April 8, 2011

Eight genial giants: a pictorial view across 28 years

A graphical analysis of the career of top West Indian fast bowlers
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I am glad to resume my articles after a break of a month during which I was immersed in World Cup related work. I had done so much of WC related work that I decided that I would go back to Tests. My next article will be the comprehensive analysis of World Cup performances that I had promised before the beginning of the World Cup.

I have also selected a very unusual area for this article. Pure analysis can be done by anyone with access to a Database, a set of tools and an analytical flair. What I have selected is a programming specialty. This is a graphical look at the 8 West Indian pace bowling giants who played across 28 years and 226 Tests. This required a lot of specialized programming work and the results have come out very nicely and pleasing to the eye. The layouts and formatting work itself took a few days. The readers can download the graphs, study these at leisure and come out with their conclusions.

First, a graphic time-line of the careers of the 8 bowlers.

West Indies fast bowlers career summary
© Anantha Narayanan

The following facts are clear through a perusal of the time-line graph above. This is only for the purpose of gathering overall intelligence. The detailed by-Test graphs come later.

1. West Indian pace bowling saga of 28 years is comprised of two clear periods. The first one between 1974 and 1987 during which Roberts, Holding, Garner and Croft held sway. Then the second period between 1988 and 2001 during which Walsh, Ambrose and Bishop held forte.
2. Ha!!! I can hear knives being sharpened. I can clearly see a mail saying that I have gone senile and missed, arguably, the greatest of all these bowlers, Marshall. No I have not forgotten the genial "giant". He is the connecting player across the two eras. Note the following.
- He is the only one to have straddled both periods almost completely.
- He has played with all the other 7 bowlers, at their peak. That is truly amazing. 14 years at the top, 376 wickets at 20.95, arguably, Marshall is the greatest amongst this collection of greats.
- He is the one bowler who defines clearly the West Indian pace supremacy. No wonder he is held in such high esteem.

3. Croft's career was a sub-set of Garner's career. Marshall's arrival hastened Croft's departure.
4. Roberts handed over the baton to Walsh.
5. Holding and Garner retired almost simultaneously and Ambrose took over from them.
6. Bishop had to retire quite early. Severe back injuries meant he had long breaks in his career twice. Just extend his career by another 5 years, at least until 2001, when Walsh retired. Think of the impact this would have had on West Indian cricket.

The detailed graphs have been split into three individual ones since it would be impossible to show all 226 tests in one graph. While these graphs have been split in such a manner that these cover approximately the same number of tests, some career date-lines have been followed.

The first graph covers the career of Andy Roberts and incorporates 74 tests. Roberts made his debut in Test# 734 (1974) and made his last appearance in Test# 972 (1983), 74 tests later. During this period, Holding, Garner and Marshall made their debuts and Croft completed his career.

West Indies fast bowlers period 1
© Anantha Narayanan

Roberts was alone for over 10 tests before Holding made his debut. Lance Gibbs and Holder were the two bowlers with whom he shared these 10 tests. Holding and Roberts, along with Gibbs and Holder, played for another 15 tests before Garner and Croft made their debut in the same Test. For some reason, Holding went off when these two made their debuts. It is possible that he was even dropped ??? The huge gap between Test$ 822 and 845 was the Packer period during which none of these four played. Marshall made his debut during the middle of these Packer tests.

In the post-WSC era, West Indies started by playing four top pace bowlers for the first time. This was the golden period for these four greats, although it meant that Marshall lost his place. Despite losing their hold over the World Cup, they were lethal and very potent as a Test team. They played in different combinations in a number of tests. Marshall took over from Croft. What is surprising is that even Holding has missed quite a number of tests during these years, even before the WSC absence. The level of competition for 3/4 places amongst these 5 top-quality bowlers must have been intense.

I have made another analysis of this period in terms of bowler combinations, results etc. These are shown at the end.

Now the second period during which six bowlers are present. This comprises of the later part of the Holding/Garner careers, the bulk of the Marshall career and the start of the Ambrose/Bishop careers. This was the most successful period for West Indies as the summary of results is shown at the end. Barring one series in the middle, they had an embarrassment of riches, the problem being who to leave out. Ambrose took over from Holding/Garner seamlessly and Bishop was potent. Marshall had retired well before the end of this period.

West Indies fast bowlers period 2
© Anantha Narayanan

The third period had the three bowlers, Walsh, Ambrose and Bishop. Walsh played in all but two of the tests during this period. Ambrose played in most of these tests. Unfortunately Bishop had to retire because of injuries. That was a blow to the West Indies from which they never recovered. Walsh and Ambrose struggled for a few Tests together, then Walsh alone for a few more and he also retired. The results, as expected, were quite mixed. Mervyn Dillon was the major support player to Ambrose and Walsh during these last few Tests.

West Indies fast bowlers period 3
© Anantha Narayanan

After Test# 1544, came the fall, and what a fall it was. It was left to the unfortunate Brian Lara to preside, more unsuccessfully than successfully, over this crumbling edifice. 10 years have passed and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, barring a lone completely unexpected success in the Champions' Trophy during 2004.

An analysis of the results is given below.

Period Matches Wins Draws Losses %-success

1974 (0734)-1984 (0983) 76 26 36 14 57.8% (No real dominating run) 1983 (0986)-1994 (1257) 79 47 20 12 72.1% (11/7/7 consecutive wins) 1994 (1258)-2001 (1544) 71 20 19 32 41.5% (7/6 consecutive losses)

Total 226 93 75 58 57.7%

As already indicated the golden period were the 10 years between 1984 and 1994, with a %-success of 72.1. Only 12 losses during a decade. The earlier decade was also quite good with a %-success of 57.8. The last 8 years were quite average with a success % of only 41.5. However let us not forget that unlike today, these were not the results-seeking years. A draw, especially by the opposing team was considered very good.

Out of the 226 Tests, there were a maximum of 100 tests in which 4 of the pace bowlers could have been played. This number could be lower since information on injuries is not known. Details on various combinations are given below. Incidentally such instances are identified on the graphs with the sign '!'.

Bowler combination Matches Wins

Roberts/Holding/Garner/Croft 11 5 Roberts/Holding/Garner/Marshall 6 3 Holding/Garner/Croft/Marshall 3 0 Holding/Garner/Marshall/Walsh 4 2 Marshall/Walsh/Ambrose/Bishop 6 4

Total 30 14

There are two surprises. The first is that West Indies played 4 pace bowlers, out of these 8, in only 30 of these during these 27 years. Of course they played other pace bowlers to come to four. The second surprise is that in tests in which West Indies had fielded 4 pace bowlers, out of the selected 8, their win percentage is below 50. This indicates that the best combination was three top pace bowlers and one bowler of different type, a spinner or even a medium pace swing bowler, to maintain balance. One would have again expected the win % to be higher. Maybe 3 pace bowlers + Gibbs/Holder/Richards/Gomes/Harper/Patterson was the more effective combination. Amongst this lot, Gibbs was a world-class spinner on his own rights. Patterson and Holder were good support bowlers.

The career summaries of the 8 bowlers is given below.

Bowler Wkts Mats Career details

Roberts: 202 47 ( 74) : 0734 (1974) - 0972 (1983) Holding: 249 60 ( 92) : 0764 (1975) - 1068 (1987) Garner: 259 58 ( 79) : 0797 (1977) - 1072 (1987) Croft: 125 27 ( 38) : 0797 (1977) - 0919 (1982)

Marshall: 376 81 (106) : 0837 (1978) - 1175 (1991)

Walsh : 519 132 (142) : 0997 (1984) - 1544 (2001) Ambrose: 405 98 (108) : 1095 (1988) - 1509 (2000) Bishop: 161 43 ( 73) : 1117 (1989) - 1407 (1998)

Walsh and Ambrose have missed only 10 tests each in their long careers. Walsh, mainly at the beginning because of non-selection. The others have missed quite a few tests, because of various reasons, WSC Tests, non-selection, injuries et al.

Finally a tribute to these 8 great bowlers. I cannot remember any instance of their engaging in any verbal duel with any batsman. One penetrating glare was all what was on view. They let the ball do all the talking and what conversation the 121282 deliveries engaged in. Capturing their haul of 2296 wickets at a rate of 52.8 balls and at an average of 22.8 runs per wicket. Did they bowl like millionaires. No, they conceded only 2.59 runs per over. Any of these 8 could have found a place in 90% of Test teams across the years. They graced the Test scene for nearly 3 decades. We can only stand back and admire them at this point in time.

Coming to the other dominating team over the past 10 years, I would like to hear from the readers whether such an analysis would be possible or worthwhile at all. There were only two great bowlers, McGrath and Warne and a host of good supporting bowlers. Such a graph as done above may not make sense.

To view/down-load the .zip file containing the graphs, please click/right-click here.
This will let you view the graphs at leisure and draw your own conclusions.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Krishna on June 11, 2011, 14:27 GMT

    In an otherwise excellent article :

    will recommend the following - there is an excellent and only book on this topic - Real Quick published in the UK in 1995 which deals with all the WI quartet with tons of Stats and fascinating analysis

    2 errors in Ananth's article : 1.For some reason, Holding went off when these two made their debuts. It is possible that he was even dropped - NO HE WAS INJURED AS WAS WAYNE DANIEL DUE TO HEAVY WORKLOAD IN THE SEASONS AND THAT'S WHY GARNER AND CROFT GOT THEIR TEST DEBUT.

    2. Marshall's arrival hastened Croft's departure - UNTRUE - CROFT HAD A MAJOR INJURY AND WAS FORCED TO BOWL MEDIUM PACE AFTER THE 1982 SEASON REALISED IT WAS A MATTER OF TIME - JOINED THE WI REBEL TEAM UNDER ROWE TO SOUTH AFRICA AND FADED OUT

  • Harsh Thakor on May 28, 2011, 10:42 GMT

    I personally rate Marshall,Holding, and Roberts as the best of all Carribean paceman.

    Marshall was arguably the most lethal of all with his innovative biomechanics .He posessed a weaponry of deliveries that other great quickies could not deliverlike the skidding bouncer and the ball that doubled it's speed on impact.Holding is consistently the quickest of all paceman with the best ever bowling action.He bowled the best ever spell by any paceman in 1976 at the Oval and the best ever over against England at Kingston in 1981.Andy Roberts bowled more like Lillee than any other paceman and is rated by Lillee,Gavaskar and the Chappell brothers as the most complete and best paceman they have faced.He posessed a greater repertoire of deliveries than any West Indian paceman and in the mid 1970's solely carried the brunt of the attack in Australai in 1975-76 and in India in 1975-75.Sadly he declined after Packer Cricket where again he was outstanding capturing 50 wickets.

  • Kartik (the old one) on May 5, 2011, 8:02 GMT

    Waspsting,

    You did not get it. Read my comment again. Slowly. Twice if necessary.

    We are not talking about bowler reputation. We are talking about the visceral fear the primate hindbrain feels when a creature vastly larger than you is moving towards you aggressively. Marshall, even if the best bowler, was a small man.

    I suspect you still won't get it.

  • EngleBert on May 1, 2011, 19:15 GMT

    Of the 8 fast bowlers, honorable mention must be given to two. 1. Andy Roberts started the juggernaut trend from a sparse, bare bunch of pacers (Holder, Julien, Boyce). He combined raw pace with brain power to devastating effect. HE was the leader of the pack.

    2. Courtney Walsh brought up the rear, in a time when WI cricket was declining. Saddled with the captaincy and a prima donna player, he gave of his very best to the bitter end.

    The most cloistered of the lot ? Malcolm Marshall who found himself nicely placed between the pioneers of these powerful pacers and those fighting an uphill battle for a declining team. He was the luckiest of the lot.

    IMO

  • shrikanthk on May 1, 2011, 15:26 GMT

    They beat a strong India side in 1974 which contained the bowlers of Bedi, Chandresekar and Prassana, debunking the myth that the West Indies were poor players of spin

    That wasn't a great Indian side! The spinners were brilliant as they invariably were. But overall, the side was hardly special. Weren't they just back from a thorough drubbing in the hands of England earlier in '74? Gavaskar even missed a couple of tests and he wasn't in great nick even otherwise.

    Also, it was a narrow win for WI (3-2). That's the equivalent of say Border's side narrowly defeating the Sri Lanka of the early nineties! Hardly a great achievement.

    Interesting analogy that. Given that both Aus in '92 and WI in '74 were great sides-in-the making emerging from a dark phase.

  • Boll on May 1, 2011, 12:11 GMT

    @zzzzz, the difference being of course that the Indian team of the 80s was comparatively extremely poor - 3 or 4 test series wins in a decade. The Australian team didn`t win all over the world? um, name a country for me. [[ Less successful against certain countries, I agree, but unsuccessful, no. Australia won everywhere. Ananth: ]]

  • ZZZZZZ on April 27, 2011, 13:12 GMT

    I believe what sets the west indian unit apart from the noughties Australia was their success all over the world, in particular India, despite India's fine host of batsmen. Indeed, all of Croft, Roberts,Garner, Holding and Marshall had sub 25 averages on the subcontinent. They beat a strong India side in 1974 which contained the bowlers of Bedi, Chandresekar and Prassana, debunking the myth that the West Indies were poor players of spin. Furthermore. We must also remember that the West Indies were less likely to get beaten than the Noughties Australia, as evidenced against Pakistan in 1988 when, with their backs against the wall they clung on for a draw. Also, whilst Sunil Gavaskar was successful against the West Indies,10 of his 13 centuries came against either spin heavy or Packer affected attacks. Whilst he still played well against the Prime fast bowlers in the eighties, he did not dominate them

  • Yash Rungta on April 27, 2011, 3:56 GMT

    I remember Ambrose getting into Steve Waugh's skin.. I don't know whose mistake it was or who prompted who to go at each other. But then I think Ambrose destroyed Australia with a 7-for or something???

    This is the only instance I know of a West Indian fast bowler getting into a verbal battle.

  • Waspsting on April 26, 2011, 17:06 GMT

    "the visceral fear one may feel from seeing a monster the size of Garner or Ambrose might have caused complacency that Marshall exploited"

    Karthik - this is as wrong, as wrong can be. EVERYONE feared Marshall as the fastest, scariest and best of the lot from 83 to about 89.

    Garner didn't have that effect (though i think him one of the best and most underrated paceman EVER), perhaps because he didn't seem to put much effort into the ball - he was probably fast-medium most of the time, perhaps because of perceptions of him being a containment bowler (absurd - his strike rate is better than Roberts or Holding, but thats how it was often seen).

    Ambrose didn't play much with Marshall, but was a nasty piece of work in those early days (much more so than he became later, in his put-the-ball-on-the spot days - though he was accurate before, too).

    Marshall was something else. In my opinion, the best fast bowler the game has ever seen. And probably the bloody scariest, too.

  • Kartik (the old one) on April 25, 2011, 9:22 GMT

    Marshall was not just the best bowler in this group, but he was also the most competent batsman as well.

    The funny thing is, he was at least 6 inches shorter than anyone else on this list. Marshall was 5'9" while no one else was under 6'3" (Roberts being the next shortest).

    So the best among these 'genial giants' was the one who was not even a giant at all. Perhaps this made batsmen underestimate him? The visceral fear one may feel from seeing a monster the size of Garner or Ambrose might have caused complacency that Marshall exploited.

  • Krishna on June 11, 2011, 14:27 GMT

    In an otherwise excellent article :

    will recommend the following - there is an excellent and only book on this topic - Real Quick published in the UK in 1995 which deals with all the WI quartet with tons of Stats and fascinating analysis

    2 errors in Ananth's article : 1.For some reason, Holding went off when these two made their debuts. It is possible that he was even dropped - NO HE WAS INJURED AS WAS WAYNE DANIEL DUE TO HEAVY WORKLOAD IN THE SEASONS AND THAT'S WHY GARNER AND CROFT GOT THEIR TEST DEBUT.

    2. Marshall's arrival hastened Croft's departure - UNTRUE - CROFT HAD A MAJOR INJURY AND WAS FORCED TO BOWL MEDIUM PACE AFTER THE 1982 SEASON REALISED IT WAS A MATTER OF TIME - JOINED THE WI REBEL TEAM UNDER ROWE TO SOUTH AFRICA AND FADED OUT

  • Harsh Thakor on May 28, 2011, 10:42 GMT

    I personally rate Marshall,Holding, and Roberts as the best of all Carribean paceman.

    Marshall was arguably the most lethal of all with his innovative biomechanics .He posessed a weaponry of deliveries that other great quickies could not deliverlike the skidding bouncer and the ball that doubled it's speed on impact.Holding is consistently the quickest of all paceman with the best ever bowling action.He bowled the best ever spell by any paceman in 1976 at the Oval and the best ever over against England at Kingston in 1981.Andy Roberts bowled more like Lillee than any other paceman and is rated by Lillee,Gavaskar and the Chappell brothers as the most complete and best paceman they have faced.He posessed a greater repertoire of deliveries than any West Indian paceman and in the mid 1970's solely carried the brunt of the attack in Australai in 1975-76 and in India in 1975-75.Sadly he declined after Packer Cricket where again he was outstanding capturing 50 wickets.

  • Kartik (the old one) on May 5, 2011, 8:02 GMT

    Waspsting,

    You did not get it. Read my comment again. Slowly. Twice if necessary.

    We are not talking about bowler reputation. We are talking about the visceral fear the primate hindbrain feels when a creature vastly larger than you is moving towards you aggressively. Marshall, even if the best bowler, was a small man.

    I suspect you still won't get it.

  • EngleBert on May 1, 2011, 19:15 GMT

    Of the 8 fast bowlers, honorable mention must be given to two. 1. Andy Roberts started the juggernaut trend from a sparse, bare bunch of pacers (Holder, Julien, Boyce). He combined raw pace with brain power to devastating effect. HE was the leader of the pack.

    2. Courtney Walsh brought up the rear, in a time when WI cricket was declining. Saddled with the captaincy and a prima donna player, he gave of his very best to the bitter end.

    The most cloistered of the lot ? Malcolm Marshall who found himself nicely placed between the pioneers of these powerful pacers and those fighting an uphill battle for a declining team. He was the luckiest of the lot.

    IMO

  • shrikanthk on May 1, 2011, 15:26 GMT

    They beat a strong India side in 1974 which contained the bowlers of Bedi, Chandresekar and Prassana, debunking the myth that the West Indies were poor players of spin

    That wasn't a great Indian side! The spinners were brilliant as they invariably were. But overall, the side was hardly special. Weren't they just back from a thorough drubbing in the hands of England earlier in '74? Gavaskar even missed a couple of tests and he wasn't in great nick even otherwise.

    Also, it was a narrow win for WI (3-2). That's the equivalent of say Border's side narrowly defeating the Sri Lanka of the early nineties! Hardly a great achievement.

    Interesting analogy that. Given that both Aus in '92 and WI in '74 were great sides-in-the making emerging from a dark phase.

  • Boll on May 1, 2011, 12:11 GMT

    @zzzzz, the difference being of course that the Indian team of the 80s was comparatively extremely poor - 3 or 4 test series wins in a decade. The Australian team didn`t win all over the world? um, name a country for me. [[ Less successful against certain countries, I agree, but unsuccessful, no. Australia won everywhere. Ananth: ]]

  • ZZZZZZ on April 27, 2011, 13:12 GMT

    I believe what sets the west indian unit apart from the noughties Australia was their success all over the world, in particular India, despite India's fine host of batsmen. Indeed, all of Croft, Roberts,Garner, Holding and Marshall had sub 25 averages on the subcontinent. They beat a strong India side in 1974 which contained the bowlers of Bedi, Chandresekar and Prassana, debunking the myth that the West Indies were poor players of spin. Furthermore. We must also remember that the West Indies were less likely to get beaten than the Noughties Australia, as evidenced against Pakistan in 1988 when, with their backs against the wall they clung on for a draw. Also, whilst Sunil Gavaskar was successful against the West Indies,10 of his 13 centuries came against either spin heavy or Packer affected attacks. Whilst he still played well against the Prime fast bowlers in the eighties, he did not dominate them

  • Yash Rungta on April 27, 2011, 3:56 GMT

    I remember Ambrose getting into Steve Waugh's skin.. I don't know whose mistake it was or who prompted who to go at each other. But then I think Ambrose destroyed Australia with a 7-for or something???

    This is the only instance I know of a West Indian fast bowler getting into a verbal battle.

  • Waspsting on April 26, 2011, 17:06 GMT

    "the visceral fear one may feel from seeing a monster the size of Garner or Ambrose might have caused complacency that Marshall exploited"

    Karthik - this is as wrong, as wrong can be. EVERYONE feared Marshall as the fastest, scariest and best of the lot from 83 to about 89.

    Garner didn't have that effect (though i think him one of the best and most underrated paceman EVER), perhaps because he didn't seem to put much effort into the ball - he was probably fast-medium most of the time, perhaps because of perceptions of him being a containment bowler (absurd - his strike rate is better than Roberts or Holding, but thats how it was often seen).

    Ambrose didn't play much with Marshall, but was a nasty piece of work in those early days (much more so than he became later, in his put-the-ball-on-the spot days - though he was accurate before, too).

    Marshall was something else. In my opinion, the best fast bowler the game has ever seen. And probably the bloody scariest, too.

  • Kartik (the old one) on April 25, 2011, 9:22 GMT

    Marshall was not just the best bowler in this group, but he was also the most competent batsman as well.

    The funny thing is, he was at least 6 inches shorter than anyone else on this list. Marshall was 5'9" while no one else was under 6'3" (Roberts being the next shortest).

    So the best among these 'genial giants' was the one who was not even a giant at all. Perhaps this made batsmen underestimate him? The visceral fear one may feel from seeing a monster the size of Garner or Ambrose might have caused complacency that Marshall exploited.

  • brij on April 25, 2011, 8:07 GMT

    Dear Ananth, Sorry not to have followed these blogs over the last three years. However, the analysis about the West Indies bowlers, like you did with the Aussies bowlers and batsmen in the above presentation, looks imbalanced and presents a biased view in relation to the overall merit of the WI bowlers successes during their successful era. How come can a WI bowler who played only 25 Tests in which West Indies won only 5 of them can be considered great? The word "Great" has been devalued and leaves the analysis bordering on subjective projection rather than factual. Bowlers alone, regardless how successful they are, do not win matches. Also, I maybe wrong, but history has shown that Australia's dominance started during 1995 which co-incided with WI decline. Best Wishes on your exhaustive work.

  • brij on April 24, 2011, 6:31 GMT

    Hi Anath and other cricket friends, It is sacrilegious to compare the WI quickies of the eighties with those of the nineties and noughties when the ICC power-brokers changed the bouncer rule to nullify the effectiveness of fast bowlers,, to those of the 21st century who are also faced with neutral umpires and constant TV replays and analysis as well as third umpire (TV umpire decisions). As much as the WI bowlers proved effective then, most would have struggled on these feather-beds. A better bowling analysis would have been the batsmen dismissed by these bowlers. Whether how many were top-order, middle-order or lower batsmen. The final bowling figures and overall career analysis can be misleading. But that will take another a lot of time to put together. Another important factor would be whether they were successful in the first innings or second and also that depends on the opposition batting first and setting up the total or facing a huge total and batsmen under intense pressure. [[ The type of analyses you have mentioned have been done many times in this blogspace over the past three years. There is nothing sacrilegious in comparing strong teams/bowling attacks across eras. The West Indian attack might have been more potent but rarely balanced. An attack of McGrath/Gillespie/Lee/Warne must be one of the most effective, balanced attacks ever. Ananth: ]]

  • Gerry_the_Merry on April 23, 2011, 11:24 GMT

    Good analysis again, Ananth. I just had an overdose of cricket and took a break from it figures as well (takes as much effort to keep up with this as it probably does for you to write the article). would like to point out that 1) Marshall did not face the sort of opposition that later and earlier WI bowlers faced, though it cannot be disputed that in teh tests he played, he was the best ('83-87). 2) Joel Garner got the new ball at teh age of 31. Thereafter his stats are almost as good as that of Marshall for the remainder of his career though he was 7 years older 3) I personally consider Australian pitches to be the most neutral (neither favoring batsmen / bowlers) and where Ambrose stands head and shoulders over any other bowler in history, so if anyone is under-rated, it is Ambrose (14 tests, 80 wickets @ 19)...look at Dale Steyn's record, for comparison (or Akhtar, Imran, Wasim, Waqar).

  • shrikanthk on April 22, 2011, 6:59 GMT

    A batsman at Test level is as good as he was at school/university level.

    Didn't make any such assumption. In fact, in that sheet which has the historical Grade cricket averages, you'll find that a lot of the cricketers mentioned have played Grade cricket over a long period.

    Eg : Bobby Simpson has played 199 innings in Sydney first grade between 1952 and 1979. His Test career duration is not too different ('57 to '77 I think). In those 199 innings, he averaged 60, which is very close to his First-class average.

    Boll may be in a better position to comment on the Sydney First-Grade cricket scene.

  • Abhi on April 22, 2011, 2:07 GMT

    Srikanthk On the face of it looks to be another faulty assumption on your part, i.e: A batsman at Test level is as good as he was at school/university level.

  • shrikanthk on April 21, 2011, 18:03 GMT

    Abhi and others : Here's a remarkable link that basically drives home the point I was trying to make :

    Sydney Grade cricket (Highest averages in history) :

    http://www.sydneygrade.nsw.cricket.com.au/content.aspx?file=4|21846u

    These are fascinating numbers. Even at Grade cricket level, no great Test batsman manages to breach the 65 run barrier barring the Don (who averages 89).

    Even a modern giant like Mark Taylor can manage only 52.96 - less than 10 runs better than his Test average.

    These numbers tell us something remarkable about the game of cricket. Scoring runs is tough business. No matter at what level you play. It doesn't matter if it's Grade cricket or a 50-country Test match set-up. As long as conditions are reasonably challenging, you'll find run-scoring just as tough anywhere.

    The reason why you find the Badrinaths and Rohit Sharmas averaging 60 in Ranji is not because the bowlers are poor, but because conditions are terribly in favour of the batsmen in India!

  • Boll on April 21, 2011, 14:46 GMT

    Of course, in discussing Test vs First Class averages we must remember the vast difference between the amount of non-test first-class cricket played by men such as Sir Jack Hobbs and Sachin Tendulkar. As a rough guide, Hobbs played 61 tests, 834 First class games. Bradman 234 , 52 tests. Steve Waugh 356 First class games, 168 of which were tests. Sachin 280, 177 of which have been tests.

    Very difficult to draw conclusions based on these disparities. Nevertheless, as many have noted, it is instructive that the averages are remarkably consistent. Sachin 56/59 (over 23 years), Waugh 51/51 (19 years), Hobbs 56/50 (29 years), Bradman 99/95 (23 years).

    @Alex, thanks. Not too bad over here.

    ps: Are Sachin, Dravid, VVS going to tour Aus again? - surely one of you newly crowned Indian world champs must have the good oil on that.

    pps: Feels good doesn`t it!!!

  • Meety on April 21, 2011, 5:30 GMT

    Hi Ananth, Spent most of my summers watching the Calypso invaders plunder us Down Under with what seemed like a never ending production line of Great pace bowlers. I admired & loathed them in equal parts as they were so Bloody good! 28yrs - not quite never ending but about 3 sporting generations. Now its ended - I wished they'd come back!

    I would say that Ambrose did occasionally sledge. I am pretty sure that while the bowlers didn't sledge near as much as their modern counterparts, the Windies slip cordon (at times all 6 or 7 of them!) certainly did! I've had the pleasure of hearing some Ozzy batsmen relate their terrifying experiences facing the Windies Pace Battery, & the things that were said by the likes of Haynes & Richards in particularly were 2 parts hilarious & 1 part shocking! Anyways a good article, maybe Kemar Roach is the Roberts of the 21st Century????? (Hopefully).

  • shrikanthk on April 20, 2011, 18:51 GMT

    above a certain threshold of competency for a good international bowler the difference between a good international bowler and a very good international bowler will not be as great as the difference between the good international bowler and say a local club bowler

    Been thinking hard about this. I've come to this conclusion:

    - Against ordinary batsmen, an ordinarily efficient line-and-length trundler at the FC level could well be just as effective as a great Test bowler.

    - But against top-notch batsmen, the trundler stands exposed. Whereas, your Test bowler continues to perform at a similar level as before.

    - However, the Test bowler is not necessarily deadlier against ordinary batsmen than he is against top-notch players. (Eg: Warne (Test avg-25, FC avg-26)

    What does all this tell us? Tests do help filter out the wheat from the chaff. However, the "wheat" won't necessarily outperform the "chaff" at the FC level.

  • shrikanthk on April 20, 2011, 18:26 GMT

    Wasp: I myself acknowledged that this Oval Test footage anecdote could well be a legend. My larger point was that cricketers have always thought hard about the opposition. This isn't some magic bullet discovered over the past 20 yrs!!

    though doubt it was to the same extent as is possible today

    That's the remark I keep hearing. But the so-called smartness of the modern day cricketer/captain is not always conspicuous!

    Pak persists with a WK who misses a chance every game. A fast bowler as mature as Zaheer chooses to bowl a hittable length in the death overs of a WC final. Bowlers continue to pitch short to Ricky Ponting. Warne chooses to send an in-form Watson 3 down in an IPL game. Ganguly decides to let Australia bat on what looks like a decent Joburg pitch in a WC final.

    The more things change, the more they remain the same! It's difficult to persuade me that the modern cricketer is a LOT smarter than the cricketer of yesteryear.

  • shrikanthk on April 20, 2011, 18:18 GMT

    And you have further used an incorrect example to support your view. If I recall Tendulkar was some 18 yrs old when he signed up for Yorkshire?

    Abhi: Sorry if I gave the impression of running down Tendulkar!!! I only used him as an example.

    This debate isn't about Sachin anyway. It's about the nature of the game itself. Are performances in cricket influenced by the quality of opposition faced? That's the question we've been debating.

    My take - Ofcourse they are. But not to the extent we think. A cricketer's average is more of a measure of his intrinsic ability rather than the opposition's quality.

    All cricket lovers overestimate the role of opposition and underestimate the role of "conditions".

  • shrikanthk on April 20, 2011, 18:08 GMT

    But ,in regards to the particular topic under consideration its was intrinsically assumed that conditions would be constant – only opposition would change.

    Abhi: Wish we could do controlled experiments in cricket! But sadly, cricket history isn't quite a laboratory.

    The closest experiment we can do is to compare Tendulkar's FC average with his Test average. We all know there isn't much difference. And you'll observe something similar with all great cricketers. Be it Bradman, Sobers, Hobbs, Richards, Gavaskar or even S.Waugh. First class averages are always very close to the Test average. Just goes to show that averages aren't particularly sensitive to the quality of attacks faced. I'm talking world-class Test cricketers here. Not Test failures like Hick/Ramprakash.

    Re club bowlers: We may be stooping too low by considering club bowlers. Let's stop at the FC level. That makes it easier to validate my point :) Club cricket/League cricket stats aren't easily available.

  • Waspsting on April 19, 2011, 20:28 GMT

    @srikanthk - I agree with your point about older generations being able to assess weakness' (though doubt it was to the same extent as is possible today).

    However, your bodyline example is a REALLY BAD ONE.

    "I think this batsman, who just scored 232, including 98 before lunch on a wet wicket and wasn't out when he was given out... has a weakness to persistent fast short pitch bowling to an exaggeratedly strong leg-side field"... is hardly the stuff of cricket brains glory moments.

    Read Jardine's stuff. To put it politely, its full of s***, justifying what EVERYONE who saw it considered unethical. half his defense is establishing the legitimacy of slow bowling down the leg side as a defensive tactic, the other half claims "leg stump" was the target, not the body - which doesn't jive with even the other English players account of matters.

    The "I spotted a weakness in the newsreel" story is like Newton saying "an apple fell on my head" to get rid of a pest of a question.

  • Abhi on April 18, 2011, 14:55 GMT

    Srikanth Foll. Flaws in your logic: 1)you have brought in another variable “conditions” which wasn’t a part of the originial mix. It goes without saying that conditions are critical in cricket. Often completely overpowering factors like “bowling quality”. Infact, I have been a strong supporter of this view. But ,in regards to the particular topic under consideration its was intrinsically assumed that conditions would be constant – only opposition would change.

    2) And you have further used an incorrect example to support your view. If I recall Tendulkar was some 18 yrs old when he signed up for Yorkshire? As with away tours against Aus and Eng he gave glimpses of his genius- but certainly not in any sustained fashion ,as would be expected. The single biggest difference between the Truly Great, as opposed to the “merely” Great or good is Consistency. A lot of players have great innings or even series- Only the very few Legends can keep producing the goods over and over again, over varying conditions and time.

    3)The correct comparison ,logically, would have been how Tendulkar fared in the same conditions against the local club teams vs. International/FC bowlers .

  • shrikanthk on April 17, 2011, 18:25 GMT

    One final thing :

    Even Sobers played just 5 Tests and zero ODIs a year

    As Alex said, Sobers played a lot of FC cricket both in England and Australia. So, it is misleading to claim that he idled for most of the year.

    This whole "Too much vs too little cricket" debate is based on misconceptions of history. Take for instance Hobbs in the year of 1925. A 43 year old man just back from a tour down-under in '24-25. The man played 30 FC fixtures between 2nd May and 12th Sep of that year, and in the process scored over 3000 runs.

    That means potentially 90 days of active cricket over a period of 4 months! This is not something unique to 1925. This was pretty much the routine in England since time immemorial! You can verify this on the cricketarchive.co.uk site.

    Ofcourse intnl cricket brings with it its own set of pressures and expectations unknown to the county workhorses of yesteryear. Nevertheless, the difference in rigour between say 1925 and 2011 is not as huge as one may think

  • shrikanthk on April 17, 2011, 18:11 GMT

    Interestingly, given the absence of television,.....Sobers...had no interaction. They certainly could not study video footage of their opponents

    Some generalizations there. Actually, there is a legend that Bodyline may well have been an outcome of "video footage" analysis.

    Jardine noticed Bradman's discomfort against Larwood's short pitched stuff directed at the body in the newsreel footage of his 232 in the Oval test of 1930. That prompted him to conclude that Leg theory may work in '32-33!

    Even if there is some truth to this story, it should silence those who claim that cricketers prior to the 70s weren't clever enough to strategise in accordance with the opposition's strengths and weaknesses.

  • shrikanthk on April 17, 2011, 18:01 GMT

    Also, wider competition _potentially_ means superior playing standards.

    Wider competition may also mean diluted playing standards! I don't think there can possibly be a consensus view that success in a 50-country setup is more creditable than success in an 8-country setup

    Take the Bradman era for instance (1928-1948). Barely 4-5 countries. But this is what that era had to offer in terms of world-class bowling skills -

    Right arm Fast : Larwood, Farnes, Lindwall, Miller, Constantine, Martindale Right arm Medium Fast : Tate, Bedser, Bowes Left arm Medium Fast : Voce Left arm Orthodox spin : Verity, Mankad Left arm Chinaman : Fleetwood Smith Right arm Googly : Grimmett, O'Reilly Right arm Finger spin: Laker

    Now Bradman faced atleast one of these bowlers in almost all his 52 tests. I would argue that the "average" quality of the bowling attacks faced by Bradman is not too far below the "average" quality of the attacks faced by Sachin over his 177 test career.

  • shrikanthk on April 17, 2011, 17:48 GMT

    Okay. Back after a break! Lots of interesting comments (especially from Abhi and Alex)

    Essentially, I dont see Tendulkar or Lara avg. the same as their Test avgs. against my lo cal club.

    Abhi: I believe that "conditions" are king. Cricket fans constantly overrate the impact of bowling "ability" and underrate the impact of the "conditions" (i.e the pitch and the atmosphere).

    Consider two scenarios : Scenario 1 : Tendulkar facing Oxford University side at Oxford on an underprepared pitch on a windy and chilly April day

    Scenario 2 : Tendulkar facing Lillee, Warne, Marshall and Sydney Barnes on a sunny October day on a Nagpur belter.

    I strongly believe that Tendulkar is more likely get out for a duck in scenario 1 than in scenario 2.

    Sachin's lukewarm success while playing for Yorkshire supports this viewpoint.

    And this is true not just for Sachin but for batsmen as a breed! Averages are far, far more sensitive to "conditions" than they are to "bowling quality". [[ The only problem is that "conditions" are never available as a measurable entity while "bowling quality" is always there. Even today's scorecards do not mention the conditions. And I also feel that the perceptions of conditions changes over the years. Ananth: ]]

  • Kartik (the old one) on April 17, 2011, 4:42 GMT

    I agree that Sehwag and Sachin are the reason Dhoni even got a chance to be in the final...

    But still, Sehwag and Tendulkar were perilously close to getting years of Gatting-like condemnation, that they were narrowly rescued from.

    Both success, and failure, in a final gets magnified, depending on who wins or loses.

  • Kartik (the old one) on April 17, 2011, 4:38 GMT

    Alex,

    Interesting points on WI.

    The earlier loss of rebel players like Kallicharan, Croft, King, Clarke, etc. is what gave WI a weak middle order. Had they had one extra top-class batsman (Kallicharan), or a fifth top-class bowler (Croft, Clarke, Daniels, or even Davis), they would have been stronger.

    I realize that a 5-bowler team would have a long tail, but Bacchus was not good enough to refute that. India might have made 20 fewer runs with a fifth bowler.

    Note that in 1979, WI were in trouble until Collis King kit 86 in 66. The middle order vacumm became glaringly obvious in 1983, where even half of a King-like performance from Bacchus/Gomes/Dujon would have taken them home.

  • Ramesh Kumar on April 17, 2011, 3:23 GMT

    Ananth,

    Thanks for a very good analysis. If we look at runs scored vs runs conceded by the same team,the approach of 80sWI and 00sAus are different. Australia scored 4+ runs per over consistently and got significant first innings lead and gave the bowlers enough runs and overs to bowl out batsmen. WI won mostly by their bowlers and adequate batsmen.In my memory, they never scored consistently more than 400. They never needed that. But if we are going to do a similar study of Australian dominance, comparisons will be made and we will have to bring in batsmen contribution in the study

    Ramesh Kumar [[ Yes, ramesh, that is what I have done. I have done both batsman and bowler analyses. I have also included scoring rates in both. This is done in player groups. Pl see earlier responses to unni and Abhi. Ananth: ]]

  • unni on April 16, 2011, 13:17 GMT

    Another aspect: As I mentioned in the previous comment, these kind of articles give a gist of how a team dominated in a timespan by highlighting the contribution of its heroes. I guess most of the people following this blog would have seen how Australia dominated by themselves. So, IMO, further numbers wouldn't give additional insights. What I would like to see is to get additional such analysis on past teams. E.g, I have heard Aus bowling was good in 70s (Lilee, thompson etc)... This would be like telling old-time stories through numbers !!

  • unni on April 16, 2011, 13:09 GMT

    I liked the concept very much. Gives a gist of the actions with the contributions of its heroes in an era which I only could witness during the twilight years! Some improvements on presentation: a. In the tables, please add an additional row to indicate the combined number of wickets by greats. This would give an idea of their impact. b. Instead of the dots in the cells, you could write the number of wickets taken by the bowler. c. The test number is now cluttering the tables. I'm not sure if that is very important to have the numbers. It is mainly an overview, right? d. I liked Abhi's idea to consider the combined bowling strength. Maybe to start with simply treat the all these bowlers as a single player and club their bowling figures? Same can be done with other teams as well in other eras? Or just in each decade? [[ For the Australian analysis I have taken a different approach. I am considering Bowler and Batsmen groups as the entity and do tables based on these. So the article is less graphic and more table-oriented. But the initial tables will only be the visible iceberg. The programs are also becoming complex. Handling player groups is a tricky affair since it is difficult to know in advance the possible combinations. And I still work on "C" since I am very comfortable with that and can make the program(s) do virtually anything. Ananth: ]]

  • Ravi on April 16, 2011, 11:40 GMT

    Ananth, While saying that Tendulkar could afford to fail in the Final and still win a winner's medal is correct, it is also true that in a team sport, it requires a huge contribution from one player to win if the rest of the team hasn't performed. Individual-based sportsmen don't have to lift non-performing team mates. Another thing that everybody this blog missed is how much India has fallen in hockey since the 20s-30s. That in my opinion is the greatest fall in a team's standing and performance across all sports. Parallels can be drawn on a smaller scale with Hungary in football in the 30s and now. [[ But with individuals they either perform or perish. In team sports two players can contribute in two diffrernt matches and could win both matches. If Dhoni and Gambhir supported Tendulkar in one match, Tendulkar and Yuvraj contributed when the first two failed and so on. This is not to take away anything from India's win. I only mentioned that 11 (ok, 15) players won the WC. But Anand won the World Titles on his own. Let us at least him his due credit. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on April 16, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    @Kartik: It is a rare event that more than 4 batsmen out of top 6 will click in a given innings. Haynes and Viv were in good touch but threw their wickets away in the '83 final while Lloyd pulled a hamstring. That makes it 3. Bacchus was a weak link. Statistically, the other 2 were likely to fail and did so duly. Had Haynes and Viv played sensibly, they both would have scored 60+ and WI would have won. Incidentally, like Viv in '83, SRT was in ominous touch in this final but tried one shot too many.

    As you say, the WI did have a weakness: a mediocre Bacchus at the vital #6 spot and a decent Gomes at #4 or #5. The #6 position has always been a problem for the WI and Hooper was probably the best they had at it whereas the champion Aussie sides were surpassingly great at the vital #5 and #6 positions (Bevan, Hussey, S Waugh).

  • Alex on April 16, 2011, 7:42 GMT

    @Kartik:

    1. By the same logic, MSD, who otherwise was a failure with bat in this WC (shades of Gilly of '99 WC), owes a debt of gratitude to SRT & Sehwag for what they did in the QF and SF. Sehwag took out Pak's main enforcer (Umar Gul) in SF whereas SRT was India's top run-getter across QF & SF. Not to mention, SRT was the second highest run-getter in this WC.

    2. Sobers et al played county cricket quite seriously ... it wasn't like that they did not play cricket at all between two test series. FC cricket was a big thing until ODI's became commonplace starting early 80's.

    3. Also, wider competition _potentially_ means superior playing standards. It stands to reason that it takes a wider skill-set to dominate in ODI's now than back in 1975. By definition, a champion of 1975 will adapt to do well even now ... however, the point is that he will have to adapt and improve to keep pace. Steyn, for example, has a better skill-set than Roberts had.

  • Kartik (the old one) on April 16, 2011, 7:35 GMT

    Australia started to do well in Tests from 1989.

    But they flopped in ODIs around that time. They finished 5th out of 6 in the Nehru Cup (the lowest finish for any non-minnow), and failed to reach the semis in the 1992 WC on home turf.

    I say the real transition was the 1995 Aus-WI series. A clean handoff from WI to AUS. [[ Since this an analysis of Test cricket, 1989 June seems to be the ideal starting point and 2010 July the ideal finishing point. Ananth: ]]

  • Kartik (the old one) on April 16, 2011, 4:48 GMT

    For those saying that more nations playing a sport translates to greater competition and talent, keep in mind that this idea really cuts Bradman and Sobers down a lot...

    a) Both played in eras where they had only 2-3 serious opponents. b) Even Sobers played just 5 Tests and zero ODIs a year. Burnout, jetlag, and fatigue would be nothing like today. c) Tests had rest days back then (and until the early 90s).

    Interestingly, given the absence of television, jet liners, and multi-nation tournaments, someone like Sobers probably only met rival players like Hanif or Cowdrey once every 3 years or so, and otherwise had no interaction. They certainly could not study video footage of their opponents.

    Contrast that to today, where due to the IPL + International schedules, disparate players like Tendulkar, Ponting, Sanga, Gayle, etc. probably see each other face to face several times a year.

  • Kartik (the old one) on April 16, 2011, 4:40 GMT

    Ananth,

    . Cricket is a team sport. Tendulkar could afford to fail in the Final and still win a winner's medal.

    Yes. Interesting that Richards in 1983 could not afford the same (even though 33 off 28 was not a 'failure').

    WI of the time had just ONE carefully concealed weakness - a weak middle order. They often could manage their weakness, but it failed in one very major instance.

    On a similar note, Gatting gets way too much condemnation for his '87 reverse sweep. He was still just the 3rd wicket - what about the rest of the England lineup? ~115 more runs was too much to ask of the remaining England lineup?

    That is why both Sehwag and Tendulkar (and Sreesanth, for that matter) owe Dhoni a debt of gratitude. He saved them from huge Gatting-levels of negative press that would have hounded them for years.......especially Tendulkar who also failed in the 2003 final.

  • shrikanthk on April 16, 2011, 2:14 GMT

    Ananth: It's good that you are considering 1989 as the start of Aussie dominance. After all, that was the year they regained the ashes. Also, that was the year Steve Waugh emerged as a player of world class! Appropriate choice. Abhi, Alex: some brilliant points in the last few comments. Will reply later. Posting this from mobile!

  • Waspsting on April 15, 2011, 17:29 GMT

    @Alex - agree with you regarding Gillispe and Roberts, disagree about quality of Mcgrath-Gillispe-Lee attack. By the time Lee came into his own, Gillispe was no longer a force. Take all 3 at their best and you'd have a hell of an attack, but as it was, Lee couldn't even command a spot in the team (being overlooked for an ordinary bowler like Kasprowicz even) when the other two were both at their best. Gillispe a fine bowler - but not in the league of Mcgrath or the West Indian quicks mentioned. [[ I have changed my mind on my next article. It will be a similar article to this on the Aussies 1989-2010. Contents of all related comments noted. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on April 15, 2011, 4:04 GMT

    @Boll: I take it that you survived the Japan disasters well.

    @Abhi: April 13, 2011 9:02 AM is one of the best comments you made in the last year on this blog.

    @Ananth & @Boll: I am biased on WI but it is hard to believe that Gillespie was as good as Roberts. Roberts moulded the thinking process of WI attack and that makes him very special. I would accept that Gillespie was as good as Walsh. When they played together, McGrath-Gillespie-Lee was almost as good as the WI attack at its best. You add Warne and it is almost as good as any bowling attack there ever was ... Aussies had unbelievable talent at their disposal 1994-2006.

  • Asad on April 14, 2011, 21:37 GMT

    Great Approach to Analysis...welll done

  • Boll on April 14, 2011, 14:49 GMT

    Otherwise engaged for a while, but great to get back to read the best blog there is. So many comments I`d like to respond to, but I`ll leave it at this;

    1) India top 4/5 teams ever? - you must be joking. 2) Jason Gillsepie as good as some of the Windies pacemen mentioned here? - absolutely 3) Congratulations to the new World Champions? - without a doubt the best team on show. Sachin retiring without winning a WC? unacceptable for cricket`s great gentleman. 4) @shrikanth, a young fool? - a runaway winner for most considered contributions to this article 5) @ananth, a sense of humour? - I`ll take you right back to the top...`genial`???

    ah, it`s good to be back.

  • Alex on April 13, 2011, 13:14 GMT

    @shrikanthk: I see what you say but am not sure if your point regarding the averages is fool-proof. E.g., consider Kambli with FC ave=60 and test ave=54. We all know that Kambli was a run machine vs mediocre international teams (Zim, Eng, and SL of those days) on tame wickets but couldn't last vs quality opposition.

    1. If the quality of cricket remains the same after the addition of 50 nations, then what you say is true. However if it goes up, as it should, then it will take a better quality effort to dominate across the field. In other words, SRT averaging 57 in that setting will probably be more amazing than him averaging 57 now.

    2. Kambli might still continue to thrash 20-odd bowling attacks in this 50-nation league and maintain ave=54 but Team India will probably not pick him to play the real tough matches.

    So, the expansion might not affect the overall average but it will probably be a better filter to identify the true champions.

  • Abhi on April 13, 2011, 9:02 GMT

    Srikanthk As with the "cricketers from Barbados" you may have reached the wrong conclusions from the data. Given that Test figures are comparable to FC figures, the more likely explanation is that above a certain threshold of competency ,the "differences" in quality between bowlers (or batsmen) diminish rapidly. (eg. Ferrari vs. Lamborghini as against Ferrari vs. Honda accord).

    By that I mean that above a certain threshold of competency for a good international bowler the difference between a good international bowler and a very good international bowler will not be as great as the difference between the good international bowler and say a local club bowler.

    In Sports like Tennis ,which are essentially 1/0 (win/loss) sports the player who is even fractionally better will walk away with most titles. If you could compute an “average” for Tennis – Federer may have had a fractionally better average than say the Nadals, Djokovics etc. (certainly not a Don Brdaman vs. the rest type of difference in average) Or, if you prefer, a Carl Lewis will win most races – if only by a few hundredths of a second. The difference between the Great and the good is minute- but it is very clear ,but it is definitely there. This difference between the best and the others will not be so manifest in other team type sports. But most observers can discern this difference -Which is why even given the preponderance of 50+ averages nowadays we “know” that the Tendulkars and Laras are “different”.

    Essentially, I dont see Tendulkar or Lara avg. the same as their Test avgs. against my local club.

  • shrikanthk on April 13, 2011, 7:13 GMT

    Ananth, Alex : It is rather strange that suddenly the comments section has turned into a Sachin vs Anand debate!! [[ No stranger than many other debates you (et al) have initiated. Ananth: ]]

    I didn't intend to downplay Anand at all! My point was that cricket is in many ways, fundamentally different from all other sports. This is the only sport I can think of where the performance of a player does not vary sharply as a function of opposition "quality". No wonder Shane Warne averages 26 in FC cricket and 25 in Tests!

    That's why I don't like the idea that it will be more or less difficult for a Sachin or a Warne to sustain their performances in a 50-country setup than in an 8-country setup. I suspect they'll still average roughly the same.

    That's why it is rather irrelevant to talk about the "lack of worldwide competition" in cricket.

    A cricketer is a bit like a ballet dancer or a movie star. You evaluate him in isolation, without bothering too much about the "opposition quality". Whereas, it is impossible to adopt such an approach in Chess or soccer criticism

  • Alex on April 13, 2011, 5:10 GMT

    @shrikanthk and ananth:

    1. I am in Bangalore for a few weeks. Know of Jayanagar but never heard of Vyalikaval! Anyways, I never said that Chess is more demanding than cricket but it is certainly more competitive (as Ananth observes in his item 4).

    2. I do not understand why "Bharat Ratna" should not be given to sports personalities. In USA, for example, the highest civilian honor, i.e., "Presidential Medal of Freedom" has been awarded to 20 sports personalities since 1963, including coaches (John Wooden).

    3. At any rate, some of the recipients and the circumstances in which the "Bharat Ratna" was awarded has rendered that honor obscene ... Rajiv Gandhi, Gaffar Khan, JP getting it 20 years after his death, Patel getting it 41 yrs after his death, Ambedkar getting it 34 yrs after his death, so on and so forth. It is like a raspberry award now. I would be happy if Anand and SRT do _not_ receive it. [[ If they change the rules to include Sports for BR, I would be happy if both are awarded BR on the same day. Ananth: ]]

  • Youvi on April 13, 2011, 3:53 GMT

    Ananth- Reading the ongoing debate on chess and cricket here, I am reminded of Imran Khan's interview on US Public Television some years ago wherein Imran described cricket as "the chess of sports" !

  • Abhi on April 13, 2011, 3:53 GMT

    Re.The Tendulkar / Anand topic- I am loathe to compare such radically different pursuits. For every single point in Tendulkar's/Anand's favour their exists a counterpoint.

    There is almost Zero meeting ground between the two "sports". The most one can aspire to is to be the Best in one's chosen pursuit- which is what both Tendulkar and Anand have achieved. [[ Abhi You are absolutely correct. My only grouse is the point I have made re the media asking A about BR for T. Then T should also be asked about BR for A. That is all. I know Anand more than SRT. He stayed with us in Dubai during 1987 just after he won the World Junior. I have even played a game with him (and lasted 25 moves !!!). I was in Coimbatore during 1988 and went to the tournament hall to congratulate him since he was confirmed as a GM, the previous day. I have met SRT the day before he left to lead India on tour to West indies during 1997 and Anil wanted me to explain the simulation to SRT. While he was kind enough to give me a patient hearing, his mind was elsewhere. He was probably mentally comparing the pace attack he was taking, Prasad/Ganesh/Kuruvilla with the West indian attack, Ambrose, Walsh, Bishop and Rose. I admire both for the way they have conducted themselves on and off the arena. Their impeccable role-model behaviour after 20 years on top. Their ability to remain comfortable with their brought-up values. The regard they have from their peers, both within and without their selected sport. I feel privileged to have lived in the same era as these two giants and Lara/Murali/Warne/Federer. Ananth: ]]

  • Abhi on April 13, 2011, 3:39 GMT

    Ananth,

    Even if we ignore individual bowlers and focus only on team bowling (with some suitable method using peer ratios)- then using a graph of the results we could easily determine deteriorating (or improving) standards of bowling for any given team over time.

    And also compare teams - contemporaries and across eras.

  • shrikanthk on April 13, 2011, 2:54 GMT

    Anand has managed those stats for 15 years with no fanfare in a far more competitive sport!!

    Alex: I don't quite like this idea that cricket is "less competitive" just because it is played in so very few countries.

    Let us suppose a fantasy scenario wherein 50 countries start playing Test cricket. Even then, the standards of the game are not going to be too different from what it is now.

    Why do I say that? If my hypothesis were untrue, then you should ideally be seeing a huge gap in the performance stats of cricketers in domestic competitions and Test cricket. However, we all know that all great cricketers (from Hobbs to Tendulkar) perform at a more or less similar level in both FC cricket and Test cricket!!

    Extending this learning, we can infer that a Warne or a Tendulkar or a Bradman are going to be just as brilliant in a 50-country sport as they are/were in an 8-country sport or a 4-country sport (as in Bradman's case).\ [[ While I may not agree with Alex that Chess is a more demanding sport, let us not forget these things. 1. Cricket is a team sport. Tendulkar could afford to fail in the Final and still win a winner's medal. If Anand had faltered in one move in one of those three later games at Sofia, in completely hostile situation, it was bye to the WC. 2. Anand has won three World Championships in three different formats spread over 15 years. 3. He is an individual. The Govt has given him nil, I repeat NIL support. He has achieved all this on his own. 4. Chess is played competitively in many countries. If you see the FIDE list of top 100 GMs there are well over 25 countries represented. 5. Let us not forget that the physical and mental stamina requitred to play a top-level Chess match is no less than that required for a ODI match. Chess is not just an intellectual pursuit as perceived by many people. Having said that I have no problems in accepting that Anand and Tendulkar are the two greatest sportsmen India has produced. What bugs me is some stupid TV reporter asking Anand "What do you think about Bharat Ratna for Tenduylkar". What answer would Anand, a nice guy to the core, say, other than "Yes". Why does not the same reporter ask Tendulkar about Bharat Ratna for Anand. Finally I feel the limit for both great sportsmen is "Padma Vibushan", nothing more. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on April 13, 2011, 2:41 GMT

    Taken together, the Caribbean Islands have a surface area of 92,000 sq miles and a population of 36 million.

    Alex: Not all those Islands were British colonies. Also, not all of them have had a cricketing tradition.

    Suppose I consider only the "cricket-playing" West Indies (i.e Jamaica, T&T, Guyana, Barbados, Antigua - the traditional behemoths), the population is under 5.5 million - a lot smaller than Sri Lanka. Also, Jamaica and T&T account for about 4 million! The other three islands (especially Barbados and Antigua) are very tiny. I can't think of a parallel to Barbados and Antigua in sport history. Even the population of Sydney was over a million in the thirties!!

  • Anand on April 12, 2011, 20:26 GMT

    A point about why S. Waugh and Ponting were more successful than Taylor. I just have a feeling it is a surge of confidence in players after a couple of results. In the ODI arena, the way Aussies pippe SA at the post in Edgbaston semifinal probably gave them the self belief that they can get out of jail almost anytime. After than Aus was a completely transformed side in ODIs. Similarly the way Langer and Gilchrist pumelled Pakistani bowlers into submission at Hobart, later the same year, surged their belief level in test cricket to a sky high. This belief level made them conquer the world. By the time Ponting took over the belief of the players had also been combined with improvement in skill gained due to experience and by then a big winning habit was created (very similar to Viv Richards taking over from Lloyd when teams had already begun fearing the W Indies). Now is an interesting time for Aussies.

  • Youvi on April 12, 2011, 20:01 GMT

    Back in 70s/80s, as India fan one would have given up many a Madanlal (no offence) for a Clarke or Daniel. Any top 8 listed here in India team, that would be asking for too much ! Wrt these small islands with disproprotionate number of top class fast bowlers and batsmen (3 Ws - all grew up within a few miles of each other), am reminded of the book Guns,Germs and Steel stating how environmental conditions shape civilizations. Same principle could be applied to sport I suppose. For ex, hard/fast Caribbean pitches/fast bowling. (To cite book's author)positive feedback loop sustains continued output of those special abilities shaped by environment. This could apply to India spinners as well. Now, am no social scientist so I tread with caution with this "theory". As I was revisiting the India-WI 1976 series which WI won 2-1(incl India's famous 4th innings chase), it was India spinners who took bulk of WI wickets while WI pacers took most India wickets (each's own strength, of course).

  • shrikanthk on April 12, 2011, 19:18 GMT

    There are numerous others which decide on the "suitability" of a people towards a particular pursuit- motivation, culture, physical and mental aptitude etc

    Ofcourse. Nevertheless, I doubt if it is possible to theorize about the kind of talent we've seen in those tiny caribbean islands over the years. It just happened. Mere physical infrastructure and monetary incentives cannot produce the kind of talent we're discussing here. If that's all there is to generating talent, England should've been the No 1 country throughout cricket history (given the fact that FC cricket has been a profession in that country for the past 150 years).

    Ananth: Chess in TN isn't quite a parallel to Barbadian cricket tradition. TN has produced some fine young players in chess, but none are really all time greats, besides Anand.

    Also, Antigua is a lot smaller than Jayanagar. Probably comparable to Vyalikaval!!! (Non Bangaloreans - pardon the inside jokes)

  • Alex on April 12, 2011, 6:13 GMT

    @shrikanthk: Taken together, the Caribbean Islands have a surface area of 92,000 sq miles and a population of 36 million. The numbers for Kiwis and SL are (100,000 sq miles, 4.4 millions) and (25,000 sq miles, 20 million) ... OZ, too, is giant land but with population concentration largely around 5 main cities only. So, what Kiwis & SL have done in cricket is quite admirable.

    Indian cricket media is suffering from a frogs in the well mentality. With so much money thrown in cricket, it _will_ be an outlier if such a vast country with 1.2 billion population --- with no commensurate competitor on these two counts --- does not have a modest 60:40 win-loss record over a 2-year period. Anand has managed those stats for 15 years with no fanfare in a far more competitive sport!!

    @Abhi: China is a giant that has awoken. I have little doubt that it will dominate Nobel prizes, Field medals, etc. after 20 years.

  • Abhi on April 12, 2011, 6:04 GMT

    Ananth Again, just thinking out loud. For different periods /attacks how about considering: 1)Runs/ wkt 2)Wkts/balls A combination of the two would give us an idea of the potency of different attacks.

  • Abhi on April 12, 2011, 4:40 GMT

    Ananth, How about something simpler such as : What was the average score an attack comprising any 3 of ( Roberts, Holding, Garner ,Croft, Marshall) bowled out the opposition?

    We can use the average team scores (all out scores) for the era as a “peer comparison”.

    We can compare then compare this ratio with an attack of any 3 bowlers comprising (Marshall,Walsh, Ambrose , Bishop).etc. to see which was more effective.

    And so across all eras. [[ Problem, Abhi, is that there were 30 tests in which 4 (out of these 8) played together. If we lower to 3, then we will have many such test groups and certain combinations would have played very few tests to provide much value. But I get the general idea. Evaluate bowler combinations, rather than, bowlers. It is worth looking at delveloping further. Ananth: ]]

  • Abhi on April 12, 2011, 3:37 GMT

    Ananth, You are absolutely correct, of course. Wonder if we can come up with some method to judge bowling strength as "attacks"...as opposed to merely adding up or collating individual bowler CTDs etc. We can then compare different "attacks" over time

    Srikanthk What you say may be surprising on the surface. But you have used only one particular factor - number of people. There are numerous others which decide on the "suitability" of a people towards a particular pursuit- motivation, culture, physical and mental aptitude etc etc.

    I recently read a similar thing about the number of Nobel Laureates out of Israel.Compare it to the surrounding Arab nations or even huge countries like China or India. Most mindboggling figures. The answer is simply that factors like infrastructure, culture etc naturally lead to certain outcomes. [[ Closer home, the ladies atheletic scene has been dominated by Kerala. But one cricketer of note, okay, dubious note. Chess by Tamil Nadu, especially over the past 20 years. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on April 12, 2011, 2:59 GMT

    The burst of fast bowling talent in WI over '73-'89 is one of the great unplanned outliers in cricket

    In fact, WI cricket itself is a great unplanned outlier in the history of ball games.

    Take Barbados for instance. A country of 200K people. Smaller than the city of Mysore! And this small island has produced enough great cricketers over the years who can beat any all-time XI side on their day!

    Here's a Barbados XI : Hunte, Greenidge, Haynes, Weekes, Sobers, Worrell, Walcott, Marshall, Garner, Hall, Griffith

    I don't think eleven cricketers assembled from Indian cricket history (a nation 5000 times larger than Barbados) can defeat this side.

    Can any social scientist explain how an island as small as this produce so much talent!!?

    WI cricket between 1950-1995 was an inexplicable outlier in the history of sport. What we see now in WI cricket is more along expected lines. The decline of WI isn't hard to digest. It was their dominance which was hard to fathom. [[ A very valid point by a young historian of the game who talks like a veteran. And take the case of Antigua, with a population of 85000, probably less than Jayanagar, a suburb of Bangalore. That small island has produced four cricketers who would be welcome in any team, viz., Richards, Roberts, Ambrose and Richardson.. Ananth: ]]

  • Abhi on April 12, 2011, 2:53 GMT

    To make it more accurate we may compare the runs/inn etc with their “peer” averages instead of using absolute numbers (this would help equalize across eras,conditions, pitches etc)

  • Abhi on April 12, 2011, 2:50 GMT

    Ananth,

    1) A way of judging team bowling strength may be to see the runs/inns they gave away over time (coupled with number of balls taken -SR). So, we could then easily compare how much more dangerous Roberts, Holding, Garner ,Croft, Marshall were Vs. Marshall,Walsh, Ambrose and Bishop.(As units- not using individual bowling averages or SRs) [[ My only problem with this is that a 200 for 2 is treated the same as 200 for 10. Maybe a better way is to do both runs/innings and wkts/innings. Ananth: ]]

    2) This would also shed some light on the above claims that WI were dominant because of their bowling as Vs. The Aussie dominance due their batting. Since the Batting in Richard's heyday was arguably the WI peak- and by the end of the '90s it was basically Lara,Chanderpaul with the odd contribution of some other batsman. So, if both the 2 periods above of the WI bowling yield similar results we may conclude that batting was equally , if not more important. Similarly, for other teams like Aus.

  • shrikanthk on April 12, 2011, 2:47 GMT

    i think you might be mis-contextualizing the short pitched bowling of the west indies at that time. EVERYBODY did it

    I never said others didn't do it. All I'm saying that these WI pacemen weren't exactly paragons of virtue and gentlemanly behavior as they are made out to be. And yes, Aus get more flak than they deserve for their poor behavior.

    I cannot understand why Waugh and Ponting have better records than Taylor ...

    Alex: Taylor has a great record as captain anyhow! It's just that Waugh and Ponting had a little more firepower in the batting dept - a maturer Ponting, Gilchrist and Martyn (who proved to be hungrier run gatherer than M.Waugh).

    Ofcourse, Taylor had to contend with much stronger WI and Pak sides than either Waugh or Ponting. And yes, he probably didn't care too much about dead rubbers - which meant fewer clean sweeps.

  • shrikanthk on April 12, 2011, 2:35 GMT

    To think that Murali got to play just 4 Tests in England.

    But Murali did get to play umpteen test matches against B'desh and Zimbabwe on home soil, unlike Shane Warne! Suppose one were to exclude those games for the sake of argument, his bowling avg wouldn't be too different from that of Warne!

    I hate to argue like this. But one is tempted to, since you brought up the "England" angle!!

    People talk ad-nauseum about Warne's poor record in India, conveniently forgetting his brilliant record in Sri Lanka. By the same token, why don't you take note of Murali's poor record in Aus?

    Whenever Warne played against SL in SL, he outperformed Murali in terms of bowling averages (albeit marginally). Enough said! [[ There was a time when the world was divided into Tendulkar-Lara camps. At that time I used to say that both were great players and deserved to be classed amongst the greats of all times. Personal preferences push a follower into supporting one or other and pushing numbers in support. As far as I am concerned boith Warne and Murali fall into the same patetrn. Both were great players and deserve to be classed amongst the greats of all times. Both had their achiles heels, against India and Australia respectiively. Murali received less support but Warne had to fight for his share of wickets. Murali's problems, on field, were orchestrated by Australia. Warnes's problems were off-field and were mostly self-inflicted.I hope I am never asked to select either of these two, to save my life. Finally no one asked Warne not to play against Bangladesh/Zimbabwe. It was his choice. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on April 11, 2011, 19:52 GMT

    @Srikanthk - i think you might be mis-contextualizing the short pitched bowling of the west indies at that time. EVERYBODY did it, if they could (it was started by Lillee and Thomson - but the aussies started squealing when they were outgunned). similarly, England in 74/75 bowled a barrage at the Aussies 1st innings, 1st test - THEN realized they were outgunned and began squealing. I doubt if limitations would have been placed if it were Australia and England with the quick men rather than WI and Pakistan (which was the case when the rule was placed). Willis did it. Imran and Sarfraz did it. Aussies did it. only India (who couldn't), didn't. Its just WI were much better at it than everyone else!

    Sledging is going the same way now. Who are amongst the squealers? Australia. song and dance about Symonds racist taunts. Racist taunts were one of the hallmarks of Australian sledging from mid 70s onwards! but now, of course, they are SO OFFENDED....

  • Abhishek Mukherjee on April 11, 2011, 12:28 GMT

    Amazing article. I would have loved it to be longer, though, with more, more details. I never cease to love hearing about these giants. [[ Abhishek I kept this to a Graphics-only deliberately. Even then it took me quite a while. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on April 11, 2011, 7:12 GMT

    @Ananth and @Bala: I don't think Marshall was the primary reason behind the WI dominance over 1983-91. It is just that the pace attack was the main reason why WI dominated over 1976-91 and Marshall was the leader of the attack over 1983-88 much as Roberts was over '74-'80 or Ambrose over '89-'94. He had a lot of help from his fellow pacers. The supply of great fast bowlers stopped for good in WI in '89 (Bishop).

    Lloyd's retirement set a permanent decline in WI standards which became glaringly bad by '89 itself. Otherwise, today, Ambrose would have the same aura as Marshall. The burst of fast bowling talent in WI over '73-'89 is one of the great unplanned outliers in cricket ... one hopes that doesn't happen with the batting scene in India ('99 through today).

  • Alex on April 11, 2011, 6:45 GMT

    @Ananth: Could you pl do an article on Aussies over 1995-2008 broken down into Taylor, Waugh, & Ponting eras? IMO, Taylor was the best Oz captain since Ian Chappell. AB (like S Waugh) was god but Taylor, IMO, was the better captain and took the next step.

    I cannot understand why Waugh and Ponting have better records than Taylor ... is it simply that the players who started their careers under Taylor had matured by the time Waugh took over? That cannot be true because Aussies lost a string of matches before the amazing turn-around in WC 99 that made them almost invincible. Had the level of their opponents dropped a bit or was Steve Waugh as good a leader as Taylor? Perhaps you could shed some statistical light on this? [[ I have to find a way to get players in a test against result in a graphic way. There is no point in listing the players when there are many tests and players. Ananth: ]]

  • Kartik (the old one) on April 11, 2011, 5:07 GMT

    Shrikantk,

    First of all, you did not comprehend my comment. Re-read it slowly.

    Secondly, the current Indian team is the #1 Test team by a decent margin in terms of ICC ratings points, and has been so for over 2 years. They also won the WC.

    So yes, it is one of the top 4-5 teams of all-time, despite having the weakest bowling of any previous 'top team'.

    Ananth,

    Gillespie missed far too many matches to be considered a great (the same goes for Croft being very generously included in your WI list after such a short career).

    At any rate, why was Gillespie dropped after scoring a double century, on top of decent bowling form, despite the retirement of McGrath and Warne. If anything, Australia needed Gillespie then more than ever.

  • Diptendu on April 10, 2011, 20:26 GMT

    Please carry out a similar analysis of Australian batting in the period of 1994-2008. And one for the GREAT INDIAN BATTING LINE-UP.

  • shrikanthk on April 10, 2011, 18:01 GMT

    Warne just got wickets against the Poms, SA and WI and miserably failed against India

    Wickets still need to be taken, right? I don't know why so many people don't rate Warne just because he failed badly in a couple of series against India! There are eight other nations playing Test cricket and Warne did brilliant against most of them most of the time.

    He was a great success against Pakistan. Also, he was instrumental in Australia's remarkable 3-0 victory against Sri Lanka in 2004 - one of his greatest achievements against some brilliant players of spin! No McGrath in that side. No way Aus would've won even a single Test without Warne.

    We're talking about a very very special cricketer here, who happens only once or twice in the history of a game. Let's not snub his achievements by saying "He took wickets only against Poms".

  • shrikanthk on April 10, 2011, 15:54 GMT

    Karthik: Sorry, I misread your comment. Initially thought you were classing the Indian team among the 3 best teams of all time!! Ofcourse you weren't saying anything of the sort.

    The best team from 1970-79 would have been South Africa, but they were banned from International cricket. As a result, that period had no real 'best' team

    Not too sure about this. The SA team won against a jaded, ageing Aus side in '69. It is anybody's guess how they'd have fared against Aus in '74-75. In '75-76, G.Chappell's Australia trounced WI 5-1. I doubt it very much if SA would've managed to beat that Aussie outfit (especially with Lillie and Thommo in full swing).

    Also, the SA team of the late sixties (though very impressive against Aus and Eng) were not tested against WI, since they refrained from playing against the coloured countries! Very fine side no doubt. But difficult to say whether they were world beaters.

  • Pallab on April 10, 2011, 9:37 GMT

    @Kartik, thanks for the memories of Reliance World Cup and lost opportunities for WI! Great point about the MRF-Nehru Cup in 1989, fantastically contested final that in Kolkata. Imran practically achieved everything that he wanted in life and never lost a series to the WI. I am willing to bet the WI 80s team would have beaten OZ circa 1999-2008 team 3-0 in a 5 Test series even with their limited middle order with Warne maybe taking off a Test against them like Hirwani/Qadir(but then Warne just got wickets against the Poms, SA and WI and miserably failed against India). To think that Murali got to play just 4 Tests in England.

  • Pallab on April 10, 2011, 9:34 GMT

    @Anantha/Surayanarayan. W I Board has the 4 pace bowlers needed to form the quartet (not of the same pedigree or skills of WI 80s vintage of course!): just that Fidel Edwards, Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach and Jermaine Lawson –all genuinely quick- have never been assembled on the cricket park all at one time for various reasons by WICB. There was another reason why I never wanted Shoaib to retire as I wanted Akthar, Gul, Asif and Amir (as a quartet!) to have one last tilt at Sehwag, Gambhir, Laxman, Tendulkar, Pujara in Tests. What a riveting Test series that would have been, if not for circumstances.

  • Ramesh Warrier on April 10, 2011, 9:27 GMT

    Hi Anantha, Wonderful article...... Iam 42 yrs and have been privileged to see almost all the bowlers mentioned by you in action ..... Today's bowlers do not generate the same level of awe or fear in me. A factor which none of you have commented on is the quality of fielding support that the fearsome WI quicks got in snaring their victims..... Dujon stands out for his wicket keeping skills, Lloyd, Viv Richards, Greenidge were extremely good fielders. Also two batsmen i saw do consistently well against WI quicks namely GR Vishwanath and Dilip Vengsarkar hardly find a mention..... very surprising. I especially remember readin a lot abt Vishy's 97 not out on a very hostle Chepauk pitch against these WI quicks..... rated as his best knock by his peers i think...pls correct me if i'm wrong. Thanks again for taking me back to those heady days..... :) [[ Vishwanath's 97 is the highest placed sub-100 innings in the Wisden-Hallmark top 100 innings list. And a very well deserved hounour also. Ananth: ]]

    Also on

  • Bala Yugandar on April 10, 2011, 9:02 GMT

    Ananth!

    Excellent piece. Your analysis confirmed what i always believed that onset of Macko has provided the lynchpin for Windies sustained dominance. Most journos seem to confuse the beginning of Windies 4 pronged Pace era also as the most successful one. Until Macko came, Windies despite their dominance were not whitewashing opposition. If the home series just before the worldcup in 83 marked Macko as something special the post world cup series in India really enshrined as simply the greatest ever strike bowler. Windies pace attack didn't happen because of any elaborate planning but more by serendipity....a unbelievable culmination of once in a lifetime talents. Nobody can reproduce an attack like that even with best of resources and millions sunk in. As some other readers pointed out another remarkable feature of this attack was the absolute menace they carried....there was always the spectre of impending doom for the batsmen....and very rarely batsmen could hit in front of the... [[ That is the reason I like the first graph. It shows that the most valuable of these pace bowlers was Marshall. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on April 10, 2011, 9:00 GMT

    Shrikanth, some memory lapses on your part maybe, the 80s did have Terry Alderman, Botham, Dilley, Kapil.....

    Pallab: Fair enough. However, I was referring to the 1975-82 period when some of these bowlers were around. But in general, "hit the deck" bowlers dominated the scene. Also, spinners had very nearly gone out of the game once the Indian trinity faded (with the odd exception like Doshi and later Qadir)

    But yes. I'm 12 years younger than you are (YoB: 1972 right?). So my understanding of cricket history is based on books/stats/odd clips. You may cite that as a major handicap. I'm always keen to learn from more experienced watchers. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Karthik: Indian team of 2008? serious? I can think of lots of teams that could defeat this Indian side besides the two obvious ones you've cited. 1948 Invincibles, WI side of the mid 60s, 1954-55 English side and also the 1974-75 Aus side.

    This team is pretty good. But not in the top 10 of all time in my book.

  • shrikanthk on April 10, 2011, 8:42 GMT

    As he seems to be overstating the case of Reid, Gillespie both of whom and even Merv Hughes, Fleming and McDermott (however skilled they were) hardly intimidated or gave nightmares to batsmen

    Pallab: I only made mention of Reid and Gillespie - both of whom have records comparable to those of several WI quicks (if not all of them). By the way, I don't evaluate bowlers based on their "intimidation" quotient. What I'm interested in the most is the number of runs conceded per wicket taken!! And to a lesser extent the bowling strike rate.

    They were pitting their CRICKETING SKILLS against the cricketing skills (or not) of batsmen

    "Cricketing skills" be damned if their deployment can potentially kill a balding 45 year old lower middle-order batsman who can be gotten rid of in umpteen different (milder) ways.

    I don't approve of sledging! But it is clearly harmless when compared with physical intimidation which was fashionable among the WI and Aus sides of the 70s.

  • Suryanarayanan R on April 10, 2011, 7:48 GMT

    An analysis to compare 'impact' of pace bowling unto 2000 vs post 2000 would be interesting! The quality of bowling attacks has decidedly gone southwards.. The west indians are myth compared to what we see today. Hope you can address the impact bit and wicb can find some real pce bowlers... [[ Yes, let me look at this. Seems interesting. Ananth: ]]

  • Sudarshan P.N. on April 10, 2011, 7:25 GMT

    Ananth, there was no need to sledge. The very sight of Dujon measuring (in terms of the length of the stumps) the distance the stump was uprooted was enough to demoralise any incoming batsman:) I feel for Sylvester Clarke though...I watched him in the 1978-79 series against India....he was really fast and intimidating.....I guess he lacked the discipline and the consistency. Also another person who did well in the county circuit but couldnt even get a look-in was Franklyn Stephenson. Either of them would have been permanent fixtures in any other team of that era.

  • Kartik (the old one) on April 10, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    On WI vs. Aus.

    West Indies had the stronger bowling attack (4 great bowlers vs. 2). [[ Gillespie certainly was right there with the best. Ananth: ]]

    Australia had the better middle order (Gilchrist, Hussey, & Martyn vs. Logie, Gomes, and Dujon).

    On balance, I think WI edges ahead slightly.

  • Kartik (the old one) on April 10, 2011, 6:50 GMT

    The handoff of 'Best Test Team' was at pretty clean, relatively undisputed times :

    1979-1995 : West Indies (starting as soon as Packer ended) 1995-2008 : Australia (beating WI in the Caribbean) 2008-present : India (right after the Sydney Test)

    The best team from 1970-79 would have been South Africa, but they were banned from International cricket. As a result, that period had no real 'best' team, plus a couple of years went to Packer.

    WI was undefeated in a series during this period. Aus lost 3 series', but also had two streaks of an amazing 16 wins in a row each. India is the best today, but is a weaker #1 than either WI or Aus at their peak. If India of today faced WI of 1984, India would be flattened. [[ The bowling of India today has too many holes to be classes amongst the all-time great teams. You might remember my recent article. Ananth: ]]

  • Kartik (the old one) on April 10, 2011, 6:44 GMT

    It still bugs me that the 1987 world cup was at the worst possible time for the West Indies.

    Holding and Garner were injured (and ultimately retired). Marshall was absent. Ambrose and Bishop were to debut just months later.....

    But in the 1987 World Cup, the West Indies had none of these greats except Walsh. Note that Greenidge was also absent as a batsman.

    Despite this, West Indies would have qualified for the semis had Walsh run out Salim Jaffar.....

    Which means they would have played India at Bombay in the semis, and probably won (given the 7-1 victory in the bilateral India-WI series right after the WC).

    It is safe to say that WI would have beaten Australia in the finals too..

    Thus, a whole combination of weird circumstances had to conspire to keep the strongest team of the era out of even the semis of the 1987 WC.

    That is why the 6-nation 1989 Nehru Cup was a better 'do-over' of the 1987 WC. This is because the two best teams featured in the final.

  • Pallab on April 10, 2011, 6:32 GMT

    about these non-cricketing “skills” to gain an edge. Why would you expect mostly less educated Pakistanis, Indians, Sri Lankans players to be “equipped” to handle such verbal assaults while only being interested in competing on cricketing skills alone and not mind being defeated. Shrikanth, some memory lapses on your part maybe, the 80s did have Terry Alderman, Botham, Dilley, Kapil, Richard Ellison, Prabhakar, Binny, Neil Foster (somewhat), Salim Jaffer, Jalaluddin as pitch-up and swing type bowlers along with the hit-the-deck bowlers. Imran and Hadlee could swing the bowl as per the conditions and almost at will sometimes. Akram, Jaffer, Chatfield, Reid (debut in the mid-80s) were left arm seamers. Alderman made his name primarily with swing bowling in 2 Ashes series with 2 40 plus wicket hauls in 1981 and 1989 Ashes series. The 80s had variety. My email ad is pallab1972@gmail.com

  • Pallab on April 10, 2011, 6:28 GMT

    @ShrikanthK, while your point about the virulent bombardment of hapless batsmen by WI pacers is well noted, you are forgetting one key difference between sledging, gamesmanship, art of disintegration whatever and what the WI bowlers were actually doing on the pitch/arena.They were pitting their CRICKETING SKILLS against the cricketing skills (or not) of batsmen which is what the game of hard, gritty Tests – and indeed the game of cricket -are about. Results were and are always decided thru cricketing skills alone and if not,Tests were not for those not inclined.Ask Bevan, Jadeja, Hick, Ramprakash,Devang Gandhi, Vikram Rathore and others. And as for thin, skinned, self-centric individuals again you are overlooking that almost all the players of the Asian cricket nations (along with England and NZ too!) which makes ¼ of the Test playing nations now have vehemently railed against the form of personal, real underhanded sledging as practiced by the Aussies which is saying something Contd.

  • Pallab on April 10, 2011, 5:46 GMT

    It’s good to see @Victoria acknowledging who best faced the WI pace attacks of yesteryears. I hope Victoria also remembers that Kapil actually tore apart the WI pace attacks consistently in both ODIs and Tests with awesome strike rates in both - he was fluid and naturally explosive against them. Kapil was so naturally gifted as a batsman that he was rarely beaten by bowlers but contrived to get himself out due to sudden lack of interest or concentration. Gavaskar as captain always understood the value and skill level of Kapil’s batting and always lamented that he never exhibited the discipline to harness his natural talent.

  • Pallab on April 10, 2011, 5:45 GMT

    Anantha, while I am well aware of Gooch’s fantastic record against WI, it is moot to know that perhaps Gooch alone among all openers of that era (Gavaskar faced the brunt of the cream attack in 2 series only in 1983 though he did tussle with Roberts & Holding as a pair and Marshall and Clarke as an on-off pair in the 70s) seemed to face the brunt of the WI attacks mentioned in your piece for almost 15 years. Though I had often queried the late Sunder Rajan (TOI cricket correspondent), avid cricket aficionado Behram Contractor and others from the primarily Mumbai cricket press fraternity with whom I was fairly well acquainted in the 90s and almost all mentioned that Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards mentioned in private that they considered Gavaskar the best Test batsman bar none. A fact which Andy Roberts, Colin Croft (though Croft never bowled to Gavaskar) and Gary Sobers have stated openly. [[ I think I am inclined to do aan article just on the batsmen who paced the West indian attacks over these three decades. Ananth: ]]

  • Pallab on April 10, 2011, 5:41 GMT

    Patil thrashed the OZ bowlers memorably in that memorable 1980-81 series whereas the Indian batting juggernaut of the mid-80s was hardly bothered in the 1985-86 series in OZ. Only in the 1992 and 1999 series did the generally squeamish Indian batsmen fail to really come to terms with Aussie “pace” without being intimidated through . As a teenager (and also as a budding extreme fast bowler in my late teens and early 20s before another career paid put to my hopes), I still remember feeling the latent and overt threat of all the WI pacers while watching them prey haplessly on most batsmen with cunning, verve, pace and “pure” bowling skills.

  • Pallab on April 10, 2011, 5:39 GMT

    @Shrikanthk, am really curious to know whether he really got to see the WI pace bowlers of any combination on tele or live at stadiums or whether he is born just past 1980 in which case he might have been too young to gauge their ”awesomeness”. As he seems to be overstating the case of Reid, Gillespie both of whom and even Merv Hughes, Fleming and McDermott (however skilled they were) hardly intimidated or gave nightmares to batsmen (as against the WI pacers as pointed out by @avianraptor). I don’t think any of the Indian batsmen who faced the Aussie pace/medium fast attacks the best and with poise and equanimity during their entire real domination period (barring the 1999 series) from 2001 to 2008 were ever intimidated by any one of Lee (who was almost always thrashed), Gillespie and McGrath even if they, at times, gained ascendancy over them (McGrath especially though Gillespie did well in India as well).

  • Pallab on April 10, 2011, 5:22 GMT

    Anantha,I am so fascinated by this ‘It Figures’column that many issues are just cropping up in my mind.Have you noticed that just because the 1980’s cricket era was never broadcast as widely on satellite/cable tele for cricket viewers (not until 1993 were cricket matches not featuring India started being shown in India) around the world that many of the post 80's generation have not been able to gauge the depth of vintage WI pace attacks (and also the overall domination of the WI sides under Lloyd and Richards primarily which seems almost mythical now); resulting in such minimal feedback for this enthralling piece of great cricket history.I suggest you keep this column open for few more days and hope that fans of this site in their 40s,50s and 60s(especially from Eng, OZ whose teams were battered by these attacks: Indians are obsessive about this site anyways) respond with their thoughts about these attacks. In fact, even in the country sections of Eng and OZ, this blog is not there [[ Pallab I will only be doing two columns a month. So my next article is planned only for 22 April unless someone else's article comes up in the interim. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on April 10, 2011, 4:57 GMT

    I have been feeling pretty morose at the near death of express pace bowling in international cricket and I have been reminiscing about the vintage WI pace attacks of the 80s and mid-90s

    Pallab: Test cricket today is perhaps more attractive to watch than it ever was in FC history. I wonder if such a fine balance between bat and ball, between pace and spin, has ever been attained in the past.

    What we saw in the 80s was a general slowing down of the game and the dominance of a certain type of bowler - someone who bowls quick and hits the deck hard. Today, there is greater variety on offer. Lots of quality left-armers around unlike the 70s/early 80s. Also, the good old fashioned swing bowler (someone who is willing to gamble by pitching the ball up) appears to have made a comeback. Even the "express" bowlers of today - the likes of Steyn and Lee are more willing to pitch the ball up than the seam bowlers of the 70s/early 80s.

  • shrikanthk on April 10, 2011, 4:34 GMT

    What also separates them from other greats, in my mind, is the respect they had for the game of cricket on the whole, and their opposition

    I find this assertion highly questionable. Bombarding unhelmeted opposition batsmen with a torrent of bouncers is not exactly in keeping with the spirit of the game!

    Have a look at this for instance. Holding terrorizing a 45 year old balding Brian Close (hardly a master batsman!!)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-f5pfBgpNE

    Does one find this sporting? It is much, much worse than any amount of harmless sledging done by the "bad", "uncouth" Aussies. It's strange that commentators object to sledging that harms only thin-skinned, self-centered individuals! What we see here in this video is a lot more virulent. A deliberate attempt to frighten a rather ordinary batsman in the twilight of his career!

    Bowling 6 minute overs isn't in keeping with the spirit of the game either.

  • Rangaraju Ramanathan on April 10, 2011, 4:19 GMT

    I am a pretty old timer Old is Gold I wished u cd have mentioned some thing about Wesley Hall and Charley Gilchrist. I am an admirer of Van burn Holder too. Their record may not be better compared with theses giants. However Cricket history can never never ever forget these heroes [[ My first view of Test cricket was in 1966-67 at Mumbai against west indies. Hall and Griffith were the bowlers. So I have moved from these two greats to Steyn. The only reason I did not mention them was that they had retired way before my subject era had started. Ananth: ]]

  • Clive Jackson on April 10, 2011, 2:50 GMT

    No mention of Wayne Daniel. What, his career was too short to be significant? If my memory serves me right the original four pronged attack, which started in England in 1976 after the drubbing in Australia in 1975,consisted of Roberts, Holding,Holder and Daniel. [[ 10 Tests and 36 wickets at 25+ is not exactly the career one needs when we are looking at 8 all-time greats amongst fast bowlers. Ananth: ]]

  • victoria on April 9, 2011, 21:41 GMT

    As far as we know in the caribbean, apart from our own domestic batsmen (Fredericks, Kalicharan, Lloyd, Haynes, Greenidge, Rowe, Foster,Pinnoch, Richards, Richardson, Authurton and later Lara and Hooper)who literally mauled them in our local competition, the only batsmen outside the caribbean who were relatively successful in their encounters against them were Sunil Gavascar and Mohinda Armanath (the two best), in addition to Allan Border, Wasim Raja and Graham Gooch. I don't know where the other names come from. I notice that some readers just like to put certain players name into everything to make their idols look good - apart from the names I mentioned, no batsman in those days really wanted to look good against a well oiled West Indian bowling machine. [[ One day I will do a piece on how the batsmen performed during these 28 years. Ananth: ]]

  • avianraptor on April 9, 2011, 20:40 GMT

    A very admirable piece Anantha. I have looked at the stats and the comments. though very impressive, they do not tell the full story. I have been lucky enough to have seen them all at the top of their game. It is very difficult to say which one was the best or fastest overall. Each was lethal in his own way, in certain conditions...as are/were many bowlers throughout the world. What cannot be conveyed by stats and extrapolation of them are the feelings these guys generated in their opposition. Only when you talk to the batsmen of the era, and they describe the often sleepless nights, toilet stops etc, could one more genuinely understand the effects these greats had on their opposition. What also separates them from other greats, in my mind, is the respect they had for the game of cricket on the whole, and their opposition. Even now, though it has permeated most of where the great game is played, sledging is frowned upon in the WI.They almost always let the ball do the talking. [[ I have deliberately stayed from presenting the numbers, other than the basic ones, since I wanted this to be a graphical view. In general West Indian players look fearsome, but they rarely enter into confrontations on field. The Sarwan-McGrath fracas was an exception and crossed the line. But not every one could get used to on-field sledging. One reason why, the wonderful bowler that he is, I do not like the way Zaheer Khan needles batsmen. But that seems to be the modern trend. Ananth: ]]

  • ravi on April 9, 2011, 18:11 GMT

    Man i missed this era.Watching seven fielders behind the stumps and a fast bowler bowling is an awesome sight! [[ And with no helmets and no restrictions on short-pitched bowling and a crowd chanting "you won't like da parfume baal maan". Ananth: ]]

  • Rizwan on April 9, 2011, 13:55 GMT

    Interesting analysis and a breath of fresh air after all the one day games.

    The stats do not cpature the fear these west indian greats put into the opposition.Of course , in the 70s , there were no protective gear like helmets , thigh pads , chest pads etc., which made it even more toughter to negotiate these fast bowlers.

    Is it possible to analyse which batsman did the best against these quicks.I know Ian Botham was a miserable failure whereas Gavaskar ( 13 Centuries) was a huge success.Gooch also did not too bad ( 154 )

    I also believe Jimmy Amaranath, Sandip Patel , Kapil , Wasim Raja, Allan Border,Allan Lamb did well against these marauding fast bowlers. [[ I have done some work on these lines earlier through my "Quality of bowling" Index. Gooch was the best. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on April 9, 2011, 10:55 GMT

    @Karl: The NZ umpiring was notoriously bad in the 1980 series. The Croft-Holding incidents say more about the umpiring than the players.

    @Waspsting: I think Clarke was near the level of Croft but a notch below Bishop since he was extremely dangerous with the new ball but not so much once the shine went off. Among these 3, Bishop was the fastest and the best skill-set to go with a real student's appreciation for the history of cricket --- his injuries were unfortunately too severe to recover well from.

  • Devadatta on April 9, 2011, 10:04 GMT

    Hi Ananth,

    Just wondering how Kenneth Benjamin compared to the greats. I remember when WI played in India in 1994, and he was consistemtly hostile on the flat Indian pitches. [[ Quite average. 30 tests, 92 wickets at 30.27. Ananth: ]]

  • Pramod on April 9, 2011, 8:44 GMT

    Article was really nice. And i went through the comments. I dunno how feasible this is, but what about an analysis of Indian Batsmen? We had our first truly great batsman in Gavaskar 1971. from then on there has been a succession of them, Vishwanath, Vengsarkar, Azhar, and culminating in the Fearsome Fivesome of Sehwag, Dravid, Sachin, Laxman and Ganguly. You may feel that article will have more validity if you publish it after sachin's retirement. [[ Yest, after Sachin's retirement which itself may come after Dravid's and Laxman's retirements, such a study would be right. Ananth: ]]

    Also, about WI winning just about 50% of games when these guys played together, I think that might just be an odd coincidence. It would also be cool, if i could know which were those. It will tell us, whether they were below par or they actually were instrumental in those 14 victories. [[ There is no doubt that they would have been instrumentsl in thiose 14 wins also. Anyhow the '!' sign indicates such matches. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on April 9, 2011, 8:31 GMT

    There's another thing. The "Overrate" factor.

    There can be no fair comparison between WI quartet and McGrath/Gillespie/Lee since the latter bunch never had the luxury of bowling 70 overs in a day!!!

    I wonder how those guys got away with it in those days. [[ There were no rules in place. Anyhow do you feel the overrate rules work now. If India bowls 12 overs an hour and Dhoni is fined 50% of his mmatch fees what do a few lakhs mean to a guy whose endorsement earnings exceed 100 crores. The only way any control will work is if the teams are penalized x runs per over short. Then it would hit them on the field, where it would hurt, not in the already bulging wallet. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on April 9, 2011, 8:27 GMT

    but they were still an average and at times above average team till the late 90's

    There is no doubt in my mind that Australia were the best side in Test cricket in the 90s. Defeated WI in WI in 1995 (the first team to do so after a long time). Defeated SA in both SA and Aus (in 1997-98). Defeated Pak in Pak in 1998. And yes, defeated England umpteen times comprehensively throughout the decade. "Above average" is an understatement.

    Which country do you think had a better record? South Africa? A country which lost to Aus both at home and abroad. Lost to England in 1998. Lost to India in 1996! No way they were anywhere near Australia!

    Ofcourse SA and SL were perhaps better ODI sides than Aus in the late 90s. But definitely not in Tests.

    Also, Taylor's stats may not be as impressive as those of Waugh and Ponting because Australia lost a lot of dead rubber games under him. Nevertheless, the team was invariably at its very best when rubbers were still alive.

  • shrikanthk on April 9, 2011, 8:08 GMT

    I do not know why you have to talk about Reid. Did I make a negative comment about Reid

    Ananth: I think you misread my comment. The remark about Reid ought to be read in the context of the rest of the comment. My larger point was that WI quicks get a lot more attention and accolades than equally skillful bowlers in other teams because they were fortunate to have been a part of a near-invincible side. I was not objecting to anything in your article!

    Also, there is no reason to call Gillespie merely "good" as opposed to say a Roberts (who is universally deemed "great"). Gillespie is among the unluckiest bowlers I've seen. At his best during the turn of the millenium, he was second to none. McGrath often reaped the benefits of Gillespie bowling at the other end.

    Also, one must note these guys bowled against helmeted batsmen weaned on ODI cricket as opposed to the WI quicks who bowled in an era when aggressive front-foot play against quicks was yet to take root. [[ All your points are valid. I will make a study of the great Australian teams which, overall, had a better record than the West indians. Ananth: ]]

  • Raghav Bihani on April 9, 2011, 4:24 GMT

    I see a few comments about how the Australian batsmen were the ones that set up the victories by posting massive totals in minimum time. However, I have often noticed that without Warne and McGrath even 400 was not enough for australia many times. When these 2 greats bowled in tandem many tests were over in 3-4 days with an innings victory. If you can collaborate this it would mean for me that the massive totals at 4 rpo only hastened the defeat.

    One needs to carefully examine how Australia did without the service of these 2 bowlers and perhaps Gillespie. Batting was always super strong even if one guy was injured as the replacement was equally adept. [[ As I have already mentioned maybe a simpler analysis should be done for both batting and bowling for Australians. The period, however, has to be selected with care. Already there are contrary views. Ananth: ]]

  • Pallab on April 9, 2011, 4:20 GMT

    Ananth, I think there has been a tendency to over-state the period of OZ’s actual cricket dominance in Tests which actually began in 1999 and not 1995 when they claimed the “Test championship” title WI by defeating them for the first time in 15 years in the Caribbean. The fact is between 1995 and 2001, they lost to India twice (discounting the one-off Test series victory in 1996 in Delhi ), drew with WI in 1999 and lost to Sri Lanka in 1999 whereas the WI did not lost any series during their period of absolute domination between 1980 and 1995. Winning Ashes with abolsute ease against pusillanimous English teams of the 90s don’t count as Test dominance. The fact is there was no clear leader in Tests in the 90s with a revitalized Oz and WI slugging it out and Pakistan being very competitive uptil the mid-90s and OZ slugging it out with a fading WI and an emerging SA in the mid-to-late 90s. [[ I think the real Australian domination was either side of 2000. Ananth: ]]

  • Pallab on April 9, 2011, 4:13 GMT

    Another comment related to the WI attacks and which team competed against them the best. Have been saying this for a while; Imran stupendously raised the level of his performance (varyingly as a batsman, bowler or leader) whenever the stakes were high- in India in 1987, in England in 1982 and ‘87, World Cup’92 and all thru against the Windies. He goaded his teams to play above their potential in those 3 consecutive Test series (uptill 1990) against the all-comers marauding WI and seriously push the Windies to their limit. I remember following all enthralling 3 series with utmost keenness as a teenager in India in the 80s as much as I could in a non-cable/satellite TV era thru print and a bit of radio. In much the same way that Khan’s teams held their own against Richards’ teams, Ganguly’s teams more than matched (and in fact won 3-2 over 7 Test matches) Steve Waugh’s No. 1 Aussie Test team in 2001 and 2003-04.

  • Pallab on April 9, 2011, 4:09 GMT

    (circa India caving into him in 1988) and also hustled the Aussies for a fair bit. I sometimes wonder with such devastating opening bowlers snaring top order batsmen and then being rested, the first and second change bowlers (whoever among Marshall, Garner, Ambrose!) would have been champing at the bit to get into the wickets tally. As an aside, the batsmen facing them fearlessly and with good records against express pace (not necessarily all West Indian bowlers ) were Gavaskar, Boycott, M. Amarnath, (Sandeep Patil briefly), Aravinda de Silva, V.Richards , Kapil Dev, Martin Crowe, Gooch, Tendulkar. Ananth, you would remember Gavaskar could collar attacks at will when he so desired (his 121 in Delhi to go past Bradman’s then record 29 centuries and 90 in Ahmedabad were exhilarating attacking virtuosos against Marshall and Holding at their snarling best during the post 1983 World Cup Test series). Incidentally, Wayne Daniel halted Gavaskar during that rapacious knock of 121.

  • Pallab on April 9, 2011, 4:06 GMT

    OMG Ananth ! I am not kidding. After Akthar and Bond’s retirements, I have been feeling pretty morose at the near death of express pace bowling in international cricket and I have been reminiscing about the vintage WI pace attacks of the 80s and mid-90s. I was almost about to write an inbox item apart from sending you a message to write something about the immense influence of the WI pace quartets (in different combinations) and there I see your feature!!. [[ I had also been immersed on ODI work and really wanted to do something on pure Test match stuff. Ananth: ]]

    I have been telling younger fans (am 39) on cricinfo forums that even if the WI teams of the70s and 80s might not have strung many consecutive wins but they were absolutely feared and actually made teams’ quake literally whilst the same could not be said of the dominant OZ teams under Waugh and Ponting. Yes, along with the others above, I too have heard/read stories about Clarke’s skiddy pace and ability to force batsmen to make mistakes –irrespective of his records. Patterson was a demon fast bowler for a short period. CONTD.

  • Mark on April 9, 2011, 3:18 GMT

    Marshall, Ambrose, and Holding were the best, but Garner is probably the most underrated of all of these champions. A Test average of 20.9, a One Day average of 18.8, including 5-38 in a World Cup final, and he has arguably the best record of any fast bowler in the history of the game, and yet he still couldn't find a place in the All-time West Indian XI. [[ You are probably correct if we add the fact that Garner;s ODI RpO was 3.10 (the best, by a mile, of all bowlers) and his Test RpO was 2.47. Ananth: ]]

  • Pranav on April 9, 2011, 0:51 GMT

    A similar analysis of Australian batsmen from ~1985 (Boon, Marsh, Border, SWaugh) to ~2005 might be interesting and illuminating.

  • Ram on April 8, 2011, 21:33 GMT

    Great analysis.

    How about the fearsome quartet of Venkatesh Prasad, Abey Kuruvilla,David Johnson and Dodda Ganesh. Please do not be shy to talk about the fear they generated even in the era of helmets :-) [[ That was a tough one, tougher than a real analysis. Johnson played in two tests and retired, handing over the baton (or the ball) to Ganesh. AFter another two tests Kuruvilla replaced Ganesh. Ganesh came back. He in turn passed the new ball to Mohanty. So what do I do. The nearest combinations are Kuruvilla/Prasad/Mohanty or Ganesh/Kuruvilla/Prasad. Ananth: ]]

  • Abdullah on April 8, 2011, 20:20 GMT

    @srikanth agree with your point that Aus upward movement began in 1985 but they were still an average and at times above average team till the late 90's. For me their real domination started with the inclusion of gilchrist as the keeper in the first test against Pakistan in 1999. However, if i were to go back, i would go back to the 1995 SL tour of Australia. i think going back to 85 is taking it too long back as Aus didnt really dominate the game in any way at that time.

    Overall, i think both of us agree, that for Australia it should be the batsmen who should be looked at. The span is something that is up for debate and up to interpretation [[ Maybe what I needed is an analysis of both batting and bowling of the Australian dominating period, but not on such an exhaustive level. Ananth: ]]

  • dbping on April 8, 2011, 19:33 GMT

    Hi Ananth

    Thank you for your exhaustive effort. I know that the Pakistan team weren't nearly as dominant as the Aussies or Windies but they still had a good stock of bowlers coming through regularly.I suppose Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz(not a great but a good bowler) and then Wasim and Waqar with their respective supporting casts such as Abdul Qadir and Mustaq Ahmed were good bowling attacks. Would it be possible to do a similar analysis for the Pakistan attacks over the years. [[ All these alternate suggestions are valid only when the team concerned had a real ripping run over at least 10 years. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on April 8, 2011, 17:08 GMT

    I haven't seen Sylvester Clarke bowl, but from what i've read/heard, think he might be the one guy worthy of being bracketed with the 8 named. [[ 11 tests and 42 wickets at 27.83 is not exactly earth-moving stuff. Ananth: ]]

    Gower named him the fastest bowler he'd faced (and he faced all of these guys, amongst others). Edmonds named him along with Procter and Imran the best inswing bowler of all. Agnew thought thought him the "most feared bowler" on the county cricket - more so than Roberts or Marshall. Sobers was scared he'd kill somebody with the kind of bounce he got.

    To me, the guy who doesn't really belong - at least as much as Clark doesn't - is Bishop. A hot beginning and then just faded away can't compare to the guys who had long careers, guys who were smooth enough not to get injured, or who came through injury and remained world class. [[ 43 tests, 161 wkts at 24.29 is not exactly poor stuff. Ananth: ]]

  • arup on April 8, 2011, 17:03 GMT

    Brilliant article. Excellent combination of 8 bowlers who were too good for the others. But what about the Aussies? Lille/Thomson/Pascoe/Alderman/Hogg/Gilmour/Massie. Would like to know how lethal they were. It would definitely be worthwhile to have a look at their potence. [[ Gilmour played in 15 tests for 54 wkts at 26. Massie played 6 tests for 31 wkts. So they really did not contribute much. The fact is also that the Australians of late-60s/early-70s did not dominate the cricket scene to the extent the 1983-1993 West indians or 200x Australians did. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanth on April 8, 2011, 16:58 GMT

    The period under review should be 1999 (Pak-Ind tour) to 2009 (Ashes)

    Abdullah: Nice suggestion. But I disagree with the period. The period under review ought to be '85 to 2010.

    The upward ascent of Australia began in '85. And they didn't really look back till the summer of '08-09 when they lost to SA at home (a huge loss in my book)

    Hopeless in '85. Competitive between '86 and '89 (with the likes of Boon, Jones and Border going strong) The turning point was Mark Waugh's debut in 1990. It marked a paradigm shift in the Australian approach to batsmanship. From that point onwards, the Aussies started valuing flair as much as grit. M.Waugh was the first of the great Australian strokemakers of the post Chappell era. Several others followed in his wake. Slater, Ponting, Lehmann, Martyn, Gilchrist, Hayden, Symonds, Clarke. Collectively, they made it fashionable to score 150 ball centuries that enabled Australia to get on top of the opposition very early in the game. [[ It is clear that Australia has to be looked at differently. Ananth: ]]

  • Anand on April 8, 2011, 16:58 GMT

    Hi Ananth:

    Great article. Can you extrapolate/extend your analysis to check how "lesser" bowlers performed along side the greats and separately from the greats? I remember Merv Dillon beginning very well bowling along side Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop, but fizzled out when left on his own. Same with Winston Benjamin and Pat Patterson.

    I am also wondering if the victory percentage of 50 or less you mentioned when 4 of the greats were simultaneously playing, had anything to do with the batting performance of W Indies then. [[ Might have been. However I have also stayed away from the batsmen. Certainly these eight bowlers, barring Roberts in his first 10 and Walsh in his last 10, always had one or more of wonderful fast bowlers to bowl with. Especially dillon did not have that comfort. Ananth: ]]

  • Karl Udy on April 8, 2011, 16:21 GMT

    Whether they engaged in verbal duels with batsmen, I don't know, but Colin Croft memorably had a significant altercation with an umpire in New Zealand during the drawn test series of 1980 [[ There certainly might have been the odd one-off incident such as Croft or Holding in Nzl. But not a continuous sledging of batsmen like so many later bowlers. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on April 8, 2011, 14:34 GMT

    The genesis of Australian revival is in 1985. The rise and fall of Australia during the '85-2011 period merits an analysis of the batting and bowling resources at their disposal during this timeframe.

    It is a cliche to claim that bowlers win matches. But a case study of Australia proves that unless you've batsmen who can post 500 on a regular basis on good pitches, you cannot win matches. A total of 500 makes the bowlers doubly dangerous when they come on to bowl.

    It is often forgotten that WI were the No 1 side for most of the early-mid sixties, consistently defeating Eng and Aus. That side didn't have anything like the pace battery of the 80s. Yet, they were almost as dominant as Lloyd's team. Reason - The near impregnable batting lineup.

    In contrast, you had WI of the mid-late 90s - a pretty strong bowling side with Ambrose and Walsh still going strong. Yet, that team lost more matches than they won. Again, the reason lies in the batting.

  • Alex on April 8, 2011, 14:20 GMT

    @Ananth: a few quick comments.

    1. Holding was never dropped on poor form. He was injury-prone (surprising for such a superb natural athlete) starting 1977 itself and missed out several tests (normal & Packer) as a result. Spinners are much less injury prone and that is a huge plus!

    2. Roberts and Garner also had to sit out a few tests (even entire series) due to injuries. In '83, Lloyd deliberately phased Roberts out to make way for new blood. It was a sad exit for the real leader ... Garner & Holding retired on their own terms.

    3. An equally potent foursome (not covered by you) featured any 4 bowlers from R,H,G,M,C, Clarke, and Daniel over the period 1978-82. Imran rates Clarke the most awkward bowler with a new ball while Daniel has a career average of 27!

    As you rightly say, these bowlers were truly class apart ... they elicited not only great respect from everybody but also genuine affection & admiration.

  • shrikanthk on April 8, 2011, 14:14 GMT

    Nice piece. A similar analysis definitely makes sense for Australia as well.

    I disagree with your assessment that Aus had only two great bowlers. Gillespie at an avg of 26.1 has figures comparable to that of Roberts! Yet, nobody ever calls him a great bowler! Let's not be in awe of the hoary past and lose sight of legends of our own generation.

    WI quicks were brilliant no doubt. But they are discussed more often because they were fortunate enough to have been part of a very successful side. Australia had some very fine quicks in the late 70s/early 80s - Pascoe, Hogg, Alderman. I'm sure their figures would've been just as impressive as that of several WI quicks had they played for a stronger side.

    Take Bruce Reid for instance. The guy has an average of around 24 with over 4 wickets per match. Figures similar to those of Colin Croft. Also, we ought to note that Reid played for a very weak side. Yet, Croft is a "great" bowler. While Reid is a forgotten figure! [[ I do not know why you have to talk about Reid. Did I make a negative comment about Reid. I only said that there were two Aussie bowlers who coulod fit into the great category. I have also put Croft at the foot of this coillection. Ananth: ]]

    TBC

  • A.Ali on April 8, 2011, 13:34 GMT

    This 28 years period is also shared by great batsmen from West Indies. Great bowlers and great batsmen were the reason for their dominance. This fact is also shown in Waugh and Ponting's Australia. During 1990's Pakistan had great fast bowlers Wasim and Waqar and great spinners Mushtaq and Saqlain but Pakistan did not dominate. At present India has great batsmen but India does not dominate. To dominate you need great batting, great bowling and excellent fielding. Please show me a team which lacks in one discipline and still dominated the game. [[ This is an article about the 8 great bowers who played during the golden years of West Indian cricket. Why bring in the batsmen into this. This seems to be a problem with quite a few readers. Ananth: ]]

  • Abdullah on April 8, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    Very interesting article. Specially how Marshall straddles both periods.

    On the Australian side, i think the approach should be to look at the batsman, as i believe they were the ones who set the game up for bowlers. The likes of Slater, Hayden, Gilchrist etc. introduced the concept of power cricket in test, and gave their bowlers enough time to bowl oppositions out. Much like the West Indies bowlers wouldn't have been able to win matches without their batsman, the Aussie bowlers (Warne, McGrath, Gillespie etc) also supported their batsman, but i firmly believe that the Australian domination stemmed from their batsman scoring over 350+ in a day and putting pressure on the oppositions. The period under review should be 1999 (Pak-Ind tour) to 2009 (Ashes) looking at Slater, Waugh bros, Ponting, Hayden, Langer, Martyn, Gilchrist. There is a clear succession here with only Ponting and Gilchrist being the constant in the whole period. [[ Very interesting proposition. Let us see what the others think. I also feel that the batsmen laid the foundation for the wins, effectively completed by the bowlers, unlike the West Indian teams for which the bowlers won the matches more often than not. Ananth: ]]

  • dominic on April 8, 2011, 11:24 GMT

    But you didn't say that '4 pace bowlers' meant just 4 of the 8 you discuss. You just said '4 pace bowlers' without qualification. You need to edit the piece, which is just false as it stands. [[ I myself realized and am changing the wording. Anyhow continued use of the word "false" seems to be too accusatory a word !!! especially as all of us know what I meant. Ananth: ]]

  • dominic on April 8, 2011, 10:38 GMT

    You are quite wrong to say that the west indies only played 4 fast bowlers in 30 tests during this period; I think you mean that some quartet of the 8 bowlers you discuss only played in 30 tests. You mention Patterson as a support bowler, but he was very fast: it wasn't Patterson plus three quicks, it was him and three other quicks. And there are several other fast bowlers you have forgotten: Daniel, Clarke, Davis, Gray, the Benjamins etc [[ I have not forgotten anyone. It is only that these 8 were the best. And the four was out of these 8. Within that framework I am correct. Ananth: ]]

  • Raghav Bihani on April 8, 2011, 10:31 GMT

    Wonderful article. Very refreshing read: bringing back memories of a lost era. It is pity that Lara played after Marshall's career. If he had played alongside Viv and Marshall (10yrs earlier) for his career most of your graphs would go haywire.

    Australian dominance was team work. The batsmen and bowlers just clicked together though each was great in his own way. McGrath-Warne combination was great and most of the tests Australia lost during their dominance was because one of them was not playing. It is this analysis which is the key to this era. You can add gillespie to the mix also though he was not that important. Raghav [[ This particular methodology of analyzing Australia has to be thought through. Ananth: ]]

  • Shane on April 8, 2011, 10:03 GMT

    Hi Anantha

    Interesting article. A couple of comments. You mentioned that Holding was missing when Garner and Croft debuted. I believe that was a series in late 70s against Pakistan (a very good series by the way). I remember reading the Wisden article on this series here on Cricinfo which said that Holding and Wayne Daniel was injured leading to Croft and Garner coming in. [[ If you see the graph, it is a fairly long gap. Ananth: ]]

    Also you mentioned that there very few tests where Windies played four quicks. But you are only limiting to the greats and neglecting likes of Patterson, Daniel, Clarke, Davis, etc. But on the other hand the much praised team of 1984 played three quicks (MM, MH and JG) plus medium pace of Baptiste and spin of Harper so argument about balanced attack has its merits [[ I have not forgotten anyone. It is only that these 8 were the best. And the four was out of these 8. Within that framework I am correct. Not one of the others you have mentioned comes anywhere near Croft, probably at the bottom of this ladder of greats. Ananth: ]]

  • GC on April 8, 2011, 9:05 GMT

    The Analysis has not considered the batting giants who also played a crucial role during the period from 1974 to 1994

  • Subbu on April 8, 2011, 9:03 GMT

    A good work done. It is not proper to compare 1974 with 2001. Lot of things have changed. How would the analysis were, suppose, we extend the time frame to include the Hall era?

    Subbu [[ Too many years. I had a problem with the current period of 28 years itself. Ananth: ]]

  • krishnan s s g on April 8, 2011, 8:58 GMT

    Excellent work.

  • Yasir on April 8, 2011, 8:49 GMT

    A very admirable article of statistics and analysis (both objective and subjective). After the hangover of the world cup, I felt such excitement to just read this article about test matches again. Truly great bowlers all of them as the stats show. I however, on live tv broadcasts have only seen ambrose, walsh and bishop. And these three were brilliant, especially the duel of ambrose with mark taylor's men.

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  • Yasir on April 8, 2011, 8:49 GMT

    A very admirable article of statistics and analysis (both objective and subjective). After the hangover of the world cup, I felt such excitement to just read this article about test matches again. Truly great bowlers all of them as the stats show. I however, on live tv broadcasts have only seen ambrose, walsh and bishop. And these three were brilliant, especially the duel of ambrose with mark taylor's men.

  • krishnan s s g on April 8, 2011, 8:58 GMT

    Excellent work.

  • Subbu on April 8, 2011, 9:03 GMT

    A good work done. It is not proper to compare 1974 with 2001. Lot of things have changed. How would the analysis were, suppose, we extend the time frame to include the Hall era?

    Subbu [[ Too many years. I had a problem with the current period of 28 years itself. Ananth: ]]

  • GC on April 8, 2011, 9:05 GMT

    The Analysis has not considered the batting giants who also played a crucial role during the period from 1974 to 1994

  • Shane on April 8, 2011, 10:03 GMT

    Hi Anantha

    Interesting article. A couple of comments. You mentioned that Holding was missing when Garner and Croft debuted. I believe that was a series in late 70s against Pakistan (a very good series by the way). I remember reading the Wisden article on this series here on Cricinfo which said that Holding and Wayne Daniel was injured leading to Croft and Garner coming in. [[ If you see the graph, it is a fairly long gap. Ananth: ]]

    Also you mentioned that there very few tests where Windies played four quicks. But you are only limiting to the greats and neglecting likes of Patterson, Daniel, Clarke, Davis, etc. But on the other hand the much praised team of 1984 played three quicks (MM, MH and JG) plus medium pace of Baptiste and spin of Harper so argument about balanced attack has its merits [[ I have not forgotten anyone. It is only that these 8 were the best. And the four was out of these 8. Within that framework I am correct. Not one of the others you have mentioned comes anywhere near Croft, probably at the bottom of this ladder of greats. Ananth: ]]

  • Raghav Bihani on April 8, 2011, 10:31 GMT

    Wonderful article. Very refreshing read: bringing back memories of a lost era. It is pity that Lara played after Marshall's career. If he had played alongside Viv and Marshall (10yrs earlier) for his career most of your graphs would go haywire.

    Australian dominance was team work. The batsmen and bowlers just clicked together though each was great in his own way. McGrath-Warne combination was great and most of the tests Australia lost during their dominance was because one of them was not playing. It is this analysis which is the key to this era. You can add gillespie to the mix also though he was not that important. Raghav [[ This particular methodology of analyzing Australia has to be thought through. Ananth: ]]

  • dominic on April 8, 2011, 10:38 GMT

    You are quite wrong to say that the west indies only played 4 fast bowlers in 30 tests during this period; I think you mean that some quartet of the 8 bowlers you discuss only played in 30 tests. You mention Patterson as a support bowler, but he was very fast: it wasn't Patterson plus three quicks, it was him and three other quicks. And there are several other fast bowlers you have forgotten: Daniel, Clarke, Davis, Gray, the Benjamins etc [[ I have not forgotten anyone. It is only that these 8 were the best. And the four was out of these 8. Within that framework I am correct. Ananth: ]]

  • dominic on April 8, 2011, 11:24 GMT

    But you didn't say that '4 pace bowlers' meant just 4 of the 8 you discuss. You just said '4 pace bowlers' without qualification. You need to edit the piece, which is just false as it stands. [[ I myself realized and am changing the wording. Anyhow continued use of the word "false" seems to be too accusatory a word !!! especially as all of us know what I meant. Ananth: ]]

  • Abdullah on April 8, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    Very interesting article. Specially how Marshall straddles both periods.

    On the Australian side, i think the approach should be to look at the batsman, as i believe they were the ones who set the game up for bowlers. The likes of Slater, Hayden, Gilchrist etc. introduced the concept of power cricket in test, and gave their bowlers enough time to bowl oppositions out. Much like the West Indies bowlers wouldn't have been able to win matches without their batsman, the Aussie bowlers (Warne, McGrath, Gillespie etc) also supported their batsman, but i firmly believe that the Australian domination stemmed from their batsman scoring over 350+ in a day and putting pressure on the oppositions. The period under review should be 1999 (Pak-Ind tour) to 2009 (Ashes) looking at Slater, Waugh bros, Ponting, Hayden, Langer, Martyn, Gilchrist. There is a clear succession here with only Ponting and Gilchrist being the constant in the whole period. [[ Very interesting proposition. Let us see what the others think. I also feel that the batsmen laid the foundation for the wins, effectively completed by the bowlers, unlike the West Indian teams for which the bowlers won the matches more often than not. Ananth: ]]

  • A.Ali on April 8, 2011, 13:34 GMT

    This 28 years period is also shared by great batsmen from West Indies. Great bowlers and great batsmen were the reason for their dominance. This fact is also shown in Waugh and Ponting's Australia. During 1990's Pakistan had great fast bowlers Wasim and Waqar and great spinners Mushtaq and Saqlain but Pakistan did not dominate. At present India has great batsmen but India does not dominate. To dominate you need great batting, great bowling and excellent fielding. Please show me a team which lacks in one discipline and still dominated the game. [[ This is an article about the 8 great bowers who played during the golden years of West Indian cricket. Why bring in the batsmen into this. This seems to be a problem with quite a few readers. Ananth: ]]