October 1, 2011

# Test teams' stay at the top: a complete re-look

A graphical analysis to measure the series records of top Test teams over the years
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A great fall-out of my Test Series analysis has been that it has provided me an alternate and very effective way of looking at the various teams' stay at the top. This has been triggered by a suggestion provided by Raghav Bihani.

I have approached this analysis with the following points in mind.

1. 4-0 wins should carry more weight than 2-1 wins.
2. Big wins (Inns/10-wkts etc) should carry more weight than narrow wins (1-wkt/20 runs etc).
3. Away results should carry more weight than home results.
4. Deciding Tests should carry more weight.
5. If a 4-Test series is pegged at 1.00, 3 & 2 Test series should carry lower weight than this and 5 & 6 Test series should carry more weight.
6. 1-Test contests are not series and have been ignored in this analysis as also the three Triangular tournaments. The reason for not including 1-Test contests is because inclusion would have a significant adverse impact on the calculations. As can be seen later the averaging across multiple series pre-supposes the need to have series performance as the base. Taking single Test performances as series performances, especially as the strength differentials are quite substantial, distorts the numbers. Anyhow there have been about 100 1-Test series and most of these involve teams in their early stages.
7. Win indices should be adjusted by relative team strengths. Stronger teams should get lower weight and weaker teams should get higher weight.

The first four of these were built into the Team analysis for Series and the last two have been rationalized with multiplying factors, suitably limited. Just to recap the series team analysis, the winning of a match gets a SIN (Series Index) value of just above 60 (for a 1-run win), upto a maximum of around 97 (for the innings and 579 run win). The losing team gets the balance, out of 100. The draws get either side of 50, depending on the nature of draw. Assigning 60+ for a win, as against, say, 55+ is to recognize Test wins in a sharp and definable manner. At the same time the team which draws the match but has been in command throughout, will get nearly 60.

In order to evaluate the results of the teams, I also have considered 10 consecutive Test Series, including the series being considered and averaged the SIN values to work out a TSIN (Ten Series Index) value. This means that for any evaluation a minimum of 10 Test series (easily 3 years) is considered. This value is determined for each series for each country and rolling values arrived at. These TSIN figures are then plotted on a graph similar to the one I had done couple of years back on batting and bowling streaks. Some of these points may not be clear now but will get clarified as we move on to the graphs.

Readers should understand that it is quite tough to get a TSIN value of 60.0 for the next 10 series for a team. 60 represents a reasonably comfortable series wins and every loss/draw/narrow-win has to be compensated within the 10 series period. Also the stronger teams are already pegged back because they are stronger and expected to do well. All this means that only four teams, viz., Australia, England, West Indies and South Africa have ever crossed 60.0 as a rolling average. The other 6 teams have never crossed 60.0 once in their history. That should put these values in perspective.

First a summary table of Series information by country.

```Team        # of Series   SIN >70   TSIN>60    Mean SIN   High TSIN

Australia        178         22        41        55.74       66.52
England          221         21        12        52.25       62.33
West Indies      121          8        10        50.50       66.06
South Africa      98          6         4        51.32       60.67
Pakistan         116          4         0        48.31       54.56
India            126          6         0        47.88       55.67
Sri Lanka         73          5         0        46.83       53.92
New Zealand      126          4         0        43.03       52.94
```

First let us look at the graph for the Australian team. Let me repeat that these are not series performances but plotted using the TSIN values. As such the stay at the top or bottom would be clearly visible. There would not be abrupt moves up and down and the trends would be obvious.

Australia's Test-series record over the years

What does one say. If you forget the initial few series, Australia have had only one really bad period, between 1982 and 1986. Hughes took over after the Packer era and did not move the world. Greg Chappell could not do much and Border took over a weakened side. The wholly unexpected World Cup 1987 triumph changed everything. Otherwise their TSIN values have almost always been above 50. But the real strength of Australians over the years has been the fact that out of the 178 series being considered in which they have TSIN values of 60 or above in 41 of the series.. They have had two real peaks, one between 1930 and 1951 and the other mind-blowing one between 1998 and 2007. Both these are expanded separately later.

West Indies' Test-series record over the years © Anantha Narayanan

West Indies have had a spectacular Manhattan structure until 2000 and then the poorer shanty towns take over. During the past 10 years, they have barely crossed 40. However their heyday was during the 1980s-90s when they had a run of 27 consecutive unbeaten series. Many teams went into Test series against West Indies during these years, considering a series draw as success. Wins were almost out of question. Maybe this defensive attitude also meant the fair number of draws. The later 25 series of this almost unparalleled period of domination is covered separately.

England's Test-series record over the years © Anantha Narayanan

England has had a fairly steady performance graph. They peaked for a spell of 12 series during 1950s and this has been covered separately. Hutton, May, Cowdrey, Compton formed an immense batting lineup. Tyson, Statham, Laker, Appleyard and Lock were formidable on any surface. Other than this they had a brief spell of 60+ TSIN values during 2002-03, with the series ending around 2005. The 1980s were the lowest point for them. Note the spike in the last series. This has been caused by their 4-0 whitewash of the Indians, which fetched them a SIN value of 79. This about 25 above their average and has given a lift-up of 2.5 or so in the TSIN value.

South Africa's Test-series record over the years © Anantha Narayanan

South Africa has had quite a few peaks and near-peaks. Look at the period just after 1962. And as soon as they returned to international cricket during 1998 they had a peak of 10 Tests during which they averaged just above 60. Then they dropped off getting to a fairly low period around 2003, probably prompted by the World Cup debacle. They have since then picked up.

India's Test-series record over the years © Anantha Narayanan

India has been just around average for over 70 years until around the turn of the century. Even then they have been averaging only around the 50-55 mark, never once putting in a sequence of 10 good series level performances. Not once have they reached a TSIN value of 60. Note the fall in the last series. This has been caused by their 4-0 loss to the Englishman, which fetched them a SIN value of only 21. This about 30 below their average and has dropped the TSIN value by around 3.0.

Pakistan's Test-series record over the years © Anantha Narayanan

Pakistan has had a similar graph to India. They had reasonably good periods between 1975 and 1995, the Imran Khan years. They were pretty badly off around 1998, then picked up but have fallen off recently. Again no steady streak. No single TSIN figure exceeding 60.0.

New Zealand's Test-series record over the years © Anantha Narayanan

New Zealand have had alternating good and bad periods. Other than for a short while during early-1980s, their best period has been either side of 1990. This period was orchestrated by Hadlee and Martin Crowe. They are badly dropping off recently.

Sri Lanka's Test-series record over the years © Anantha Narayanan

Barring the first 15 years, Sri Lanka have been fairly steady around the 50+ mark. For a fairly young team, this has been a very good level of consistency.

I have given below the four truly outstanding streaks at top of teams. The criteria is that the concerned team should have secured an average TSIN value of over 60.0 in a minimum of 10 consecutive series. I have taken trouble to find as long a streak as possible. I have also not included the 10-series streaks which have only around 60% value. The bar is higher for these minimal streaks. Looks easy and simple to get in. Let me assure you that it is a very tough criteria and only four streaks have qualified. Australia have two such streaks, West Indies has one and England had a wonderful streak during the 1950s. South Africa had 4 series with TSIN over 60, that is all. The other four teams never even had a single TSIN value of 60.0.

These four streaks have been represented in the following graph. This time the graph has been posted on the actual SIN value since we need to look the details of these series streaks.

Test-series record of top four teams © Anantha Narayanan

Australia played 28 series during 1999-2007. They won 24 of these, often by comfortable margins. The four series outside these successful ones are the 2-1 loss to India during 2001, Ashes loss by 2-1 to England during 2005, the 0-0 draw with New Zealand during 2001 and 1-1 home draw with India during 2003. It can be seen that in these four series Australia have ended with value below 50, but above 40. Australia's average SIN value during these 28 series was 64.57, an achievement which can only be understood after understanding the nuances of numbers used in this article.

West Indies' streak is the only unbeaten one in this elite group. However their 25 series average is not very high since they drew 8 of the 25 series. They also had the two white-washes against England during this streak. This 10-0 record also indicates that their other wins have been closer.

The Bradman-led Australian teams between 1930 and 1951, had a streak of 14 series during which they had an amazing average of 64.82. The only loss was the bodyline series to England and then the 1938 draw.

England had a nice 12-series streak during 1950s when they did very well. A single exception being the Ashes series of 1958-59 when they did very poorly.

Now for a numerical summary of these four streaks.

```Team        Streak Period Series Won Drawn Lost SIN avge Tests Won Drawn Lost

Australia    1999-2007      28    24   2     2   64.57     90   69   11   10
West indies  1981-1995      25    17   8     -   60.13    104   56   33   15
Australia    1930-1951      14    12   1     1   64.82     69   45   12   12
England      1954-1960      12    10   1     1   62.26     54   33   15    6
```
Which team's streak was the greatest. We can comfortably leave out the last two ones. There are not enough series and the results are not that great, although the Bradman-led streak is quite impressive. However 28 series is double the number 14 and means a lot more. Let us take the first two streaks. Australia, ever willing to take chances, playing for a win almost always, had an amazingly high winning record in these 28 series, viz., 85.7%. West Indies, had an unbeaten sequence of 27 series, the earlier two not included here since that would have got the SIN avge below 60. However many a drawn series cropped up. A not so great winning record of 68%. You can take your pick. Both teams have their many pluses and a few minuses.

My personal vote is is for the Australian streak of 28 Test series. Primarily because of the way they changed the approach to Test cricket, their conistent scoring rates well in excess of 3.50, their willingness to lose the odd series/test in their quest for a win, their more balanced bowling attack and Gilchrist. Again, let me emphasize, this is my personal preference. You need not agree, that is your prerogative. But do not criticise my selection in a negative manner. And, if these two teams face off in a 5-Test series, I will get this simulation going within the next 6 months, the result will be 3-2 for Australia on odd days and 3-2 for West Indies on even days !!!.

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi. RIP. A truly great cricketer and human being, fearless person, attacking captain, secular to the core, fielder extraordinaire, mover of Indian cricket forward in a manner no one has ever done and would have been one of the greatest Indian batsmen ever if he could have seen one ball with two eyes instead of seeing two balls with one eye. All these with no helmets, no chest pads, no arm-guards, no thigh pads and hopefully the box, if the Indian Board could have afforded one. Who can ever forget his 148 at Headingley, one of the bravest back-to-the-wall knocks ever. The images of Pataudi brought to memory the black-and-white era, the period of Guru Dutt, Richie Benaud, Waheeda Rehman, Rod Laver, Dev Anand, Pele, John Wayne, Ramanathan Krishnan, Nutan, Salim Durrani, Alfred Hitchcock, Mohd Rafi & Lata singing, Milkha Singh, Raj Kapoor, Sivaji Ganesan, James Stewart, Paul/John/George/Ringo, Prasanna/Bedi/Chandra bowling together, a collection of magical Singhs with hockey sticks et al. Everything was done for the love of doing it, for a few bags of peanuts.

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

• VJRaghunath on October 31, 2011, 6:35 GMT

Wonderful analysis and such terrific debates on the Bradman,O'Reilly era.Psychologically Bradman was a bigger factor than any two other players.He could not have been boring getting runs at the rate he did. I have read Cardus,Arlott and others talk about his footwork and placement and precision-someone who is ruthlessly efficient need not be boring at all!! When Hutton was asked to name his best England team to play Australia's best,he picked Leyland surprisingly-and explained the choice by saying he played O'Reilly best

• Meety on October 21, 2011, 22:35 GMT

I know you said you'd do a match up between the two teams, but without going into the analysis (yet), who would you select for both sides? I was driving to work yesterday & initially thought the WIndies would be hardest to select. Certainly there would be a great pacer missing out. I found the Ozzys were the hardest to select. IMO - WIndies; 1. Grenidge, 2. Haynes, 3. Lara, 4. Richards, 5. Richardson, 6. Lloyd (c), 7. Dujon, (top 7 was the easy bit - Logie, Gomes & Adams missing out. 8. Marshall, 9. Holding, 10. Ambrose, 11. Garner. 12th man: Harper/Logie. The Baggy Greens 1. Taylor (c), 2. Hayden, 3. Ponting, 4. M Waugh, 5. S Waugh, 6. Symonds, 7. Gilchrest, 8. Warne, 9. Lee, 10. Gillespie, 11. McGrath 12th: Bichel as he was just about the greatest 12th man ever! Oz is difficult as M Hussey would of only just came on the scene, I went for Symonds for the allround value. I think Oz would select different sides for different pitches, whereas the WIndies wouldn't. Tubby qualifies??

• Waspsting on October 19, 2011, 14:47 GMT

Don't know if the idea of Bradman averaging 110 against "weak" test bowling long term is unreasonable.

If Bradman had never played, wouldn't we all say that a batsman averaging 100 over 52 tests was unreasonable? - and wouldn't we all have been wrong?

Looking at Don's record in Aus 1st class cricket, there are only two teams he played against throughout his career (having played for NSW early on, and then moved to SA, he didn't play as much against either of those teams): Victoria and Queensland.

Presumably, Victoria had a better bowling attack than Queensland. Don averages 107 against Victoria and 141 against Queensland. This is from 1927-1948.

Would probably exclude the West Indies from group of "weak" attacks. Francis, Martindale and Constantine have decent records, and both Bradman and Hammond underperformed against them. Weak batting probably was their Achilles heel

• Meety on October 18, 2011, 4:44 GMT

Ananth: Top article again. I think the Oz v WIndies debate is impossible to prove. My thoughts are that if a showdown took place between the two great sides it wouldn't so much be about the rules (although no helmets would definately swing the WIndies way), but WHERE it was played, more importantly what type of PITCH. My bias is towards Oz being the better but the thought of the WIndies on an English greentop, would scare the preverbial out of me & that's despite being on the other side of the world typing on a computer. Forget Nightmare on Elm Street, you could do a horror movie titled Green Top! It would be carnage, that being said, Warney could turn it on a green top & McGrath would take wickets. I think the match up would have to take place at the Gabba (yes Ozzy territory), but I think the pace, bounce and lateral movement would be as favourable to the WIndies as anywhere else in the world, & IF, the Ozzys survived the first couple of days, Warney could turn the match late??? [[ Let us also have metches at SCG and Eden Gardens. Then again the first two days would matter but would be a more even contest. My reading is 3-2, that is all. I agree some batsmen would rather face Freddie than Malcolm/Curtley. Ananth: ]]

• Yogesh on October 17, 2011, 23:32 GMT

Thanks Ananth for the responses. Also, what i mean is that Australia lost 2-1 to Indian in 1998 and 2001 but in the former, they won a dead rubber and in the latter, a live test. So, irrespective of the victory margins in individual tests, Australia should get more points for the 2001 series loss than the 1998 one. Same for India vs Aus in 2004 and India vs Aus in 2007-08.

Also when one purely considers series performances, a 3 test series with a narrow win sandwiching 2 bad losses should get greater weight than 2 decent losses without a victory. I wonder if it is possible to assign points in a manner that will favour a live test victory in a series more than decent losses. [[ Yogesh, I feel over-complicating this will answer a few queries but the effort is not worth it. As far as I am concerned there have been no "Dead rubbers" over the past 10-12 years. Was the last Test in England a Dead rubber. It meant so much to both teams. With the Test rankings at stake, no Test is dead. The fact that Australia took off their foot on the pedal in some cases should not deter from this fact. Ananth: ]]

• Yogesh on October 16, 2011, 22:18 GMT

One of the better comments section in Cricinfo and elsewhere. The nature of Ananth's analysis means that fewer people can comment as it requires serious reading but compensated by very well thought out comments.

A small clarification : By deciding tests you mean live tests and not merely deciders. [[ As of now I have taken only the true deciders since I wanted the Test to mean equally for both teams. I understand what you mean. However a team leading 2-0 at the end of the third Test of a 5-0 series has a different motivation for the fourth Test as compared to the other team. Ananth: ]]

I was wondering if there is a way to measure series competitiveness of teams. Someone pointed out that Ind, Eng and SA had similar W/L records in the last 10 years. But i think that if one compares in how many series of the respective teams, the final test counted for something (towards winning or drawing the series), India would have a higher percentage than Eng or SA. Eng & SA won a great many series comfortably but also lost quite a few easily. India neither won nor lost a series easily. [[ The Series Index is a recent introduction and opens the way for many a critical analysis of Team performances. A single pair of numbers, allotted out of 100, is a true way of measuring the way the series went. I will look at what you have suggested. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on October 16, 2011, 16:29 GMT

Would Bradman have averaged 110 against weaklings? I dont think so

Nor do I. I was just trying to put Bradman's feats in the context of 30s cricket. The fact that he averaged 99 though his "great" contemporaries averaged 40 runs less despite facing much, much weaker attacks!

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 16, 2011, 8:00 GMT

Would Bradman have averaged 110 against weaklings? I dont think so. He did flog India,, but i would put that down to the rarity of facing weaklings. Had the weaklings been numerous, he would have lost interest after some time (of course, on an innings wise basis, before losing interest, he may have scored 100 each time). So perhaps average 100, yes, but significantly more than that, unlikely. [[ Gerry, yes above 110 was probably out of question, just as Lohmann taking a wicket at sub-10 average. Boll, my commiserations. Wales were a single kick away from winning the match. The Wallabies were outplayed. Not a great consolation, though. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on October 16, 2011, 3:57 GMT

Hammond was the opposite. He'd butcher the weaklings (not that he fared badly against the good teams), he seemed to make a point of doing so

Yeah. I think Ananth's research some months ago seemed to suggest that the BQI of attacks faced by Hammond and Hutton is far weaker than the BQI of attacks faced by Bradman!

If Bradman had played for England, he would've had many more opportunities to play more tests against Windies, India, SA and NZ! I wonder whether he'd have averaged 110!

• shrikanthk on October 16, 2011, 2:31 GMT

He said as terrible as bodyline was, one benefit of it was that it cured Bradman of his "chanceless" style of batting that was bad for the game. Absolute DRIVEL

Yep. Drivel it is. Especially when you consider that Bradman was by far the quickest run scorer in 30s cricket. The guy scored at a Strike rate in excess of 60 most of the time, in sharp contrast to "flamboyant strokemakers" like Hammond whose SRs seldom crossed 40 in Ashes test matches.

I'm amazed at the number of Englishmen who regard Bradman as "boring". How can a guy who scores 300 runs a day be boring? Batsmanship was quite defensive in the 20s/30s. Nearly as defensive as it was in the 50s/60s. Bradman was an exception and not the rule. One has to go back to the days of Trumper to find someone who scored at a comparable rate.

• VJRaghunath on October 31, 2011, 6:35 GMT

Wonderful analysis and such terrific debates on the Bradman,O'Reilly era.Psychologically Bradman was a bigger factor than any two other players.He could not have been boring getting runs at the rate he did. I have read Cardus,Arlott and others talk about his footwork and placement and precision-someone who is ruthlessly efficient need not be boring at all!! When Hutton was asked to name his best England team to play Australia's best,he picked Leyland surprisingly-and explained the choice by saying he played O'Reilly best

• Meety on October 21, 2011, 22:35 GMT

I know you said you'd do a match up between the two teams, but without going into the analysis (yet), who would you select for both sides? I was driving to work yesterday & initially thought the WIndies would be hardest to select. Certainly there would be a great pacer missing out. I found the Ozzys were the hardest to select. IMO - WIndies; 1. Grenidge, 2. Haynes, 3. Lara, 4. Richards, 5. Richardson, 6. Lloyd (c), 7. Dujon, (top 7 was the easy bit - Logie, Gomes & Adams missing out. 8. Marshall, 9. Holding, 10. Ambrose, 11. Garner. 12th man: Harper/Logie. The Baggy Greens 1. Taylor (c), 2. Hayden, 3. Ponting, 4. M Waugh, 5. S Waugh, 6. Symonds, 7. Gilchrest, 8. Warne, 9. Lee, 10. Gillespie, 11. McGrath 12th: Bichel as he was just about the greatest 12th man ever! Oz is difficult as M Hussey would of only just came on the scene, I went for Symonds for the allround value. I think Oz would select different sides for different pitches, whereas the WIndies wouldn't. Tubby qualifies??

• Waspsting on October 19, 2011, 14:47 GMT

Don't know if the idea of Bradman averaging 110 against "weak" test bowling long term is unreasonable.

If Bradman had never played, wouldn't we all say that a batsman averaging 100 over 52 tests was unreasonable? - and wouldn't we all have been wrong?

Looking at Don's record in Aus 1st class cricket, there are only two teams he played against throughout his career (having played for NSW early on, and then moved to SA, he didn't play as much against either of those teams): Victoria and Queensland.

Presumably, Victoria had a better bowling attack than Queensland. Don averages 107 against Victoria and 141 against Queensland. This is from 1927-1948.

Would probably exclude the West Indies from group of "weak" attacks. Francis, Martindale and Constantine have decent records, and both Bradman and Hammond underperformed against them. Weak batting probably was their Achilles heel

• Meety on October 18, 2011, 4:44 GMT

Ananth: Top article again. I think the Oz v WIndies debate is impossible to prove. My thoughts are that if a showdown took place between the two great sides it wouldn't so much be about the rules (although no helmets would definately swing the WIndies way), but WHERE it was played, more importantly what type of PITCH. My bias is towards Oz being the better but the thought of the WIndies on an English greentop, would scare the preverbial out of me & that's despite being on the other side of the world typing on a computer. Forget Nightmare on Elm Street, you could do a horror movie titled Green Top! It would be carnage, that being said, Warney could turn it on a green top & McGrath would take wickets. I think the match up would have to take place at the Gabba (yes Ozzy territory), but I think the pace, bounce and lateral movement would be as favourable to the WIndies as anywhere else in the world, & IF, the Ozzys survived the first couple of days, Warney could turn the match late??? [[ Let us also have metches at SCG and Eden Gardens. Then again the first two days would matter but would be a more even contest. My reading is 3-2, that is all. I agree some batsmen would rather face Freddie than Malcolm/Curtley. Ananth: ]]

• Yogesh on October 17, 2011, 23:32 GMT

Thanks Ananth for the responses. Also, what i mean is that Australia lost 2-1 to Indian in 1998 and 2001 but in the former, they won a dead rubber and in the latter, a live test. So, irrespective of the victory margins in individual tests, Australia should get more points for the 2001 series loss than the 1998 one. Same for India vs Aus in 2004 and India vs Aus in 2007-08.

Also when one purely considers series performances, a 3 test series with a narrow win sandwiching 2 bad losses should get greater weight than 2 decent losses without a victory. I wonder if it is possible to assign points in a manner that will favour a live test victory in a series more than decent losses. [[ Yogesh, I feel over-complicating this will answer a few queries but the effort is not worth it. As far as I am concerned there have been no "Dead rubbers" over the past 10-12 years. Was the last Test in England a Dead rubber. It meant so much to both teams. With the Test rankings at stake, no Test is dead. The fact that Australia took off their foot on the pedal in some cases should not deter from this fact. Ananth: ]]

• Yogesh on October 16, 2011, 22:18 GMT

One of the better comments section in Cricinfo and elsewhere. The nature of Ananth's analysis means that fewer people can comment as it requires serious reading but compensated by very well thought out comments.

A small clarification : By deciding tests you mean live tests and not merely deciders. [[ As of now I have taken only the true deciders since I wanted the Test to mean equally for both teams. I understand what you mean. However a team leading 2-0 at the end of the third Test of a 5-0 series has a different motivation for the fourth Test as compared to the other team. Ananth: ]]

I was wondering if there is a way to measure series competitiveness of teams. Someone pointed out that Ind, Eng and SA had similar W/L records in the last 10 years. But i think that if one compares in how many series of the respective teams, the final test counted for something (towards winning or drawing the series), India would have a higher percentage than Eng or SA. Eng & SA won a great many series comfortably but also lost quite a few easily. India neither won nor lost a series easily. [[ The Series Index is a recent introduction and opens the way for many a critical analysis of Team performances. A single pair of numbers, allotted out of 100, is a true way of measuring the way the series went. I will look at what you have suggested. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on October 16, 2011, 16:29 GMT

Would Bradman have averaged 110 against weaklings? I dont think so

Nor do I. I was just trying to put Bradman's feats in the context of 30s cricket. The fact that he averaged 99 though his "great" contemporaries averaged 40 runs less despite facing much, much weaker attacks!

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 16, 2011, 8:00 GMT

Would Bradman have averaged 110 against weaklings? I dont think so. He did flog India,, but i would put that down to the rarity of facing weaklings. Had the weaklings been numerous, he would have lost interest after some time (of course, on an innings wise basis, before losing interest, he may have scored 100 each time). So perhaps average 100, yes, but significantly more than that, unlikely. [[ Gerry, yes above 110 was probably out of question, just as Lohmann taking a wicket at sub-10 average. Boll, my commiserations. Wales were a single kick away from winning the match. The Wallabies were outplayed. Not a great consolation, though. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on October 16, 2011, 3:57 GMT

Hammond was the opposite. He'd butcher the weaklings (not that he fared badly against the good teams), he seemed to make a point of doing so

Yeah. I think Ananth's research some months ago seemed to suggest that the BQI of attacks faced by Hammond and Hutton is far weaker than the BQI of attacks faced by Bradman!

If Bradman had played for England, he would've had many more opportunities to play more tests against Windies, India, SA and NZ! I wonder whether he'd have averaged 110!

• shrikanthk on October 16, 2011, 2:31 GMT

He said as terrible as bodyline was, one benefit of it was that it cured Bradman of his "chanceless" style of batting that was bad for the game. Absolute DRIVEL

Yep. Drivel it is. Especially when you consider that Bradman was by far the quickest run scorer in 30s cricket. The guy scored at a Strike rate in excess of 60 most of the time, in sharp contrast to "flamboyant strokemakers" like Hammond whose SRs seldom crossed 40 in Ashes test matches.

I'm amazed at the number of Englishmen who regard Bradman as "boring". How can a guy who scores 300 runs a day be boring? Batsmanship was quite defensive in the 20s/30s. Nearly as defensive as it was in the 50s/60s. Bradman was an exception and not the rule. One has to go back to the days of Trumper to find someone who scored at a comparable rate.

• Waspsting on October 15, 2011, 20:56 GMT

@Boll - (Aus sans Bradman vs Aus sans Grimmett/O'Reilly) vs Eng between 30-38 is a bit like comparing living with serious heart damage to living with serious brain damage against living healthily. Either way, England would have comfortably come up ahead.

Wally made some amazingly nonsensical comments about Bradman - along with healthy (and well deserved) praise. He said as terrible as bodyline was, one benefit of it was that it cured Bradman of his "chanceless" style of batting that was bad for the game. Absolute DRIVEL, has to be read to be believed. Guess he couldn't stand to not take a shot at his greatest rival.

@Gerry - yeah, that was a bad example. Maybe Viv Richards is a better one - he was as likely to have an amazing run against good attacks as he was bad. Just depended on his form, more so than the quality of the bowling. Hammond was the opposite. He'd butcher the weaklings (not that he fared badly against the good teams), he seemed to make a point of doing so.

• Boll on October 15, 2011, 7:42 GMT

@Waspsting. re.`Have never known what to make of the remarkable percentage of bowleds in Bowes' wickets collection`.

I would imagine he bowled fairly straight.

• Boll on October 15, 2011, 6:36 GMT

Similarly, after Grimmett`s controversial exclusion, Chuck Fleetwood-Smith played 7 tests in the 1936/7 and 1938 series, taking 33 wickets at 36 - very similar to Grimmett`s figures vs England that decade (59 in 13 at 33). Obviously, Australia would have suffered greatly without O`Reilly/Grimmett, but there were some acceptable (spin-bowling) alternatives also of test-match standard.

re. Victor Richardson`s comments on Bradman. To put it mildly, they just weren`t the best of mates...

re. Sir(sic) Walter Hammond. I can only assume I was thinking of that other great cricketing knight, Sir Walter Raleigh!?

Cheers, and GO THE WALLABIES! [[ Having readers from either side of the Tasman sea, I don't have strong views. I hope for your sake, the Wallabies win. Either way there will be a million broken hearts, as in Wales today. However my whole-hearted support in the Final is is for the All Blacks or Wallabies. Ananth: ]]

• Boll on October 15, 2011, 6:15 GMT

Answer: Obviously Don. Bill and Clarrie should have spent a bit of cash and put up some bloody netting to start with.

On a slightly more serious note, you`re quite right that Australia`s bowling stocks during the 30s were in rather short supply - but primarily in the pace department. Australia`s depth in spinners was excellent. Apart from O`Reilly and Grimmett, the obvious standouts, Bert Ironmonger took 74 wickets at 18 between 1928 and 1932. Admittedly he only played 4 tests vs England in the 1930s (Bodyline, where he played 2 tests with both O`Reilly and Grimmett, and 2 with O`Reilly alone). 15 wickets at 27 in those 4 tests suggest he was a very adequate replacement. He was aged 50 at the time, so admittedly he wasn`t exactly a long-term proposition.

• Boll on October 15, 2011, 5:57 GMT

@Waspsting. No worries mate. Yes, i find myself reading back over old posts of mine sometimes and thinking `blimey, I didn`t mean it to sound that harsh!` No worries at all - apart from your arrogance in daring to disagree with me of course.

It`s all very well for Bill and Clarrie to be munching away on their oranges (while taking a bite of the occasional apple), and The Don to be eating handfuls of Granny Smiths. However, these aren`t distinct/separate events as you suggest. Remember, they`re all working together to achieve a common end(win the match) - or in this case, presumably to eat all the fruit in the greengrocer`s.

Perhaps a better, fruit related analogy, would be to consider orchardists, working to produce the best crop possible. Bill and Clarrie are responsible for building scarecrows and frightening away the birds. The Don is the best weeder and pruner in the business. Who`s more responsible for producing the bumper harvest?

• shrikanthk on October 15, 2011, 4:51 GMT

agree about the English attack of 38. Bowes and Verity seem to have done ok anyway, but the poor sods of English bowlers in the 30s all had their stats ruined by Bradman

Despite Bradman's presence, their averages are still excellent.

The English bowling resources in the early 30s were quite rich. Larwood, Voce, Bowes, Farnes, Clarke, Gubby Allen, Tate (getting old though), Verity, Freeman, Wright, Hammond...the list goes on. All of them did a decent job at the highest level. Australia had nothing comparable, besides O'Reilly and Grimmett!

Have never known what to make of the remarkable percentage of bowleds in Bowes' wickets collection

He even clean bowled Bradman several times, I think. Bowes wasn't quick. Hutton says he was just fast-medium. Don't know who the modern equivalent is. Maybe a watered down version of McGrath (probably 5km/hr slower than McGrath?).

Verity is pure class though. Arguably the greatest English spinner ever.

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 15, 2011, 1:41 GMT

On Kallis vs Tendulkar, Waspsting, these are just perceptions. Ananth helped us move past this long ago. Against Group 5, Tendulkar averaged 39, and Kallis 43. Ananth may make improvements to his methodology, but i dont expect this to change much. So i disagree.

• Waspsting on October 14, 2011, 18:43 GMT

@Shri (who I banter with anyway) - agree about the English attack of 38. Bowes and Verity seem to have done ok anyway, but the poor sods of English bowlers in the 30s all had their stats ruined by Bradman.

Have never known what to make of the remarkable percentage of bowleds in Bowes' wickets collection.

Out of 68 wickets - - 37 were bowled - 4 more LBW - 27 caught.

Does anyone know what to make of this? [[ Does the following table, part of my overall macro analysis of Test cricket throw any light.

5. Dismissals analysis 1 (Bowled - % and per match) Period Bowled Wkts % of Tot Bow/Mtch Pre-WW1 1639 4301 38.1 12.2 WW1-WW2 1205 3998 30.1 8.6 40s-50s 1774 6089 29.1 8.5 1960s 1449 5546 26.1 7.8 1970s 1268 5866 21.6 6.4 1980s 1489 7504 19.8 5.6 1990s 1784 10203 17.5 5.1 2000-2004 1230 7376 16.7 4.9 2005-2011 1362 7799 17.5 5.3 All Tests 13200 58682 22.5 6.6

Note the high % of bowled dismissals before WW2. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on October 14, 2011, 18:09 GMT

Boll, I'm enjoying this discussion and with your permission (and Ananth's, of course), I'd like to feel free to engage in banter as we chat.

I ask because I know that playful, fun jokes can easily look like nasty, rude insults over an on-line discussion. [[ I feel mild sarcasm will always come into discussions like this and no one should bother. Example, Lillee's wicket tally in India is a big fat 0. I know all of us have mutual respect for each other and that would always be at the background of any such situations. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on October 14, 2011, 18:05 GMT

" I`ll leave it to Sir Walter Hammond, Bradman`s great rival ...`If I were choosing a side out of all the cricketers who have ever lived, I would put Bradman`s name down first. None of us had the measure of him and that`s the plain fact.`"

First off, Wally wasn't a knight.

Second, I'll leave it to Vic Richardson post 1930 tour...'We could have played any team in the world without Bradman, but we couldn't have beaten a blind team without Grimmett'

Third, again CONTEXT. I'd pick Bradman first too, knowing I can get to Lillee, Warne, Murali when I get to them, no problem.

If picking Bradman first meant I'm stuck with Sievers, Nagel, Fairfax and Ward for my bowlers... then I'd think twice. As would Hammond, probably.

"I strongly believe that the 1930s were Bradman`s and that he, more than any 2 others, was the difference."

Thats fine. I disagree, but its like Lara vs Tendulkar - whichever side your on, you can understand the other.

(continued)

• Waspsting on October 14, 2011, 17:50 GMT

@Boll - " I don`t understand why my provision of `impressive` statistics is somehow `IRRELEVANT` (your shout) to the debate"

John ate 10 apples and Joe ate 7 oranges. John's apple eating has nothing to do with about Joe's orange eating and vice versa, in the same way Bradman's batting has nothing to do with O'Reilly/Grimmett's bowling and vice-versa. Irrelevant.

"If not Bradman at No.3, then whom? No O`Reilly? - who would have replaced him? As yet, you have provided only speculation to support your claim."

See few posts above where I ouline the stats of the BEST bowlers other than Grimmett/O'Reilly. Assume any replacements would be worse than the WORST bowlers who actually played. The replacements for O'Reilly/Grimmett come to... people who'd have negligible effect on the match.

(continued)

• Boll on October 14, 2011, 15:22 GMT

In a period often remembered for Australian dominance, minus the `blip` which was Bodyline, I must admit the win/loss record staggered me.

1930s Aus vs Eng: Played 24, Aus won 9, Eng won 9, 6 draws.

Obviously the Bodyline series, 4-1 to England and easily the most dominant win of the decade, evens things up considerably. Pertinent to my recent posts however, it was also one of only 2 series in which Grimmett (dropped for the last 2 tests after 5 wickets at 65 in the first 3), Bradman (injured for the 1st), and O`Reilly (typically excellent with 27 wickets at 27) played together. For 2 tests Aus actually played 3 frontline spin bowlers, with Ironmonger collecting 15 wickets in 4 games, at 27 apiece.

None of them, nor McCabe`s innings for the ages, made a difference.

In the other 4 series played in that decade Bradman averaged a staggering 106, and almost exactly 100 runs each time he batted. Mental disintegration? - imagine running in to bowl to that.

• Waspsting on October 14, 2011, 14:50 GMT

@Gerry - you can see Bradman's psychological influence in the story that Hammond declared at the small matter of 903 only after it was confirmed that the Don wouldn't bat!

On hearing of Grimmett's omission, Gubby Allen commented that the Aus selectors must be mad.

Psychologically, there are batsman like Tendulkar, who can average 30 at home against NZ one month and 81 away against SA the next. Then there are the Jacques Kallis', who absolutely thrive on weak bowling and would never spare it for "psychological" reasons.

The Eng batsman of the time, particularly Hammond, were much more of the Kallis mentality.

If we take the Aus attack sans O'Reilly/Grimmett to be akin to modern Bangladesh or 50s India, how delighted would they have been to come across such an attack?

The prospect of not bowling to Bradman is a huge mental boost. The prospect of facing an attack that opens with Stan McCabe and has no great spinners is about the same.

• shrikanthk on October 14, 2011, 14:48 GMT

although the bowling resources were not great (Farnes/Bowes/Verity

Ananth: You have high standards. Farnes/Bowes/Verity is as good a bowling attack as you'll get in Pre-war cricket! There's no doubt in my mind that England of the 30s had one of the best all-round attacks in pre-war cricket history. The fact that Bradman averaged 80+ against them speaks volumes of his class.

Farnes : One of the fastest bowlers of his era. Fine career record, albeit brief.

Bowes : A very intelligent fast-medium bowler. Test avg of 22 and FC avg of 16.

Verity : One of the greatest spinners who has ever lived! Period. I'd think hard before placing any spinner ahead of Verity (that includes even Warne, Murali and O'Reilly). The best FC average of all time (14 per wicket). A test avg of 24 in the era of Bradman and flat wickets!

Verity also made my all-time favourite quote by a cricketer:

The best length is the shortest you can bowl and still get the batsman playing forward

Priceless!

• Boll on October 14, 2011, 14:41 GMT

@Waspsting. In defence of my contention that Australia`s pre-war record had more to do with Bradman than O`Reilly/Grimmett I give you this.

Aus vs Eng 1930-1938 (24 tests)

Bradman: Played: 23, 3372 runs at 96.34 (Captained 9 tests) Grimmett: Played: 13, 59 wickets at 33, SR 91 O`Reilly: Played: 19, 102 wickets at 25, SR 77

Innings averages

Bradman: 91 runs O`Reilly: 38 overs! 3-76 Grimmett: 38 overs! 2.5-81

@Ananth. re.`This particular thread made me look beyond Bradman`. I can assure you that Australians well remember the brilliance of players such as McCabe, Grimmett, Woodfull and O`Reilly (one of the truly great bowlers of all-time), but I`ll leave it to Sir Walter Hammond, Bradman`s great rival ...`If I were choosing a side out of all the cricketers who have ever lived, I would put Bradman`s name down first. None of us had the measure of him and that`s the plain fact.`

I strongly believe that the 1930s were Bradman`s and that he, more than any 2 others, was the difference.

• Waspsting on October 14, 2011, 14:22 GMT

@Shri - your probably right about '38. Sans O'Reilly, the England 1st innings totals would have been much bigger, putting more pressure on Aus, but it would also have taken up more time. In a 4 day test, I'd guess Bradman and co. could have saved those matches.

@Ananth - when considering replacements, I go by the general idea that the replacement would have done worse than the guys in the regular team. Since the regulars took 1-108, 0-64, 4-153 and 0-142 while O'Reilly took 3-164, I suspect any replacement would have done considerably worse in the 1st test, '38.

Over the whole period, the picture looks even worse for Aus bowling. McCormick averaged 31, Fleetwood-Smith 36 and Wall 42. And that is THE VERY BEST of them - leaving aside Ebeling, Fairfax, Ward, Sievers, Nash and others no one remembers.

This is an attack, which minus O'Reilly/Grimmett is about as strong as modern day Bangladesh or 1950s India - and they were up against a very powerful Eng batting line up. (cont)

• Boll on October 14, 2011, 13:53 GMT

@Waspsting. Necessarily we make judgement calls, subjective decisions, based on our experiences. However, we must also support these objectively - in cricket (more easily than in some other sports) by runs scored, wickets or catches taken, matches won or lost. In this instance, I don`t understand why my provision of `impressive` statistics is somehow `IRRELEVANT` (your shout) to the debate.

We are discussing specific players, in a specific time-frame, against a particular opponent. Surely their individual statistics in that period are worthy of mention? As Ananth astutely noted, when discussing the match-changing impact of certain players on a particular team, their likely replacements are also important considerations. If not Bradman at No.3, then whom? No O`Reilly? - who would have replaced him?

As yet, you have provided only speculation to support your claim.

• Boll on October 14, 2011, 13:28 GMT

@Waspsting. re."pre-war Aus record probably had more to do with O'Reilly (and Grimmett) than Bradman". Yeah, I`m well aware that this was the starting point/context of the discussion.

Surely when taking such a position though, a whole range of factors must come ito consideration. Amongst these are; batsman/bowler, batting position, opening/change bowler, fielding position, leadership role. To discuss these very general aspects of the game does not create a new context, it merely casts a broader light on the specific context at hand.

As you note, to even argue the point, we must indulge in speculation - not something new to readers of this site. Whenever we attempt to compare players or teams from different eras, or select all-time XIs, we are doing exactly that. As we all know, it`s part of the fun. Similarly, when comparing players from the same era, or even the same team, as in this case.

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 14, 2011, 9:03 GMT

Life is boring. Here goes...Eliminating weak teams (Z, BD) and taking only common teams, Tendulkar, Dravid and Ponting have the following averages: 51.4, 52.9, 53.4.

The teams included are England, NZ, South Africa, Pakistan, West Indies and Sri Lanka. Total runs scored are 10k, 9.2k and 10k.

Ponting has highest average and strike rate.

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 14, 2011, 5:58 GMT

In 1938, England must have been terrified about what Bradman might do to them remembering his 1936-37 exploits. If Bradman had been absent, England would have started with a massive psychological advantage. [[ One thing is ertain. If there had been no Bradman, all series would have been like this. However England might also have remembered 1932-33, although the bowling resources were not great (Farnes/Bowes/Verity). Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on October 14, 2011, 2:07 GMT

Wasp: I'm not sure about your speculation on the 1938 series result under the two scenarios....

Sans O'Reilly, I think the series result would've been 0-2 in favour of England

Sans Bradman, it would've been 0-4 as you rightly point out.

Even without O'Reilly, Bradman's batting would've saved them the first two four-day tests. [[ These "what if"s are fraught with dangers. Sans Bradman or sans O'Reilly does not mean an absence but a replacement. In Bradman's case the shortfall might be as high as 60 runs per innings. In O'Reilly's case probably 2 wickets per innings. These two are not that far apart, taking around 30 runs per wicket as a thumb-rule. First Test was drawn through efforts of McCabe (4), Bradman(3) and Brown (3). O'Reilly's substitute could not have done worse than 3 for 164. Second Test was drawn through Brown (4) Bradman (3) and O'Reilly (1 in batting). Third Test was won by Bradman (3), O'Reilly (4), Fleetwood-Smith (2). Fourth Test might have been drawn with Bradman batting. Was it timeless. If so, most probably not. Nothing can be derived from above. On balance O'Reilly contributions seem to be more than Bradman's.

Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on October 13, 2011, 21:05 GMT

@Boll - the context of this Bradman and O'Reilly/Grimmett discussion was set with the statement -

"pre-war Aus record probably had more to do with O'Reilly (and Grimmett) than Bradman".

That's the context.

NOT the (obvious) view that bowlers play a more decisive role than batsman. NOT whose stats are more "impressive".

If we change the context, we'd probably agree, but since you entered the discussion, this is the context you got YOURSELF INTO, and are dealing with.

Your correct statements about "impressiveness" and difficulties of comparing bowlers to batsmen are IRRELEVANT to what Shri and I were talking about.

Looking at the scorecards, I'd SPECULATE that sans O'Reilly/Grimmett, Eng vs Aus in 30, 32, 34, 36 and 38 would have ended, 1-1, 5-0, 4-0, 3-2, and 4-0

Sans Bradman for the the same series' - 1-1, 5-0, 1-2, 4-1, 4-0 .

in other words, minus Bradman, Australia win 1, draw 1 and lose 3.

Minus O'Reilly/Grimmett, Australia win 0,draw 1 and lose 4. [[ I noticed the subtle change in Boll's argument as WS has pointed out very nicely. But this is fun. There is no malice in any of you and the arguments only enrich our own knowledge. This particular thread made me look beyond Bradman. Ananth: ]]

• Boll on October 12, 2011, 17:21 GMT

@Waspsting, re.`@Boll - which of the Ashes series between 30 and 38 do you think Australia would not have lost sans O'Reilly/Grimmett? I don't see anything.`

First of all, you`re placing the contribution of 2 bowlers(out of 5) vs the contribution of 1 batsman (out of 11).

Secondly, the COMBINED contributions of O`Reilly and Grimmett in the Ashes series of 1930, 1932/3, 1934, 1936/7, 1938 are simply not as impressive as Bradman`s.

1930: Bradman (974 runs at 139), Grimmett (29 wickets at 32), O`Reilly (doesn`t play a test).

1932/3: Bradman (396 runs at 57), Grimmett and O`Reilly ( 32 wickets at 33)

1934: Bradman (758 runs at 95), Grimmett and O`Reilly (53 wickets at 26)

1936/7: Bradman (810 runs at 90), O`Reilly (25 wickets at 22), Grimmett (doesn`t play)

1938: Bradman (434 runs at 108), O`Reilly (22 wickets at 28), Grimmett (doesn`t play)

So, in 3 of the series you mention only 1 of the spinners was playing. In the other 2, Bradman`s contribution was at least as significant.

• Boll on October 12, 2011, 16:28 GMT

@Dr.Talha. Yes, my mistake. India didn`t defeat all teams at home during that period. I still find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with Ruchir though, that `The Indian team in the 90s was an excellent team at home`. Significantly, over the last 25 years only Australia has a better home record.

The difficulties sub-continental teams have often found winning away, is the reason they are not represented here. However, there`s no reason that should detract from home records which have been the envy of all but the greatest sides.

• Muhammad Abubakar Babar on October 12, 2011, 6:23 GMT

Very informative, detailed and logical analysis. I like it.

• Raghav Bihani on October 11, 2011, 15:09 GMT

@ Ananth: eagerly awaiting some more from you on this analysis. [[ Raghav I have looked at this carefully. I am not going to be able to do this as an add-on to this analysis. Too many graphs and a possibly different method of presentation. Double colour to represent home and away or either side of x-axis. I think it deserves a separate article. Ananth: ]]

A slightly different thought. Many comments here that a team played against weak teams and that has boosted performance figures. I feel that the best teams are always playing good opposition. It is playing against these good teams which makes them improve.

Australia did not play BANG, SL and ZIM for a long time yet have excellent performance indicators. They were competitive and good because they played good teams. Contrast that IND frequently playing ZIM, NZ, SL in the 90s and not having a great team. As soon as they started playing AUS, PAK and SA more often they improved a lot themselves. Evident from the rise of India in the 2000s, away especially.

• Ruchir on October 11, 2011, 14:51 GMT

[[What is the use of comparing a team which West Indies drew against in '86 with a team Australia lost against in '98]]

You tell me!! I definitely did not start that thread of discussion :-) I agree its a pointless comparison

There are only 2 conclusions you can draw based on results

- Imran's team in the 80s was the 2nd best team in the world - The Indian team in the 90s was an excellent team at home

Anything else based on who they played and who missed what series is hypothetical

• big joe on October 11, 2011, 14:22 GMT

@Ruchir..for every team to be called invincibles at home , the bigger teams should be touring that country atleast once in four years. By bigger teams of the 80's and 90's i mean Windies, Pak, SA and Aus. Windies toured india just once between (1988-2002) in 14 years. N that time also india couldnt beat them. Not only ambrose was missing but their regular captain Richardson was also not in the team, plus all the greats had also recently retired.

my best friend's mom makes \$77 an hour on the computer. She has been out of job for 9 months but last month her check was \$7487 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read about it here, LazyCash5. com

• Rehan on October 11, 2011, 13:52 GMT

This may have already been covered, but I feel that giving more weight to 5 and 6 match series is unfair, as a team like Sri Lanka for example has never played in a test series that long. [[ I am sure you would be the first to agree that a 5-0 win a 5-test series is a greater effort than a 2-0 in 2-test series. For that matter the other teams would have played many a 3-test or 2-test series, Ananth: ]]

• Dr. Talha on October 11, 2011, 4:58 GMT

@Ruchir..for every team to be called invincibles at home , the bigger teams should be touring that country atleast once in four years. By bigger teams of the 80's and 90's i mean Windies, Pak, SA and Aus. Windies toured india just once between (1988-2002) in 14 years. N that time also india couldnt beat them. Not only ambrose was missing but their regular captain Richardson was also not in the team, plus all the greats had also recently retired. Pak never toured india between (1987-1999)in 12 years,n both the times india couldnt beat them. SA toured india just once in 1990's, which they lost but then defeated india badly 3 years later in 2000(2-0). Aus Toured india after 10 years in 1996 for just one test. They last toured in 1986(1-1). Talking about Eng, they even lost to SL very weak team in 1993(1-0). They were horrible in sub continent conditions.Imran' team remained unbeaten for 13 years at home, n during that time every big team toured pak after 4 years.(exc SA)

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 11, 2011, 3:51 GMT

Ruchir, perhaps you are right. But let us get back to the starting point. What is the use of comparing a team which West Indies drew against in '86 with a team Australia lost against in '98?

Secondly, even if we must discuss an irrelevant comparison to the conclusion, hypothetically, if you were to pick one of Imran's '86 team and Azharuddin's '98 team to face the West Indies (with full strength bowling, not like Taylor's '98 team, with no fast bowlers), would you really pick Azhar's team based on statistics?

• Tom on October 10, 2011, 16:56 GMT

The author of this really needs to get out more! [[ What concern !!! Don't worry. I do get out often. Anyhow, at my age, I would prefer to stay back at home. Ananth: ]]

• Ruchir on October 10, 2011, 15:06 GMT

@Gerry_the_Merry

The Zimbabwe series as far as i remember was a 1 match affair. We beat Eng 3-0 and SL 3-0. Eng had a pretty good batting lineup. I think a brown/whitewash is a pretty big achievement whether at home or away. And the AUS/SA sides we beat in 98 and 96 were the top teams in the world at the time. Definitely not ordinary

[[WI in 1994 did not include Ambrose]] OK. What can the Indian team do about that? That is like saying England's 4-0 drubbing is somehow less impressive because Zaheer did not play

• Ruchir on October 10, 2011, 14:44 GMT

[[so how can say india were invincible at home in 1990's, when 3 of the best teams never toured india.]]

SA toured india in 96 and lost 2-1. AUS came in 98 and lost 2-1 India were undefeated at home in the 90s. No other team, not even AUS were unbeaten in a series at home in the 90s.

That does not mean India were better than AUS in the 90s. I think all Boll is saying is that India at home in the 90s were a very strong side and the results bear that out

And Sri Lanka are a very good side at home. Is there any doubt about that?

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 10, 2011, 14:02 GMT

Ananth: your response to Shrikanthk - Pak v/s West Indies BQI 27.25, with Qadir / Tauseef 51 overs.

I have mentioned this earlier, but each time it has got lost because i mixed up too many observations or that a new article came and the old discussion got washed away.

In computing BQI, are are using 1) CTD / recent performance averages and 2) actual overs bowled in the innings by different bowlers. 1) is an expectation. 2) is an incidence.

The following type of distortion creeps in: In Calcutta test of 2001, Laxman's 59 is against BQI of 25, but 281 is against 29.5. Had Laxman scored 300, and a few more overs been bowled by part timers, he would have slid to group 4, which would be terrible, for such a great innings.

I strongly recommend that for 2) also, you use expected values - e.g. CTD balls/innings bowled for bowlers. It will stabilize BQI within a match. Conceptually also, it is stronger, as it is pure expectation, rather than a hybrid of expectation and actual. [[ Gerry I have not completed the BQI work and was not going to blindly take the actual balls bowled. Your key mails have been stored and I would certainly have taken cognizance of your astute observations. In fact my initial analysis was based on the bowling averages only. It was only to take care of the Imran Khan situation that I took the actual balls bowled. That type of situation, that of a pure bowler playing only as a batsman still has to be taken care of. Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 10, 2011, 12:21 GMT

Boll, i am afraid that you have taken aggregates at face value, on the matter of the Indian team's invincibility at home. We beat pretty ordinary sides, and this included 3-0 against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. Agree with every word said by Dr Talha. WI in 1994 did not include Ambrose.

• Dr. Talha on October 10, 2011, 6:18 GMT

@BOLL..If u are cosidering a period of 14 years n saying that india beat every team atleast once than i think u should also say that srilanka has a very good home side as well, because they have also beaten every team in a period of 14 years (1997-2011. They even beat pak (2009) which india NEVER DID!! Get your records right Mr. Boll! When did india beat Pak between 1988-2002??? What i m saying is that from 1987 to 1996 Pak, Aus, SA never toured india. so how can say india were invincible at home in 1990's, when 3 of the best teams never toured india. Only Windies toured with a depleted side in 1994 n india couldnt even beat them. So whom did india beat to be called invincibles???????

• Drive Thru on October 9, 2011, 17:28 GMT

When are you going to produce a list of lists—devoid of context and meaning it would make a great read . You can choose criteria like number of user comments, number of comments minus number of comments from one user etc. I am sure it would invite lots of comments from usual suspects.

• Boll on October 9, 2011, 13:41 GMT

@Chetan Asher. Ah, welcome to the site mate. Who was it that said ignorance and bigotry would get you nowhere? I suggest you follow Ananth`s advice and peddle it elsewhere. [[ Boll, Unfortunately very knowledgeable cricket followers use the cheat word frequently little realizing that the days of Vishwanath in Indian cricket have all long gone past. The main reason is the media. At the end of the ODI match in which India tied the match through a stroke of good fortune, at least three TV channles were beaming variations of the theme "Ïndia robbed/cheated". They forgot that if Bopara had hit the ball either side of the fielder by a yard or played the ball defensively or scored a single or played and missed, England would have won. Everything is hyped up: both the defeats and losses and everything in between Ananth: ]]

• Chetan Asher on October 8, 2011, 19:16 GMT

Ananth,

Good summary, but to make it more fair to all the cricketers who participated, see if you can find a way of factoring in "human errors" of umpires that some teams unduly benefitted from.

• Waspsting on October 8, 2011, 14:56 GMT

"I think you`re massively overstating your case there"

@Boll - which of the Ashes series between 30 and 38 do you think Australia would not have lost sans O'Reilly/Grimmett? I don't see anything

Would you agree that they at least would have had series drawing chances sans Bradman in 30 and 34?

"As Jardine proved quite convincingly, (in the only series, apart from his debut, in which Bradman lost) if Bradman only averaged 60, Australia were beatable"

That would be true IF the averages of the other batsmen remained unaffected by Jardine's happy plan. They weren't. Ponsford went from 75 to 24, Kippax from 46 to 14, Fingleton from 35 to 25, McCabe from 53 to 43 and Woodfull from 38 to 33.

• ObelixtheFat on October 8, 2011, 12:51 GMT

@Dr. Talha 1- WI also dominated in an era when teams were in transition 2- WI have a long win streak but played a small amount of series per year, Australia would have played double the amount of series in a 15 year time frame. 3- Technology and umpiring works two ways, in the modern era you can be given out for stuff that would not have been so closely examined in the past. That can turn results just as much as bad umpiring. [[ Back home and I will do the work on the two requests pending. One by Gerry on the average TS and one by Raghav on splitting the graphs into home and away. Ananth: ]]

• arch on October 7, 2011, 16:48 GMT

The best thing about discussions like these is that they lead us into so many directions - the balance of bowling versus batting in analyses, etc. That makes it all so fun. I am now curious, is there a way of compiling a statistical analyses of team CTD figures, and the parallel winning and losing numbers for teams. I guess success, winning mentality, et all will come into play. Will it also confirm, or at least address the issue that 'bowlers win matches, and batsmen save them.' This is an initial suggestion, but I am sure you can develop it.

• Ruchir on October 7, 2011, 15:30 GMT

[Azhar's team, knowing Azhar, cannot play like this.] Whoa!!, I have to take exception to this since Azza remains one of my favorites regardless of the sordid ending. Its naive to say that someone who played almost 100 tests, captained almost 50 times and scored >20 hundreds does not have fighting spirit

You cannot have a career at the highest level spanning 15 years without determination and fighting spirit. Now if you say that Azhar did not have a great record overseas and was not very good against pace bowling, I will agree.

But he was also the finest player of spin I have seen (other than BCL) and i dispute the thinking that scoring a hundred on a low slow turner in Kanpur where all the other batsmen can hardly get the ball off the square requires less of a fighting attitude than doing it at Perth

• Boll on October 7, 2011, 15:22 GMT

@Waspsting, cont`d. As for the, apparently less decisive,figure of DG Bradman...during those same 23 tests, he scored 13 centuries (as well as 6 fifties), 7 of which were more than 200, 2 of which were triples.

As Jardine proved quite convincingly, (in the only series, apart from his debut, in which Bradman lost) if Bradman only averaged 60, Australia were beatable.

I believe any opposition captain,if given the choice, would have removed Bradman from the opposition teamsheet before anyone.

• Boll on October 7, 2011, 14:48 GMT

@Waspsting. re.`Sans O'Reilly and Grimmett, by contrast, they would almost undoubtedly have lost every single series. Regardless of Bradman's 100 runs an innings.`

I think you`re massively overstating your case there. Yes. O`Reilly and Grimmett were wonderful bowlers, and indisputably amongst the top 10 spin bowlers of all-time. (I`d personally rank them both in the top 5). As Australia`s two best (and easily most bowled bowlers), it`s hardly surprising though that the players you mention were dismissed by 1 of them about half the time. Nevertheless, 14x5 wicket hauls (in 23 tests?)is exceptional.

• Boll on October 7, 2011, 14:20 GMT

@Dr.Talha.In the years you mention, 1988-2002, India played 49 tests at home, won 28, drew 12 and lost only 9. (w/l ratio 3.11). They lost only one home series in this time, and beat all nations at least once.

`how can a person say that india had a very good home side?????` -I agree. They were, and remain, excellent.

• Rakesh on October 6, 2011, 10:30 GMT

Liked the way you have responded to comments Ananth. Great work. Keep it up. Statistics can never show full picture. As the pitch conditions, form of players etc can never be taken into consideration. They do give an overall idea though. It is also unfair to compare teams from two different era. Can we be 100% sure that modern players would not have been able to play like the vintage ones in their era? Is it not possible that vintage players would have been sorted out quickly in the new age with technolgy giving the advantage of analysing their techniques. Would shoib, lee, warne etc be ineffective on uncovered pitches. they may have been more devastating.

• Dr. Talha on October 6, 2011, 9:25 GMT

@shrikanthk: Azhar's team lost to wasim's team in 1999 (2 out of 3 tests). Imran had a better side. Had there been a series in India during early or mid 90's pakistan would have beaten them every single time. Even Windies toured india only once (1994) between 1988 and 2002 and that was also without their biggest match winner Ambrose and their captain Richardson.It was a new look windies side with no Viv richards, Haynes, Greenidge, Marshal, Dujohn. Even then india couldnt beat them. So when two of the very best teams hardly toured india, how can a person say that india had a very good home side????????

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 6, 2011, 7:42 GMT

Shrikantk, Ananth's analysis on batting strength will provide comparisons across a vast number of matches. But if you are meaning batting averages / strength of two specific teams, and one led by Azhar and the other by Imran, I am afraid you will never understand what I and Arch are saying. That the Paki team under Imran played well above their level, and were possessed with an incredible fighting spirit. Azhar's team, knowing Azhar, cannot play like this. If you dont grasp this, It is pointless continuing this discusison.

• shrikanthk on October 6, 2011, 3:26 GMT

Minus O'Reilly/Grimmett, how many times might England have posted huge totals like that, between 30-38?

Wasp: Ofcourse, no one can deny that you need 20 wickets to win a cricket match.

But if I were to pick a single MVP, it would be Bradman.

Let's consider Aus wins in each series :

1930: Lord's: A game won by Bradman's fast 254 in a 4-day game. Grimmett took wickets, but also conceded a lot of runs.

Oval: Again, it was a Bradman double. The wickets were actually taken by Hornibrook (not Grimmett)!

1934: Trent Bridge: Bradman failed. The game was won by both Grimmett AND O'Reilly, not just one of them.

Oval: Again, a manic 244 by Bradman. Wickets were shared by both spinners.

1936-37: Bradman made big hundreds in each match won by Aus. O'Reilly was brilliant. But Fleetwood-Smith was just as important.

1938: O'Reilly and Bradman were both equally important in the Leeds win. But O'Reilly or no O'Reilly, Aus would've lost the first two tests without Bradman. [[ Shri, the two Team strength indices you had asked for. Pak vs Win (1986-Lahore-Win won by inns): 34.25+27.20 (Qadir/Tauseef-51 overs)=61.45. Ind vs Aus: (1998-Calcutta-India win by inns) 45.94+32.39=78.33. The bowling is ctd-weighted-index. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on October 5, 2011, 18:21 GMT

"We all saw what Aus without Bradman looked like in the Oval test match of 1938 :)"

Shri - I agree, sans Bradman, Australia probably wouldn't have won a single Ashes series between 30 and 38. However, they would have at least had drawing chances in 30 and 34.

Sans O'Reilly and Grimmett, by contrast, they would almost undoubtedly have lost every single series. Regardless of Bradman's 100 runs an innings.

O'Reilly and Grimmett took 5 wickets in an innings individually 14 times in that that time (30-38). The rest of the Aussie bowlers managed to take 5 wickets in a MATCH 12 times!

Sutcliffe fell 10 times out of 19, Hammond 16 out of 38 and Leyland 13 out of 27 to either Grimmett or O'Reilly in that period.

The Oval '38 is a double edged sword in this discussion. Minus O'Reilly/Grimmett, how many times might England have posted huge totals like that, between 30-38?

• arch on October 5, 2011, 18:08 GMT

And, all else aside, it is also too cheeky to ask for a comparison of a winning Indian side (Calcutta) to a losing Pakistani side (Lahore). Very clever.

• arch on October 5, 2011, 12:37 GMT

Shrikanthk Once again, you miss the point.

• shrikanthk on October 5, 2011, 3:36 GMT

So it is wrong to ignore the bowling, the keeping (Dujon and Yousaf were excellent keepers) or the lower order batting. That is the full context

Okay. Maybe Ananth can have his say. Do let us know, if you can, the composite team strength Index for the Pak side at Lahore (1986) and the Indian side at Calcutta (1998).

• arch on October 4, 2011, 22:58 GMT

… cont Sure, the Indians were great bats at home. But as I indicated earlier, a batting lineup does not end at 7. It goes all the way down. When one looks at the statistics of a team, one takes the whole team, not one half of a team and extrapolate all to subcontinental conditions. The Pakistan – West Indies series was so fiercely contested that even in batting paradises (along with the subcontinent the West Indies has its share of those too – Lara will tell you that) of the test matches between the two sides between 1986 and 1992, only once did a team cross 400 in 35 innings. In four of the nine tests the first innings difference was under 25. That is some statistic, and some challenge. The stiffest. So it is wrong to ignore the bowling, the keeping (Dujon and Yousaf were excellent keepers) or the lower order batting. That is the full context. Any more of this and it is flogging a dead horse. [[ Since we are just leaving for a 5-day holiday just now my comment-publishing will take a beating. Remember and bear with that. Ananth: ]]

• arch on October 4, 2011, 22:57 GMT

Semantics. You are either invincible or you are not. There is no very nearly. The great West Indies were invincible, the great Australians were not. The statistics don’t lie. This is, after all, a statistics blog. Azhar’s Indians were good at home – but invincible? They certainly were not a very good team – ironically, just check the statistics on this blog post – the good times were to come later. But what is really invincible at home? What would be an insurmountable team to defeat, a great challenge? Is ten years unbeaten a challenge? Pakistan were unbeaten in a series from 1980 to 1995 at home. Now that is a statistic. Subcontinental conditions and invincible; I would call it the stiffest challenge around. They were also the only team to win a series in India, in subcontinental conditions, between 1985 and 2000, and they did not visit that often. But picking a period in time, picking half of a half of a team to make a batty argument, without context, is fallacious.

• Waspsting on October 4, 2011, 22:36 GMT

Shri - I'm putting the Shane Warne factor under the heading of "better overrate", as opposed to "better skill".

In 4th innings -

- Roberts (22.7), Holding (17.93), Garner (20.43), Croft (21.8) and Marshall (17.65) ALL have better averages than Warne (23.14)

- Only Roberts (53.9) has a worse strike rate than the great Aussie spinner (52.9). The rest read - Holding 42.7, Garner 46.7, Croft 44.4 and Marshall 45.2

• shrikanthk on October 4, 2011, 18:33 GMT

That said, pre-war Aus record probably had more to do with O'Reilly (and Grimmett) than Bradman. Minus them, Bradman's feats would look like Lara's on that great Sri Lankan tour: Magnificent in defeat.

Wouldn't entirely agree... We all saw what Aus without Bradman looked like in the Oval test match of 1938 :)

The heaviest defeat suffered by any team EVER in first class history. Not even O'Reilly at the peak of his career could stop it.

I know it's probably unfair to pick one test and draw judgments. But I struggle to see how O'Reilly and a 40 yr old Grimmett could've won Australia even a single Ashes series that decade without Bradman's manic run-getting. He created the scoreboard pressure which helped O'Reilly (especially in the 4-day games in England).

• shrikanthk on October 4, 2011, 18:09 GMT

Arguing that India had an excellent batting lineup at the top (in any conditions) to the exclusion of all else is like arguing the boxer is unbeatable due to his great right hook but forgetting his glass jaw

Very vivid metaphor. Nevertheless I disagree. Putting runs on the board cannot be overemphasised especially in test matches played in India.

Azhar's side in '98 was capable of consistently putting up 400/500 runs in the 1st innings against very good attacks on flat Indian wickets. Plus they had two very good bowlers close to their peak in Kumble and Srinath. Both of whom are probably on most people's list of the best half-a-dozen bowlers this country has produced.

Though I agree that Imran's '86 outfit was a better bowling side, Azhar's team wasn't too far behind mainly because of the scoreboard pressure on the opposition exerted by that brilliant array of batsmen.

• shrikanthk on October 4, 2011, 17:52 GMT

Ananth's stats show that WI lost less and Aus won more, which is the key difference. WI slow overrates would be one reason that was, and maybe looking at the two teams scoring rates might reveal more

Waspsting: There's another more important reason which explains the "key difference". That is Shane Warne!

I've lost count of the number of games that Warne won for Australia on the 4th and 5th days. Windies probably drew more games on flatter wickets/turning tracks as they lacked a spinner to force the issue towards the end of the match.

Maybe the Windies experts on this blog (Gerry and co) can corroborate or deny this.

• shrikanthk on October 4, 2011, 17:43 GMT

Shrikanthk is unlikely to ever find merit in any post war team, and especially any West Indies team, or their opponents

Interesting remark. Since I think I'm probably the least romantic of all the posters out here. I've always spoken highly of the great Aussie sides of the 2000s as well as Lloyd's/Richards' West Indians.

If anything, I've probably been more critical of the great sides from earlier eras (including Bradman's "Invincibles" and May's Englishmen - who got pummelled by a competent Aussie side led by Benaud in '58-59)

And I don't think I have ever championed the cause of any great pre-war side. Not sure why I gave you that impression.

• Raghav Bihani on October 4, 2011, 17:35 GMT

@ Ananth: Your tennis analogy reminded me of the Wimbledon final between Agassi and Ivanisevic. Ivanisevic kept bombarding huge serves and Agassi returned more winers than Ivanisevic could get aces. [[ I was still glad to see Ivanisevic finally win a Wimbledon title in his fourth attempt. Ananth: ]]

On the discussion of Azhar's side: Post the 1992 Aus tour under Azhar India had a steady decline till Azhar career ended in 2000. This is as per TSIN graph. However to Azhar's credit he had devloped a foolproof formula for winning at home. Tailor made spinning tracks, a team of spinners (often 3 of them) lead by Kumble and only one paceman, and good top order batting on pitches which were graveyard for pacers. The result was that "AWAY" India lost to everyone and even series with ZIM were competitive. That's what affects the TSIN.

Ananth I know, we are very demanding with requests, but can we have a TSIN value graph exclusively for away and home tours. Will probably bring out interesting tales about teams. Especially India's tiger at home story in the 1990's. [[ Raghav Of course I can do. However I am away on holiday between 5 and 9 and will do this as well do Gerry's first request on my return. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on October 4, 2011, 17:34 GMT

That Pak team just did not know how to lose, and to compare that team with Azhar's team (even for batting) had me rubbing my eyes in disbelief

It looks like I am being misunderstood once again by many commenters.

Gerry initially brought up this point of Windies winning test matches in Pak in the 80s as proof that they played spin very well.

All I said is that the challenge posed to them in subcontinental conditions wasn't as stiff as the challenge posed to Taylor's Aussies in '98 by Azhar's side in India.

At no point did I claim that Azhar's side was "better" than Imran's sides.

You talk about Pak team "not knowing how to lose". But hang on. Azhar's team didn't know how to lose either in Indian conditions during the 90s. They were very nearly invincible.

PS: We are only discussing subcontinental conditions here.

Moreover, this is a stats blog. So, we have to look at averages. And averages suggest that the Azhar's team was much stronger in batting than Imran's.

• arch on October 4, 2011, 16:27 GMT

Well Ananth Your erudite readers, being erudite, are urging you to write a book. I think you ought to give yourself till Christmas to do the following analyses: 1. fielding 2. player performances - irrespective of cutoffs 3. captains - individual and team impacts 4. umpires - statistical evaluations of decisions 5. WSC figures - see if you can incorporate them in all your analyses 6. players who have lifted their teams the most - ala Hadlee and Murali

And a few other things.

And then you should start compiling a book. Which we will buy eagerly. [[ Thank you, Arch. Unfortunately my work keeps on increasing and I seem to have less and less time. But I will look at this sometime in the future. Ananth: ]]

• arch on October 4, 2011, 12:56 GMT

Gerry, I agree with you; I was just adding that dealing with the West Indies meant dealing with pace and broken bones; it was part of the package and that Pakistani side survived because it had a very resilient, mentally strong lower order (apart from that bowling and a good top order). Personally, I can't even fathom that this comparison is being made. Arguing that India had an excellent batting lineup at the top (in any conditions) to the exclusion of all else is like arguing the boxer is unbeatable due to his great right hook but forgetting his glass jaw. [[ Your last sentence matches Waspsting's last para and confirms that I am privileged to have the most erudite and wonderful group of readers any columnist has. **** the money. Guys who probably get paid 10 times what I get do not have this set of readers. Or a tennis analogy. Zivajinovic (or whatever his name is) served at average of 120 mph and served 42 aces in the match, but has a very weak backhand. The score: Connors wins 7-6, 7-5, 6-3. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on October 4, 2011, 12:37 GMT

"are you going to get out? or do I have to come round the wicket and kill you?" Marshall asked David Boon once.

- Agree with Shane about Bradman not being the be all and end all of his Invincibles. Morris, Hassett, Harvey, Tallon, Miller, Lindwall, Johnston... about as good as WI 80s lot or Aus 90-2000s. Bradman dwarfed them same way he'd have dwarfed Richards, Greendidge, Hayden, Waugh brothers etc.

That said, pre-war Aus record probably had more to do with O'Reilly (and Grimmett) than Bradman. Minus them, Bradman's feats would look like Lara's on that great Sri Lankan tour: Magnificent in defeat.

Ananth's stats show that WI lost less and Aus won more, which is the key difference. WI slow overrates would be one reason that was, and maybe looking at the two teams scoring rates might reveal more. I know the Aus team scored quickly, and the WI team had aggresive strokeplayers, but I don't know about the latters overall scoring rates. Might be something to look into. [[ Lovely last point. The nuances of the readers'comments are priceless. The '"why" is a question I can certainly explore with such quality inputs. Certainly team run-rates are available. I have also now got the day-level scores incorporated in the database. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on October 4, 2011, 12:24 GMT

Weighing in on a whole bunch of stuff brought under discussion by Ruchir, Arijiit, Boll, Gerry, Srikanthk and Shane -

-Re: "balance" of WI teams, think they were fine as they were. If you had four Allan Donald's, you don't need a spinner (unless they're Warne or Muali calibre). personally, I'd exclude Gibbs and keep four quicks in an all time WI team.

- re: WI attitude - I agree with Boll who called them "very professional". They weren't "cavalier" cricketers (after 75/76 1-5 thrashing in Australia, Viv Richards said, "jokes were out"), just business cricketers

- Re: intimidation bowling - closely linked to being professional, I see the occasional over-use of the short stuff as business cricket (as opposed to nasty cricket). They had the classic abilities - line, lenght and sideways movement - but were happy to fall back on a bouncer barrage if that wasn't looking like getting wickets. They bowled bouncers the same way Dale Steyn bowls outswingers (continued)

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 4, 2011, 12:10 GMT

Arch, couldn't agree more (but both you and Shrikanthk are saying the same thing, WI won in Lahore). Qadir also batted with a broken hand in the 3rd test. That Pak team just did not know how to lose, and to compare that team with Azhar's team (even for batting) had me rubbing my eyes in disbelief. The six tests between the two teams (1986-88) are probably the best test matches in the last 50 years, along with 1960-61 and the 2005 Ashes. What an insult to those teams to even mention Azhar's team in the same breath.

My point was that West Indies bowled with Tony Gray (for certain he would have been an all time great paceman but for the rebel tours) was debuting, and Walsh had less than 2 years experience, so West Indies were under-prepared. But under Richards, in the first 2 years of his captaincy, there were champion fighters, and a very proud team.

Shrikanthk is unlikely to ever find merit in any post war team, and especially any West Indies team, or their opponents. [[ In a nice positive statement, I can say Shrikanth has got a cricketing passion befitting my age in his much younger body and heart !!! Ananth: ]]

• arch on October 3, 2011, 15:43 GMT

The Pak side in the 1986 series had steel running through its batting spine. First, it did not thrash the Windies in Lahore, it beat them in Faisalabad. In Faisalabad Wasim Akram walked in at 9, Tauseef was a number 11 who averaged 17. Salim Yousaf floated about the lineup with an average of 27, Abdul Qadir was averaging 15, and Imran at number 7 was averaging in the 40s during the mid 80s and was a supreme defensive bat. There was one weakness though in that test, Saleem Malik batted with a broken arm; an injury the Australians did not regularly inflict upon their opponents. Rizwanuzzaman was drafted in for Lahore as Malik could not bat. The Indian team in Australia had relative bunnies coming in at 7.

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 3, 2011, 7:51 GMT

Also, that the West Indies faced a weakened Aussie side is completely wrong. The Aussie side started getting hammered only when it lost Wessels, Rackemann, et al to the rebel tour in 1985. Prior to that, when they planed Windies and lost 6 consecutive tests, they had only lost Chappell, Lillee and Marsh. Of these Lillee was not at his best, past his prime. The Aussies were strong enough to withstand the departure of the other two greats.

If one sees the pattern of the 1984-85 series in Australia, the Aussies steadily progress in each test. In Perth they conceded a lead of 340 and lost by an innings, in Brisbane they took a couple of 2nd innings wickets (after 7 tests v/s WI), in Adelaide Lawson took 8/112, and it took a superb Gomes 2nd innings century to set a target, MCG was drawn and SCG won. This despite the silly experiment of making Wayne Phillips, the most dynamic batsman of the team, as wicket keeper and ruining the balance for three years. So really it was not a long trough.

• Smudge on October 3, 2011, 7:12 GMT

• Dr. Talha on October 3, 2011, 5:35 GMT

@shrikanthk: Please dont compare Azhars side with Imran's. Azhars side lost to Wasims side IN INDIA in 1999 2-1, and Wasims side was far weaker than Imrans side of 80's. Remember pak lost only 2 series from 1985-1995( 1990 in Aus and 1993 in WI) and they won all the major one day tournaments during that period. Like 1986, 1990 and 1994 australasia cup in sharjah. (all had 6 teams). They won the nehru cup in 1989 in india beating WI in the final in calcutta and the won the WC in 92. N which team needs spinners when it has fast bowlers who can get 30plus wickets in indian conditions (holding n Marshal). N won the series 3-0. What did Warne achieved in india, despite of being the worlds best spinner. N aus couldnt beat WI in WI in 1999(2-2) n even in aus in 1997 WI would have beaten aus had Ambrose not got injured in one of the tests.

• shane on October 3, 2011, 5:03 GMT

arijit, bbpp. I would dispute that Aust's domination ended with Bradman in 48. Between 49 and 53, Aust won 4-0 in SAF, beat Eng 4-1 at home, beat WI 4-1 at home, drew 2-2 all against SAF at home before losing to Eng in 53. And that was only in the last test of a close series. Overall Aust won 15, drew 6 and lost just 4. Aust still had great players in Lindwall, Miller, Hassett, Harvey, Morris and Johnston. Gideon Haigh in a recent article wondered why people don't think Aust of the 40s and 50s as a dynasty given that they won 6 series in a row between 46/47 and 52/53, losing only 2 tests in that time. I suppose Bradman looms so large that everyone forgets that Aust kept on winning for a few years without him

• Dr. Talha on October 3, 2011, 4:56 GMT

I agree with u Mr. boll as far as srilanka is concerned.but u should remember that windies never played SL in test matches. during the 80's and early 90's. While aus also had Zim n bang during their domination era. N i certainly dont agree with your comments on NZL and SA. Throughout the history of NZL cricket NZL had their best side during the 80's. they had the likes of Crowe and Hadlee.So beating NZL of 80's was far more difficult. And as far as SA is concerned i think u r mistaken. When SA got reinstated they had a better test side. Aus was unable to beat them in 2 consecutive test series in 1993 and 1994. Eng also had the likes of Botham ,Willis,Gower, Lamb, Gooch in their line up and they managed to beat Aus 3 times in ashes during 80's. Aus had a weak side during the mid 80' but later on they also improved,thats y they managed to win the 1987 WC and 1989 ashes, n drew the series in india in 1986. Imran, Kapil, Gatting, Border were leading their sides, all very tough characters.

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 3, 2011, 3:56 GMT

Shrikanthk, all i am saying is that if Windies thrashed a weak team and Taylor lost to a strong Indian team, then that comparison does not reveal anything.

• shrikanthk on October 3, 2011, 3:37 GMT

I would give equal credit to O'Reilly and Bradman for the strength of the 30s AUS team. Ponsford and Mccabe had pretty good records in the 34 series. In 38, Brown actually scored more runs than Bradman

O'Reilly was a great bowler. Possibly the greatest of them all. But the pitches he had to bowl on in the 30s made him less deadly than he otherwise would've been (atleast in terms of SR)

The reason I pick out Bradman is not just because of his enormous run-getting, but also the rate at which he scored those runs. He scored at a strike rate of 60 when the opposition batsmen (including Hammond) trudged along at a Strike rate of 35-40. This enabled Australia to wrest initiative and force wins (especially in England in '30 and '38 when you had 4-day tests). For eg : In the Lord's test of 1930, England lost after having made 425 in the 1st innings! And this was a 4-day game!

This was mainly because of the pace at which Bradman dominated the game.

• Ananth on October 3, 2011, 3:03 GMT

• shrikanthk on October 3, 2011, 2:50 GMT

Shrikantk, I would dispute the statement that the 1998 Paki team was anywhere as strong as the 1986 Pak team

Gerry : I was comparing the 80s Pak sides with Azhar's Indian side in 1998. Trying to make the point that the opposition Taylor faced in '98 in India (where he lost) was a stronger challenge than the opposition Lloyd/Richards faced in Pak in the 80s.

Ofcourse, on paper, Imran's sides seem more balanced. But, in subcontinental conditions, I'm fairly certain Azhar's sides were a bigger pain. Primarily because of their batting strength.

The Pak side that Windies thrashed at Lahore in 1986 had the following batting line-up : Mohsin Khan-Rizwan uz Zaman-Qasim Umar-Miandad-Ramiz Raja-Asif Mujtaba-Imran Khan.

Nearly all of them barring Miandad averaged in the 30s in tests.

Compare that with the batting Taylor's side was up against in '98: Laxman-Sidhu-Dravid-Sachin-Azhar-Ganguly-Mongia!

It is wayyyy better. Especially in Indian conditions.

• craigmnz on October 3, 2011, 0:05 GMT

As a New Zealander I think some of the commentators may be over-estimating the availability of cricketing infrastructure in this country. You need to remember that the NZ population is spread over a landmass equivalent in area to Great Britain and that until the mid-1950s players from smaller towns in NZ had to travel to the main centres to play 1st class cricket.

Take a look at the all-time NZ XI and work out how many played fewer than 20 tests.

Let's also remember that cricket is a minority sport in NZ. Our best athletes play rugby with the aim of playing for the most successful sports team of all - the All Blacks (ok so we don't win World Cups but a success rate over 110 years of 85+% is still impressive).

One last comment - I think the real advance of the great WI side of the 1980s was that they had a variety of pace, all fast but different, Marshal, Holding, Garner, Croft all posed different problems in addition to their fearsome pace.

• Ruchir on October 2, 2011, 23:33 GMT

There seems to be a romantic belief that the West Indies team under Lloyd/Richards were a group of smiling, friendly world beaters. That is not true. They were a fearsome, intimidating and hugely talented team with a hunger to win and were not immune to testing the rules of the game to the limit. NOthing wrong with that but it seems the Aussies are unfairly dubbed as being mean and ugly while the Windies were genial giants

- Haynes captaining in place of Richards indulged in blatant time wasting on the last day of a test in 1990 to deny England a win - Richards was known for being aggressive in his appealing esp in the Caribbean. Not sure if the umpires were intimidated but if you look up some of the footage on youtube, Mcgrath and Warne start looking pretty innocent - Holding's bouncer barrage against Brian Close for which the umpire had to officially intervene. - The NZL series with Holding kicking the stumps and Croft, I think, running into the umpire.

• Ruchir on October 2, 2011, 23:14 GMT

@shrikanthk, I would give equal credit to O'Reilly and Bradman for the strength of the 30s AUS team. Ponsford and Mccabe had pretty good records in the 34 series. In 38, Brown actually scored more runs than Bradman. 36/37 is the only series where Bradman was far ahead of the next Aussie batsman O'Reilly was the leading wicket taker in all 3 with only Fleetwood-Smith for support in 36/37 and 38.

Having said that, I still believe Murali is the player who has had the most influence on his team's results. He had 4 3 test match series with 25+ wickets against PAK, SA, AUS and ENG where the next SL bowler took less than half his tally

• bbpp on October 2, 2011, 19:45 GMT

The match-up is between the correct two teams. The Immortals was significantly influenced by one truly Immortal but WI of the late 70's and 80's team and the Aussies of late 90's and 2000's have so many names that will always feature in all time great lists. Leadership also played a huge role in the success. When Lloyd took over as captain, his personal record was very ordinary but he transformed the WI into a unit that basically just couldn't be beaten. Taylor started the Aussie juggernaut and Waugh admirably perfected it. These teams both had a stable core of players with very few changes and it seemed that every new player became a world beater.

• arijit on October 2, 2011, 18:22 GMT

Since we’re talking small populations: Barbados has 2.8 lakh people, less than one-fifteenth of NZ (acc. to wikipedia). Here’s an all-time Barbados XI: Greenidge, Haynes, Hunte, Weekes, Sobers, Worrell (capt), Walcott (wk), Marshall, Hall, Garner, Griffith. That leaves out Seymour Nurse, George Challenor and Wayne Daniel. I may have missed a few others.

• arijit on October 2, 2011, 16:55 GMT

Shrikanthk, spot on on Bradman. Why were the 1948 Invincibles not, say, 1948-58 Invincibles? Because one 40-year-old retired. Boll, WI never played SL in Tests in 80s, and SA were re-admitted only in 1991-92. As for the relative strengths of the WI's and 1999-2007 Aussies' opponents, opinions can differ. BTW, were WI arrogant and bullying? They didn't sledge or insult, at least if Gavaskar is to be believed. We in Calcutta remember them largely as the cricket version of Pele's Brazil. Of course, this romantic vision blends several generations and includes Sobers-Kanhai-3Ws-Kallicharran-Fredericks too, but Lloyd's team didn't seem all that different. I know of the 1980 NZ events, but that's a blip. On the whole, when it comes to verbal abuse, claiming dubious catches, ball-tampering, underarm bowling, etc, I won't be surprised if WI comes out better than most of their peers. It may have turned a few wins into draws, though.

• arch on October 2, 2011, 14:59 GMT

I would not discount the Pakistani 80s batting lineup. S Rajesh's analyses indicates it stacked high numbers. http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/533753.html

Best middle-order combinations over the years (Nos. 3-6) Team Period Main batsmen Middle Order ave Overall top-order ave* Ratio West Indies Jan 21, 1948-Mar 26, 1958 Weekes, Worrell, Walcott 47.99 34.64 1.39 West Indies Jan 1961-Dec 1970 Sobers, Kanhai, Butcher, Nurse 46.57 36.58 1.27 Australia Jan 1972-Dec 1976 Greg & Ian Chappell, Doug Walters 46.38 38.20 1.21 Pakistan Jan 1978-Dec 1984 Miandad, Zaheer 43.65 35.20 1.24 West Indies Jan 1991-Dec 1996 Lara, Richardson, Adams, Hooper 45.60 35.50 1.28 Australia Jan 1999-Dec 2007 Ponting, Martyn, Steve & Mark Waugh 49.68 37.63 1.32 Sri Lanka Jan 2002-Dec 2010 Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Samaraweera, Dilshan 50.58 39.29 1.29 India Jan 2002-Dec 2010 Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Ganguly 48.10 39.29 1.22 * Average for No 1-7

• Ruchir on October 2, 2011, 14:56 GMT

@Boll: Re: NZ (population about 4 million), and India (population 1 billion plus)entered test cricket at about the same time. NZ have won 19% of tests played, India have won 24%.

Only in the last 15 or so years, the sporting infrastructure in India has reached a level to take advantage of its vast talent pool. Before that most players came from the major metro cities. This is a factor why India has gone past teams like NZ in the past decade. NZ probably can never dominate the game since their pool is too small to produce 4-5 all time greats around the same time

This is what makes the West Indies 75-90 so great. They produced a dozen all time greats with a talent pool similar to NZ and no national academies/centres of excellence etc. Quite unique for any international team sport Probably India's domination of field hockey in the Dhyanchand era comes clse

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 2, 2011, 14:54 GMT

Shrikantk, I would dispute the statement that the 1998 Paki team was anywhere as strong as the 1986 Pak team...teh latter was led by Imran (by itself good enough to end this debate), and had Akram and Qadir, plus magnificent batsmen through out. They thrashed Australia's full strength team 3-0 at home, and in contrast, in 1999, lost 3-0 away to Australia. But that is a secondary point.

The real deal is that West Indies were without Holding and Roberts in 1980, and without Holding and Garner in 1986. In 1986 they were in a bit of a rebuilding mode in their batting also. Pakis were at full strength, and NO NEUTRAL UMPIRES. There is no comparison. You have to see Paki umpiring of those times to believe.

And what is this about Azhar's sides of 90s? Aus lost, not won...in 1998. Had they won, it may have been relevant to discuss, but they were fairly thrashed 2-0 (in Calcutta quite brutally) before Kaspers sneaked one back.

• CRICKETGALCTICO on October 2, 2011, 14:39 GMT

Let's be American about this guys, WI>AUS coz they won more and lost less. They were unbeaten for 27 SERIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Australia punctuated every successful 3 year period with a loss. They could not defeat India, and when they did, they swiftly got beat by england!!!!!!!!!!! Apparently Steve Waugh took Aussies to the next level, but he just got beaten by India in the same way that his predecessors did. For all of his mental toughness and mental disintegrationg, he never beat an equally mentally strong side in his record of 16 wins in a row. When aussies lost mcgrath andd warne, they could not ough it out and beat strong, but apparently weaker India sides. I know that I am being hyperbolic, but we must remember that Australia were not successful because they had a special method which no other team could discover, but because they had 3 great batsmen, three very good ones, the greatest keeperbat, arguably the best spinner and a great fast bowler, and two good ones.

• Raghav Bihani on October 2, 2011, 13:06 GMT

I have already accepted the point made on population differences. But do consider that around 70% of India do not have access to cricketing facilities. 80 years back I am sure New Zealand had more stadiums, coaches and cricketers than colonized India. The ratio of stadiums, coaches, academies etc. to the population is dismal. The poulation is a sad story of untapped potential not just in criket but all sports. Going by that logic India should have a better Rugby and Football team than NZ, but the lesser said the better.

The West Indies has a similar population to NZ, lesser facilities and frequent pay disputes. But their performance has only dipped in recent years. They have otherwise played brilliantly against huge populated countries.

So though I accept the population mismatch, I still feel in Test matches NZ performance has been below par. In ODIs however they have done quite well especially in the World Cups making more semis than accomplished teams [[ Let us not forget the sports-consciousness of New Zealand. So it would be easier for them to play and do well in multiple sports. My personal feeling is that their achievements have been at par. Yes for Sri Lanka also. Ananth: ]] .

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 2, 2011, 12:32 GMT

Boll, it is the AVERAGE team opposition that counts.

• shrikanthk on October 2, 2011, 12:32 GMT

One of the things that strikes me in the Australian graphs is the high peaks associated with the Australian teams of the 30s. I am not sure those sides led by Woodfull and later by Bradman were anywhere near as good as the '48 side.

Yet, they rank so high mainly because of one man. I don't think a single person has contributed more to the strength of a side as Bradman did in the mid/late 30s (with the sole exception of Murali in SL)

Bradman single-handedly won some pretty close series for Australia in that decade against some very, very good English sides. One can be fairly certain Aus would've lost in both '36-37 and '38 and possibly '34 as well without the services of Bradman!

Had Bradman not been born, the 1930s might've been a difficult decade for Australian cricket, perhaps almost as difficult as the 80s were. But Bradman alone made those teams look world-class...

Ofcourse, those teams did have Grimmett and O'Reilly - two great bowlers. But deficient in the new ball attack. [[ All points very well made. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on October 2, 2011, 12:16 GMT

Shrikanthk, will you EVER acknowledge that West Indies won 2 tests (and lost 1) in Pakistan between 1980 and 1986, against spin bowling attacks far more potent that anything Australia assembled in Sydney, supplemented by Imran (and later Wasim) on virtual dirt tracks?

I never said they're poor players of spin, Gerry.

All I said is that one can think of several alternative eras in which they might've been less dominant. The same holds true for Australia as well (be it Bradman's Invincibles or Waugh/Ponting's outfits).

Pak between '80 and '86 was a damn good side. But probably not quite as good as Azhar's sides in the 90s in Indian conditions, especially in the batting department. Agree that Imran's sides were a tougher proposition outside Pak. But in the subcontinent, I'd still say that Taylor's team in '98 faced a stronger opposition than the Windies did in the '80s.

• Boll on October 2, 2011, 12:13 GMT

...Before the Windies of the late 70s and onwards, perhaps only Jardine`s `Bodyline` side and Chappell`s Aussies had been prepared to turn cricket into a world title fight, and you don`t win those by doffing your cap. Australia was hardened by their losses against the great WI teams, forced into a harshly focussed mindset, finally surpassed them, and then became the most ruthless winning machine in test and ODI history.

Rumours of terminal decline? ... somewhat premature. In Australia, arrogant as it may sound, cricketing dominance is regarded as business as usual.

• Boll on October 2, 2011, 11:57 GMT

@arijit. re.`If the WI batsmen were unable to play beautiful front-foot strokes, that would be a legitimate criticism of the team. But if the opponents couldn’t find a way to, that’s their problem.` Yes, fair enough, although I`m reminded of David Boon commenting on a typical West Indian reception to the crease.

`Heyyyyyyy. Welcome to Barbados white boy - You want to drive? Then rent a fxxxing car.`

Let`s make no bones about it. The great West Indian teams of that era were arrogant, very professional, bullying,compelling and physically intimidatory. People continue to carp about the tactics of `mental disintegration` of the modern Australian sides, particularly Steve Waugh`s team. T(he)y learnt it (in a time before stump microphones and blanket coverage) at the hands of the absolute masters. Border knew what it would take to beat them, as did Waugh, having walked away numerous times badly bruised (literally) and humiliated...

• Boll on October 2, 2011, 7:22 GMT

@Raghav Bighani, re.`New Zealand story is one of severe under performance given that they have being playing for over 80 years`. NZ (population about 4 million), and India (population 1 billion plus)entered test cricket at about the same time. NZ have won 19% of tests played, India have won 24%. One of those teams has a history of severe under performance, the other a history of consistently punching well above its weight.

• Boll on October 2, 2011, 7:07 GMT

@Ananth. X-axis points are a bit inconsistent (obviously difficult with wars etc.), but it gives a somewhat skewed impression of things. Any chance of standardising things? [[ The X-axis is perfect for series numbers. It is only the year which, obviously, would go completely wonky. Maybe I could have given it like this.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 9 7 7 7 8 8 8 9 9 0 7 8 9 3 4 8 4 5 2

I cannot obviously do the X-axis on years. The representation would be completely skewed. The following table explains.

Year 5 Yrs 10 Yrs

Australia 1877 8 26 England 1877 8 26 South Africa 1889 3 8 (10 in 13 yrs) West Indies 1928 12 19 New Zealand 1930 11 14 India 1932 7 (ww2) 7 (10 in 14 yrs) Pakistan 1952 18 52 Sri Lanka 1982 23 40 Zimbabwe 1990 24 64 Bangladesh 2000 40 68

Ananth: ]]

• Boll on October 2, 2011, 6:44 GMT

@Dr.Talha. I`ve got to disagree with at least one of your reasons for rating WI over Aus. `Australia dominated an era when most of the major test teams like pak, windies, NZL, SA etc. were in their rebuilding phase or they were aging. While west indies on the other hand dominated an era when all the test palying nations were at full strength. Even NZL was very hard to beat`

You must be kidding.

In the late 70s and 80s WI had the good fortune to play against probably the weakest Australian and English teams of all-time. They also only played a new and weak Sri Lanka and a newly reinstated South Africa.

Australia played, and dominated, excellent Sri Lankan and South African teams. They faced better English/Indian teams than the West Indies faced, and an NZ team which was just as good. And they won far more often.

1976-1986. WI played 98 tests, won 41(42%), lost 11(11%), drew 36 1997-2007. Aus played 129 tests, won 89(69%), lost 20(16%), drew 20

• Ajinkya on October 2, 2011, 5:59 GMT

Regarding the West Indian all-pace attack-as arijit has said, the criticism is a valid one only on the basis of aesthetics, not effectiveness. I'm sure the Windies quicks had a lot more caught behind/at short leg dismissals than bowlers like, say, Akram, Waqar or Steyn. The best fast bowling in terms of aesthetic value is undoubtedly the pitch-it-up and swing-it variety, which gives batsmen a chance to attack. That said, there is a different and more subtle charm in watching wristy, light-footed batsmen taking on attacking spinners.

• Raghav Bihani on October 2, 2011, 5:41 GMT

I accept NZ being smaller than a Mumbai suburb and yet having a decent competitive team. A Kiwi I met in NZ pointed that Sydney had more people than the whole of New Zealand. To his surprise I informed him that Mumbai has a population equally the whole of Australia. It is not about the number of people but the Sporting infrastructure and accessibility of the same.

@ Ananth: If you taking up the impact of players on TSIN values in anyway, be extra careful on isolation of the player's performance. This can be very tricky. It is virtually impossible to isolate the tendulkar impact vs dravid vs kumble. In teams like AUS where they had many good players it is rarely one guy who is responsible for performance.

However, you can do this for teams with lesser greats playing together. Just an example, WI started falling after 1993, hovering around 45 mark. They still had Ambrose, Walsh and Lara. When the first bowlers retired the fall in TSIN was not there but Lara retiring dropped WI to 35.

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 2, 2011, 5:26 GMT

Shrikanthk, will you EVER acknowledge that West Indies won 2 tests (and lost 1) in Pakistan between 1980 and 1986, against spin bowling attacks far more potent that anything Australia assembled in Sydney, supplemented by Imran (and later Wasim) on virtual dirt tracks? Or will you take that one defeat in 1985 and judge the West Indies to be poor players of Spin. If you imagine a line up including Lloyd, Richards, Dujon and Gomes to be poor players of Spin, you have another think coming.

• Ajai Banerji on October 2, 2011, 5:18 GMT

One more article which could follow from this-the team ranking from the early to the time the official Test rankings started in around 2000. Actually, this should not be difficult for you as long as the algorithm used in computing the official rankings is known. (However, any algorithm devised by you is likely to be better than what the official rankings are using!) I would be curious as to what India's standing would be in the early 1970s after the wins in WI and Eng which lead many writers to proclaim India as unofficial world champions. [[ Ajay, very valid point. Unfortunately this idea forms the nucleus of a huge project I discussing with someone. Any discussions on those lines will be premature. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on October 2, 2011, 3:41 GMT

Now, we can't argue that the rules of 1980s were somehow "intrinsicaly superior" or "fairer" than the rules of the 1890s!! That is a value judgment which would vary from individual to individual. Not an objective judgment.

Which is why it is near impossible to find a team of 11 players from any country at any point in history which can be expected to be dominant under ALL the playing conditions that have prevailed in ALL parts of the world since 1864.

All teams are products of their eras. We should leave it at that, instead of trying to engage in hypothetical match-ups, which can never be fair to all eras, for the simple reason that the playing conditions and rules will invariably favour one era over another.

To ask "Are Lloyd's Windies a better team than Waugh's Aussies" is a bit like asking "Is Naushad better than AR Rehman...Or is James Stewart a better actor than Robert De Niro?"

It is pointless.

• shrikanthk on October 2, 2011, 3:35 GMT

If the WI batsmen were unable to play beautiful front-foot strokes, that would be a legitimate criticism of the team. But if the opponents couldn’t find a way to, that’s their problem

Nobody objects to their strengths. My point is that there is no such thing as an "ideal" set of rules. Rules in cricket have changed very significantly over the decades, which in turn has influenced playing styles.

Back in the 1890s during the days of Richardson and Lockwood, there was a single new ball per innings. Also, the balls that were used back them did not have a very pronounced seam. So, fast bowlers had to beat the bat mostly with sheer pace, as there wasn't much "seam movement" on offer once the ball got old.

No wonder few teams fielded more than 1-2 fast bowlers back then. Now, suppose we were to bring back those rules of the 1890s into play (along with the old LBW law), would the Windies have been as successful? No.

CONTD....

• Boll on October 2, 2011, 3:08 GMT

@masum. great to hear some chat about the Kiwis, particularly the two players you mention. I would rate Chris Cairns alongside Flintoff - some fitness issues, but a match-changing player. Shane Bond was also a world class bowler. Both were frightening propositions.

• Boll on October 2, 2011, 2:34 GMT

@Ruchir. I have to disagree with your comment about the last decade - `From 2002/2003 onwards, India's performance has been the most consistent`. During that period (2002-2011) Australia have clearly been the most dominant and consistent side, winning 64% of tests played, and losing only 19%...compared to 48%/25% for England, 48%/30% for South Africa and 40%/25% for India.

Also, re. `Aus are clearly in decline`. I would suggest that their recent dominance of Sri Lanka indicates otherwise.

• masum on October 1, 2011, 23:57 GMT

People here say Newzealand looked greater in 80s than 90s or 2000s. But they missed a point that we have recently seen a great Newzealand team in 2000 to 2005 when Chris Cairns and Shane Bond played for Newzealand. Both were great player obviously when they were fit and always gave their best against Australia. Moreover Vettori, Astle, Fleming, Rozer Toose, Maccmillan also showed their class at that period. If you ask me to choose one team from the two different team in two times, I will prefer Fleming's team instead of Hadlee's team.

• arijit on October 1, 2011, 20:38 GMT

3) If the WI batsmen were unable to play beautiful front-foot strokes, that would be a legitimate criticism of the team. But if the opponents couldn’t find a way to, that’s their problem. But it isn’t just critics, even WI’s modern “friends” are guilty. Fire in Babylon portrays WI as a vindictive team bent on injuring opponents. As far as I remember from my childhood days, they didn’t bowl a lot of bouncers in 83-84. Marshall’s destructive spells came mainly as he pitched it up, swinging and cutting the ball at fiery pace. Even the 1984 matches in England (saw them on TV recently), suggest they were brilliant at bowling at the ribcage --- but didn’t necessarily target the head all the time as the film (and some writers nowadays) suggests. Ananth, did WI get fewer bowled and lbw dismissals compared with other teams of the time? Only you can find out. I remember them as natural athletes whose fielding, running, aggressive play mixed with carefree ways gave joy to all. [[ No problems at all. I know how much respect you all give me and the other readers. So all your posts will be published. Most of the points you make are correct. My preference was also a personal one. Even for me it is 51-49. Ananth: ]]

• arijit on October 1, 2011, 20:30 GMT

Ananth, if this is a rambling post and doesn’t contribute to the discussion, please feel free not to publish it. I write as a WI fan and leave it to your judgement. I sometimes think the 1976-86 WI is unfairly criticised on some points. 1) The “balanced” attack argument can only be about cricket aesthetics, not prowess. Many cricketers (I can recall Gavaskar and Brearley straightaway) those days wrote in newspaper articles that the most fearsome thing about the WI attack was that there was virtually no respite from an all-pace diet, which played on batsmen’s minds. They pined for a spinner. The WI quicks were successful everywhere, including the subcontinent pitches. 2) Despite the slow overrate, they often finished matches in four days. In the 80s, even India and England bowled as slow without all-pace attacks (at least in matches in India), often finishing just 66-67 overs in a day (330 minutes in India then). (contd)

• Ruchir on October 1, 2011, 18:38 GMT

- NZ definitely have been quite decent (esp in ODIs) given their limited human and financial resources What is most amazing is the West Indies performance from the mid 70s to the early 90s with pretty similar resource constraints and the added disadvantage of being separate countries. This phenomenon is unlikely to be repeated and quite unique in international sport

- From 2002/2003 onwards, India's performance has been the most consistent(except for the last series). Aus, Eng, and SA all have their 60+ highs but Aus are clearly in decline and Eng/SA have a few sub-50 tours. So India's top ranking was pretty well deserved

- Murali will probably be up there with Hadlee for influence on team performance. I think SL have not won a single test match even at home after his retirement [[ Maybe I should do a post on this theme. Which player's contribution has been the most telling, to his team. Through some form of peer comparisons within the team and the before and after situations. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on October 1, 2011, 16:56 GMT

Depends on if the series is played with the over rate restriction and bouncer limit rules

Well said!

Each of the great teams of the past are products of their respective eras.

The Invincibles in 1948 benefited greatly by the 55-over new ball rule. Would they have been as great a force under the rules of the 1890s when one had to make do with a single new ball? Surely not! For the simple reason that they did not have a world-class attacking slow-bowling option.

Similarly, the Windies might struggle on turning tracks played under the rules that Ruchir mentioned. In fact, they did lose once at Sydney (in 1985) to an ordinary Aus side on a turner! They might've found it tough against say Azhar's Indians with Kumble in peak form on a crumbling Kanpur deck!

The Aussies might have struggled to enjoy as many whitewashes in an era of superior stonewallers (say the 60s).

Therein lies the pointlessness of instituting "dream match-ups".

• shrikanthk on October 1, 2011, 16:38 GMT

Also, while we're on New Zealand, it is worth noting that despite its seeming lack of success, this tiny country has produced two cricketers who should surely rank right up there among the finest to have played this game....

Clarrie Grimmett and Richard Hadlee :)

Can't ask for more, can we!

• shrikanthk on October 1, 2011, 16:35 GMT

New Zealand story is one of severe under performance given that they have being playing for over 80 years. 4 periods they have dipped below 40 for long time spans. The number of blips is the highest by a huge margin

Well, New Zealand has about as many people living in it as the suburb of Andheri in Mumbai!!

Also, cricket is probably not the most popular sport in this tiny country (arguably soccer and rugby are bigger attractions).

Given this context, it is amazing that they manage to turn up an international class side that has atleast manage to compete on a consistent basis.

Let's be thankful for that.

• Ruchir on October 1, 2011, 16:30 GMT

[the result will be 3-2 for Australia on odd days and 3-2 for West Indies on even days] Depends on if the series is played with the over rate restriction and bouncer limit rules :-) If you consider results and player quality, there is not much to choose between the 2 teams regardless of the opposition they played. But personally prefer the Aus for the 2 points you already mentioned -balanced bowling attack: all time great fast bowler, greatest leg spinner and excellent swing/seam bowler vs a battery of great fast bowlers. Not being critical of the great windies quicks but a bowling attack that basically makes the cover drive a relic of the past takes away something from the game -willingness to risk defeat: Waugh was not as great a captain as Taylor but he was ready to think outside the box and try some innovative things in pursuit of victory(2 leg spinners,bowling first more than the norm). The high scoring rate mostly worked in their favor but also gave the opposition a chance to win

• shrikanthk on October 1, 2011, 16:27 GMT

Nice piece!

Aus kept on losing a series after every 2 to 3 years...they lost to india in 1996, 1998 and 2001.....Srilanka in 1999....England in 2005

Well. The likelihood of losing the odd series is a lot higher in the 2000s than it was in the 80s when there was much less intnl cricket played. The more cricket you play, the more fallible you become. Having said that, playing more cricket also helps you capitalise good form into long winning streaks. That's precisely what you observe with Australia.

Re the losses... 1998 in India : No McGrath, no Gillespie. The Indian team under Azhar was probably one of the finest Indian teams ever to play in Indian conditions!

2001 in India : Close series. A wicket or two could've changed the series verdict to 3-0 in favour of Aus.

2005 in England : Undone by deadly reverse swing bowling. Arguably the finest English seam attack since '54-55! A very close series, which could've easily been won by Aus had McGrath not stepped on a ball!

• Raghav Bihani on October 1, 2011, 14:18 GMT

4. The graphs also tell us the impact various players had on team performances. The biggest impact I feel has been by Richard Hadlee who completely transformed NZ fortunes. Before and after him they were quite ordinary. He brought about a steep hike in TSIN to above 50 and before and after him it was way below 40.

5. Dhoni did not lose a series till England 2011. Yet India failed to cross 60 on the TSIN measure. This mainly reflects on the poor bowling line up which did not allow India to go for big and comprehensive victories.

6. on AUS vs WIN, I feel both are equals. though AUS do look better this is mainly because during the WIN era winning each and every match was not that competitive and WIN did not chase records like the AUS team used records for further motivation. [[ Yes, despite only 10-15 years separating them, the two played totally differently. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on October 1, 2011, 13:41 GMT

Hi Ananth, maybe line graphing all of the teams performances, using different colors to represent different teams, would be a neat way to present your data. [[ Problem is that very few colours come out well. I had also created the graphs and did not want to do the laborious process of re-doing the same. I could have used a Jpg editor, but felt that the message was anyhow coming through. Ananth: ]]

for the 4 great teams, something like the above would give an indication of how far ahead of the competition they were.

@Dr. Talha - I agree with in rating the West Indies teams ahead of the Australian ones, but cannot help pointing out that your third point is a double-edged sword.

The absence of neutral umpiring HELPED the Windies at home, just as it burdened them aboard. Pakistan and India get most of the blame... but I think the Windies umpiring was probably the WORST of anyone of the period.

Just two exapmles - Richie Richardson's team's defeat of Wasim Akram's Pakistan side (not sure of the year) featured the worst umpiring in a series I've ever seen, and before that, umpiring turned defeat into victory against Imran Khan's touring party ('89, i think)

• arijit on October 1, 2011, 12:31 GMT

WI’s dominant period is actually two periods: (1) 81 to early 86, when they thrashed everyone and (2) Mid-86 to 95. Unlike Aus 1999-2007, WI had two largely different teams in the two periods barring a few overlaps. After Holding and Garner (and Gomes) retired in mid-86, WI drew four series on the trot (Pak 86, NZ 87, India 87-88, Pak 88) after falling behind each time. Then Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh & Patterson lifted them for a while (England 4-0 in 88, Aus 3-1 in 88-89 and India 3-0 in 89). Since then, they were not really the unquestionable No. 1 and came close to losing several times, only to somehow pull off Great Escapes (Eng 89-90, Aus 92-93, India 94-95). A 1981-89 cutoff would perhaps have made some difference (it would also have highlighted that WI played far fewer series than Aus in their best period, thus failing to make the most of their dominance). This is not to question Ananth’s cutoff but just an observation on the varying rhythms of the WI dominance. [[ I have been adamant that only streaks of over 60 are considered. Also that I would rather take a 25-match streak even if the is around 50. It is possible to split this into two streaks. However the impact of such a long un beaten run would have been lost. I must also say that their TSIN averages are around 60_ for about 10 series and then drop off. The fewer series played means that the streak was over a much longer period, 15 years against 8 years. Ananth: ]]

• Raghav Bihani on October 1, 2011, 12:25 GMT

Brilliant. I had asked for a Win vs Aus comparison and you have given an entire summary of team performance in test cricket. Some thoughts

1. Going below 40 is the equivalent of topping 60 in the analysis. England, India and Pakistan have never gone below 40. Australia and South Africa can also be put in this category because their only blips are way back in 1880-1890, when Engalnd was the only other team. This leaves SL and NZ as the only teams to go below 40 in TSIN. In fact Sri Lanka also have only 1 period of below 40 during their infancy.

2. West Indies have one substantial fall below 40. They have been declining ever since 1994 but Lara ensured they never went below 40 till he was around. This is testimony of his achievement where he has few wins to show.

3. New Zealand story is one of severe under performance given that they have being playing for over 80 years. 4 periods they have dipped below 40 for long time spans. The number of blips is the highest by a huge margin. [[ To be honest, it is more difficult to get a TSIN value of below 40 than above 60. The reason is that to average below 40, the team has to lose 10 consecutive series, each by around 40-60. That is some streak.

Re West Indies, at these times only I feel that the IPL has done irreparable harm. Gayle and Bravo in Tests and Gayle, Bravo and Pollard in ODiIs can make such a difference. Ananth: ]]

• Dr. Talha on October 1, 2011, 11:18 GMT

I believe west indies has been a more formidable side than australia for 3 reasons 1- Australia dominated an era when most of the major test teams like pak, windies, NZL, SA etc. were in their rebuilding phase or they were aging. While west indies on the other hand dominated an era when all the test palying nations were at full strength. Even NZL was very hard to beat. 2- You cannot show a 5 year period where australia have remained unbeaten in a test series, while windies remained unbeaten for 15 years. Aus kept on losing a series after every 2 to 3 years, even during their peak. Like they lost to india in 1996, 1998 and 2001.They lost to Srilanka in 1999. They lost to england in 2005. 3 - Windies dominated n era when there were no neutral or third umpire. So winning even a test match abroad was not easy, but they kept on winning series and never lost one. [[ All very valid points. Even for me it was like a tennis ball landing on the net:: could have fallen on either side. Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 1, 2011, 9:48 GMT

Ananth, how about adding the average team strength faced as another column? This is already built into the points earned, but occasionally, i imagined that Australia played the Hayden 380 type of innings, whereas the West Indies played teams with strong batting line ups (I for one will never believe that todays batsmen compare to players of yesteryear in playing fast bowling), which may explain teh higher proportion of draws.

So two factos - the merciless thrashing factor, better implemented by Steve Waugh and the team strength of the opposition.

I feel that at times, a small delta in the team strength can have a big delta in the TSIN earned. So to just have the average team strength would be great. The holy grail would be a series of graphs with the rolling TSIN and rolling team strenth. [[ Good thing is that you have got this in fairly early. So I think I can do that but you may have to wait for a few days. I yunderstand what you say. If West Indies' 60.xx was against an average TS of 55.xx and Australia's 65.xx was against an average TS of 57.xx, it is food for thought. Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 1, 2011, 7:45 GMT

Ananth, very interesting way to present the data. all teams should study this carefully to understand themselves better, and also their opposition. i hope such articles become part of official text and not remain limited to this blog. [[ Thanks. Now hoping for some of your incisive comments. Ananth: ]]

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• Gerry_the_Merry on October 1, 2011, 7:45 GMT

Ananth, very interesting way to present the data. all teams should study this carefully to understand themselves better, and also their opposition. i hope such articles become part of official text and not remain limited to this blog. [[ Thanks. Now hoping for some of your incisive comments. Ananth: ]]

• Gerry_the_Merry on October 1, 2011, 9:48 GMT

Ananth, how about adding the average team strength faced as another column? This is already built into the points earned, but occasionally, i imagined that Australia played the Hayden 380 type of innings, whereas the West Indies played teams with strong batting line ups (I for one will never believe that todays batsmen compare to players of yesteryear in playing fast bowling), which may explain teh higher proportion of draws.

So two factos - the merciless thrashing factor, better implemented by Steve Waugh and the team strength of the opposition.

I feel that at times, a small delta in the team strength can have a big delta in the TSIN earned. So to just have the average team strength would be great. The holy grail would be a series of graphs with the rolling TSIN and rolling team strenth. [[ Good thing is that you have got this in fairly early. So I think I can do that but you may have to wait for a few days. I yunderstand what you say. If West Indies' 60.xx was against an average TS of 55.xx and Australia's 65.xx was against an average TS of 57.xx, it is food for thought. Ananth: ]]

• Dr. Talha on October 1, 2011, 11:18 GMT

I believe west indies has been a more formidable side than australia for 3 reasons 1- Australia dominated an era when most of the major test teams like pak, windies, NZL, SA etc. were in their rebuilding phase or they were aging. While west indies on the other hand dominated an era when all the test palying nations were at full strength. Even NZL was very hard to beat. 2- You cannot show a 5 year period where australia have remained unbeaten in a test series, while windies remained unbeaten for 15 years. Aus kept on losing a series after every 2 to 3 years, even during their peak. Like they lost to india in 1996, 1998 and 2001.They lost to Srilanka in 1999. They lost to england in 2005. 3 - Windies dominated n era when there were no neutral or third umpire. So winning even a test match abroad was not easy, but they kept on winning series and never lost one. [[ All very valid points. Even for me it was like a tennis ball landing on the net:: could have fallen on either side. Ananth: ]]

• Raghav Bihani on October 1, 2011, 12:25 GMT

Brilliant. I had asked for a Win vs Aus comparison and you have given an entire summary of team performance in test cricket. Some thoughts

1. Going below 40 is the equivalent of topping 60 in the analysis. England, India and Pakistan have never gone below 40. Australia and South Africa can also be put in this category because their only blips are way back in 1880-1890, when Engalnd was the only other team. This leaves SL and NZ as the only teams to go below 40 in TSIN. In fact Sri Lanka also have only 1 period of below 40 during their infancy.

2. West Indies have one substantial fall below 40. They have been declining ever since 1994 but Lara ensured they never went below 40 till he was around. This is testimony of his achievement where he has few wins to show.

3. New Zealand story is one of severe under performance given that they have being playing for over 80 years. 4 periods they have dipped below 40 for long time spans. The number of blips is the highest by a huge margin. [[ To be honest, it is more difficult to get a TSIN value of below 40 than above 60. The reason is that to average below 40, the team has to lose 10 consecutive series, each by around 40-60. That is some streak.

Re West Indies, at these times only I feel that the IPL has done irreparable harm. Gayle and Bravo in Tests and Gayle, Bravo and Pollard in ODiIs can make such a difference. Ananth: ]]

• arijit on October 1, 2011, 12:31 GMT

WI’s dominant period is actually two periods: (1) 81 to early 86, when they thrashed everyone and (2) Mid-86 to 95. Unlike Aus 1999-2007, WI had two largely different teams in the two periods barring a few overlaps. After Holding and Garner (and Gomes) retired in mid-86, WI drew four series on the trot (Pak 86, NZ 87, India 87-88, Pak 88) after falling behind each time. Then Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh & Patterson lifted them for a while (England 4-0 in 88, Aus 3-1 in 88-89 and India 3-0 in 89). Since then, they were not really the unquestionable No. 1 and came close to losing several times, only to somehow pull off Great Escapes (Eng 89-90, Aus 92-93, India 94-95). A 1981-89 cutoff would perhaps have made some difference (it would also have highlighted that WI played far fewer series than Aus in their best period, thus failing to make the most of their dominance). This is not to question Ananth’s cutoff but just an observation on the varying rhythms of the WI dominance. [[ I have been adamant that only streaks of over 60 are considered. Also that I would rather take a 25-match streak even if the is around 50. It is possible to split this into two streaks. However the impact of such a long un beaten run would have been lost. I must also say that their TSIN averages are around 60_ for about 10 series and then drop off. The fewer series played means that the streak was over a much longer period, 15 years against 8 years. Ananth: ]]

• Waspsting on October 1, 2011, 13:41 GMT

Hi Ananth, maybe line graphing all of the teams performances, using different colors to represent different teams, would be a neat way to present your data. [[ Problem is that very few colours come out well. I had also created the graphs and did not want to do the laborious process of re-doing the same. I could have used a Jpg editor, but felt that the message was anyhow coming through. Ananth: ]]

for the 4 great teams, something like the above would give an indication of how far ahead of the competition they were.

@Dr. Talha - I agree with in rating the West Indies teams ahead of the Australian ones, but cannot help pointing out that your third point is a double-edged sword.

The absence of neutral umpiring HELPED the Windies at home, just as it burdened them aboard. Pakistan and India get most of the blame... but I think the Windies umpiring was probably the WORST of anyone of the period.

Just two exapmles - Richie Richardson's team's defeat of Wasim Akram's Pakistan side (not sure of the year) featured the worst umpiring in a series I've ever seen, and before that, umpiring turned defeat into victory against Imran Khan's touring party ('89, i think)

• Raghav Bihani on October 1, 2011, 14:18 GMT

4. The graphs also tell us the impact various players had on team performances. The biggest impact I feel has been by Richard Hadlee who completely transformed NZ fortunes. Before and after him they were quite ordinary. He brought about a steep hike in TSIN to above 50 and before and after him it was way below 40.

5. Dhoni did not lose a series till England 2011. Yet India failed to cross 60 on the TSIN measure. This mainly reflects on the poor bowling line up which did not allow India to go for big and comprehensive victories.

6. on AUS vs WIN, I feel both are equals. though AUS do look better this is mainly because during the WIN era winning each and every match was not that competitive and WIN did not chase records like the AUS team used records for further motivation. [[ Yes, despite only 10-15 years separating them, the two played totally differently. Ananth: ]]

• shrikanthk on October 1, 2011, 16:27 GMT

Nice piece!

Aus kept on losing a series after every 2 to 3 years...they lost to india in 1996, 1998 and 2001.....Srilanka in 1999....England in 2005

Well. The likelihood of losing the odd series is a lot higher in the 2000s than it was in the 80s when there was much less intnl cricket played. The more cricket you play, the more fallible you become. Having said that, playing more cricket also helps you capitalise good form into long winning streaks. That's precisely what you observe with Australia.

Re the losses... 1998 in India : No McGrath, no Gillespie. The Indian team under Azhar was probably one of the finest Indian teams ever to play in Indian conditions!

2001 in India : Close series. A wicket or two could've changed the series verdict to 3-0 in favour of Aus.

2005 in England : Undone by deadly reverse swing bowling. Arguably the finest English seam attack since '54-55! A very close series, which could've easily been won by Aus had McGrath not stepped on a ball!

• Ruchir on October 1, 2011, 16:30 GMT

[the result will be 3-2 for Australia on odd days and 3-2 for West Indies on even days] Depends on if the series is played with the over rate restriction and bouncer limit rules :-) If you consider results and player quality, there is not much to choose between the 2 teams regardless of the opposition they played. But personally prefer the Aus for the 2 points you already mentioned -balanced bowling attack: all time great fast bowler, greatest leg spinner and excellent swing/seam bowler vs a battery of great fast bowlers. Not being critical of the great windies quicks but a bowling attack that basically makes the cover drive a relic of the past takes away something from the game -willingness to risk defeat: Waugh was not as great a captain as Taylor but he was ready to think outside the box and try some innovative things in pursuit of victory(2 leg spinners,bowling first more than the norm). The high scoring rate mostly worked in their favor but also gave the opposition a chance to win

• shrikanthk on October 1, 2011, 16:35 GMT

New Zealand story is one of severe under performance given that they have being playing for over 80 years. 4 periods they have dipped below 40 for long time spans. The number of blips is the highest by a huge margin

Well, New Zealand has about as many people living in it as the suburb of Andheri in Mumbai!!

Also, cricket is probably not the most popular sport in this tiny country (arguably soccer and rugby are bigger attractions).

Given this context, it is amazing that they manage to turn up an international class side that has atleast manage to compete on a consistent basis.

Let's be thankful for that.