April 23, 2011

24 great Australians across 21-plus years

An analysis of top Australian Test batsmen and bowlers in the last two decades

Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath: won 71 out of 104 Tests played together © Getty Images

The response to the previous off-the-beaten-track article on West Indian pace bowlers was so good and the comments were so interesting that I decided to continue on a similar theme rather than move into the ODI domain. This time I have taken the Australian teams for analysis. I have read the readers' comments and have realized that I must include both batsmen and bowlers in the analysis. So this article is quite a different one to the previous one which was almost totally graphic. This one has only a single graph and many other tables.

What are the cut-off Tests? After a lot of deliberation, inspection and perusal of the readers' comments, I have decided that the golden period will start with Test no 1121, the first Ashes 1989 Test and end with Test no 1957, the second Test between New Zealand and Australia which was played during March 2010. There could be a variation of a few Tests at either end but most of the readers would agree that this really represented the golden period of Australian supremacy. Before the 1989 cut-off, Australia lost to West Indies and Pakistan. Since the 2010 cut-off, Australia have drawn the Pakistan series and lost against India and England and one can clearly see the fall.

I have selected the following 24 players who were the top Australian performers during these 22 years. Most of these players select themselves. There are 15 batsmen and 9 bowlers in this elite collection. Readers might want to add one or two to this list but I am sure none of these players will be taken out. I considered and discarded Alderman (only 70+ wickets after the cut-off), Border (since added), Reiffel (since added), Kasprowicz (quite average), Symonds (not enough batting impact), Watson (impact probably in future), Clark & Siddle (less than 100 wkts) et al.

Batsmen:

Border, Boon, Steve Waugh, Healy, Taylor, Mark Waugh, Martyn, Langer, Slater, Hayden, Ponting, Katich, Gilchrist, Clarke, Hussey.

Bowlers:

McDermott, Hughes, Reiffel, Warne, McGrath, Gillespie, MacGill, B Lee, Johnson.

First, a graphic time-line of the careers of the 14 batsmen and 7 bowlers.

Summary of careers of top Australian batsmen and bowlers © Anantha Narayanan

The timeline started with the continuation of the careers of Boon, Steve Waugh, Healy and Taylor. After a couple of years, Mark Waugh made his debut. Then came Martyn and Slater. Hayden and Ponting came in within the next couple of years. All the while the first four stalwarts continue to play. Boon retired, followed by Taylor and Healy who handed over his gloves to Gilchrist. No new batsmen came in for some time. Then Katich, Clarke and Mike Hussey took their deserved places.

McDermott started the timeline period and bowled on his own, with support from Alderman for some time. Then Warne made his, fairly ordinary, debut. Within a year McGrath made his debut, again nothing great. No one could have foreseen such wonderful careers, for both. Gillespie came after a few years. Afterwards MacGill started his interrupted, but great-in-numbers, career. Lee started with a bang, only to fade away in the second half of his career. Warne and McGrath retired on the same day, along with Langer. Johnson made his bow 4 years back and, despite some off-colour series, has performed very creditably.

Next the results summary of these 236 Tests.

Period      T   W   D   L    %

1989-2010 236 142 51 43 71.0%

1989-1994 59 27 22 10 64.4% 1995-1999 58 32 11 15 64.7% 2000-2004 59 44 7 8 80.5% 2005-2010 60 39 11 10 74.2%

Overall the Australian teams have achieved 71.0% success during these 22 years. Across three generations of players, this is outstanding and represents, arguably, the longest domination of the world scene. This has been split further into four approximately equal periods. I have not gone on players or series but rather calendar years split to get four similar sub-groups.

The 1990s have been more or less uniform with an average success % of around 64%. Half the matches have been won and a fair number drawn. There was a propensity to draw more matches during the early 1990s than later on. Defeats are fewer as are wins. Border captained during most of the first period and passed the captaincy to Mark Taylor during mid-1994. Taylor captained most of the Tests during the second period and handed over the captain's cap to Steve Waugh. Taylor was, by nature, a more aggressive captain than Border and has also acquired world-beaters as players.

Now we come to the real golden period of all. During the next 5 years, Steve Waugh captained Australia and amassed an incredible 80% success rate, despite the blip in India during 2001. Nearly three-quarter of the matches were won. Draws, as a playing option, were not offered to the opposing teams. Similar to the pattern already established, Steve Waugh passed the baton to Ponting during early 2004. There was a noticeable drop in success rate during the last period. However the 74% figure still represents strong domination of world cricket. Now that the responsibility has been passed on to Michael Clarke, the world will watch with interest how the next 5/6 years will shape up for Australia.

Now the details, viz., the batting averages and scoring rates for Australia and the opposition teams during these period.

|--------Australia----------| |-------Other Teams---------|
Period    Wkts   Runs  Avge  Balls  RpO Wkts   Runs  Avge  Balls  RpO

1989-2010 3927 134071 34.14 243382 3.31 4187 119118 28.45 240984 2.97

1989-1994 972 32138 33.06 65699 2.94 989 29117 29.44 64656 2.70 1995-1999 1009 30332 30.06 60124 3.03 992 26464 26.68 55122 2.88 2000-2004 933 34853 37.36 55419 3.77 1104 29923 27.10 58786 3.05 2005-2010 1013 36748 36.28 62140 3.55 1102 33614 30.50 62420 3.23

Across these 22 years, Australian batsmen have scored at an average of 34.14 and at an overall rate of 3.31. The opposition have scored at an average of 28.45 and a scoring rate of 2.97. This represents a differential of 20% and 15% and explains the overall success of the Australian teams.

Now the period numbers. The first period has lower numbers for both but shows a differential of 12% and 9%, just enough for the edge which has been achieved. The second period has still lower numbers all around and show differentials of 12% and only 5%. These indicate only marginal superiority.

Now comes the wonderful period when Australian batting averages moved upwards and the other team averages moved downwards. The third period showed a differential of 37% and 23%. That has translated into the phenomenal 80% success rate.

During the last period, there has been 19% and 10% differential. Looks like there is a strong correlation between these differential values and overall success rates.

Now for the special analysis on player groups. First the Bowlers groups analysis which is probably more interesting. I have identified the Bowler groups which played in all these 236 Tests and ordered these on the number of matches played. Then each of these groups has been analyzed for all relevant measures. I have excluded the one-bowler groups since these do not convey much (only one selected bowler played). I have also not shown bowler groups which played in only one Test (e-g, Warne/MacGill or McGrath/MacGill/Lee et al). The players are given in order of their debut.

The presentation itself is quite complex. It was impossible to show the bowler groups and the numbers in one line. The display would have gone past the screen. Also if the player group line and the numbers line are shown together the numbers are not clear. Hence I have separated the player line and numbers line. The group number is the common link. Readers should not forget that these are unique player groups.

 1. Warne; McGrath; Gillespie; 
 2. Warne; McGrath; Gillespie; Lee; 
 3. Warne; McGrath; Lee; 
 4. Lee; Johnson; 
 5. Warne; McGrath; Reiffel; 
 6. McDermott; Hughes; 
 7. Warne; McGrath; 
 8. McDermott; Warne; Hughes; 
 9. McDermott; Warne; McGrath; Reiffel; 
10. McGrath; MacGill; 
11. McDermott; Warne; McGrath; 
12. Warne; McGrath; MacGill; Lee; 
13. McDermott; Warne; 
14. McGrath; Gillespie; MacGill; Lee; 
15. Gillespie; MacGill; Lee; 
16. Warne; Lee; 
17. MacGill; Lee; Johnson; 
18. Warne; McGrath; Gillespie; MacGill; 
19. Warne; McGrath; Gillespie; Reiffel; 

|--- Bowler Group--| |--- Other team --|Comparisons No. T W D L % Wkts Runs Avge RpO Wkts Runs Avge RpO Avge RpO

1. 23 15 3 5 71.7 304 7344 24.16 2.68 412 10701 25.97 2.90 1.08 1.08 2. 16 10 4 2 75.0 265 7402 27.93 3.15 284 8086 28.47 3.30 1.02 1.05 3. 16 14 2 0 93.8 224 5413 24.17 2.81 311 7470 24.02 2.91 0.99 1.04 4. 13 5 3 5 50.0 111 3359 30.26 3.19 221 8141 36.84 3.31 1.22 1.04 5. 10 5 3 2 65.0 126 2775 22.02 2.50 164 4133 25.20 2.71 1.14 1.08 6. 10 4 4 2 60.0 100 2370 23.70 2.96 165 4986 30.22 3.07 1.28 1.04 7. 10 6 2 2 70.0 86 1959 22.78 2.50 173 4174 24.13 2.87 1.06 1.15 8. 9 4 2 3 55.6 105 3062 29.16 2.87 149 4632 31.09 2.90 1.07 1.01 9. 7 4 2 1 71.4 103 2867 27.83 2.57 123 3374 27.43 2.57 0.99 1.00 10. 7 3 3 1 64.3 71 1706 24.03 2.73 120 3473 28.94 2.84 1.20 1.04 11. 6 4 1 1 75.0 104 2282 21.94 2.70 120 3185 26.54 2.78 1.21 1.03 12. 6 6 0 0 100.0 106 2797 26.39 2.88 115 3169 27.56 2.97 1.04 1.03 13. 6 2 3 1 58.3 50 1512 30.24 2.79 99 3331 33.65 3.02 1.11 1.08 14. 6 5 0 1 83.3 106 2584 24.38 2.79 117 3029 25.89 2.97 1.06 1.06 15. 5 3 1 1 70.0 60 2247 37.45 3.27 88 3621 41.15 3.40 1.10 1.04 16. 4 3 0 1 75.0 44 1070 24.32 3.24 77 2133 27.70 3.33 1.14 1.03 17. 4 3 1 0 87.5 52 1661 31.94 3.19 75 2288 30.51 3.09 0.96 0.97 18. 4 2 0 2 50.0 62 1677 27.05 2.97 69 1921 27.84 3.15 1.03 1.06 19. 4 3 0 1 75.0 72 1443 20.04 2.67 74 1643 22.20 2.81 1.11 1.05

It would not surprise many that Warne, McGrath and Gillespie have played together in the maximum number of Tests as a unique group. Their 27 Tests have yielded an excellent success rate of 72%. They have been 10% and 8% better than the the entire team values. I have shown the % difference to the entire team than the other bowlers since in cases where the group has three bowlers, the rest of the team would have captured very few wickets.

However the best group with significant number of Tests is Warne, McGrath and Lee. When they played as a group, they played 16, won 14 and drew 2. However the fourth bowler also seems to have pulled his weight since the differentials are quite low.

McDermott and Warne, when they played together, have not been very successful.

Note the success rate of Warne, McGrath, MacGill and Lee. They played 6 and won all and captured 105 of the 112 wickets.

As a super-group, Warne and McGrath, played together, along with other bowlers, in no fewer than 104 Tests, won 71, drew 17 and lost 16 for an overall success rate of 76.4. Undoubtedly the most potent bowling combination in history of Test cricket.

I have since added Hughes and Reiffel. Because of this the cut-off has been increased to 4 Tests. A few new groups involving Reiffel and Hughes have been created. Readers can peruse these themselves.

The batsmen groups are less interesting since upto 7 batsmen are involved and it is not easy to visualize the groups immediately. Let us see the tables. In the bowler groups there were 1-bowler groups. Here the minimum number of batsmen in a group is 4. There are a lot more groups than for the bowlers. Hence only batsmen groups which have played in 4 test or more are selected. It should be also noted that only Batting average comparisons are done since Balls faced information is not available for about 30 of the early matches.

 1. Ponting; Katich; Clarke; Hussey; 
 2. Boon; S Waugh; Healy; Taylor; Border; 
 3. Boon; S Waugh; Healy; Taylor; M Waugh; Slater; 
 4. S Waugh; M Waugh; Martyn; Langer; Hayden; Ponting; Gilchrist; 
 5. Boon; S Waugh; Healy; Taylor; M Waugh; Slater; Border; 
 6. Boon; Healy; Taylor; M Waugh; Border; 
 7. S Waugh; Healy; Taylor; M Waugh; Ponting; 
 8. Martyn; Langer; Hayden; Ponting; Gilchrist; Katich; Clarke; 
 9. Hayden; Ponting; Katich; Clarke; Hussey; 
10. S Waugh; M Waugh; Langer; Slater; Hayden; Ponting; Gilchrist; 
11. Hayden; Ponting; Gilchrist; Clarke; Hussey; 
12. S Waugh; M Waugh; Langer; Slater; Ponting; Gilchrist; 
13. S Waugh; Martyn; Langer; Hayden; Ponting; Gilchrist; 
14. S Waugh; Healy; M Waugh; Langer; Slater; Ponting; 
15. S Waugh; Martyn; Langer; Hayden; Ponting; Gilchrist; Katich; 
16. S Waugh; Langer; Hayden; Ponting; Gilchrist; 
17. Martyn; Langer; Hayden; Ponting; Gilchrist; Clarke; 
18. S Waugh; Healy; Taylor; M Waugh; Hayden; 
19. S Waugh; Healy; Taylor; M Waugh; Langer; Slater; 
20. S Waugh; Healy; Taylor; M Waugh; Langer; Slater; Ponting; 

|Batsmen Group| |---Entire team ---| Comp No. T W D L % Ins Runs Avge Ins Runs Avge RpO Avge

1. 17 10 4 3 70.6 119 5415 45.50 283 10811 38.20 3.51 1.19 2. 15 8 6 1 73.3 123 5092 41.40 244 8900 36.48 3.03 1.13 3. 14 7 3 4 60.7 149 5620 37.72 258 7289 28.25 3.08 1.34 4. 13 9 3 1 80.8 135 6446 47.75 190 7571 39.85 3.87 1.20 5. 12 8 3 1 79.2 125 6208 49.66 164 7199 43.90 3.10 1.13 6. 12 6 5 1 70.8 105 3706 35.30 220 6597 29.99 2.87 1.18 7. 10 6 3 1 75.0 82 3271 39.89 171 5514 32.25 3.03 1.24 8. 9 3 3 3 50.0 106 3682 34.74 161 4792 29.76 3.71 1.17 9. 9 3 2 4 44.4 82 3279 39.99 169 5347 31.64 3.19 1.26 10. 7 5 0 2 71.4 77 2992 38.86 113 3688 32.64 3.39 1.19 11. 7 6 1 0 92.9 49 2600 53.06 88 4489 51.01 3.72 1.04 12. 6 6 0 0 100.0 55 2701 49.11 88 3560 40.45 3.59 1.21 13. 6 5 0 1 83.3 54 2981 55.20 82 3778 46.07 4.24 1.20 14. 6 2 2 2 50.0 54 1831 33.91 99 2570 25.96 2.74 1.31 15. 5 2 2 1 60.0 60 3014 50.23 85 3420 40.24 4.06 1.25 16. 5 5 0 0 100.0 31 1925 62.10 52 3026 58.19 3.93 1.07 17. 5 5 0 0 100.0 46 2523 54.85 70 3177 45.39 3.91 1.21 18. 4 2 0 2 50.0 35 898 25.66 74 1856 25.08 2.86 1.02 19. 4 2 1 1 62.5 42 1669 39.74 77 2191 28.45 2.96 1.40 20. 4 2 2 0 75.0 51 2304 45.18 63 2583 41.00 3.16 1.10

Border has since been added. The group which played in most Tests together is during the early years, viz., Taylor, Slater, Boon, M Waugh, S Waugh and Healy, which played together in 26 tests and had a respectable success value of 69.2%. The more recent foursome of Ponting, Katich, Clarke and Hussey has played in 17 Tests with a success rate of 70%. This number is likely to increase further. A four-some sub-set of the first group has played in 15 Tests with a higher success rate of 73.3%.

The most successful group with significant number of matches is the powerful one consisting of Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Mike Waugh, Martyn, Steve Waugh and Gilchrist which played in 13 tests and won 9 leading to a success % of 80+.

Like the bowlers, here also there is a group which achieved a 100% success rate in 6 Test matches. this group consists of Slater, Langer, Ponting, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh and Gilchrist. Couple of other groups have achieved 100% in the 5 Tests they played together.

Finally we stand in admiration, awe and wonder at the team of great players who dominated the world scene for over 22 years. No current team can ever hope to match this record. India does not have the bowlers and their batting is going to get decimated soon. South Africa lacks the spin strength, unless otherwise Imran Tahir just blazes through, to do well everywhere. Australia themselves have to find quality replacements soon. They are also unable to finish off won matches nowadays. Sri Lanka are going through a transitory phase and the future does not look that great, for most of the teams. There is going to be periodic domination by teams for periods of 2/3 years. That is all.

The Test-player matrix could not be drawn in a graphical mode in view of the huge number of players. The graph would have become very unwieldy and impossible to view. Hence I have created a viewable text file for the readers.

To view/down-load the file containing the matrix between all 24 players and the 236 Tests, to indicate which player played in which test, please click/right-click here. You could export this into an Excel sheet or view as a text file.

To view/down-load the file containing the matrix between 9 bowlers and the 236 Tests, to indicate which player played in which test, please click/right-click here. You could export this into an Excel sheet or view as a text file.

To view/down-load the file containing the matrix between 15 batsmen and the 236 Tests, to indicate which player played in which test, please click/right-click here. You could export this into an Excel sheet or view as a text file.

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

Comments