May 18, 2012

ODI bowling: location summary, country details and key matches

Analysis of ODI bowling performances by location, country details and key matches

Glenn McGrath has an outstanding record in key matches © Getty Images

This is a follow-up to the previous article which was an analysis on ODI Batsmen (click here for the article) by teams faced. Normally I do analysis-centric articles which take on and expound a theme. Once in a while I do different types of articles in which I go deep in one area of the game and provide data tables around it. This is one such article.

This information is certainly available through StatsGuru of Cricinfo. However, what will not be available are the composite multidimensional tables which are provided here. You would have to put in multiple queries and saving the tables in an accessible format is another problem.

In order to avoid the usual questions and comments which relate to specific players, let me emphasize how these series of articles would be structured. I would cover the top/selected 12-15 players in a graph to visually present the variations. Then I would present data tables, in the body of the articles, which would normally cover the top 25 players or so. However the most important of the tables are the ones which have been uploaded and are available for downloading for permanent storage and perusal. Normally these cover the complete collection of players, say 150, who meet the cut-off criteria. So, before coming out with comments that "Zaheer Khan or Botham or Walsh are not mentioned", please download the tables and check. Superficial reading of the articles is not enough.

Over the current month or or two, I will be doing the following four tables. These may all not follow in sequence. I may intersperse other pending analysis in between.

1. ODI Batting analysis - summary by location and details by country played against and key tournament matches. Completed.
2. ODI Bowling analysis - summary by location and details by country played against and key tournament matches. Current article.
3. Test Batting analysis - summary by location and details by country played against.
4. Test Bowling analysis - summary by location and details by country played against.

The vs Country grouping is as explained below. I have 10 countries/groups: Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe combined and finally "all other teams". A fair grouping and nothing of relevance would be left out. And the analysis is very extensive in that it is by country played against: at home, away, in neutral locations and across career.

I have defined the key tournament matches by the following criteria. I have deliberately excluded the tri-series finals from this group. At last count there were well over 100 such tournaments and inclusion of these tournaments would dilute the whole concept. Readers might differ. However it should be noted that inclusion of the Sharjah tournaments would also mean inclusion of all CB/VB Series and all inconsequential tri-series ever played. For that matter I have set the criteria as tournaments with 6 teams and above. World Cup Super-Sixes and Super-Eights rank with the Quarter finals.

10 World Cup Finals
20 World Cup Semi-finals
8 World Cup Quarter finals
45 World Cup Super-Sixes and Super-Eights
7 ICC/Champions' Trophy Finals
12 ICC/Champions' Trophy Semi finals
3 Finals of the following three 6+ team tournaments
- Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket, 1984/85 (7 teams)
- MRF World Series (Nehru Cup), 1989/90 (6 teams)
- Australasia Cup, 1989/90 (6 teams)

Total number of key tournament matches: 105

There were a number of comments in the batting article to consider the inclusion of some or all of the tri-series Finals also. I have generally discarded the suggestions because of the preponderance of average tri-series. Anyhow I am not going to be consistent across both areas of the game.

Normally bowling analysis is easier because of the unique nature of the single most important bowling measure, the bowling average. The batting average is an inconsistent and incomplete measure, with its two inherent drawbacks, viz., the confusing treatment of not-outs and the presence of another very important factor, the scoring rate. Bowling average, on the other hand, is a perfect composite of two important measures, viz., the bowling strike rate (BpW) and bowling accuracy (RpB). The single measure is so perfect that it is rare that we have to do any sub-analysis on the two constituent measures.

First the graphs. I would only offer limited comments since I expect the readers to come out with their own comments. I might miss some obvious comment. Should not really matter. The ordering is different for different modes of presentation since we can get different insights. In general, the graphs are ordered by the concerned bowling average values and the tables are ordered by the appropriate wickets values.

Bowler analysis - Summary by location

Summary of wickets for top bowlers
© Anantha Narayanan

This graph contains the top 11 wicket-takers, who have captured over 300 wickets and 7 other outstanding ODI bowlers. I have altered the presentation slightly. The Blue rectangles, anchored on the left, indicate BowAvg values below 28.0 and Red rectangles, anchored on the right, indicate BowAvg values above 28.0. The size of the rectangle gives an indication of the BowAvg value, the bigger the better or worse, depending on whether these are blue or red. The numbers adjacent to the rectangles indicate the number of wickets captured in that classification.

Most of the bowlers have performed above-par, home, away and in neutral locations. As expected Afridi and Jayasuriya have been below-par everywhere. Kumble has just about beaten par in neutral locations. But two real surprises: Wasim Akram has been below-par at home (72 wickets at 31.12) and less surprisingly, Warne, below-par, away (84 wickets at 30.40).

Bowler analysis - All matches - by opposing country

Summary of wickets against teams
© Anantha Narayanan

This graph is similar to the batting graphs. These are ordered by the BowAvg values. The top 15 bowlers are shown. The player's performance against the 10 team groups are plotted. Blue ovals indicate BowAvg values of below 28.0 and Red ovals indicate BowAvg values above 28.0. The size of ovals indicates how far off the par the performances are. The number of wickets captured is displayed, colour-coded, under each country. In general, the cut-off values are 100 wickets. For the lower level Home/Away/Neutral vs-team analysis, the cut-off is lowered to 75 wickets.

Garner's overall average has been stupendous, backed by an excellent strike rate and the best-ever RpO values. He has played very well against all countries barring India: 6 wickets at 32.5. The all-blue performers are Holding, Hadlee, Donald and McGrath. Muralitharan has two below-par countries and has a huge tally against the weaker countries. Wasim Akram has one weak spot, against England. Two relatively unknown bowlers, Pringle and Bracken are in this elite lot.

A vertical perusal of the table indicates that South Africa is the toughest country to bowl against and New Zealand, relatively the friendliest one.

Bowler analysis - Home matches - by opposing country

Summary of wickets against teams in home matches
© Anantha Narayanan

McGrath was king at home. An all-blue graph. No other top bowler has had this distinction. Pollock has also been quite good, barring 11 against New Zealand at 38.5. Many bowlers seem to have found it tough to bowl against India, even playing at home. Surprisingly Pakistan is the other way around.

Bowler analysis - Away matches - by opposing country

Summary of wickets against teams in away matches
© Anantha Narayanan

Holding has been good overall against all countries, playing away. But Donald and Johnson have the best record, playing away. As expected, the away BowAvg values graph has a smattering of red ovals scattered across.

Bowler analysis - Neutral matches - by opposing country

Summary of wickets against teams in neutral matches
© Anantha Narayanan

Lee has been an outstanding neutral match record with almost all-blue record. Again Donald has done very well also. And McGrath has been equally good. All other leading bowlers have their weak spots. Look at the huge number of wickets captured by Wasim Akram in neutral countries, that too at very low average.

Now for the tables. Most of these are self-explanatory.

Career  KeyMats  Home  Neutral  Away 
Wasim Akram50223.53121432.934.487231.124.3626221.213.7616823.893.87
Waqar Younis41623.853622.835.076723.154.6721822.494.7513126.474.61
Vaas WPUJC40027.54192326.614.278127.533.8916827.084.1815128.064.39
S Afridi34433.388532.604.236236.214.8716133.424.5512131.894.55
Saqlain M28821.796638.504.755420.614.5217421.634.356023.323.99
Zaheer Khan27829.03132127.385.179430.215.207826.354.5710629.964.92
Abdul Razzaq26931.839734.864.074044.235.0212631.274.6310327.714.60
Kapil Dev25327.454913.002.8510027.154.018524.493.486831.593.64

This table is ordered by career wickets captured. The top 30 are shown.

Since I have already talked about the Home/Away/Neutral performances in the graph section, I would only talk about the key tournament matches here. The bar for selection for the key tournament matches has been set quite high, and that is the way it should be. It can be safely concluded that these wickets have all been captured in real tough situations. McGrath is the runaway leader in this classification, having captured 48 wickets at a very low BowAvg value of 17.23. This is a very impressive record and should not be swept under the carpet. Imagine, McGrath has captured nearly 13% of his career wickets in tough tournament situations. No wonder that Australia won 5 major World tournaments during the past 20 years.

Muralitharan is a comfortable second with 36 wickets. The surprise is the low tally of the two great Pakistan bowlers. Lee has been very productive in these matches. It is obvious that this would be the domain of the modern bowlers because of the number of matches in WCs classified so. The formats have changed drastically.

Muralitharan53423.085331.152824.007431.777417.939625.254923.35  3428.129015.563611.08
Wasim Akram50223.536727.433235.446025.176418.53  3523.949220.978925.574220.932110.57
Waqar Younis41623.852940.763020.103724.497915.85  5824.918424.366026.982626.351314.08
Vaas WPUJC40027.544735.703235.037031.634922.226132.984028.00  2618.696116.901418.93
Pollock39324.515729.354021.774824.484827.314925.14  5123.904424.233323.092314.04
McGrath38122.02  5322.963426.765919.785719.115823.793625.083625.722420.962412.25
Lee37723.18  6422.615521.005220.983823.184023.653832.614921.632030.302115.00
S Afridi34433.384331.053427.533858.212048.20  2639.155735.123135.166524.753010.60
Kumble33730.903140.292546.00  3927.875424.264632.003451.414123.734025.302715.22
Jayasuriya32336.742945.723235.694449.143829.897136.463336.03  2928.694030.23740.29
Srinath31528.083336.733523.71  5120.415430.692850.253428.033127.743617.191320.54
Warne29325.73  2233.141556.274919.243723.766028.632925.695020.902321.52817.75
Agarkar28827.853628.422139.71  2029.203236.161850.284920.613224.506122.611918.16
Saqlain M28821.792723.332419.885724.393321.70  1636.944724.873018.004813.69617.67
Vettori28231.505340.572429.382738.22  3128.812545.082540.243122.194920.711715.71
Zaheer Khan27829.032346.392531.40  3027.732840.862227.916230.561328.464420.113115.45
Donald27221.794525.983119.424621.154021.072724.00  3220.312127.101719.881310.31
Kallis27031.703447.972533.443036.773729.624028.57  3129.744223.021825.611330.69
Abdul Razzaq26931.832528.841937.953539.863934.15  2147.245029.883127.323519.091428.07
Ntini26624.673929.772027.852528.683723.224920.24  2727.782725.593319.91919.67
Harbhajan25933.403246.443625.33  1740.761457.212530.886126.953334.242532.841624.44
Kapil Dev25327.454527.692828.07  3327.614226.501231.253826.084328.881223.42  
ShoaibAkhtar24724.983234.783424.184126.803523.46  2723.592925.381023.002022.051914.26
Gough23526.443131.10  2431.882127.332134.525121.252325.871537.074318.95622.50
Walsh22730.473045.732545.484424.162126.716527.48447.252625.88  613.8368.83
Ambrose22524.136121.801440.863222.471324.156921.351534.071232.17  519.0047.25
Anderson20830.802941.45  3234.751839.722921.902420.712426.962829.391234.831229.75
Harris20337.503137.522033.702437.08  2643.352052.253038.872230.002138.5298.78
McDermott20324.72  2119.433027.472627.582328.741728.121734.126319.43522.80112.00

Since this is a table of top performers, low bowling averages will not be discussed. I will restrict myself to the surprising high averages by the top bowlers. Muralitharan has found the Indian batsmen tough to bowl against. Wasim Akram's waterloo has been against the English batsmen. Waqar Younis has found the batsmen of his settled land intimidating. The Sri Lankan batsmen handled Lee very well. Warne had problems against English and Indian batsmen. No country's batsmen have mastered McGrath and Donald.

Pollock19320.243125.262919.342317.911138.451920.47  2617.772716.591818.33910.89
Lee16923.34  3319.673319.522023.851924.951621.562139.001313.62736.00715.43
McGrath16020.13  3019.97710.712021.553020.302617.622323.131226.83917.33313.00
Muralitharan15424.621823.331013.803140.061320.002725.56916.00  930.222519.521211.50
Warne13424.40  1928.21157.002418.001821.781838.831924.742619.62919.33  
Kumble12628.941330.461051.40  1628.621026.901924.741148.002721.561326.15712.71
McDermott12524.32  617.001725.181923.531428.86824.501431.574521.40229.00  
Ntini12224.002629.001125.36930.001122.731823.72  1723.35738.861711.82613.00
Jayasuriya11928.311331.081316.312836.001320.231727.82935.89  1121.451527.73  
Kallis11332.402145.57944.441136.64748.291723.06  1627.941822.331120.18333.33
Vettori11331.082633.271128.82935.78  946.22751.00952.672119.672116.57  
Agarkar10927.391727.001231.17  535.80538.80656.672020.001531.132421.04513.40
Gough10827.272227.50  1231.00251.501529.271528.131026.601132.451720.4148.50
Abdur Razzak10723.82930.56723.57490.75933.561019.80437.00271.00  4112.152116.86
Harbhajan10435.481854.943122.10  141.00954.78823.751637.191138.641021.20  
Srinath10330.501235.502123.14  1131.27441.25958.781623.561931.841115.55  
S Waugh10131.16  1528.601335.001735.651329.31544.401027.002629.08214.00  
Kapil Dev10027.151237.831627.50  347.001228.08625.002421.671925.74823.00  
Cairns9431.012336.572021.15736.14  1241.421029.701126.45719.57444.00  
Zaheer Khan9430.211944.321122.91  721.431440.21143.001629.25717.141327.0868.33

Look at the struggles Pollock had at home against the New Zealand batsmen, Lee against the Sri Lankan batsmen, Muralitharan against the Indian batsmen, Warne against South African batsmen and so on. The bowlers who have done very well at home are McGrath and Pollock.

Neutral matchesCareer AUS ENG IND NZL PAK SAF SLK WIN B/Z OTH 
Wasim Akram26221.212122.571332.694623.482018.80  1025.806618.735923.361615.94116.82
Muralitharan22020.81275.501032.702820.823412.565327.282619.00  1725.533414.741613.44
Waqar Younis21822.491331.31426.752528.042912.72  2125.246722.844323.371317.00311.00
Saqlain M17421.63731.001013.404724.702117.67  467.504121.902519.40169.31326.33
Vaas WPUJC16827.08542.401144.003027.701628.444033.501524.40  1812.442520.32816.12
S Afridi16133.421532.20841.752545.921246.17  1141.553534.031937.421129.27257.20
Kumble14426.221440.57534.00  923.784423.661327.081137.911026.702221.641616.88
Abdul Razzaq12631.27654.17  2125.812028.40  1535.472731.371627.501328.54835.88
Srinath12427.78940.56827.62  234.505029.84652.001517.001221.251224.671018.00
McGrath11320.22  623.171331.852014.451616.501427.93625.331117.45921.891813.72
ShoaibAkhtar11323.971144.27817.751830.331225.58  1227.501816.56824.88919.671713.12
Jayasuriya11141.03377.00671.00769.001632.813641.111327.08  943.001531.73632.33
Walsh9926.04347.67942.331421.86319.333923.23199.991830.06  613.8368.83
Pollock9727.99630.00512.001239.002420.501429.21  1727.12455.75451.751119.55
Prasad9629.911328.85610.50  921.893530.60647.50833.75364.331426.57222.50
Donald9418.781220.17434.25920.672416.921316.23  1520.20621.67416.50712.00
Ambrose8622.64523.80  1324.15119.004520.87527.601030.20  39.3347.25
Aaqib Javed8633.15  217.003627.44634.17  261.002432.671344.92335.67  
Kapil Dev8524.491217.83422.25  2120.622022.55136.00832.381732.00228.00  
Streak8531.47460.25627.001442.57284.001719.29346.001729.821519.87  733.86

Barring a few matches against England, Wasim Akram was the master of neutral pitches. Almost similar situation with Muralitharan.

Wasim Akram16823.893826.581334.771232.333715.46  1821.891322.621332.851624.06811.50
Muralitharan16024.713332.73825.881535.072723.701618.001436.14  831.253113.2685.75
Vaas WPUJC15128.063234.91945.221445.712917.901423.572031.10  824.882115.33420.25
Waqar Younis13126.471349.082416.04233.502921.34  3121.811029.60846.12936.22518.20
Lee12925.97  2923.071036.701922.58  2425.041130.272626.08633.17418.50
S Afridi12131.892827.321430.57880.00456.75  932.441723.941227.082625.69335.67
McGrath10826.69  1728.181430.071923.531119.641829.50731.291331.69625.0032.67
Zaheer Khan10629.96246.001238.67  1431.571049.401527.002928.10238.501917.84316.00
Pollock10329.232035.50641.671322.691330.461627.12  837.001330.381120.4533.33
Abdul Razzaq10327.711920.841333.31750.861140.36  568.601625.751518.53117.82617.67
Agarkar9725.111028.90951.11  421.50638.17747.431118.361516.403015.70524.20
Johnson9723.57  1026.402426.001527.60  1820.171118.27820.751022.60128.00
Jayasuriya9342.411353.151338.77974.56938.671835.331146.73  923.221031.70154.00
Vettori9332.542144.90631.671138.73  532.401130.361128.36441.502420.54  
Gough9326.20939.89  837.751921.47296.003317.30255.00449.751618.50  
Donald9020.472323.351514.471820.11922.56194.00  515.201125.55224.5063.83
Ntini8926.261228.25930.89349.001126.182416.79  644.001720.24641.83123.00
Srinath8825.681235.08620.50  3816.53  1343.54399.99  1311.69316.33
ShoaibAkhtar8824.571826.001926.111420.641227.92  328.33922.11215.50923.44224.00
Harbhajan8533.09538.20529.00  634.00  1048.003323.521341.081337.15  
Warne8430.40  364.33752.861421.07199.992927.90726.861726.94420.50225.50
Kallis7934.901151.001032.601032.001236.25841.75  737.291724.00164.00316.00
Mills7825.181530.60828.00563.00    1720.76925.33  2416.04  
Marshall7528.643828.661524.60531.80  1729.18         

Donald has performed best on away pitches. And Holding. The wicket tally for both, however, was below 100.

To download/view the Excel sheet containing the following tables, please click/right-click here. The serious students of the game are going to have a link to this Excel file on their desktop and refer to it a few times a day.

Bowler location summary and key tournament match performances.
Bowler wickets analysis vs Team - for all matches
Bowler wickets analysis vs Team - for home matches
Bowler wickets analysis vs Team - for away matches
Bowler wickets analysis vs Team - for neutral matches
I am not going to do too much of work on the conclusions which can be drawn. This is not that type of article. Just a minimalistic set of statements to complete the all-time best ODI team, according to me.

There is a need to mention four bowlers who stand out for various reasons.

The first (amongst equals) is McGrath. An overall bowling average of 22, composed of averages below 27.0 against all countries and below 20 against couple of countries. Impeccable control over line and length, all delivered at good pace. Add to it the 48 wickets in key matches, it is difficult to think of anyone else as the first selection.

The next one is Garner. Not many wickets, by today's standards, but understandable. But almost all top quality wickets, a very low career Bowling average, a wicket every 36 balls at an RpO of just over 3.0. How can anyone not include him. How successful today's batsmen would have been against Garner, with his height, bounce he normally extracted and swing and cut he could generate at will. Possibly not 18+ but comparable to McGrath's figures.

The third one is Wasim Akram. His overall numbers speak for themselves. Above-par performances in all locations outside Pakistan and the ability to generate wicket-taking deliveries at will. Almost certainly the best left-arm fast bowler to have played ODI cricket. His batting would be a bonus.

Finally for the spinner. Muralitharan's huge number of wickets against the weaker teams and Warne's relative lack of success in away locations means that my selection is going to be Saqlain Mushtaq. An excellent career bowling average and very consistent sub-24.0 average in any location means he is going to be effective everywhere.

Four jewels in the crown, that is all one can say.

So these four bowlers, McGrath, Garner, Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq complete the team line-up. It is difficult to leave out Hadlee, Waqar Younis, Donald, Lee, Bond, Holding, Muralitharan and Warne. But that is the way selections go.

At a later date I might come with a combined article, doing the Batting computations using the ODI Index (RpAI (excluding single-digit not outs) x S/R). This will ensure that strike rate will be given its due importance. Also will, at least partly, address the vexed question of averages vs runs per innings. I might then look at including at least 4/5 Team tournament Finals.

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