to win a test is as difficult now as it was in the 80s. Increase in batting averages in no way makes batting easy

• Anand on February 27, 2011, 6:10 GMT

(conitnued) One can make a blanket statement about which pressure is easier to handle but fact is both ARE difficult challenges. I am not ure how many coaches in the 80s could have studied Tendulkar's tendency to hit the ball in the air when facing a slower ball and place a fielder at short mid wicket (Bob-Woolmer- Cronje-Fanie Devilliers combination got Tendulkar out several times in this fashion). Look at the classic catches of 1992 world cup, some are regulation catches today... In the 80s batsmen did not have to worry about fielders flinging themselves full length to convert a classic square drive to a catch!!.

I am not underrating the batsmen of the 80s. They are wonderful, but one cannot just say batting today is too easy and make statements like imagine those batsmen batting today. Sure they have opportunities to score runs but there is a chance some weaknesses they had and nobody knew can get exposed. (Continued)

• delmeister on February 27, 2011, 6:02 GMT

... However, despite Aus' greater balance in bowling attack, I still believe the WI quicks would do the job. Out of interest, here are the 2 line ups I would have out of all eligible players, for that series :-

WI Aus

Greenidge Hayden Haynes Langer V.Richards Ponting Lara M.Waugh Lloyd (capt) S.Waugh (capt) Hooper Hussey Dujon (wkt) Gilchrist (wkt) Marshall Warne Holding Lee Ambrose Gillespie Garner McGrath

Mouth watering prospect, all in their prime. Now THIS would really be a 5 test series for the Gods! Who's yr money on?... [[ Looks like I should do for Test siumlation what I have done for ODi simulation. My ODi simulation programs are completely uptodate, picking data from live files and incorporating current strategies. My Test simulation which was perfect upto 2002 is now dated. I have to spend quite some time re-activating it and incorporate live databases. Once I do that, the hypothetical matches, on the lines of Times experiment, would be possible. Ananth: ]]

• Anand on February 27, 2011, 6:01 GMT

(Continued) I am not making a statement that batting then was easier. All I am saying is that if batsmen then had a set of challenges batsmen today have a different set of challenges and they are by no means easier. Dilshan had to invent the lap sweep because conventional run scoring areas will be blocked by field settings that are made after studying his strengths/weaknesses. It may not be the cutest thing but surely batsmen in 80s didnt have to worry about innovating or inventing shots. I watched the highlights of 75 world cups. Lloyd hit a few identical boundaries indicating that the captain never changed the field after the first couple of them nor did the bowlers change their length. Today it will be completely different. Sure the batting averages of today have increased but how come people miss that what as a tremendous score in 80s (e.g., 250) is a substandard score today which itself is more pressure on batsmen. (continued) [[ Anand Only one question. Without the protection of helmets and the no ball limitations, would ANY BATSMAN today be stupid enough to do a dil-scoop. Ananth: ]]

• delmeister on February 27, 2011, 5:52 GMT

For what it's worth btw, (and only personal feelings here) I rate Bishop and Bond definitely ahead of Steyn who is by FAR the finest test fast bowler today. Also, before 2001 Ashes (I am certain that line up was certainly superior to 2005 version), no less than Mike Brearley rated them with Bradman's 48 and Lloyd's 84 sides as the best to tour here post war. I happen to agree. I also believe the great Windies teams of 79-91 would have beaten the great Aussie ones of 1999-2006, even with the bouncer limitations, because, as Waspsting mentioned, their quicks were WAY superior to Eng 2005 (their greatest quicks were highly skilled whereas the likes of Patterson would have been heavily compromised), even if the vital reverse swing was not a weapon of theirs.The doubts would be the recent over rate requirements, meaning many more overs from WI occasional bowlers,plus problems against Shane Warne.A fascinating hypothetical match up between imo the greatest 2 collections of players ever TBC

• Anand on February 27, 2011, 5:52 GMT

In my opinion it is not fair to say that batsmen in the earlier era was better because they had no protective gear and pitches were more difficult. I agree that protective gear makes a batsman feel safer and I also agree that pitches today are not as uneven and bouncy as the past, but still it does not make the life of a batsman easier. If technology in terms of protective gear helps batsmen then technology in the form of videos and replays allow bowlers/coaches to study batsmen in and out and set fields accordingly. Batsmen's mindset now has changed and that makes a lot of difference. How many batsmen in the 80s would have played the upper cut over thirdman when a fast bowler tries to bowl whizzing past his ear?

For all the talk about pitches being easier nowadays, how many realise that more test matches yield results now than in the 70s and 80s. So many 5 match and 6 match series in the 80s with 1-0 and 2-0 scorelines (continued)

• delmeister on February 27, 2011, 5:38 GMT

...would prob not have been an alltimer. Also, the quicks had a reasonable crack of the whip,don't you feel slightly curious how much more they could have done? Actually,thinking about it,I would now swap Reid for the far more unfortunate Brett Schultz of South Africa.

Now...enough nostalgia- how would that little lot, purely hypothetically of course, done against those other great teams I wonder?.....

• delmeister on February 27, 2011, 5:33 GMT

.... in mind,how about this for a Cheated By Fate XI? This is one where the players were hailed as absolute world-beaters/probable alltime greats, but cruel luck stopped this happening.We will never know quite what level they would have attained,at first class level let alone test,but saw enough to know they were truly outstanding.This is why I do not include banned South Africans, nor the likes of Graeme Hick who underperformed in tests.These were denied their full flowering at the lower level too, mainly by death,serious injury or ill health-even an allergy to grass in one case!lol Some by hugely premature retirement :-

Archie Jackson, Colin Milburn, Lawrence Rowe, Stuart Law , Pataudi jnr, Collie Smith, Ron Archer, Jock Cameron (wkt), Ian Bishop, Shane Bond, Bruce Reid

I admit to cheating with Law,but fascinated as to what his test record might have been. I firmly believe he was better than most in Aus side then, let alone the likes of Blewett.I also admit that Milburn TBC

• delmeister on February 27, 2011, 5:11 GMT

cont...static footwork. In truth,and I am no one eyed 'Barmy Army'member I promise you,the series was not really as close as it seemed-I watched every ball.Ponting saved them at Manchester and we looked stronger than them from when we got going at Edgbaston onwards.Yes, of course McGrath got injured and Ponting inserted us there,but do not forgot, before McGrath's demolition act at Lords,how badly shaken up and vulnerable Aus were when Harmison and co got going in 1st inn of series.Then Jones found his stride in 2nd test and away we went.How sad he has not been able to play since, tho I hear he may be doing well in current comeback attempt.This leads me onto another comment from you and Ananth-I am TOTALLY convinced Bishop would have been an alltime great without his injury,swinging the ball away later than other truly express bowlers from 6'5".I believe that he was a finer bowler than even Donald or Walsh at their best,and more talented than Ambrose.A lovely man too! Bearing this TBC

• shrikanthk on February 27, 2011, 5:03 GMT

Waspsting: Bradman was not a fit man in 1948. He was a middle-aged man suffering from frequent bouts of fibrositis. I doubt if he would have enjoyed as much success with the bat as he did in '48 against Trueman/Statham/Tyson in the mid fifties.

That's one of the reasons why I admire Bradman so much. The fact that he played so many of his 52 tests without being fully fit, and yet managing to score humongous amounts of runs.

Back to the debate : My point is that a lot of great teams (be it the English sides of the 50s or the Aussie sides of the late 40s) have not managed to sustain their brilliance for more than 3-4 years, in terms of team-results. If sustained dominance is the criteria for greatness, there are only 2 teams that stands out in test history : The Australian side from 1994-95 to 2004. The nucleus of this team for a vast majority of tests played in this period was the same (Waugh brothers, McGrath, Warne, Gillespie, Ponting). And the WI side from 1976 to 1986. [[ Yes, I had a real problem in choosing two sides with sufficient difference. The smooth transition from one (already) great to another (potential) great was amazing. That has been a problem now. Ananth: ]]

• delmeister on February 27, 2011, 4:58 GMT

Fascinating analysis yet again, with 'feel' about right, ie strongest batting team Aus early 2000s, bowling WI of nr 80s, Bradman's 48ers nr top. Doesn't really matter what exact order they come out in, we all suspected their presences strongly,as well as current Indians and 1920s Eng high in batting, Imran's Pak in bowling. I must however take slight issue with one comment from a highly knowledgeable reader- Alex, I do not believe that exact 2005 aus line up would have creamed Eng over prolonged period at all.Of course they were mighty statistically,but had just enough weaknesses to be exploited by the exact type of bowling attack that we had at that time.Unfort, I was dreading over a yr before the rematch what may happen when Hussey and Clark were brought in for Katich and Kasprowicz/a past it Gillespie, which they had a chance to do during injuries in '05.Basically, our pace and reverse swing(and conventional type) was too much for their flawed hard-handed techniques and TBC

• shrikanthk on February 27, 2011, 3:42 GMT

Pakistan sides of mid 90s were very powerful on paper - but the much weaker Pakistan sides of mid 80s performed much better. You can't capture that subjective element

A very good point. Similar examples : Aussies from '53 to 56. Very good on paper. But they lost three Ashes series in a row. The English side of '58-59 (which lost 4-0 down under). The Indian ODI sides of the 90s (formidable on paper, but unsatisfactory results more often than not).

don't forget that the analysis validates Aus 48's claim to be one of the greatest ever, not because of the results, but the quality of players playing

That's correct. But my point is that we cannot possibly have a "perfect" analysis. If the '48 side was that good, why were the same players less satisfactory in performance against the superior English sides of the 50s? The English side of '62 features in your list. But that side couldn't beat Benaud's "less impressive-sounding" Aussies in '61 and '62-63.

• Waspsting on February 27, 2011, 2:17 GMT

@shrikanthk - Several big differences between 53 and 48 australian teams.

Bradman for one, Sid Barnes and Bill Johnston (who was injured early in the tour and was never the same player again).

I agree the English 48 team wasn't great, especially in bowling, but thats not the Australians fault! [[ A 80-level team might be made to seem like a 85-level team by the weak opposition. However a 90-level team does not need such pushes. And genuinely the three teams which constantly cup, 1948, 198x and 200x are all 90+ teams. You can micro-analyze to poinbt out stray losses, but they cannot be denied their greatness. Once again let me say that the Series analysis I had done last year was an analysis of results. If any reader now goes back to that now, they would know which teams performed best, over one or more series. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on February 26, 2011, 20:26 GMT

Re: whether any of these teams could "crush" any of the others. I think the 70s WI team would crush current India side on non-flat wickets. This Indian side, great as it is, is filled with batters who don't perform in lively conditions. Would expect all but Tendulkar and possibly Laxman to fail against that pace attack. Even mid 2000 Aus side... they were so dominant but struggled awfully against a quality pace attack of Eng in 2005 (and the WI attack of 70s make the English attack look downright weak by comparison)

48 Australian side possibly best with strong pace attack, many all rounders and Bradman, of course.

Ananth, how might we assess wicketkeepers strength into analysis? Lets say Kamran Akmal was keeper for a great side - they'd lose points because his keeping is so poor. (I love making your life harder!)

• Waspsting on February 26, 2011, 20:16 GMT

Was wondering where South African team of 70, and the World 11 teams of 70s (who played what was then called official matches, status later revoked) would fit in.

I can't criticize analysis (one reason being I don't understand it!) - but mainly because its not possible to have a "flawless" analysis in this field. for example, Pakistan sides of mid 90s were very powerful on paper - but the much weaker Pakistan sides of mid 80s performed much better. You can't capture that subjective element

IMO the greatest side was the late 70s West Indies with Roberts, Holding, Garner, Croft all at their best. By the time Marshall (who was better than all of them) came into his prime, the rest had fallen a shade.

Look at how the heat just seems on when Steyn is bowling, and off when he's off. That side was basically like four Steyn's - its sick how hard it must have been for opposing teams. Slight weakness in that team is a batting weakness against spin, but bowling is just TOO GOOD. (cont)

• Venkatesh on February 26, 2011, 20:08 GMT

Thanks Ananth and Abhi for this dialog - having accompanied teammates and opposition players to hospitals during my school, college and league days, I can attest to the fear factor. Yes, some current players do have the technique but perhaps an overdose of T20 and 1-day cricket confuses batsmen on their need to adjust their technique and stay put at the crease. One often wonders how some promising but eventually fringe players (and I shall not name them out of respect) would have fared with better equipment - they would take a leg-and-middle guard but shuffle to leg and hang their bat out even to a ball rearing to off-and- middle!

• shrikanthk on February 26, 2011, 18:29 GMT

What it tells you is that the '48 side's remarkable success on that tour had a lot to do with the pathetic state of English cricket post War. All you have to do is read the accounts of Jack Fingleton on the 1948 tour. He's quite clear that the Aussies had it easy as they were up against a toothless English attack, nowhere near as good as the English attacks of the 30s. [[ Shri, don't forget that the analysis validates Aus 48's claim to be one of the greatest ever, not because of the results, but the quality of players playing. Ananth: ]]

The idea is not to undermine analyses such as these. Nevertheless, it is important to have a historical perspective to go along with raw numbers and records. [[ More than any definitive conclusions which can be reached through such analysis, the insights are more important. The fact that West Indies, within 10 years, was able to field two separate 4-bowler attacks, amongst the top-5 ever is a revelation. The Aussie attack of 1953, don't forget that Benaud was the fifth bowler, is another great bit of information. The balance of the Pakistani attack of `1990 is amazing. And the fact that two of the greatest attacks ever featured in this match. And so on. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on February 26, 2011, 18:22 GMT

harshthakor: I think you are underrating the Aussie side of the '99-03 period a wee bit.

Australia were beaten in India in 1998 and 2001,unlike Clive Lloyd's champions in 1984.

Well, but Clive Lloyd's men never had to face an Indian spin attack as good as the ones faced by touring teams throughout the nineties. We didn't have spinners in the 80s who could be favorably compared with the likes of Kumble and Harbhajan.

The Aussies of the 2000's may have lost more series (in India/England). But that's inevitable because they play more cricket under more varied conditions!!

Ian Chappell's team never toured India. I suspect they'd have had a tough time in the mid 70s against the spin quartet. Nor did Bradman's "Invincibles".

The more you play, the more "vincible" you become! Aussies lost to England in '53, remember. Let's not forget that team included several players from the '48 "Invincible" team (Lindwall, Miller, Hassett, Morris, Tallon, Johnston). What does that tell you??

• Ad on February 26, 2011, 14:24 GMT

Very good analysis - must have taken a lot of work! Not trying to take away anything from your wonderful work but I must say that I agree with some of the comments on recent form. Some weightage should be given to that. As an e.g. Zaheer Khan's career average is 32 but over the last 2-3 years he has been averaging in the mid 20s. Compare to Mitchell Johnson who averages 29 but has been averaging in the mid 30s over the last year or so. At present, it would be easier for a batsman to face Johnson than Zaheer which may not get reflected in the present analysis. It is true that it may bring in spikes but then the spike indicates that the player is in great form which adds to the team strength. One difference is that I would prefer the recent form to be time based say 1 year rather than 'x' matches. A player may returning from a long injury in which case his recent form will not be reflected by the last 'x' matches. [[ I see a lot of value in incorporating recent form. However it is a tough task since many peaks and troughs have to be properly handles. I do not have the time now. Let us get all the comments and I will do it later. Ananth: ]]

• Abhi on February 26, 2011, 14:22 GMT

Venkatesh, At the risk of sounding condescending – your comments indicate a basic lack of understanding of cricket and sport in general. Technique most often is a byproduct of the technology available. Nadal can play the way he does , with more topspin than anyone could ever dream of precisely because of the technology available. Agreed Borg started the western grip/pounding top spin strokes- but Nadal has taken it to another level previously undreamt of. Similarly in cricket, the trend of plonking the front foot forward and bludgeoning through the line ala Hadyos,Sehwag,Ponting and co. is simply due to the tech available. Richards,like Borg may be said to have started the trend- But almost running towards a quick bowler as he charges in has been taken to a new level by the likes of Hayden. Would he have even attempted this in the pre helmet era? Of course not.

They would all still be going back and across. Infact ,credit should be given to the new generation as they keep pushing the boundaries of sport. [[ You are being unfair, Abhi. At least as far as technological advances are concerned you cannot compare Tennis and Cricket. There has never been any physical danger in Tennis. In Cricket, when the fast bowlers were bowling 3 decades back, one had to fear lfor ife and limb. Helmets and the rules restricting bowler's no balls changed this. It is easy for Hayden to take stance couple of yards outside the crease and Pathan to plonk his front foot and swing (just two examples given). Would this have been possible during the 1980s. However I will not accept that the techniques have been watered down. Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Amla, Kallis, Strauss, Ponting, Younis, Yousuf et al have techniques as good as former players. It would have been stupid of them not to use the equipment available and optimize the game to their best advantage. Ananth: ]]

• Yash Rungta on February 26, 2011, 11:57 GMT

I believe 7 best batsmen theory and the 4 best batsmen theory is just perfect then.. Including 5 bowlers would unnecessary weaken strong attacks specially if the 5th bowler is not so good.. Instead of discussing how many batsmen/bowler the author should've taken, I believe we'd be better off talking about the results that we got.. Like the current Indian batting line-up is the best in the world at the moment and 6th overall etc. etc.. [[ I have already mentioned about the series analysis. And one single unchanged team of eleven players does not achieve great results for more than, say 5 tests. Ananth: ]]

• Venkatesh on February 26, 2011, 11:14 GMT

Alex: After 26 years of being outside India I have started watching cricket on satellite TV. I am shocked at the abysmal lack of technique of most Indian batsmen (except Dravid and Laxman). Batsmen such as Umrigar, Manjrekar, Gavaskar and Viswanath (I would add the bespectacled Gaekwad)had the right technique against genuine pace and spin - we tend to marginalize them. An easy way to compare different eras is to ask our superstars to go in with the protective gear of the 70s - I doubt if an Indian innings would last more than 3 sessions. Ananth: I am curious to know where the 73-74 WI team vs. Eng would rank: Fredricks, Rowe, Kallicharan, Kanhai, Lloyd, Sobers, Julien, Murray, Boyce, Roberts,Gibbs - this was the combo for 1 Test in that series. [[ You are referring to Test #734. This was Roberts's debut test. In fact he was dropped for the next two tests. However one difference is that Boyce did not play in this test but Vanburn Holder. This team had a bowling index of 41.94 and bowling index of 30.09 (very average). In total they were way down the totem pole. Julien and Holder poulled them down a lot. Ananth: ]]

• Rohan on February 26, 2011, 10:05 GMT

Really shallow analysis. I am appalled to see that Inzamam who has no test centuries in SA and Autralia is in the World's best team but no Sachin? Do only averages reflect a player's abilities? If that is the case then even Mahela Jaywardena is a greater batsman than the great Viv Richards. [[ Quite a few quirks in your comment. 1. If Inzamam played instead of Tendulkar, it makes that selection funny, not this analysis shallow. 2. If I remember correctly Tendulkar opted out. 3. Kindly elaborate how Richards is be proved greater than Jayawardene. Certainly by his attitude, his scoring rate (not available for many Tests), the quality of opposition. All these have been considered in other analysis. In this analysis the average is taken. That is all. And, may I ask, in Tests, why should Jayawardene not be considered ahead of Richards. Great is a subjective term. Who you term great may not be termed great by many others and vice versa. Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on February 26, 2011, 9:23 GMT

Once more, great work, but 1) Imran Khan was not a top class bowler and a top class batsman in the same test matches towards the end (he bowled very little after 1988-89) 2) A bit harsh on players like Botham who were genuinely miraculous for 5-6 years before they deteriorated 3)Team results should perhaps also be taken into consideration, for instance, WI from 1979-1987 rarely lost even 1 test (except dead rubber, biased umpiring), and it took the exit of Lloyd, Gomes, Holding and Garner to make the team a bit vulnerable, whereas the Australian team dropped a series in India, and a few tests elsewhere (WI 1999), couldnt defeat NZ 2001 4) I meant 3-4 year recent performance and not 10 tests and 5) i meant not the WI Brisbane 1979 test team but the WI MCG 1979 test team 6) In 1990, Marshall was washed up - he had an unaccountably rapid decline, even before turning 30; But I agree that building all this in is tough, but points 1) and 3) can be perhaps considered, to improve results. [[ Pl see the reply to Abhi. There was an extensive Test series analysis done during Oct 2010. Ananth: ]]

• Andy on February 26, 2011, 8:31 GMT

Very interesting analysis. A lot of hard work has obviously gone into this. I do have one question, where does the wicketkeeper feature in some of the teams? Sometimes your seven batsmen do not include one, e.g., England batting 1928. Surely this makes the team ineligible? [[ No team is ineligible. For instance in the 1948 team, Miller is there both in top-7 batting and top-4 bowling, as Imran did later. So the weakest batsman, in this case, Tallon (wk) and Masood Anwar are not considered in either qualification. A quirky interpretation is that whether it was Tallon (or Saggers, maybe I am wrong) the team strength would not change. This will change if there is a separate weight for quality of keeper. Ananth: ]]

• Abhi on February 26, 2011, 7:24 GMT

Alex,Gerry etc. The others have a point. If X team lost to Y team 1-5 , then at that “point of time” it may be argued that X team wasn’t that strong after all. This isn’t a one off match( or even 2 or 3) where some odd players hit a hot streak. A 5 to 6 match series is more than enough for a top team to display their wares. Unless they are woefully out of form- which is precisely where recent form comes in.

Then again if X team would “cream” Y team over a “5 year period” then we must look at the figures for the 5 year period in question, not at a “point of time” or particular match.

So, both of you are right- depends on the time frame we are looking at. [[ Abhi You have forgotten that a few months back I did an extensive Test seriies analysis covering performances by decade. It covered this very topic in depth. Ananth: ]]

• Harsh Thakor on February 26, 2011, 7:24 GMT

In test match Cricket with their immense talent and match-winners the 1963 ,1980 and 1984 West Indian teams and Bradman's 1984 Australian team would beat Australia's best of 2001 and 2005,having conquered stronger opposition.Test Cricket is a true test of talent and match-winners and Bradman's, Worrell's or Lloyd's teams were packed with them.The 4 pronged attack of Lloyd's team in addition to Greenidge ,Haynes,Viv Richards and Lloyd himself was almost invincible in it's prime.Bradman's taem in addition to himself contained Lindwall,Miller,Harvey,Morris who were all oustanding match-winners.

My tentative post-war list in order of merit. 1.Australia -1948 2.West Indies-1963 3.West Indies-1984 4.West Indies -1980 5.Australia-2001 6.Australia -1975 7.South Africa -1969 8.Pakistan -1987 9.West Indies 1988 10.England -1969

Test Cricket has been in decline in the last decade and at their peak Australia benefited from weaker bowling and flatter batting tracks. [[ No problems with your ranking. After all the numbers are all quite close together and an intuitive input is always welcome. None of the teams would be out of place. My only comment on whether Pak of 1987 or later. Ananth: ]]

• Asif Iqbal on February 26, 2011, 7:19 GMT

The condition also is the big factor Aus,Eng and Ind. play most of the test in their own conditions. Also many teams are not as good fielding sides as othres which result the low bowling average for example Kamran Akmal droped 100s of cathes on the bowling of Keneria.

• pkm on February 26, 2011, 7:18 GMT

If the Australian teams of 2000s are the strongest, why is their record in India so CONSISTENTLY DISMAL since the 1996 one-off test against India - 10 losses against 4 wins and 3 draws; 5 series losses against 1 series win. Even in their only series victory in India during this period, they were saved from a defeat in Chennai by rain-out on the fifth day of the test match. A strong team should be able to win consistently everywhere. The West Indies team of the 1980s had no problem winning in India. May be you should include such information in your analysis. Otherwise, your analysis is meaningless. And do not whitewash the matter by saying that your analysis is not result oriented. May be one result like the 2005 ashes defeat may be ignored. But not a consistently dismal record over a 15-year period. [[ I do not have to say everything. The readers are there to make their own observations. I expect the erudite readers of this blog to arrive at their conclusions and discuss with other readers. You are saying Windies had no problems defeating India away. True. What about Nzl away. They travelled to Nzl twice during the 1980s, lost one series and drew the other. So does one undervalue their results. No way. Finally do not forget that Australia wion in India. Do not bring in the rain at Chennai. They could as well have lost on the fifth day. Ananth: ]]

• Alex on February 26, 2011, 7:10 GMT

Ananth - if I remember correctly, this article was prompted by the query "Is the current Ind batting line-up the best ever?" Your analysis puts it behind Aussies of 00's, 1948 Aus, 1928-29 Eng, and 1963 WI ... a reasonable conclusion. [[ Yes, a top-10 place, but not at the top. Ananth: ]]

I noted the following in these tables: relatively speaking, (1) WI of '76-'95 rate very high on bowling but were not that great on batting, and (2) Aussies of 00's rate very high on batting but not on bowling.

Had Bishop remained healthy, I think WI would probably have remained No. 1 in tests till 1999 ... Ambrose & Walsh were old by 1996 and, indeed, your tables also show that extraordinary pace attack was the key to WI success. Likewise, I think your tables show that extraordinary batting was the key to Oz success in 00's ... so, if they unearth 2 young world-class batsmen soon then they might quickly get back to the top in tests. [[ I think if Bishop had been unaffected by injury, he would have challenged all others to be an all-time great. Ananth: ]]

• Harsh Thakor on February 26, 2011, 7:05 GMT

Frank Worrell's 1963 team with Sobers,Kanhai,Hall,Hunte,Nurse etc were to me the strongest challengers to Bradman's 1948 team.They were more versatile than Lloyd's 1984 team,with a spinner and champion allrounder.Another great team was Ian Chappell's 1975 Australians with the likes of Lillee,Thomson,Geg Chappell.At it's peak in 1988 Imran Khan's Pakistani team could have given the best teams a run for their money with their versatile attack and strong batting depth.The 1969 South African team with Procter,Pollock brothers and Barry Richards,could compare with the all-time best.No Indian team can be termed an all-time great taem as it has never vanquished great opposition or conquered strong teams overseas.

Australia at it's peak from 1999-2003,could be close at the top but it was their temperament,match-winning killer instinct and professionalism that won them that accolade,over mere talent.Australia were beaten in India in 1998 and 2001,unlike Clive Lloyd's champions in 1984.

• shrikanthk on February 26, 2011, 6:19 GMT

Also, I am not sure if I understand what you mean by "CTD Batting average". Hammond's CTD average in the table is 35.35. How did you arrive at this figure? This surely wasn't his career average at the beginning of the 1928-29 series. In the 8 tests that he played prior to that series, he averaged 39.27. Was this his average at the beginning of the year 1928?? In which case, he is being terribly undervalued in this table. [[ Shri There is an adjustment during the first 10 tests for all batsman abd bowlers. His ctd average is 39.27*0.9. That is all. The net effect is 3.92/7=0.56. Also his 251,200,119 and 177 are all in the future. And team composition variations weakened the batting despite Hammond's blitzes. In the fourth test, #179, they went close with 46.24. Ananth: ]]

Ideally you should be looking at the English side at the end of the 1928-29 series. At the end of that series, Hammond averaged over 60 in his career, I think. Why is that lineup missing altogether?

• Alex on February 26, 2011, 5:54 GMT

Anath and Gerry: It does not matter than the year 2005 Australia team lost to England. This analysis should be used to estimate how this team would perform across a large number of tests under varying conditions. This team lost the Ashes but would have creamed the 2005 England outfit over a 5-year period under varying conditions. [[ That is what I said. One Test series loss does not make a strong team sudenly weak. Ananth: ]]

- The analysis I suggested a few minutes back is more relevant than this analysis to accurately estimating the performance over a much shorter interval of time (say, 10 tests).

Venkatesh: you are supposed to make the best of what you have got. Modern batman benefit from superior equipment and should not be chided for making full use of those. The game moves on. Imagine WG Grace stipulating that the players should take the field only if they have a magnificent paunch and not hitting the ball behind the square leg!

• shrikanthk on February 26, 2011, 5:48 GMT

Ananth: This is obviously a fine effort! But I must admit it is a little hard for me to digest everything. A word of advice : Could you just pick one row from one of the tables and clearly explain each figure in that row? That would make the reader's task easier. Right now, one tends to get lost in the narrative.

Take this row for instance. Bradman D.G 101.39 38.24 0.941 95.43 You could explain each figure separately, making our task easier. Right now, it is not clear to me on how you arrived at figure - 38.24. I know it is the CTD Peer Average. And 0.941 = 35.99/38.24. But how do you determine it? Is 38.24 the mean batting average of all top 7 batsmen across the Test playing world from Nov 1928 to Apr 1948?

Sorry if I sounded critical. But I think the brilliant stuff in this article can be presented better. [[ 38.24 is the average of the top-7 batsmen who played in all tests from Nov 1928 to Aug 1948, as you have rightly inferred. It indicates a reasonably batting-friendly period. I have already explained what is 35.99. It is the top-7 batting average in all tests played. 101.39 is the c-t-d batting average of Bradman for 79 innings. I am not sure what more do I need to explain. There is also a limit to what one person can do. The erudite readers you guys are, I expect you people to probably co-operate in understanding the tables. Ananth: ]]

• Ananth on February 26, 2011, 5:41 GMT

This is on the fifth bowler. Take the Windies team of 1158. They have the greatest bowling attack in history with Marshall/Bishop/Ambrose/Walsh. Thir fifth bowler is Carl Hooper who had c-t-d figures of 7 wickets at 97+ average (and a career average of 114 wickets at 49.43. If the c-t-d is taken as it is this team goes off the radar into the 1000th position or so. If the career figure is taken they go past 100th position. How can these be justified. 1 spinner, the worst amongst the 100+ wicket bowlers cannot be allowed to blow the greatest of the 4-bowler teams into obscurity. If the fifth bowler is Kallis or Bailey it is fine. Those teams do not suffer. But this is different. What does one take for Hooper. 97+ or 49.43 or 35+ (150% of Walsh, the worst of the four bowlers - crazy but looks reasonable). In the same match, Pakistan had the tenth best attack. Their fifth bowler is Shoaib with 5 wickets and c-t-d of 22+ and career haul of 5 wkts at 34. Can he be taken as the fifth bowler. Then this attack will move way up. It is to avoid such incongruities that I took only the best four bowlers. Of course if the fourth bowler is below-par this team is genuinely weak.

• Alex on February 26, 2011, 5:30 GMT

Ananth - All my comments hinge on how PeerAvg & Adj are computed. Consider this:

Harvey R.N 43.58 42.51 1.000 43.58

Why is Adj=1? Shouldn't it be (36/42.51=approx.) 0.8? Pl elaborate with specific examples. [[ There is no adjustment during the first 10 matches to allow the Peer averages to settle down. Otherwise run-feasts and bowling-extravaganzas distort the picture. Ananth: ]]

1. As a result, Bradman of 1948 is rated stronger than Bradman of 1934. Even if I bite that bullet on the grounds that the Don failed in the first 3 tests, this analysis still rates a 46-year old Hobbs of 1928 to be better than Lara/Ponting of 2005 ... this does not make much sense!

2. I agree with Gerry_the_Merry (February 25, 2011 12:45 PM). Perhaps you should give weight as follows: 50% to C-T-D, 25% to previous 5 tests (if available) and 25% to the next 5 tests (if available). I would also compute a peer-ratio for these 3 categories. Then, most of the current flaws would go away. Could you pl implement this? [[ That will require effort I cannot commit to now. Probably in the future. Ananth: ]]

So, I have a few reservations but thanks for a good read!

• Looch on February 26, 2011, 3:59 GMT

A fascinating analysis Anantha , well done. To all those that say the Windies 80's would have smashed any team, may I remind you of that great Windies team weakness against spin, in particular leg spin. Australia 00s v West Indies 80's would probably be the greatest series ever played, pity its all theoretical! [[ One day I will use my simulation programs to simulate a three-way competition between Australia 1948, West indies 198x and Australia 200x. I hope you have had a look at the articles I had penned on the 5-test series I had simulated for Times. Ananth: ]]

• Yash Rungta on February 26, 2011, 3:57 GMT

As for for the debate of considering(or otherwise) of the 5th Bowler.. Why not see the Match which we're referring to and see how many overs have the bowlers apart from the 4 main bowlers have bowled. [[ No, Yash, looking at the overs bowled is the wrong way of doing it. That may work for ODIs but not for Tests. The analysis is about the strongest teams that took the field not how they performed. If Waqar and Wasim run through a side, I cannot just take their figures and determine the team strength. Imran and Qadir were part of the eleven and should be included. Fifth bowler is a nice tweak but not worth the risk of incurring the certainty of weakening 22-carat attacks. Ananth: ]]

For eg. if we're taking MtId: 1158-1990 which West Indies played and you say its the strongest. Now we need to check to scorecard and see if the 5th bowler bowled at all. If yes, then we need to consider it otherwise not. Then we can give weights to the 5th bowler according to the no. of overs he has bowled. Time-consuming, but just an idea...

Even 11 batsmen can be considered for batting line-ups because in case of batting, all 11 players have to bat(except for declarations) Having players like Harbhajan, Warne, Swann, Kumble, Gillespie, Broad, Vettori(he still bats at no.8 many a times) can really add value to a batting line-up compared to likes of C.Martin, Walsh, McGrath, Morrison etc. [[ I have not just taken the nos 1 to 7 but the best 7. So Vettori would be in wherever he bats. Ananth: ]]

• Abhi on February 26, 2011, 2:40 GMT

Ananth, Gerry, For once I find myself agreeing with Gerry (who is often not very merry)…When using CTDs, the team strength thus obtained is essentially on “reputation”. Recent form should be used to an extent. However, as you mention this can be distorted depending on opposition strength. Could Recent form then be adjusted – For eg. by taking into account opposition bowing strengths (for batsmen)? Or perhaps using previous 10 or so matches instead of a certain amount of time instead. It is doubtful that all previous 10 matches would feature minnows. [[ No, Abhi, I did not say that all 10 matches could be against minnows. Only that just saying 1000 runs in previous matches does not mean much. Introducing the complexity of recent form , weight for runs scored against, 10 matches either side are all very complex processes and I am not convinced that for a marginal increment in the analysis quality I am going to embark on that. I have already put in more than 15 days of effort and do not have the resources or time to put in this effort again. Ananth: ]]

Also CTD in itself is often quite off target unless a player has a fairly uniform career from start to finish. A player with a poor start to his career would have this “drag” on his career for quite a while. (I remember some comments on this as regards Gooch)...and vice versa.

So, instead of various versions of CTD, recent form etc etc…what if we use some version of all relevant factors. For eg. Performance of say 10 matches on either side of the match in concern. This sort of approach should cover all bases more accurately by incorporating all concerned factors.

• Michael on February 25, 2011, 23:44 GMT

I agree with the people who say that a 5th bowler should be included. You say that no all-rounder stat should be introduced, but as you only have room for 11 players, if you are counting someone twice then you are not including someone else at all. [[ Where an all-rounder like Imran or Miller has been included the one left out is normally the keeper, like Tallon. It is a conundrum but I see nothing wrong. If the keepr is an outstanding batsman, he would get into the 7 as a batsman and another weak batsman not there. Ananth: ]]

Obviously this is a massive analysis, and I don't expect you to redo it any time soon, but would it be possible to weight the bowlers by their % of overs bowled for the team. That way you can account for a 5th bowler, while also rewarding holding spinners who do an excellent job, without necessarily picking up wickets.#

Thanks for the article [[ Michael, Arjun has argued seriously for 5-bowler consideration. However my problem is the diluting of the quality of truly great bowling attacks such as Roberts/Holding/Croft/Garner, Marshall/Ambrose/Bishop/Walsh, Lindwall/Miller/Johnston/Davidson, Waqar/Wasim/Imran/Qadir, Tyson/Statham/Wardle/Laker, McGrath/Warne/Gillespie/Lee with the likes of Lloyd, Richards, Gomes, Blewett, Masood Anwar, Ring et al. These attacks won matches on their own. That was their strength. Until I find a way of handling this I will not have 5-bowler attacks. Weighting the fifth bowler at 50% is possible, but may turn out to be contrived. Howver I will do one thing. I will do the 5-bowler exercise and post the top teams at the end of the article. Ananth: ]]

• Craig on February 25, 2011, 22:39 GMT

You have applied the career to date by assuming the career average, if under an arbitrary number of wickets/innings. This means batsmen with 50 innings get their average to date, while batsmen with 49 innings get their career average. If applying an arbitrary cut-off, why not use the 50 innings average as the cut-off, rather than the career average? That way, for batsmen in early career, whose averages dropped off towards retirement, the spike is taken out, but the innings just before retirement can still be ignored. It takes away the large discrimination between batsmen at 49 innnings, and those at 50 innings (or indeed, the same batsmen at those two points). [[ Very interesting and intriguing suggestion. Let me look this carefully and revert. I was only trying at not considering the 80+ averages of Hussey around the 30 innings mark. But for most players the settling would take place around the 50-inns (30-test) mark.Let us put interpret this in this way. If a player has attained a certain average after 50 inns or 100 wkts, he has earned it and that deserves serious consideration. But the abrupt change from 49 to 50 should be smoothed over. In Mike's case, it is 66.32 (50th) and 51.50 (career). Thanks, Craig. Ananth: ]]

Having said that, your tables look like a very good representation of the best teams, and the modification above would likely not make a significant differene.

• Deep on February 25, 2011, 21:04 GMT

The best Australian team of 2001 lost to India and the best Indian team of 2006 lost that series to Pak. I think some variable needs adjusting. I would say the Indian team playing Pak in 2004 was superior, certainly result-wise. [[ One series loss does not negate the 16 consecutive wins and 5 series wins which went before that. It is what is done over a period that counts.Anyhow I am not analyzing results here. Ananth: ]]

• Venkatesh on February 25, 2011, 20:11 GMT

Ananth, interesting analysis but flawed. Comparison of teams over different eras should be attempted by establishing a control group or having one variable change at a time. Unlike in tennis where technology benefited players on both sides of the net, advances in protective gear (helmets, thigh guard, forearm and chest protective gear), plus laws that restrict bouncers these days have made the players of today seem like superstars with superinflated batting averages. I have seen Hall and Griffith in 66-67 and observed Andy Roberts at close quarters in 74-75 ( I assisted in the nets sessions in Hyderabad) and later Willis, Holding, Marshall, Walsh, etc. The players of today, sans helmet and other protective gear, would wilt against genuine pace attacks. So I would drop all post-1980 batting averages by 10-15 runs.

• Viv Richard on February 25, 2011, 18:23 GMT

The strongest teams/bowlers/bestmen are not those have the higheste averages. The mightest team ever to grace was the 1980's West Indies team. They hammered everyone, and many team refused to play against them including Australlia. Team' Australlia with Gilchrist, Waugh, Warne , McGraw and co, do not stand a chance to play against Grenige, Viv Richard, Marshall, Holding, Garner, and co. Believe me I had seen those WI guy playing. How they defeated the 1983 strong Indian batting in their home. Have Austallia done this? No. Another great team was when Imran Khan was playing along with bestmen like Miandad, Wasim Raja, and later on few others. They did draw three consecutive test series either in Pak or in WI. For record, England was white washed 5-0 in those times. Therefoe, please consider the circumtances, not the record. Current team and players are much below in their level, especially now we have only left with mediocre fast bolwers.

• Arjun on February 25, 2011, 14:14 GMT

I strongly believe that 5th bowler has to be included in the analysis as you have done with 7th batsman(or only top 6 should be incl. in batting).

primary reason- continuos pressure be applied by good 5th bowler eg. kallis, sobers, bailey in some cases imran khan, cases when india were using 3 spinner along with kapil and prabhakar/srinath.

Imagine batsman waiting for 5th bowler to score easy runs and then see kallis or sobers running in.

which attack is better ?

4 high quality bowlers or 4 high quality bowlers plus good 5th bowler (eg test no. 1860, 8th entry into bowler's. pollock, steyn, ntini, nel and kallis. where are easy runs?) [[ Arjun It is true that the fifth bowler might prove decisive but only if the top four do not deliver. I think in almost all West indian tests of the 1980s-1990s, the top four delivered. A Viv Richards or Gomes would have lowered these teams' indices significantly. I will do a separate analysis for 5 bowlers but feel that 4 is correct. That raises the bar and rewards the teams which played 4 top-class bowlers. As far as batsmen are concerned, the no.7 batsman is more crucial than the fifth bowler. We do not want to miss out Gilchrist or Dhoni. Taking 6 means taking 5, and I am not comfortable with that. Ananth: ]]

• Dan on February 25, 2011, 14:10 GMT

A fascinating analysis, and it feels about right. There are some quirks, but some monster teams too, just full of legends.

Some people are still resistent, based on the comments, to the idea of ranking the 2000's Aussie teams so high. But your stats, and their records (16 matches in a row, twice) don't lie. I suspect it's got a lot to do with the time that's passed. The 80's Windies are now revered elder statesmen who many of us grew up idolising. The 2000's Aussies, on the other hand, are contemporaries and don't yet have the advantage of nostalgia. (And those pointing to the 2005 Ashes loss should remember that the turning point was McGrath's injury. Any team will be diminished by the loss of its best bowler.) [[ Again we are not talking of results but the strength of teams taking the field. For all round excellence over a long period of time, as proved by the number of teams Australia had in the top-100 of the team ts, 70 in all, Australia-2000s is the team to beat. This is said without in any way putting down the two other great teams, WiN of 1980 and Aus of 1948. Ananth: ]]

• Yash Rungta on February 25, 2011, 14:05 GMT

Nice article..So Ananth this proves that the current Indian batting line-up is amongst the best the game has ever seen like I said in some prvious article!! I couldn't believe when yo utold that this might not even be in the Top-20 but I'm glad they're rated at no.6 all time!!

ICC World XI would have been the best ever by some margin if it had made just 2 changes: 1) Inzy is replaced by Sachin(I know he was injured then, but I'm just imagining) 2) Boucher is replaced by Sangakkara(Boucher is probably a little better keeper but with Murali in the bowling line-up, Sanga would have been a better choice at that time!!) [[ There was never any doubt that the ciurrent indian team with 5 batsmen either side of 50 would be in the top-10. Yes, theoretically the ICC XI could have wiped out everything.The real clincher would have been Sanga (48+ at that time) for Boucher since that would have meant an increase of 15 over Flintoff, consequently a 2.1 increase in the final ts value. Tendulkar, whose ctd was 57 as compared to Inzamam's 50 would have added another 1. That would have taken the ICC Xi to 96.1 and the top place. And these changes would not have disturbed the balance since Flintoff would still have been there. Your points are very well made.. Ananth: ]]

• Anand on February 25, 2011, 13:42 GMT

Continuing... I am surprised that Pakistan didnt feature at all in the top 10 teams.. Probably because they were a great team but lost to W Indies in 80s and Aussies in 90s. Just goes to how how much burden Kapil and Hadlee had to shoulder. Despite being the only bowlers of their times to have 400+ wickets their team was nowhere in the picture. Can say the same about Murali too. [[ To reach the high 90+ marks in the Team strength tables a team must have 45+ and 45+ batting and bowling numbers. Or else make up for shortfall in one with pluses in another. When Pakistan had truly great bowling attacks, their batting was good-to-very good, not outstanding. Ananth: ]]

I just have a point to add on the "best team" and "dominating". If I understand your analysis right, best team is based on the averages of the players while domination also depends on the relative strength of the opposition. Therefore it is possible that the "best team" may sometimes lose (e.g., 2005 Aussies team lost the ashes, but they also went on to win the next 16 tests they played). Neither the 2000 Aussie team nor 80s windies team may have looked as dominating as they did if they had to play each other often. [[ I think the idea of domination has to be carefully looked at. Australia at 85 vs Bangladesh at 55 is not real domination. Maybe it makes sense to relate results to relative team strengths to determine domination. The 1975-76 Aussie blitz against West indies might qualify. If a 85 team defeats a 80 team 5-1 or thereabouts that is true domination. Ananth: ]]

• Anand on February 25, 2011, 13:30 GMT

Ananth: Thanks for the great analysis. Just goes to show how much Aussies have dominated the game like the W Indies in the 70s and 80s. Also goes to show that with the phenomenal batting line up of India, they still dont feature because of poor bowling. This makse sense because test matches are also about picking 20 wickets apart from scoring runs. I was just thinking.. The 83 world cup winning team had a streak of about 30-35 test matches where they didint win a single match and then won one test against England at home and then had another 10 winless test matches, this despite having technically sound batsmen (Gavaskar, Amarnath, G. R. Vishwanath, Vengsarkar) and a decent tail. Also between 1986 and 2001, India bowled out the opposition in both innings of a test match on just 7 occasions in 44 test matches away from home. Only one ended in a win (against Srilanka in 1993, at which time they were marginally better than Bangladesh/Zimbabwe).

• Gerry_the_Merry on February 25, 2011, 12:45 GMT

Ananth, thanks for this. i cannot resist pointing out that it is a brilliant but flawed analysis (only a quick comment, must sink my teeth into this later) - the flaw is the following: the best team as per your analysis LOST THE 2005 ASHES. Also, this is not an all star team, as Gilchrist had faded with steadily falling average, McGrath was in the twilight of his career (falling strike rate), and Kasparowics, Katich and Clarke were hardly world beaters then. The 1984 West Indies team was a genuine all star team. The bowling was monstrous, despite Walsh being the tyro - refer to this analysis (http://www.espncricinfo.com/columns/content/story/217157.html), and the oldest player, Lloyd had the best phase of his career. Personally i think the 1979 Brisbane test match team of West Indies was the best - all star XI, and everyone in their prime. Perhaps you should have weighted recent form much more. Nevertheless, a great accomplishment. hopefully you will weave this into player averages. [[ Gerry Your point is valid. However the analysis is already extremely complex and if I introduce another very complex and very fluid element I am afraid the analysis will fail. The reason is that the recent form being poor, as in the cases you have pointed out, will not have a significant impact since I would never give too high a weight to recent form. However the recent form situations such as 10 matches-100+ averages will completely make the analysis topsy-turvy. Suddenly one players's such form would move weaker teams up. The oither problem would be the quality of teams against which these runs were scored. Career and c-t-d are different, they are accumulated over the years. Last 10 matches, including a home series against a weaker team and one against the minnows (I hate the word) will distort the figures. The other huge problem is the problems of determining the recent form for bowlers. I am now facing this problem for ODI recent form for my WC simulation. Let us agree that, on figures and on paper, the teams presented were the strongest. Ananth: ]]

• Arjun on February 25, 2011, 12:36 GMT

4th entry into top bowling attacks, England (test no-434) T Bailey(5th bowler) took 8 wkts, his c-t-d figures at that time were 98 test wkts (ave. 31.10 and SR 72.6).

Can we conclude that it was the best test attack ever if 5th bowler is included ? [[ Arjun Having been immersed with 4-man attacks and teams over the past two weeks, i can safely say that this will require another analysis. It is very difficult to conclude. Before I started the full analysis I did a reort on the top-5 bowlers to see the wide variations in the fifth bowlers. There were quite a few 25-30 bowlers in the fifth position. Anyhow let me see what can be done. Ananth: ]]

• Arjun on February 25, 2011, 12:28 GMT

In test no.1158, bowling attacks of both WI and pak are represented in top-10; indicating presence of very high quality test bowlers. Ironically test ended in a draw. [[ In fact when I did the work, I thought I had made a mistake since 1158 occured twice. Then I realized that boith teams were represented. Ananth: ]]

• Age on February 25, 2011, 11:38 GMT

Odd how the 2004 side statistically rates as NZ's best yet (albeit the cumulative strength of the individuals) but the 80's side remains NZ's most successful over an extended period? Does this suggest that a superstar (Hadlee, Crowe etc.) supported by a group of seasoned pros is better than a champion team? [[ As you yourself have said, a successful side need not necessarily be the strongest nor vice versa. The Indian 1983 WC side would figure nowhere near the best ODI team India has ever had, but did something yet to be achieved by an Indian team. Similarly the ICC KO in 2000. One great player, one great performance and Chris Cairns gave NZL its only international success. in 2004, Martin, Vettori, Chris Cairns and Tuffey provided an excellent bowling attack which was placed at 41.23. Ananth: ]]

• joe on February 25, 2011, 10:51 GMT

The Windies of the 80's would destroy the other sides. Stop with all the stats nonsense. Close your eyes and tell me...do you really think the Aussies of th 00's or any other era could win against the Windies of the 80's ? No! Only Bradman is a factor. [[ I can assure you none of these top teams woiuld destroy another top team. They might destroy weaker teams. A decimal separation between the teams means that if these teams played 100 tests between them one would lead the other 51-49, that is all. As far as destruction is concerned, a near full strength West Indiian team lost 1-5 against Australia in 1975. Let us not use these words loosely. Ananth: ]]

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• joe on February 25, 2011, 10:51 GMT

The Windies of the 80's would destroy the other sides. Stop with all the stats nonsense. Close your eyes and tell me...do you really think the Aussies of th 00's or any other era could win against the Windies of the 80's ? No! Only Bradman is a factor. [[ I can assure you none of these top teams woiuld destroy another top team. They might destroy weaker teams. A decimal separation between the teams means that if these teams played 100 tests between them one would lead the other 51-49, that is all. As far as destruction is concerned, a near full strength West Indiian team lost 1-5 against Australia in 1975. Let us not use these words loosely. Ananth: ]]

• Age on February 25, 2011, 11:38 GMT

Odd how the 2004 side statistically rates as NZ's best yet (albeit the cumulative strength of the individuals) but the 80's side remains NZ's most successful over an extended period? Does this suggest that a superstar (Hadlee, Crowe etc.) supported by a group of seasoned pros is better than a champion team? [[ As you yourself have said, a successful side need not necessarily be the strongest nor vice versa. The Indian 1983 WC side would figure nowhere near the best ODI team India has ever had, but did something yet to be achieved by an Indian team. Similarly the ICC KO in 2000. One great player, one great performance and Chris Cairns gave NZL its only international success. in 2004, Martin, Vettori, Chris Cairns and Tuffey provided an excellent bowling attack which was placed at 41.23. Ananth: ]]

• Arjun on February 25, 2011, 12:28 GMT

In test no.1158, bowling attacks of both WI and pak are represented in top-10; indicating presence of very high quality test bowlers. Ironically test ended in a draw. [[ In fact when I did the work, I thought I had made a mistake since 1158 occured twice. Then I realized that boith teams were represented. Ananth: ]]

• Arjun on February 25, 2011, 12:36 GMT

4th entry into top bowling attacks, England (test no-434) T Bailey(5th bowler) took 8 wkts, his c-t-d figures at that time were 98 test wkts (ave. 31.10 and SR 72.6).

Can we conclude that it was the best test attack ever if 5th bowler is included ? [[ Arjun Having been immersed with 4-man attacks and teams over the past two weeks, i can safely say that this will require another analysis. It is very difficult to conclude. Before I started the full analysis I did a reort on the top-5 bowlers to see the wide variations in the fifth bowlers. There were quite a few 25-30 bowlers in the fifth position. Anyhow let me see what can be done. Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on February 25, 2011, 12:45 GMT

Ananth, thanks for this. i cannot resist pointing out that it is a brilliant but flawed analysis (only a quick comment, must sink my teeth into this later) - the flaw is the following: the best team as per your analysis LOST THE 2005 ASHES. Also, this is not an all star team, as Gilchrist had faded with steadily falling average, McGrath was in the twilight of his career (falling strike rate), and Kasparowics, Katich and Clarke were hardly world beaters then. The 1984 West Indies team was a genuine all star team. The bowling was monstrous, despite Walsh being the tyro - refer to this analysis (http://www.espncricinfo.com/columns/content/story/217157.html), and the oldest player, Lloyd had the best phase of his career. Personally i think the 1979 Brisbane test match team of West Indies was the best - all star XI, and everyone in their prime. Perhaps you should have weighted recent form much more. Nevertheless, a great accomplishment. hopefully you will weave this into player averages. [[ Gerry Your point is valid. However the analysis is already extremely complex and if I introduce another very complex and very fluid element I am afraid the analysis will fail. The reason is that the recent form being poor, as in the cases you have pointed out, will not have a significant impact since I would never give too high a weight to recent form. However the recent form situations such as 10 matches-100+ averages will completely make the analysis topsy-turvy. Suddenly one players's such form would move weaker teams up. The oither problem would be the quality of teams against which these runs were scored. Career and c-t-d are different, they are accumulated over the years. Last 10 matches, including a home series against a weaker team and one against the minnows (I hate the word) will distort the figures. The other huge problem is the problems of determining the recent form for bowlers. I am now facing this problem for ODI recent form for my WC simulation. Let us agree that, on figures and on paper, the teams presented were the strongest. Ananth: ]]

• Anand on February 25, 2011, 13:30 GMT

Ananth: Thanks for the great analysis. Just goes to show how much Aussies have dominated the game like the W Indies in the 70s and 80s. Also goes to show that with the phenomenal batting line up of India, they still dont feature because of poor bowling. This makse sense because test matches are also about picking 20 wickets apart from scoring runs. I was just thinking.. The 83 world cup winning team had a streak of about 30-35 test matches where they didint win a single match and then won one test against England at home and then had another 10 winless test matches, this despite having technically sound batsmen (Gavaskar, Amarnath, G. R. Vishwanath, Vengsarkar) and a decent tail. Also between 1986 and 2001, India bowled out the opposition in both innings of a test match on just 7 occasions in 44 test matches away from home. Only one ended in a win (against Srilanka in 1993, at which time they were marginally better than Bangladesh/Zimbabwe).

• Anand on February 25, 2011, 13:42 GMT

Continuing... I am surprised that Pakistan didnt feature at all in the top 10 teams.. Probably because they were a great team but lost to W Indies in 80s and Aussies in 90s. Just goes to how how much burden Kapil and Hadlee had to shoulder. Despite being the only bowlers of their times to have 400+ wickets their team was nowhere in the picture. Can say the same about Murali too. [[ To reach the high 90+ marks in the Team strength tables a team must have 45+ and 45+ batting and bowling numbers. Or else make up for shortfall in one with pluses in another. When Pakistan had truly great bowling attacks, their batting was good-to-very good, not outstanding. Ananth: ]]

I just have a point to add on the "best team" and "dominating". If I understand your analysis right, best team is based on the averages of the players while domination also depends on the relative strength of the opposition. Therefore it is possible that the "best team" may sometimes lose (e.g., 2005 Aussies team lost the ashes, but they also went on to win the next 16 tests they played). Neither the 2000 Aussie team nor 80s windies team may have looked as dominating as they did if they had to play each other often. [[ I think the idea of domination has to be carefully looked at. Australia at 85 vs Bangladesh at 55 is not real domination. Maybe it makes sense to relate results to relative team strengths to determine domination. The 1975-76 Aussie blitz against West indies might qualify. If a 85 team defeats a 80 team 5-1 or thereabouts that is true domination. Ananth: ]]

• Yash Rungta on February 25, 2011, 14:05 GMT

Nice article..So Ananth this proves that the current Indian batting line-up is amongst the best the game has ever seen like I said in some prvious article!! I couldn't believe when yo utold that this might not even be in the Top-20 but I'm glad they're rated at no.6 all time!!

ICC World XI would have been the best ever by some margin if it had made just 2 changes: 1) Inzy is replaced by Sachin(I know he was injured then, but I'm just imagining) 2) Boucher is replaced by Sangakkara(Boucher is probably a little better keeper but with Murali in the bowling line-up, Sanga would have been a better choice at that time!!) [[ There was never any doubt that the ciurrent indian team with 5 batsmen either side of 50 would be in the top-10. Yes, theoretically the ICC XI could have wiped out everything.The real clincher would have been Sanga (48+ at that time) for Boucher since that would have meant an increase of 15 over Flintoff, consequently a 2.1 increase in the final ts value. Tendulkar, whose ctd was 57 as compared to Inzamam's 50 would have added another 1. That would have taken the ICC Xi to 96.1 and the top place. And these changes would not have disturbed the balance since Flintoff would still have been there. Your points are very well made.. Ananth: ]]

• Dan on February 25, 2011, 14:10 GMT

A fascinating analysis, and it feels about right. There are some quirks, but some monster teams too, just full of legends.

Some people are still resistent, based on the comments, to the idea of ranking the 2000's Aussie teams so high. But your stats, and their records (16 matches in a row, twice) don't lie. I suspect it's got a lot to do with the time that's passed. The 80's Windies are now revered elder statesmen who many of us grew up idolising. The 2000's Aussies, on the other hand, are contemporaries and don't yet have the advantage of nostalgia. (And those pointing to the 2005 Ashes loss should remember that the turning point was McGrath's injury. Any team will be diminished by the loss of its best bowler.) [[ Again we are not talking of results but the strength of teams taking the field. For all round excellence over a long period of time, as proved by the number of teams Australia had in the top-100 of the team ts, 70 in all, Australia-2000s is the team to beat. This is said without in any way putting down the two other great teams, WiN of 1980 and Aus of 1948. Ananth: ]]

• Arjun on February 25, 2011, 14:14 GMT

I strongly believe that 5th bowler has to be included in the analysis as you have done with 7th batsman(or only top 6 should be incl. in batting).

primary reason- continuos pressure be applied by good 5th bowler eg. kallis, sobers, bailey in some cases imran khan, cases when india were using 3 spinner along with kapil and prabhakar/srinath.

Imagine batsman waiting for 5th bowler to score easy runs and then see kallis or sobers running in.

which attack is better ?

4 high quality bowlers or 4 high quality bowlers plus good 5th bowler (eg test no. 1860, 8th entry into bowler's. pollock, steyn, ntini, nel and kallis. where are easy runs?) [[ Arjun It is true that the fifth bowler might prove decisive but only if the top four do not deliver. I think in almost all West indian tests of the 1980s-1990s, the top four delivered. A Viv Richards or Gomes would have lowered these teams' indices significantly. I will do a separate analysis for 5 bowlers but feel that 4 is correct. That raises the bar and rewards the teams which played 4 top-class bowlers. As far as batsmen are concerned, the no.7 batsman is more crucial than the fifth bowler. We do not want to miss out Gilchrist or Dhoni. Taking 6 means taking 5, and I am not comfortable with that. Ananth: ]]