July 2, 2012

A tale of two halves

211

Anil Kumble achieved a near perfect split of wickets across the two halves of his career
Anil Kumble achieved a near perfect split of wickets across the two halves of his career © AFP

I had scheduled the Test Bowlers vs Countries/Innings article at this point. Then I realized that I could squeeze in this totally different one so that there is a welcome change of scene.

The mid-point of a Test career. A perfect symmetrical point to look back and forward. In real life, no single Test player would have known that he was at the mid-point. Barring (and stretching a lot) a two-Test player who knew with certainty that he was never going to be selected again at the end of the concerned Test. However, looking back, with the aid of the massive database, the mid-point is obvious, even for the currently active players. In this article I am going to separate the player careers into two equal halves and compare these. I hope that readers do not bring in the usual across-players comparisons in this analysis since all comparisons are within the player. Title courtesy Milind !!!

What is the expectation? In the first half of a player career, he is younger, fitter, (possibly) faster in his actions and does not have to conserve himself. However he is inexperienced, learning the trade and susceptible to selectorial whims. In the second half he is settled, might even set his own destiny, master of the trade, carries a great reputation behind him and knows his adversaries well. However he is also aging, has a non-syncing body and mind and has to compete with younger players. Which half player is more expected to deliver. The younger, fitter but inexperienced one or the wily, wiser but older player. Very difficult to generalise since so many other factors come into play. Let us see.

First, a few analysis criteria.

1. The half is determined exactly as it is defined as. For batsman, the mid-point is based on innings and for bowlers, innspells. So, for a qualifying all-rounder, the batting mid-point may be different to the bowling mid-point. This effectively takes care of the Imran Khan / Vettori type situation.
2. The overall criteria is 3000 runs for batsmen and 100 wickets for bowlers. 162 batsmen and 160 bowlers qualify. There is a nice symmetry about these numbers. For current players, it is obvious that the last Test they played could very well be their last Test ever. If I do this analysis couple of years hence, the numbers for the current batsmen would undergo a change.
3. In addition there is a special analysis of batsmen (mostly bowlers) who have played 40 or more innings and scored below 1000 runs.
4. For batsmen, both Runs and Batting average figures are analysed independently. There is expected to be a strong correlation between these two. A batsman who scores 5000 runs at 50 with a first half compilation of 2000 runs is more likely to score these at an average around 40 since there is a settling of the number of innings played over a number of matches.
5. For bowlers, both Wickets and Bowling average figures are analysed independently. There is expected to be less correlation between these two. A bowler who captures 200 wickets at 25 with a first half compilation of 120 wickets could capture these at 22 or 27. 22 is more likely though.

I have some other interesting points for analysis based on the career and these would come in a later article. Surprisingly there are quite a few outliers, some of them very well established players, to make this article very interesting and illuminating.

First an overall summary.

Batting

It is amazing and eerie. These values apply to the creme de la creme of batsmen, the 162 selected ones, who have scored 45% of the total runs scored. The average of average % of runs scored in the first half of career stands at 50.09%, almost perfect middle point. An alternate measure, which is the average of runs scored in the first half divided by the average of career runs, stands exactly at 50.0%. This is unbelievable. These batsmen have scored exactly 50% of the runs at mid-point. All career related variables have been cancelled out between the two halves. The average of the batting averages for the first half stands slightly lower at 98.9% and the average of batting averages for the second half stands at 101.4%.

Bowling

For the 160 bowlers there is a slightly different picture. The two averages of averages for the first half work out to 51.4% and 51.2% leading to a value of 51.3%. The second half is thus 48.7%. So there is a clear change between the first and second halves: maybe only 5% but a clear difference and evidence that the bowlers tend to drop off as their career progresses. The bowling averages drop off significantly: 103.1% to 97.6%, more of this caused by the spinners.

Readers might ask how this varies between pace bowlers and spinners. For the 97 pace bowlers the first half figure works out to 50.9% and the second half figure is 49.1%. For the 63 spinners the first half figure works out to 51.8% and the second half figure is 48.2%. This indicates that the pace bowlers tend to drop off less, by about 3.5% in the second half while the spinners tend to drop off by more, about 7%. Somewhat surprising, this difference is. One would have expected the spinners to be the steadier of the two classifications.

The bowling average variation is more pronounced. The spinners go from 105% to 95%, a very significant drop indeed. Again, quite surprisingly, the pace bowlers drop off very little, 101.4% to 99.1%. What could be the reason, I wonder. Fine, let the readers explain this.

Now for the graphs. These have been designed specifically for this analysis. There are four graphs. Batting: Runs and Batting average and Bowling: Wickets and Bowling average. Each graph shows the first and second half career figures of 10 players. The four on the left are the batsmen who have the highest first half values, the middle two have the perfect splits at the mid-point and the four on the right are the batsmen who have the highest second half values. Thus the graphs would be of great interest.

The first graph relates to Batting: Runs scored in each half.

Test runs scored in each half of career
© Anantha Narayanan

Look at how much of a change there has been in the careers of Adams, Harvey and Morris, the batsmen in the left half. All of them scored well over 60% of the runs in the first half of their careers and below 40% in the second halves. That is a drop of more than 50%. If these three had even a decent half, they would have finished with well over 50 average. Other than these three, only Grant Flower amongst batsmen has a 60-40 split.

Trescothick and Laxman are amazing. Their first half tally of runs has been within a cameo of the second half tally. Hobbs, Clarke, Border, Sehwag are others who are very close to a 50-50 split.

Now for the other side. Vettori has a 33.5-66.5 split. It is true: he has scored nearly twice in his second half as in the first half (2980 vs 1506). Imran Khan is the only other batsman with a 40-60 split. Samaraweera and de Villiers are two current batsmen who have scored around 50% more in their still-active second halves of their careers.

The second graph relates to Batting: Batting average in each half.

Test batting average in each half of career
© Anantha Narayanan

As expected the same four batsmen occupy the left side of the table, albeit in a different sequence. In general their averages show a huge drop, in excess of 150%. Adams has averaged only half his first innings average during the second half. The other three, well below 65%. The interesting point is that Adams' continued selection, with splits of 57-27, might very well have been because of the downhill trend West Indies were on. However in case of Harvey (61-37) and Morris (59-33), the heavy first half numbers could very well have influenced their continued selection.

The middle two show a change. Laxman's tally of runs might be similar but his average has shown a marked improvement. Currently the middle spots are occupied by two great batsmen of different eras: Trumper and Sobers. They average within a decimal point of the career averages during either halves of their careers. Haynes, Kanhai, Sehwag and Martyn are the others who have almost similar first and second half career averages.

The right half has the same four batsmen. They have averaged nearly twice in the second half. Vettori leads with 39.21 against 20.92, an amazing transformation indeed.

Let me now show the table, with no special comments, for the batsmen who have crossed 8000 runs and one honorary entry. My (totally worthless) digital autograph will be sent to the readers who correctly guess this wild card !!!

BatsmanCtyCareer FirstHalf  SecondHalf  
  RunsAvgeRuns%Avge%Runs%Avge%
 
TendulkarInd1547055.45803251.9%56.96102.7%743848.1%53.9097.2%
Ponting R.TAus1334652.75686451.4%55.80105.8%647848.5%49.8394.5%
Dravid RInd1328852.31720354.2%57.17109.3%608545.8%47.5490.9%
Kallis J.HSaf1237956.78584047.2%54.0795.2%653952.8%59.45104.7%
Lara B.CWin1195352.89575948.2%50.9696.4%619451.8%54.81103.6%
Border A.RAus1117450.56561150.2%51.01100.9%556349.8%50.1299.1%
Waugh S.RAus1092751.06525648.1%50.5499.0%567151.9%51.55101.0%
JayawardeneSlk1044051.18489346.9%48.4594.7%555053.2%53.88105.3%
ChanderpaulWin1029050.44455544.3%42.5784.4%573555.7%59.12117.2%
GavaskarInd1012251.12564755.8%55.91109.4%447544.2%46.1390.2%
SangakkaraSlk938254.87413044.0%47.4786.5%525256.0%62.52114.0%
Gooch G.AEng890042.58380142.7%36.5585.8%509957.3%48.56114.0%
J MiandadPak883252.57451951.2%55.79106.1%431348.8%49.5794.3%
InzamamPak883049.61384843.6%43.2487.2%498256.4%55.98112.8%
LaxmanInd878145.97440150.1%44.0195.7%438049.9%48.13104.7%
Hayden M.LAus862650.74481155.8%56.60111.5%381544.2%44.8888.5%
RichardsWin854050.24480756.3%54.62108.7%373343.7%45.5290.6%
Stewart A.JEng846539.56454353.7%41.30104.4%392246.3%37.7195.3%
Gower D.IEng823144.25427051.9%45.43102.7%396148.1%43.0597.3%
Sehwag VInd817850.80410350.2%50.6599.7%407549.8%50.94100.3%
Boycott GEng811447.73412350.8%49.67104.1%399149.2%45.8796.1%
Smith G.CSaf804349.65397049.4%47.8396.3%407350.6%51.56103.8%
SobersWin803257.78415551.7%57.7199.9%387748.3%57.87100.1%
Waugh M.EAus802941.82429453.5%42.51101.7%373546.5%41.0498.1%
Bradman D.GAus699699.94377253.9%99.2699.3%322446.1%100.75100.8%

Now for the bowlers.

The third graph relates to Bowling: Wickets captured in each half.

Test wickets in each half of career
© Anantha Narayanan

Rhodes' career is unbelievable. 94-33 split in the two halves of his career. The others are no less: Noble 84-37, Valentine 99-40 and Tate 100-55. The other two all-rounders are understandable. They turned from bowling all-rounders to batting ones. But how does one explain Valentine and Tate. Pure bowlers suddenly have a 45% drop in wickets. Prasanna and Shastri also have had similar huge drops.

Srinath and Caddick had perfectly matching career halves. Their splits are 118-118 and 117-117. Three other players have achieved this perfect split. These two were selected because of their 200+ career wickets. But Kumble's split is possibly more impressive. He has achieved 309-310, just a wicket separating the two halves in over 130 tests. That is some symmetry and consistency.

Two modern and two olden day bowlers have improved beyond all recognition in their careers. Intikhab Alam has a mind-boggling 39-86, almost the reverse of Rhodes/Noble. Blythe and Trumble have two contrasting halves. Yardley moved from 44 to 82. Davidson's split was 69-117. Zaheer Khan and Flintoff are close to this.

The fourth graph relates to Bowling: Bowling average in each half.

Test bowling average in each half of career
© Anantha Narayanan

Now for the bowling averages. Let us see if there is a difference unlike the batsmen graph which was almost a replica.

As expected we have different sets of bowlers who fill up the average table showing that there is less correlation between number of wickets and bowling averages. Briggs, Turner and Peel, the pre-WW1 bowlers have all had wonderful starts and have dropped off. Averages of around 10 moving to 30, 12 to 22 and 13 to 22. Boje has had a great first half and an equally poor second half. An average of 31 became 58. Botham, probably concentrating on his batting, dropped from 22.6 to 36.9.

Two current bowlers, Swann and Umar Gul have almost identiical first and second half career bowling averages. At this mid-stage in Swann's career he has proved his amazing consistency by having two almost perfect halves to his career. Same with Umar Gul. In addition, Ambrose and Gillespie had almost the same averages of 21 and 26 around their half-point mark.

At the other end, we have Intikhab Alam who moved dramatically from 51.9 to 28.7. Alec Bedser improved significantly from 33.4 to 18.7. Barnes improved from 22 to 13, leading to his phenomenal career average of 16.4. Similar change there for Blythe. Laker has had poor first half and then a phenomenal second half with a change from 27.9 to 15.9 (no doubt aided by 19 for 90). Currently Anderson has had two totally different halves with 35.7 and 25.6.

Now the table, with no special comments, for the bowlers who crossed 300 wickets in their Test career. This time the wild card is for SF Barnes.

BowlerCtyTypeCareer FirstHalf  SecondHalf  
     Wkts%Avge%Wkts%Avge%
 
MuralitharanSlkrob80022.7339148.923.9295.040951.121.58105.3
Warne S.KAusrlb70825.4233246.925.4899.837653.125.36100.2
Kumble AIndrlb61929.6530949.927.69107.131050.131.6193.8
McGrath G.DAusRFM56321.6429852.921.7699.426547.121.51100.6
Walsh C.AWinRF51924.4422242.826.2393.229757.223.10105.8
Kapil Dev NIndRFM43429.6526360.628.84102.817139.430.8996.0
Hadlee R.JNzlRFM43122.3018743.425.4487.724456.619.89112.1
Pollock S.MSafRFM42123.1223255.120.50112.818944.926.3387.8
Wasim AkramPakLFM41423.6221952.923.28101.519547.124.0198.4
HarbhajanIndrob40632.2220650.728.61112.620049.335.9489.6
AmbroseWinRF40520.9921853.820.87100.618746.221.1299.4
Ntini MSafRF39028.8318146.430.0795.920953.627.75103.9
Botham I.TEngRFM38328.4022859.522.62125.615540.536.9077.0
MarshallWinRF37620.9519752.421.5997.017947.620.23103.6
Waqar YounisPakRFM37323.5622259.521.49109.615140.526.6188.5
Imran KhanPakRF36222.8117648.625.6988.818651.420.09113.5
Vettori D.LNzllsp35934.1617849.635.1297.318150.433.23102.8
Lillee D.KAusRF35523.9218151.023.60101.417449.024.2698.6
Vaas WPUJCSlkLFM35529.5819254.128.84102.616345.930.4597.1
Donald A.ASafRF33022.2517452.723.3495.315647.321.04105.8
WillisEngRF32525.2016651.123.78106.015948.926.6994.4
Lee BAusRF31030.8214546.831.8496.816553.229.92103.0
Gibbs L.RWinrob30929.0917657.024.11120.713343.035.6881.5
Trueman F.SEngRF30721.5813845.020.70104.316955.022.3096.8
Barnes S.FEngRFM18916.437137.622.0774.411862.413.04126.0

Now for a collection of late order batsmen who qualify to be talked about in this article. This table includes my favourite late order batsmen, Gillespie and the one-and-only Chris Martin. Why Chris Martin? Because Chris is someone special and rare. His innings come and go in a flash and if you blink, you could miss an entire innings. His arrival creates an expectation like no other batsman's. If you miss a straight drive of Tendulkar or a cover drive of Sangakkara or a six of Gayle, no problems. Before Shastri finishes saying "this is going to the wire" for the 167th time or "went like a tracer bullet" for the 353rd time, there would be another such shot. But if you miss the Chris Martin delivery, you have missed it forever. I have always maintained that he is the only batsman I will pay to watch.

Batsman    Career       I Half       II Half
Verity     669 @ 20.91  469 @ 31.27  200 @ 11.76
(I half: 45, 40, 55, 42, 60 and 66. II - 29)

Laker 766 @ 14.06 465 @ 17.88 211 @ 9.59 (As his bowling picked, his batting fell off) ... ... Gillespie 1221 @ 18.78 432 @ 13.09 789 @ 24.66 (588 @ 18.38 before his last innings!!!)

Roberts 762 @ 14.94 209 @ 7.74 553 @ 23.04 (54, 35, 50, 52, 36 and 68 in II half) And finally, Martin CS 119 @ 2.43 64 @ 2.46 55 @ 2.39 (As consistent as Sobers/Laxman. What a batsman!!!)

To download/view the Excel sheet containing the Test Batsmen Career-Midpoint tables, please click/right-click here.

To download/view the Excel sheet containing the Test Bowlers Career-Midpoint tables, please click/right-click here.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Waspsting on July 18, 2012, 12:22 GMT

    Shri - 8 of the 11 players from your Eng 50s side were all in the squad to Aus in '58. Only 2 of the 8 could be said to be "not at their best period", too.

    Final score 0-4!

    (bad umpiring, slow over rates, chucking, dragging all played a part)

    Re: greatest ever sides - Aus 00s had a killer instinct and looked for wins that WI 80s didn't (seemed content to not lose series')

    Not sure if lack of spinner was a hindrance to WI (other than esthetically).

    IMO, you don't need a spinner if you have four great fast bowlers (only someone like a Warne or Murali could get in anyway - i'd go with four quicks over say Gibbs, Bedi, Tayfield etc.)

    Roberts, Holding, Garner, Croft, Marshall ALL have better averages in 4th innings' than Shane Warne.

    I suspect enforcement of 15 over/hour also helped Aus win more as opposed to draw (that's where a good spinner could have improved their results).

    Ananth, good distinction between team "strength" and "performance" - accept it completely.

  • Ravi M on July 18, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    @ Boll,

    Re: 2005 Ashes, “thoroughly outperformed” was a stretch from me. In my defence, however, I was speaking in relative terms – based on what followed in 2006/7 and a decade or so before that.

    Gillespie’s loss of form, Gilchrist playing the role of ‘just’ a wicket-keeper were amongst primary factors indeed. However, not even the greatest batting line-up ever assembled could score 400 on a DAY 1 English pitch against an attack with McGrath.

    Re: 2003/4, Australia was indeed without Warne too; but do you really believe that Warne would’ve made a positive impact AGAINST India? Besides, Dravid played in Aus before & after (ICC XI) 2003/4 vs McGrath. Dravid never really made useful runs vs McGrath in Aus.

    Anyway, as you said, “we ARE looking at Waugh's team with McGrath in it”, and it was one for the history books; and I totally agree with most of your observations regarding Ashes ’05 & B-G Trophy in 2003/04!

  • Ravi M on July 18, 2012, 10:19 GMT

    Shrikanthk: [i]No test side can be "good" without a half-decent bowling attack[/i].

    Not necessarily true! 1930 Australia in England didn't have Bill O'Reilly. Well, it had the other leggie who averaged 32 with the ball for the series. He was the only Australian to take more than 13 wickets for the series. Bradman's huge 100s at rapid pace meant, ordinary Australian attack had enough runs to defend.

    The West Indian sides with the Ws, even some of the recent Indian sides managed to win with no sub-30 average bowlers.

    Anyway, with the batting line-up England had in 1948, they should not have lost 4-0 to Australia. Yes, their bowling wasn't anywhere near the ones they fielded later in the 50s; but the batting was very very good! Yet, they couldn't avoid the drubbing!

  • shrikanthk on July 18, 2012, 6:34 GMT

    The '48 Eng team was not quite the force it would be '52 through '59 but it was very good.

    No test side can be "good" without a half-decent bowling attack. Besides Bedser, that English side was very weak in the bowling department. No wonder they were trounced at home even by the West Indies team in 1950.

    I'm ambivalent even about the 50s English sides because they never really fielded their "best" side in games. Trueman, Statham, Tyson and Laker seldom featured together (Did they ever feature together?)

    So though the names are really impressive over a decade, it's difficult to single out a specific English side from 50s and ask it to challenge say the 2005 team or '84 team.

    My best "dream" English side from the 50s :

    Hutton, Washbrook, Peter May, Cowdrey, Compton, Graveney, Evans, Laker, Trueman, Tyson, Statham

    The problem was that this combination was never on the field in the 50s! But most teams from history will struggle against this English combination at its peak.

  • akshat on July 18, 2012, 5:45 GMT

    last week , a great of the game and supposedly the best keeper retired. but i saw no reaction from you. just because he is from sa and not from india/aus.he keeps a low profile but is much better than your dhoni. [[ I think you are out of your flipping mind. I analyze and do not do news articles. Even otherwise, Cricinfo did an excellent job paying a tribute to Boucher. I do analytical articles and in due course would do an article on Boucher, who is one of the great keepers of all time. Surely he does not need supporters like you. Ananth: ]]

  • Boll on July 17, 2012, 14:52 GMT

    @Ravi. I`d certainly agree with you that Waugh`s Australian team were amazingly dominant away from home. Just looking through the list of series whitewashes (3 tests or more) since the beginning. There have been 47. 11 of those were achieved by Australia between 1999-2006. I think there have been 6 away whitewashes - 3 of those were achieved by that Oz team (vs NZ, SL, SAf) and 4, if we include the 3-0 `neutral` victory over Pakistan in Sri Lanka and the UAE.

    Perhaps the WI `awesome foursomes` were the most feared attacks we`ve seen, but the consistent excellence, variety, and willingness to chase victory, of the Australian teams of the late 90s-mid 2000s was unparalleled.

  • Alex on July 17, 2012, 14:23 GMT

    @Ravi and shrikanthk: The '48 Eng team was not quite the force it would be '52 through '59 but it was very good. The tour itself had a larger than life proportion as ashes on the backdrop of WW2. All this enhanced the aura of the '48 Oz.

    When the WI was at its peak in '84, discussions on "all-time greatest team" were rampant. Its main challengers according to the old-timers were: '48 Oz, Armstrong's Oz, '11 Eng, and '02 Oz. Most felt that '48 was tops with '84 just behind it. The only major weakness of 80's WI was the lack of a quality spinner (& an all-rounder). Still, thanks to their fast bowlers, they never lost a series even in Pak and Ind even on turning tracks.

    Dependence on McGrath is nothing to be found faults with --- we are looking at Waugh's teams with McGrath in it. He was easily the best bowler of the 1995-2007 period.

  • Boll on July 17, 2012, 14:02 GMT

    @Ravi M - re.Oz `looked terrible in the absence of McGrath in 2003/4!` Again, I certainly don`t want to downplay McGrath`s importance, but Aus were also without Warne in that series. Lee played only 2 tests and Gillespie 3. Australia were seriously undermanned against an excellent Indian side. The series was also an absolute batathon - only Kumble (who must have thought he was bowling at home) averaged under 37. 11 men scored more than 250 runs for the series, 8 more than 350, 5 more than 450! and Dravid (619) and Ponting (706) set records for the ages.

    Yes, McGrath was missed, but probably wouldn`t have enjoyed the featherbeds either.

  • Waspsting on July 17, 2012, 13:53 GMT

    he could have eased into test cricket - with the other 3 doing the bulk of the work - and been more ready to take over when Gillispe fell flat.

    Also, why they didn't take MacGill at the Oval in 05, or what they were expecting to gain out not doing so when a draw meant nothing to the Ashes... mystifies me as much now as it did then

  • Boll on July 17, 2012, 13:38 GMT

    re.the great teams debate. @Ravi M. Obviously McGrath was extremely important - his consistent ability to take top-order wickets, remove the best-batsmen, and concede little gave Warne so many opportunities to bowl to new batsmen, or at the very least to bowl to set batsmen with a team in trouble. They were a wonderful partnership.

    Yes, in the 2005 Ashes, Aus lost the 2 matches McGrath didn`t play (by 2 runs and 3 wickets) despite Warne`s heroics (40 wickets at 20, SR 38)...(dare I suggest that Kasper was blatantly not out?), but I think the sudden loss of form of Gillespie (prior to that series 35 wickets at 28 in England, SR 45) was just as important. Whatever the reason, I think to say that Oz were `thoroughly outperformed` in that series (or indeed in 2009) is quite a way from the truth.

  • Waspsting on July 18, 2012, 12:22 GMT

    Shri - 8 of the 11 players from your Eng 50s side were all in the squad to Aus in '58. Only 2 of the 8 could be said to be "not at their best period", too.

    Final score 0-4!

    (bad umpiring, slow over rates, chucking, dragging all played a part)

    Re: greatest ever sides - Aus 00s had a killer instinct and looked for wins that WI 80s didn't (seemed content to not lose series')

    Not sure if lack of spinner was a hindrance to WI (other than esthetically).

    IMO, you don't need a spinner if you have four great fast bowlers (only someone like a Warne or Murali could get in anyway - i'd go with four quicks over say Gibbs, Bedi, Tayfield etc.)

    Roberts, Holding, Garner, Croft, Marshall ALL have better averages in 4th innings' than Shane Warne.

    I suspect enforcement of 15 over/hour also helped Aus win more as opposed to draw (that's where a good spinner could have improved their results).

    Ananth, good distinction between team "strength" and "performance" - accept it completely.

  • Ravi M on July 18, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    @ Boll,

    Re: 2005 Ashes, “thoroughly outperformed” was a stretch from me. In my defence, however, I was speaking in relative terms – based on what followed in 2006/7 and a decade or so before that.

    Gillespie’s loss of form, Gilchrist playing the role of ‘just’ a wicket-keeper were amongst primary factors indeed. However, not even the greatest batting line-up ever assembled could score 400 on a DAY 1 English pitch against an attack with McGrath.

    Re: 2003/4, Australia was indeed without Warne too; but do you really believe that Warne would’ve made a positive impact AGAINST India? Besides, Dravid played in Aus before & after (ICC XI) 2003/4 vs McGrath. Dravid never really made useful runs vs McGrath in Aus.

    Anyway, as you said, “we ARE looking at Waugh's team with McGrath in it”, and it was one for the history books; and I totally agree with most of your observations regarding Ashes ’05 & B-G Trophy in 2003/04!

  • Ravi M on July 18, 2012, 10:19 GMT

    Shrikanthk: [i]No test side can be "good" without a half-decent bowling attack[/i].

    Not necessarily true! 1930 Australia in England didn't have Bill O'Reilly. Well, it had the other leggie who averaged 32 with the ball for the series. He was the only Australian to take more than 13 wickets for the series. Bradman's huge 100s at rapid pace meant, ordinary Australian attack had enough runs to defend.

    The West Indian sides with the Ws, even some of the recent Indian sides managed to win with no sub-30 average bowlers.

    Anyway, with the batting line-up England had in 1948, they should not have lost 4-0 to Australia. Yes, their bowling wasn't anywhere near the ones they fielded later in the 50s; but the batting was very very good! Yet, they couldn't avoid the drubbing!

  • shrikanthk on July 18, 2012, 6:34 GMT

    The '48 Eng team was not quite the force it would be '52 through '59 but it was very good.

    No test side can be "good" without a half-decent bowling attack. Besides Bedser, that English side was very weak in the bowling department. No wonder they were trounced at home even by the West Indies team in 1950.

    I'm ambivalent even about the 50s English sides because they never really fielded their "best" side in games. Trueman, Statham, Tyson and Laker seldom featured together (Did they ever feature together?)

    So though the names are really impressive over a decade, it's difficult to single out a specific English side from 50s and ask it to challenge say the 2005 team or '84 team.

    My best "dream" English side from the 50s :

    Hutton, Washbrook, Peter May, Cowdrey, Compton, Graveney, Evans, Laker, Trueman, Tyson, Statham

    The problem was that this combination was never on the field in the 50s! But most teams from history will struggle against this English combination at its peak.

  • akshat on July 18, 2012, 5:45 GMT

    last week , a great of the game and supposedly the best keeper retired. but i saw no reaction from you. just because he is from sa and not from india/aus.he keeps a low profile but is much better than your dhoni. [[ I think you are out of your flipping mind. I analyze and do not do news articles. Even otherwise, Cricinfo did an excellent job paying a tribute to Boucher. I do analytical articles and in due course would do an article on Boucher, who is one of the great keepers of all time. Surely he does not need supporters like you. Ananth: ]]

  • Boll on July 17, 2012, 14:52 GMT

    @Ravi. I`d certainly agree with you that Waugh`s Australian team were amazingly dominant away from home. Just looking through the list of series whitewashes (3 tests or more) since the beginning. There have been 47. 11 of those were achieved by Australia between 1999-2006. I think there have been 6 away whitewashes - 3 of those were achieved by that Oz team (vs NZ, SL, SAf) and 4, if we include the 3-0 `neutral` victory over Pakistan in Sri Lanka and the UAE.

    Perhaps the WI `awesome foursomes` were the most feared attacks we`ve seen, but the consistent excellence, variety, and willingness to chase victory, of the Australian teams of the late 90s-mid 2000s was unparalleled.

  • Alex on July 17, 2012, 14:23 GMT

    @Ravi and shrikanthk: The '48 Eng team was not quite the force it would be '52 through '59 but it was very good. The tour itself had a larger than life proportion as ashes on the backdrop of WW2. All this enhanced the aura of the '48 Oz.

    When the WI was at its peak in '84, discussions on "all-time greatest team" were rampant. Its main challengers according to the old-timers were: '48 Oz, Armstrong's Oz, '11 Eng, and '02 Oz. Most felt that '48 was tops with '84 just behind it. The only major weakness of 80's WI was the lack of a quality spinner (& an all-rounder). Still, thanks to their fast bowlers, they never lost a series even in Pak and Ind even on turning tracks.

    Dependence on McGrath is nothing to be found faults with --- we are looking at Waugh's teams with McGrath in it. He was easily the best bowler of the 1995-2007 period.

  • Boll on July 17, 2012, 14:02 GMT

    @Ravi M - re.Oz `looked terrible in the absence of McGrath in 2003/4!` Again, I certainly don`t want to downplay McGrath`s importance, but Aus were also without Warne in that series. Lee played only 2 tests and Gillespie 3. Australia were seriously undermanned against an excellent Indian side. The series was also an absolute batathon - only Kumble (who must have thought he was bowling at home) averaged under 37. 11 men scored more than 250 runs for the series, 8 more than 350, 5 more than 450! and Dravid (619) and Ponting (706) set records for the ages.

    Yes, McGrath was missed, but probably wouldn`t have enjoyed the featherbeds either.

  • Waspsting on July 17, 2012, 13:53 GMT

    he could have eased into test cricket - with the other 3 doing the bulk of the work - and been more ready to take over when Gillispe fell flat.

    Also, why they didn't take MacGill at the Oval in 05, or what they were expecting to gain out not doing so when a draw meant nothing to the Ashes... mystifies me as much now as it did then

  • Boll on July 17, 2012, 13:38 GMT

    re.the great teams debate. @Ravi M. Obviously McGrath was extremely important - his consistent ability to take top-order wickets, remove the best-batsmen, and concede little gave Warne so many opportunities to bowl to new batsmen, or at the very least to bowl to set batsmen with a team in trouble. They were a wonderful partnership.

    Yes, in the 2005 Ashes, Aus lost the 2 matches McGrath didn`t play (by 2 runs and 3 wickets) despite Warne`s heroics (40 wickets at 20, SR 38)...(dare I suggest that Kasper was blatantly not out?), but I think the sudden loss of form of Gillespie (prior to that series 35 wickets at 28 in England, SR 45) was just as important. Whatever the reason, I think to say that Oz were `thoroughly outperformed` in that series (or indeed in 2009) is quite a way from the truth.

  • Waspsting on July 17, 2012, 13:35 GMT

    Can't get to the link of the best teams piece (says not found), but I tend to think Alex's point is valid (hard to tell without seeing the article) about accounting for opposition strenght(?). [[ WS, When we talk of the strongest team that took the filed, other factors should not come in. If you bring in the opposition, then someone will bring in pitch, someone else might bring in location and so on. Anyhow there are other articles where these are considered. For instance the Series Performance Analysis. Go through Cricinfo's archives route to October 2011. Ananth: ]] A team's strenght is measured on its results and results are largely determined by quality of opposition. If Aus 2000 were facing WI 85, both teams results would suffer, relative to their typical results - would their rating go down (i don't remember the article and don't know how figures were arrived at)? [[ A team's "performance" is measured on its results. The strength is measured by its players. When two reasonably equal teams, Australia and India, played each other and Australia vanquished India, that does not lower India's strength. They remain the same. If you lower India's strength then you will be doing a disservice to Australia. Australia played in a zone and India also played in a zone, at the other end. Ananth: ]] I've thought the same thing about individuals.

    A loose example, when one puts down Larwood because his figures weren't great, while simeltaneously applauding Bradman as a freak of nature... how to determine to what extent one is dependent on the other?

    Thought the Aus 00 teams made some errors. Before Lee hit his peak, he was usually excluded for Kasprowicz. Now Lee always had the potential to be a match winner, Kaspers didn't.

    If they'd groomed Lee to take over a leading role (cont)

  • Boll on July 17, 2012, 13:20 GMT

    re.Bradman on great teams/bowlers. I don`t remember hearing him claim that his 1948 was the greatest ever (either at the time or in later years), although his regard of O`Reilly was clear - even then only of those he`d played with or against.

    Sir Donald wrote me (Mallett) in 1989: "Of all the bowlers I played with and against I rate Bill O'Reilly No. 1. In my opinion the hardest ball to play is the one which turns from leg to off and this was Bill's stock delivery. He persistently bowled at a right-hander's leg-stump and when perfectly pitched that ball would take the off bail. There is precious little answer to such a delivery - the batsman actually gets an outside edge or the ball clips the off-stump. Bill also bowled a magnificent Bosey (wrong 'un or googly) which was hard to pick and which he aimed at middle- and leg-stumps. It was fractionally slower than his leg-break and usually dropped a little in flight and 'sat up' to entice a catch to one of his two short-leg fieldsmen. `

  • Boll on July 17, 2012, 13:09 GMT

    Hopefully we can resume discussions about the great fast-men in a couple of days. I`d certainly agree with @Alex and @Waspsting`s recent comments re. the unreliability of individual`s assessments of pace (including my own), especially re. the length a ball is pitched and the consistent ability to bowl quickly. Even amongst blokes I played with, and I imagine the very quickest bowlers we faced were about 130kph, it was often difficult to come to a consensus on who had been the quickest bowler over a days play, let alone a season.

  • Waspsting on July 17, 2012, 12:31 GMT

    Shri - thanks for the Woodcock link.

    Phil Edmonds quoted Woodcock as saying that Patterson was as quick as Tyson, but pitched short as often as Tyson pitched up.

    On Lloyd's reaction to Thommo and Lillee... Both Lloyd and Viv stated that what really struck them was the Aus men's fitness, and how they could bowl long spells at express pace. The suggestion is that Roberts and Holding, perhaps couldn't (at least at that time)

    (k, lets move the discussion to the most recent article now)

  • shrikanthk on July 17, 2012, 5:58 GMT

    Anyway, what separated the Australians in 1948 for me was that they thrashed an English team that never lost to anybody else in that ENTIRE decade WHEN all the star players were present

    There is a world of a difference between the 1948 English team and the 1954-55 English team for instance.

    The 1948 English side was rather weak, especially in bowling. The attack was almost single handedly shouldered by Alec Bedser. Trueman, Statham, Tyson, Loader - none of them had debuted as yet.

    Even Laker was very raw and hardly the force that he eventually became in the mid-late 50s.

    Batting was decent I agree. Hutton, Washbrook, Compton, Edrich. Not bad at all.

  • Ravi M on July 17, 2012, 4:46 GMT

    @ Alex,

    I'd not say Waugh's Australians weren't spectacular vs quality opposition away. I mean they OWNED South Africa & thrashed Pak/Eng regardless of the venue. Warne's inability & lack of consistent big scorers on turning wickets kept them from conquering India for most part. And as I (annoyingly) kept repeating, they heavily depended on McGrath (perfect example Ashes 2005). VVS & Lara 153 still happened against in-form McGrath - but they were just about 2 exceptions to the "rule".

    West Indies fell short in Pakistan. I often like to point out that only time Pakistan won a Test in WI in the 80s was when BOTH Marshall & IVA were absent.

    Anyway, what separated the Australians in 1948 for me was that they thrashed an English team that never lost to anybody else in that ENTIRE decade WHEN all the star players were present.

    Note: When WI beat Eng in '48, Compton, Bedser, Edrich, Washbrook were ALL absent.

    Anyway, will continue this when Ananth creates a similar piece on teams.

  • Alex on July 16, 2012, 23:03 GMT

    @Ananth and @Ravi: The only flaw in Ananth's best team analysis is that it did not adequately account for the opponent's strength while computing the index and, thereafter, simply added the bowling strength index and the batting strength index to get the team strength index (see http://blogs.espncricinfo.com/itfigures/archives/2011/02/). It was a fantastic piece of analysis all the same. [[ Alex, I do not agree. The best team ever analysis should only be in absolute terms. Which team took the field at 10 AM on the opening day. Not how the team finished at 5 PM on the last day nor who were the opponents. A 85 team taking on a 60 team might be relatively stronger. But a 90 team taking on a 75 team would be the absolute stronger one. A 90 team could blast a 80 team by an innings and plenty or lose to a 60 team. But the results do not count in this analysis. It remains a 90 team. I agree there are nuances possible because of subjective, and often valid, insights. But my analysis was purely on c-t-d numbers. Ananth: ]] In 2005, 6 main Oz players (McGrath, Warne, Gilly, Langer, Hayden, & Martyn) were pushing 35 and Gilly's slide as a batsman was about to start. Waugh's teams of 1999-2001 were just a little bit more youthful and more deadly, IMO.

    I award the biscuit to a Waugh team but it must be noted that the 1984 WI team and the 1948 Oz team were spectacular in _away_ conditions vs quality opposition. I don't think Waugh's Aussies were on the same level in away conditions vs top class opponents --- they lost a very closely fought series in India, for example.

  • Ravi M on July 16, 2012, 19:02 GMT

    Yes! I remember that piece! One of my favourites. Can't argue against it. But .... it just made me reiterate McGrath's importance yet again!

    I believe that (highest-rated) 2005 Aus team was the one with Kasper against the Kiwis. Same team - with Lee instead of Kasper - played at the Lord's in the very next Test for Australia; and also in the 3rd Ashes Test (which Australia somehow managed to draw).

    Subjectively, one'd say Lee was a better bowler than Kasper. But, the Aussies were thoroughly outperformed by the Poms, especially when McGrath wasn't available/fit! [[ Within the period 198x-198x or 1999-200x we all have our favourites. Lee for Kaspro might very well be compensated by a better batsman. But there was another piece just befiore thia analysis wherein I had analyzed the two great periods and it was a difficult call between the two wonderful teams. Ananth: ]]

  • Ravi M on July 16, 2012, 16:18 GMT

    I like to believe that 2002 Australia were (perhaps) the best ever. I'm biased as I've followed most of the greats from their FC debut. More or less the same team did, however, lose to India in 2001 & looked terrible in the absence of McGrath in 2003/4!

    On paper, at least, Bradman's team in the 40s, not just 1948, was ridiculously good. The likes of Morris, Lindwall etc. were in their absolute prime. Besides the fact that they played with 12 instead of 11, Bradman's 1948 was the first & only truly great ground-fielding side (lot of dropped catches in the cordon off Lindwall's bowling though) until Colin Bland's South Africa. [[ You might remember the final article on Test Team strengths which I had done during 2011. According to that the five top teams are Australia: 1744 (2005) 95.34 West Indies: 0999 (1984) 91.80 Australia: 0300 (1948) 91.74. Australia: 1539 (2001) 91.20 Australia: 1824 (2006) 90.21 I think this settles all Team strength arguments once and for all time. The lead of the 2005 Australian team is vast. Ananth: ]] In 1940s, Bradman, Morris, Hassett, Barnes, Harvey, Loxton combined, 6431 runs @ 74 (26 100s in 101 innings). Even if you leave Bradman out, the rest scored over 4500 runs at 66 (18 100s in 78 innings). Throw in Keith Miller’s mid 40s average.

    Lindwall, Miller, Johnston, Toshack, O’Reilly (only 1 match) took 227 wickets at 19.3 and with an Econ of 2.0!!

  • Alex on July 16, 2012, 13:22 GMT

    @Wasp: Imran's utterances can be a bit unreliable http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-03-26/interviews/29191838_1_vivian-richards-viv-richards-imran-khan . He regularly maintains that 2-3 spells of Holding in Packer series were the fastest he ever saw anyone bowl but also thinks Holding is the most gifted bowler he ever saw (that might be valid though).

    In sports, the standards tend to improve with time but can regress as well. The '74-'75 Oz team was extremely good with a fantastic attack of Lillee, Thommo, Walker, and Mallett ... again goes to show that a great captain has an eye for talent and can get good players to really flourish under him. All said, one of Waugh's teams was possibly the GOAT.

  • Waspsting on July 16, 2012, 12:00 GMT

    Ian Johnson thought Lindwall was faster than Tyson (probably just pro Aus bias). Trueman thought he was faster than Tyson (probably just egotism!).

    Few people thought Holding > Thommo, notably Imran Khan (think he based it on the idea that Holding could maintain peak pace for longer periods).

    Bradman differentiated "fastest" in terms of time span of maintaining pace. Said Eddie Gilbert was the fastest over short periods, but Larwood over the course of a season (of bowlers he faced)

    Another perceptual illusion in gauging pace comes from how hurried the batsman appears in taking the ball. Short balls tend to rush players more, so i guess the guys who pitched shorter like Thommo, Patterson (as opposed to Tyson, Lindwall) would look more impressively quick (might even be thought to be more quick, since the batsman feels more rushed)

  • Waspsting on July 16, 2012, 11:42 GMT

    I'd add Marshall to Alex's list of possible fastest ever.

    re: Bradman's opinion on Tyson's pace > Thommo's, I stand by the idea that it is ABSOLUTELY impossible for ANYONE to visually make such a judgement.

    I doubt anyone could look at 3 100 vs 95 vs 90 mile per hour projectiles over 40 yards, and consistently tell which one was which (let alone compare paces of two different bowlers 20 years apart).

    Even Bradman had his illogical moments. In 49 he argued his 48 side was the greatest side ever and O'Reilly was the greatest bowler - based on the premise that standards must improve with time (specifically, he argued his team > Aus 02 and Aus 21 and O'Reilly > Barnes)

    He never changed those opinions though, no matter how much time passed!

    In '75, he did a man for man comparison between his Aus '48 vs Ian Chappell's '75 team, and gave his side a 9.5 - 1.5 advantage. And he maintained O'Reilly's GOAT status to the very end. (cont)

  • Alex on July 16, 2012, 5:15 GMT

    @Ananth: Thousand pities that a most awaited article has been delayed. Your comment on it is quite interesting in itself. My take, and it could be wrong, is as follows. [[ My personal take was more in response to WaspSting's intriguing comments and not on the forthcoming article. Ananth: ]] Bouncers were an exception in 50's & 60's. E.g., when Lillee bowled those in Aus vs World XI ('71), Sobers actually asked Chappell to tell Lillee that "this is not on". Gilchrist bowled beamers on the grounds that beamers are not ruled out by cricketing laws; but he had a short lived career. Bouncers at great pace popped up starting 1974 only with Lillee, Thommo, Roberts, Holding, Hogg, Pascoe, etc. knocking people's heads off. Helmets and improved gear immediately came into play --- that didn't happen earlier simply because there was no need for those. So, hats & caps are to be praised but I don't think the batsmen in 50's & 60's faced pace of the calibre of 1974-2000; since 2000, express pace has become more of a rarity again. [[ By the time the millenioum came, all protection gear were in place. The pace pre-1974 might not have been fierce but the fact is that there was virtually no protection. Possibly there was an evolution on protective gear during the 1975-1885 period. One reason why I rate the batsmen who faced the pace bowlers either side of 1980 so high: Gavaskar, Gooch, Gower, Miandad, Amarnath, Viswanath, Richards et al. Ananth: ]]

  • Ananth on July 16, 2012, 4:26 GMT

    First, my "Bowler vs Teams" article has been delayed to accommodate a more topical one on Lee. Will post it later this week. My first glimpse of pace in Test cricket was McKenzie and Hawke. And I remember that they were bowling full length, rarely short. Bowlers were careful in not bowling short too often. Contractor's near-brush with death was too fresh in everyone's mind. Hanumant Singh played an unforgettable but often-forgotten innings of 94, which contained 18 boundaries, mostly drives in front of the wicket. I do not remember one hook or pull. My teenager's mind wondered why Hanumant was batting on one lovely pitch in South Madras and the others, a treacherous one in North Madras. But the pace bowlers were very good and an Indian line-up with Durani batting at 10, made only 193. Only thing I knew was that almost all deliveries were potential wicket-taking deliveries. Move forward couple of years and to the west of India, to the frightening pace of Hall and Griffith. But they were used mainly to capture top-order wickets and the spinners then cleaned up. But I don't remember the ball whizzing past the head often. Hall especially had the skill to concentracte on capturing wickets. His opening spell on the first day was devastating, two batsmen bowled with nothing on board. Then, despite Chandrasekhar's burning deck efforts, it was all downhill. Now to the seventies and Tony Lewis and Chapauk. Solkar and Gavaskar open for India, but in bowling !!! Compared to them, Arnold and Old looked like Hall and Griffith, only in comparison. In reality no more than medium pace. But they knew their trade. Even on the spinner's tracks, they captured useful wickets. 1990 at Lord's was an altogether different and potent pace attack: Fraser, Malcolm and Lewis. Malcolm let go often, but the Indian batsmen had only the loss of their wickets to worry about. I think the bottom line and not-to-be-forgotten factor in these exchanges is the protection that is available today. The pace might have increased, after the 1970s, by about 10-15 kmph or so. But with no protection of any kind, those batsmen were literally playing for their lives. A really short ball aimed at their head presented three options. Hook successfully for runs, hook into the deep fielder on the leg or get hit. Swaying with a bare head was tough. The modern batsmen have very good averages. 50+ is there for the taking. But transport these batsmen 30 years back or transport those batsmen into today's well-protected environment. Would not there be significant changes. And I also feel that the complete protection for the batsmen has also allowed the bowlers to increase the pace and go for the jugular often, without fear of causing grievous injury. I have no doubt any great batsmen across the ages would have adapted to another period. But we should not forget the guys who batted with a panama hat and a box. Ananth

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 16, 2012, 3:15 GMT

    What a pity that Dravid's 461 runs in 2011 in England will be considered to be runs against a Group 4 attack instead of Group 5, merely because Anderson runs a career average of 30, which is entirely due to his late development, whereas in reality, batsmen are facing him in his 2H, where he is running 25 or less. [[ There is no doubt that this will be compensated by another series in which another bowler, who has Botham-like career slplits, has a c-t-d average of 27, way below what he is really doing, say 32-35. What you gain on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts. Ananth: ]]

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 16, 2012, 3:05 GMT

    Modern quicks bowl a fuller length, which gets additional miles on the speed gun. The reason being that the speed gun tracks the forward (horizontal speed). West Indies pacemen bowled from greater heights, being generally taller, another reason for their not necessarily clocking the highest speeds.

    Had Thommo been as tall as Bishop, his (recorded) speed may have fallen by 2-3 mph, though he may have been more dangerous.

  • Alex on July 16, 2012, 1:54 GMT

    @shrikanthk and @Boll:

    1. The '79 fastest bowler competition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPDW7hj1yfs&feature=related . It'd be wonderful if ICC has such competitions every other year for fast bowlers & spinners ... the prize money in '79 was $1,000/- (GULP!). However, ICC is more likely to have it for longest six-hitters :(

    2. Don did call Tyson the fastest he ever saw. Even the lightest utterances of the Don used to be meaningful. So, if the comment was in '76, then maybe Tyson was faster than Thommo. I find that hard to believe though. IMO, only Holding, Bishop, & Patterson ever came close to Thommo (I deal with clean-action bowlers only): the ball to Tony Greig in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IQ-UGwZdKM&feature=related is incredibly fast.

  • shrikanthk on July 15, 2012, 17:32 GMT

    Interesting players in history who've bridged generations. Close who took thrashings from Hall and Holding, Sobers faced Lindwall & Lillee. Cowdrey saw Tyson in 54 and faced Thommo in 74. Boycott.

    An interesting journalist who bridges several generations is John Woodcock. He saw the young Bradman at his peak in the 30s and has also witnessed the present English cricket team in action!

    A very level headed chap. Here he is writing on fast men -

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/534358.html

  • Alex on July 15, 2012, 14:56 GMT

    @Boll: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nol94jVqCXk is a justification for adding 10% to the recorded speeds in 1978.

    @sri and @Wasp: Very valid points on video footage. When I first saw Holding & Thommo, I couldn't understand why they were considered so fast: they looked so fluid, languid, and relaxed that 90+ mph seemed impossible.

  • Waspsting on July 15, 2012, 12:07 GMT

    Pak batsman decided to run byes when the ball went through to the keeper when Tyson bowled.

    Imran recounts how Haynes at short leg had to shout to be heard by the keeper when Holding bowled.

    Furthest Knott stood back for anyone was Garner - so its not just about pace, but carry as well (though generally, the two must be highly correlated)

    Interesting players in history who've bridged generations. Close who took thrashings from Hall and Holding, Sobers faced Lindwall & Lillee. Cowdrey saw Tyson in 54 and faced Thommo in 74. Boycott.

    re: Sobers' hitting power - yes, that's a blow against the idea that everything's faster now (seems a safe assumption that if that were so, batsmen would also hit further, especially given the size of bats).

    Also clearing the Pavillion at Lords. Only guy to do it was somebody named Trott before World War 1 (?), Miller came pretty close too.

    (just rambling about stuff that i've wondered about - no real point to make) [[ I wish there is more rambling. Makes very interesting reading. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on July 15, 2012, 11:54 GMT

    this might work in REVERSE for the batsman. Based on my playing days, the guys who steamed in didn't rush me as much as the guys who came in casually (assuming the speed is about the same).

    interesting discrepancies of accounts of such things. one example, Hutton says that the pace of Miller was such that when he was struck, there was literally nothing to do but take the blow - the pace was just too great.

    Bradman says Miller wasn't bowling his top pace when Hutton was struck. --- I think Thommo doesn't get the credit he deserves as an influence in the great fast bowling era. Lillee was the first, Roberts came not long after him, but I think it was the effect Thommo had on Eng and WI that really made everyone sit up and take notice as to how effective bombarding pace could be. And by almost all accounts, he was the fastest of that lot.

    I read a figure - that sounds unlikely to be accurate - that Marsh stood 36 meters away from the batsman for Thommo. (cont)

  • Waspsting on July 15, 2012, 11:39 GMT

    its great to get your take on this. Ananth, I'd love to hear from you, too. [[ Will do soon. I was putting to bed couple of important documents, finalizing IT returns for the entire family and was doing the finishing touches on the next article. So I let Shri do a nice summary job, without bringing in reference to FC. Ananth: ]] Another thing I've observed is that people tend to assume that what they saw (and maybe a slight extension backwards to players who played with the guys they saw, when they started watching cricket) are the standard of "fast" pace. Everything before that, they tend to have doubts abouts.

    For myself, I started on Marshall, Imran, Hadlee - and backwards include upto Lillee as every bit the standard of pace they were.

    Generation before mine swears blind that Hall was as fast as anyone - but cast doubts about Trueman, Lindwall. And so on.

    I suppose those who saw Lindwall et. al. would include him, but cast doubts on Larwood's generation of pace.

    -----

    As far as judging on videos go, it seems to me the speed of the run up influences our perceptions. Thomson with his little jog, and Holding with his 3rd gear run up don't APPEAR to be as fast as even Lillee with his power run up (or Marshall and Waqar)

    (cont)

  • Boll on July 15, 2012, 8:00 GMT

    OK, back on target. Kapil gets a fair bit of stick (probably rightly) for his blatant `hanging around to break the record` antics, but stats show that he remained pretty consistent - probably until the very last part of his career, when he was obviously well below his best.

  • Boll on July 15, 2012, 7:56 GMT

    And Marshall - maybe the greatest of them all? Shane Bond, as someone already mentioned, was also extremely fast. Particularly against Oz he seemed to find an extra yard and was often unplayable. Sorry Ananth, completely off topic for my last 5 posts - just getting warmed up for tomorrow`s article.

  • Boll on July 15, 2012, 6:15 GMT

    @Alex, yep I watched them all. While Holding was very fast, I`m not sure he was as quick as Shoaib/Lee/Tait at their fastest. I remember watching the 1978 timed net session, and have seen it since. I`m not sure why you claim that 10mph(16kph) should be added to those speeds though.

    Thomson was timed at 148kph (not 106mph - 170kmh) during that trial, Holding at 141 and Imran at 140, although I`m sure all men bowled quicker in match situations (not the 1-over I think they had in the timed-session). Lillee was certainly not as quick in 1978 as he was in the early mid-70s.

    Thomson was timed by speed cameras and conventional radar during a match in 1975 and clocked just over 160kmh - probably at his peak then.

    As for `keeper estimates, Rod Marsh has claimed that Thommo routinely bowled at 180kph, so we probably should take such estimates with a grain of salt.

    Either way, some seriously fast men.

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 15, 2012, 5:21 GMT

    Tyson, Wes Hall were definitely as quick as any modern bowler. Dont think Trueman / Charlie Griffith / Lindwall / Miller Statham were in the same league. Any of the 70s bowlers would be as quick as a Brett Lee. So until 70s, only 2-3 bowlers were superfast. Rest were sharp.

  • shrikanthk on July 15, 2012, 4:17 GMT

    Alex: I'm not surmising the speeds based only on youtube footage but also on contemporary accounts.

    Another pertinent point to be borne in mind is that the "lengths" of bowlers have shortened over the past 70 years.

    Now Lindwall in his precious little footage may not seem as fast as say a Holding. That's probably true. But one reason why that seems obvious is because Lindwall bowled a slightly fuller length than Holding.

    There is a certain glamour associated with short-of-a-length / short pitched bowling which wasn't prevalent in earlier eras. Tyson for eg bowled a much much fuller length than a Thomson or a Croft. So obviously his intimidation quotient based on footage would seem much lower.

    Even in our own era, Lee "looks quick" when he bowls a short-of-a-length leg-cutter that whizzes past the batsman's edge. But if the same bowler delivers a full length ball in search of swing, he "looks less fast". Though in all probability the fuller ball was quicker than then shorter ball!

  • Alex on July 15, 2012, 3:55 GMT

    @Boll: Holding was certainly as quick as Shoaib/Lee/Bond/Tait, and he did not need to change their bowling actions drastically like these four guys did, to go above 95 mph. In 1978, over a dozen top fast bowlers were measured by speed gun. This 12-min long clip is available on YouTube. The technology was a bit different and to make sense of it in today's measurement, about 10mph should be added to those recorded speeds. Then, the top measurements were:

    1. Thommo: 106 mph 2. Holding: 97 mph 3. Imran: 95 mph

    The fastest deliveries of Roberts & Hadlee were clocked at about 92 mph. Lillee was at 90 mph. Dujon reckons that Holding routinely bowled at 95+ mph until 1983.

  • Boll on July 15, 2012, 3:49 GMT

    @Ananth. re.`No-one came out with enhanced reputation.` (except perhaps Anil Kumble) from the Mumbai/Sydney tests and the subsequent ill-feeling between the two teams/fans/nations(?). Yes, that`s the real pity of it. Although South Africa were probably the No.2 test side of the decade, they rarely troubled Australia, whereas India always rose to the challenge and were often victorious.

    Unfortunately, poor behaviour from players from both sides, dubious umpiring (which again favoured both sides at times) the behaviour of the boards, jingoistic reporting and rabble-rousing, attacks on Indian students in Australia, the sacking of an umpire of great integrity, and the bigotry/racial abuse which became prevalent on online message boards all contributed to a sour taste in the mouth.

    It`s easy to forget how, for series after series, we watched some of the great cricket/cricketers of all-time. no less than 8 of the top 25 runscorers, and 5 of the top-25 bowlers (3 of top 4) as per your list [[ The way Sydney Test went is one of the reasons why I want DRS, even in its current 99% form, be mandatorily incorporated in all matches. If what happened to Pakistan recently had happened to India, would Gould have been forcibly retired. But Mumbai/Sydney were not negative enough to take the sheen off the 7/8 years of one of the most intense and closely fought confrontations ever. Ananth: ]]

  • Boll on July 15, 2012, 3:13 GMT

    @Gerry. Lots of quick bowlers in the 1970s as you mention, although I`d say that of those I saw only Thomson was as quick as Shoaib/Brett Lee in their prime. Lillee was apparently very quick (before I saw him) before stress fractures, and 4 or 5 Windies bowlers were genuine pace. 145-150kmh at a guess - say Donald`s speed for younger viewers. i.e. very serious stuff.

    Don`t know too much about Trueman,Griffith,Statham. From what I`ve read and heard, Lindwall in his prime was a genuine fast bowler, with injuries and age reducing his speed in later years (comparisons with Lillee, in terms of action and pace). I think Miller often bowled off about 13 paces - at face-medium pace - but on his day, or when he bent his back, was as fast as anyone. Perhaps comparisons with Wasim?

    Vision of Larwood I`ve seen makes it fairly clear that he was genuinely quick.

    Certainly the early 70s, as shrikkanth mentions was a golden era though.

  • Alex on July 15, 2012, 3:07 GMT

    @Gerry & @shrikanthk: It is impossible to judge the fastest bowling speed of Trueman, Lindwall, Griffith, etc. based on a few YouTube clips. Hall & Tyson might have gone 90+ mph at their peak. Sobers considers Gilchrist faster than Hall and Griffith was known to bowl/throw bouncers and yorkers at a higher pace than Hall. So, it seems the sum total of bowlers at 90+ mph is 4 (discounting Larwood), until 1970. Somehow, the number grew alarmingly after Lillee's arrival. This is the main reason why Lillee's place is so special in cricketing history. He breathed life into fast bowling when he burst on the scene in 1970 and came back from injury in 1974 to become the leading wkt taker in history.

    Too much is said about Warne making spin bowling fashionable (which he didn't --- Ind & Pak had been producing world class spinners for a long time). Lillee did exactly that for fast bowling. If any bowler merited a Wisden 5 nomination, that should have been Lillee/Marshall/McGrath.

  • shrikanthk on July 15, 2012, 2:16 GMT

    Another point regarding Miller and his pace. The man made his FC debut in 1937. By 1950, he was 31 years old. So a vast majority of his test cricket was played after he was well past 30.

    Same thing holds for Lindwall as well. So I doubt if we can judge these two by the same standards we apply for most other players. Very few bowlers have remained tearaways after turning 30. Lindwall and Miller were both quick enough given the fact that they were late bloomers for no fault of their own (Blame Hitler and Chamberlain for that).

  • shrikanthk on July 14, 2012, 17:30 GMT

    In general, if I were to chart the evolution of "speed" of bowling over the years. I'd say it was fairly flat throughout cricket history with the odd peak here and there right up to the 70s. Then one man Lillee triggered a bowling fast-revolution which has stayed with us till date.

    In the pre-70s eras, there were two periods when fast bowling was *fashionable*. Those were the 1890s and 1950s.

    CB Fry, the great cricket player and theorist, commenting on fast bowling in 1939 :

    "...with the exception of Larwood the modern generation of batsmen have never seen anything like fast bowling as this term was exemplified in E.Jones, Lockwood, Richardson, CJ Kortright, SMJ Woods, J Sharpe and one or two others of that era (1890s). Just as batsmen of those days had no conception of leg-break bowling as it is known now"

    Priceless historical insight.

  • shrikanthk on July 14, 2012, 17:22 GMT

    Tyson, Wes Hall were definitely as quick as any modern bowler. Dont think Trueman / Charlie Griffith / Lindwall / Miller Statham were in the same league. Any of the 70s bowlers would be as quick as a Brett Lee. So until 70s, only 2-3 bowlers were superfast. Rest were sharp.

    Tyson was a notch quicker than Wes Hall by most accounts. Among the rest, Lindwall was quicker than Statham/Trueman/Miller/Griffith and possibly quicker than Hall as well, in his early days.

    Miller's pace often varied a lot, but I doubt if he was ever a consistently fast bowler day in and day out.

    Statham's videos don't suggest he was as fast as often imagined.

    Trueman was a lively swing bowler, but slower than Lindwall for most part of his career.

  • shrikanthk on July 14, 2012, 16:48 GMT

    He's also one of the most melodramatic writers i've come across. Wouldn't take his word on anything (makes himself out to be quite the hot shot in everything)

    Are you referring to "Cricket and I"? That was supposedly ghost written by CLR James!!

    Anyway Constantine was a politician. So he's prone to self-glorification by nature.

    I love the way he idolises Hobbs in that book. Almost like a kid! Also liked his detailed narrative of how Herman Griffith "sorted out" Bradman in one of the tests.

  • Ravi M on July 14, 2012, 15:56 GMT

    @ Waspsting,

    When I revisit highlights of Lillee n Thommo, they seemed 70mph at most from the terrible angles that're available! Rod Marsh seemed to be merely 15 yards away from the wicket too - in 90% of the archives from the 70s.

    Unless there's a perfect right-angle view of the pitch, bowler & keeper in the same frame, there's no way anybody could deduce how far the keepers were. And, I don't think we have those views available from pre-Packer days. [[ So few cameras were available that most videos pre-198 would seem to be amateurish. Ananth: ]] Most presumptuous explanation I often heard was that athletes are bigger & stronger now than ever. No denying that; but since when strength directly translated into BOWLING speed? Bichel's arm will weigh more than Sami's leg!

    Anyway, I'd rather face Akhtar/Lee with everything that Ganguly wears than face Zaheer Khan with what was available in 50s.

    It’s worth mentioning that Sobers used to clear the old Adelaide scoreboard batting against Davidson & Benaud. That’s good 140 yards (130 metres). I dare any modern player to exceed that!

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 14, 2012, 15:36 GMT

    Tyson, Wes Hall were definitely as quick as any modern bowler. Dont think Trueman / Charlie Griffith / Lindwall / Miller Statham were in the same league. Any of the 70s bowlers would be as quick as a Brett Lee. So until 70s, only 2-3 bowlers were superfast. Rest were sharp.

  • shrikanthk on July 14, 2012, 15:14 GMT

    Kumble taking 13 wickets for the match, the extravagantly talented D.Martyn scoring a century overseas which no-one remembers

    I remember that Damien Martyn hundred. Classic backfoot play. Rock back, watch the ball, and play late. And pounce on anything short.

    In the same series, Clarke exhibited an equally skilful example of backfoot play against spinners. He epitomized Ranji's maxim - Play back or Drive.

    The same Clarke today is a very different player. More of a front-foot lunger and less willing to play off the back foot. Still scores runs though ;)

  • shrikanthk on July 14, 2012, 14:55 GMT

    Having a taste for Hammond- i'd imagine bowling was simply, not too quick by todays standard

    Maybe. But let's not forget that "today's standard" is an outcome of protective equipment and a 30% decline in overrates as compared to Hammond's heyday!

    This is what makes cricket such a fascinating game. We always need to qualify greatness by citing playing conditions and material circumstances

    Would Hammond's front foot batsmanship have succeeded in a big way in a fast-bowling dominated era such as the 80s?

    Would the Windies quartet have been effective under the material circumstances of the 1890s which meant a one ball per innings?

    Would Bradman's spin-less attack of '48 (with Toshack the negative option) have succeeded in a big way if the 55-over rule was not in place?

    Would Richards have been a master blaster in the 30s - an era dominated by a wide variety of slow/slow-medium leggies?

    Would Swann have succeeded in the 20s with its LBW laws and preponderance of pad-play? [[ Shri, Three very nice comments in response to Waspsting's specific question. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on July 14, 2012, 14:41 GMT

    Neither Trueman or Miller look at all quick to me. and the keepers don't seem to be standing back too far.

    Trueman looks about Anderson's pace from the early 60s footage. Was no doubt quicker in his youth.

    Miller btw was quick only in the 40s. By 1956 he was a fast-medium seamer.

    Ofcourse that doesn't make him a lesser bowler. Miller won Aus her only test win in the '56 series.

    It's just that the game has slowed down remarkably since the 50s, starting with that '54-55 series down under. Overrates since then have been nowhere near what they were pre-War. Obviously this is the result of a somewhat religious belief in pace. And a scepticism towards any seam bowling which is below 80-85 mph.

    Perhaps this scepticism is overdone. After all even in the 30s, a Bill Bowes enjoyed more success than a Gubby Allen. In the 20s, a Maurice Tate was more effective than a Ted McDonald.

    Anyway, we're too deeply immersed in the religion of pace bowling today to turn back the clock!

  • shrikanthk on July 14, 2012, 14:30 GMT

    Do you think what was "fast" in 1930 or 60 is fast now?

    The word "fast" was used in a more generic sense back in the 30s. It encompassed all pace bowlers ranging from Larwood ("fast" in any era) to Bill Bowes ("medium fast" using modern vocabulary).

    Regarding the evolution of pace bowling : The average pace of bowling attacks has increased since the 70s when Lillee burst on to the scene.

    Until then, the culture of "fast bowling" did not really exist. Teams used to host 1 genuinely quick bowler, 1 medium-fast seamer, and a couple of spinners. A classic attack of this composition from the 30s would be : Farnes, Bowes, Verity and Wright!

    That kind of attack went partly out of fashion in the 50s when England produced a crop of fast bowlers. And it went completely out of fashion by the 70s.

    Ofcourse I am not saying that "classic" composition is worse than the "modernist" composition of 3 fast men-1 spinner. It's just that the rhythms of this game have changed for better or worse

  • Waspsting on July 14, 2012, 12:22 GMT

    Constantine had Miller tendancies - could bowl fast, or medium and varied it up. Pace probably changed over his career more than most as well.

    He's also one of the most melodramatic writers i've come across. Wouldn't take his word on anything (makes himself out to be quite the hot shot in everything)

    As we wait for the next article, i'd like to hear what others think about the evolution of pace in cricket. [[ The next article will be published on Monday. Ananth: ]] Do you think what was "fast" in 1930 or 60 is fast now?

    Neither Trueman or Miller look at all quick to me. and the keepers don't seem to be standing back too far.

    Hammond was as melodramtic and prone to exaggerations a writer as I've come across. He describes the fastest bowling he faced as having flashed passed him and into the keepers glove "15 yards back" before he could play his shot.

    Having a taste for Hammond, I'd take this figure to be an exaggeration - and if 15 yards is an exaggerated figure - i'd imagine bowling was simply, not too quick by todays standard.

    thoughts?

  • srini on July 14, 2012, 9:30 GMT

    Yup Dizzy was the not out batsman when the OZ were bowled out for 93 in the Mumbai dust bowl. I didn't see that match but from what I heard he was quite the technician in that innings. Like all tamizhargals say para asaaltu. [[ 9 in 51 on that cattle track. Ananth: ]]

  • Ravi M on July 14, 2012, 5:48 GMT

    Most people often forget that Gilly was, in fact, one of those rare (Australian) cricketers who had been a brilliant bat from his late teens. His constant pursuit for the wicket-keeping role is what kept him out of international debut (Test in particular).

  • Ravi M on July 14, 2012, 5:45 GMT

    Thanks to SK Bansal & the consequent overseas dialing code (0011) in India in 2001, Gilly’s initial average took a big blow. Following that, in 4 years from 1 July 2001 to 1 July ‘05, Gilly’s numbers were beyond belief.

    Despite missing the monumental 149* & 122, in 51 Tests, he scored nearly 3500 runs at 59 & SR of 86!

    Look deeper, 73 SIXes in 72 innings, 13 100s to 13 50s (not bad for a #7!) & wait for it ….

    Almost 1900 away runs at 71.4 & SR of 89 with EIGHT 100s to 6 50s! 44 SIXes in 22 Tests (32 innings).

    In 37 wins during that period, over 2500 runs @ 69.5 & SR of 86! 2000 of those runs (including 9 of 10 100s) came in FIRST 2 Tests at an avg of 80!

    1500 runs in 16 AWAY wins at 90+ avg AND 90+ strike rate {38 SIXes in just 16 Tests (22 innings)}. Again, in FIRST 2 Tests, 1200 runs with an ave of 108 & SR of 93+!

    These numbers exceed even the wildest fantasies of mine! LOL

  • Ravi M on July 14, 2012, 5:44 GMT

    As Pawan pointed out, Gilchrist's split is quite a contrast. 48 Tests would be his half-way.

    Before B-G Trophy 2003/4, Gilly had played 47 Tests with an ave of 60.25 & SR of 83.6

    65 away & 104 in 4th innings

    When Aus didn't lose, 276 in 4th innings & 100 away! Most amazing part was that batting was his secondary role!

    The real decline obviously started with Ashes ‘05. English bowling was brilliant; but it's not like Gilly didn't play reverse swing well vs Pak greats. It was a combination of things. At 34, Gilly perhaps started to spend even more time trying to maintain his own high keeping standards going into Ashes '05 after a great summer with bat.

    IMO, the biggest factor was being stranded on 49 @ Edgbaston ‘05. Gilly was all set to make a huge difference like he did there 4 years ago - scoring 61 off 31 (while refusing singles early in the overs) batting with McGrath. But, it just didn’t happen & everything was on a descent from then – with occasional brilliance here n there.

  • Boll on July 14, 2012, 5:33 GMT

    And in the 3rd test at Nagpur, Dizzy`s career best 9-80 off 40 overs to help clinch the series. How could I forget - still no Man of the Match award though. Probably went to Clarke or Martyn? [[ If one guy deserved the MOM award, it was Martin for his 114 and 97. Gillespie got 9 wickets. The award could as well have been shared. Ananth: ]]

  • Boll on July 14, 2012, 5:27 GMT

    Just went back and had a read over the newsclips from that Chepauk test in 2004 - for some reason I was listening to it on the radio(?) so images are not so clear.

    Quite a few things we grew to expect though; Kumble taking 13 wickets for the match, the extravagantly talented D.Martyn scoring a century overseas which no-one remembers, Dizzy batting for 4 hours in what turned out to be a match-saving partnership (after coming in as night-watchman with Oz effectively 4-0 in the 2nd innings), Sehwag at his brutal best.

    And also some surprises; Warne taking 6-wickets in an innings in India, Gilchrist captaining and batting at no.3, Yuvraj opening the batting. There were some wonderful battles between those teams throughout the decade - pity they`re often overshadowed by the shocking pitch at Mumbai or the blow-up at Sydney in 2008. They were well-matched and rarely failed to provide great entertainment. Ah, memories! [[ Mumbai and Sydney were dark spots in the India-Australia series of classics. At the end of the day, Australia were possibly blameless: in one test, a dirt track was prepared as a pitch. At Sydney, there were umpiring blunders, but not of Australia's making, and India took its big-brother ruthless action to shut down a respected umpire who had lost his reflexes and skills. No one came out with enhanced reputation. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on July 14, 2012, 5:11 GMT

    @ad and @shrikanthk:

    1. Based on the YouTube clips, Constantine was no faster than Kapil Dev. I could discern no greatness in him in those clips ... usually, great batsmen look great even while getting out and great bowlers look great even while getting hit for 4's and 6's. I got no such feeling while watching Constantine's clips.

    2. Give Greig his due. He averages 37 at 4th & 5th position, and 44 at 6th. He was an average batsman in England and mostly a good batsman away. This observation explains his entire batting record. IMO, he was a better test-level batsman than the pampered Yuvi's and MSD's of today.

  • Knowho on July 14, 2012, 3:45 GMT

    @boll

    I completely agree with you. i would compare dizzy with walsh than anderson becoz for most of his career he was underrated or his value to the team was not noted just becoz his teammates marshall/ambrose/bishop overshadowed him. He was the main star of 2004 india win which was their final frontier and his contribution in that particular series was awesome better than even mcgrath. [[ I agree, Karthik. 14 wkts for McGrath and 20 for Gillespie and not to forget the greatest rear-guard action in Test history: 165 balls on a turning track against Kumble, Harbhajan and Zaheer. Ananth: ]]

  • Boll on July 14, 2012, 3:34 GMT

    @Ananth, thanks for the heads-up - but I was also suggesting that his low number of big hauls is directly related to not getting the chance to bowl too much at the tail or take cheap wickets - the spinners and Lee seemed to be given the opportunity more often. Anyway, 47% top-order wickets is outstanding.

    You don`t remember the mullet flying in the breeze as Dizzy came storming in? The `soaring eagle` to VVS and Dravid during their mammoth partnership? - you missed out! [[ The only thing I know is that to count the number of deliveries that beat the bat on that fourth day one would not need more than a pair of hands. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on July 14, 2012, 3:12 GMT

    I think that Constantine was a genuinely quick bowler. And, strangely enough, India had two, from all accounts, genuine fastmen - Singh and Nissar.

    Singh a fast man?

    Amar Singh was a medium pacer in the mould of an Alec Bedser or a Maurice Tate, with a very short run-up.

    Nissar was fast yes. So was Constantine.

  • Boll on July 14, 2012, 1:53 GMT

    re. Anderson/Gillespie cont`d.

    A closer look at the stats is interesting though. Gillespie played 41 tests away (ave.27), including an excellent record in Asia, especially India. To date, Anderson has only played 26 (@36.5), and only recently has shown good form away from home.

    Overall, I would say that Anderson has a fair way to go to match the consistency (despite a debilitating injury toll) which Gillespie displayed.

    However, (since about 2008?) Anderson has had the added responsibility of leading the attack - with great distinction - something which Gillespie was rarely required to do. With all due respect to some excellent English attacks in recent years; Warne, McGrath, plus Lee/McGill et al. was a better attack, which probably accounts for Gillespie`s fairly low number of big hauls (and I would suggest cheap wickets...although Ananth`s next article will tell). [[ Au contraire, 47% top-order wickets. Ananth: ]] These are 2 men I`ve really enjoyed watching bowl, but tend to think that we forget how good Gillespie was. [[ Only problem, my dear friend from Goulburn, is that I can only think of Gilliespies for his two batting feats: at Chennai in 20904 and the last Test at Chittagong. He has always been an excellent support bowler. A great foil to the incomparable McGrath and Warne. Ananth: ]]

  • Boll on July 14, 2012, 1:39 GMT

    The comparisons between Jason Gillespie and James Anderson are interesting, particularly since they have played almost exactly the same number of tests over a similar period of time - about a decade. Sure, Anderson is more a swing bowler, Gillespie more a seamer but their place in the pantheon is probably fairly close.

    Anderson (70 tests) has currently taken 267 wickets at 30. Gillespie (71 tests) took 259 wickets at 26.

    4 runs per wicket is not an insignificant difference, but Anderson`s 50/50 split stats are instructive - basically 35 for the first half of his career, 25 for the second. He appears at the top of his game right now, and potentially has quite a few years to improve on these figures.

    In contrast, Gillespie`s average was almost exactly the same @26 for both halves of his career.

    Gillespie also holds slight advantages in terms of SR (55-57) and ER (2.8-3.1)

    Anderson has taken more 5-fors however (12-8) and a 10-for, something which Gillespie never achieved.

  • ad captandum on July 13, 2012, 16:12 GMT

    Alex,

    I think that Constantine was a genuinely quick bowler. And, strangely enough, India had two, from all accounts, genuine fastmen - Singh and Nissar.

  • shrikanthk on July 13, 2012, 14:32 GMT

    By the way, here's some news.

    The entire 1974-75 Ashes series highlights (one hour per test match) has been uploaded on youtube!

    Here's the 1st test highlights. Enjoy!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SzyNWT5yJ0

  • shrikanthk on July 13, 2012, 14:26 GMT

    Shrikanthk, what a shallow comment this is...intrigued by the variation with my recollection, i went over the scorecards. Evidently you haven't even bothered to verify.

    No. I did not verify. My remark was in a more generic vein and not specific to '74-75 series

    Greig was never the best batsman in the side. And seldom a top order batsman. This is not an attempt to discredit Greig. Just another way of looking at things. Some players find Test cricket easier for a number of reasons. Eg: Less pressure on account of being overshadowed by a star player. Or more opportunities to play on pitches that one likes (Eg: Barrington in Asia).

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 13, 2012, 9:23 GMT

    "Sometimes lesser batsmen often out-do themselves against very high-class opposition because of extremely low expectations from them which alleviates the pressure! Eg: MS Dhoni's half-centuries at Edgbaston last year when all was lost. Or Darren Sammy's half-century against Aus this year in the third test.

    When everything is lost, it gets easy to bat atleast pressure-wise! "

    Shrikanthk, what a shallow comment this is...intrigued by the variation with my recollection, i went over the scorecards. Evidently you haven't even bothered to verify. In each of the first 4-5 tests, where the series was decided, Grieg was a scorer in live and competitive situations, hardly when the match was lost. [[ I agree with you there. Most of Greig's runs were scored in competitive situations. Only the 88 was in the so called dead-rubber. Incidentally as far as I am concerned there is no dead rubber. Denness would not have wanted to lose 0-5 and Chappell would have been desparate to win 5-0. Ananth: ]] Rather such a comment should be reserved for Tendulkar's runs in England, which came in the everything-is-lost situations. I know that mention of Tendulkar will evoke angry remarks but I have lost all interest in this conversation. [[ Two fifties in the second innings. One was when India were chasing a million runs. Really did not matter. The other was a more competitive situation. India needing 300 to avoid an innings situation, as competitive a situation as existed in that wretched tour. But on a pitch in which Mishra scored 84. Anyhow Gerry the discussion is on Greig. But I agree Shri opened the door with his comments on Dhoni and Sammy. Ananth: ]]

  • Harsh Thakor on July 13, 2012, 4:16 GMT

    I wish to state that adding stats for Packer and rest of the world games in 1972 Dennis Lillee has 458 scalps in 89 tests at 23.9.If you count Packer era Lillee's consistency is remarkable and remember the strong opposition he encountered.

    Had Kapil Dev received greater support or played in England and Australia he could have been the best all-rounder of his time.Imagine capturing 434 wickets ,that too more than half on sub -continent tracks. [[ The con is that his batting might have suffered. Just a piece of devil's advocacy. Ananth: ]] Stats never did justice to Ray Lindwall and if you consider the pitches of his time and the relative strike rates he overall ranks in the Lillee-Imran class.(average is 23 runs per wicket)

    In the last 2 decades the pitches have become batsman friendly and hardly assisted the seamers.Viv and Gavaskar may well have averaged 55+ in the modern era.

  • Harsh Thakor on July 13, 2012, 4:01 GMT

    What is in favour of Bob Wilis is his great percentage of wickets of top order batsman .In that aspect he is ahead of some of the fast bowling greats like Wasim Akram,Curtly Ambrose or Richard Hadlee who do not equal Willis's percentage haul of top order scalps.Bob was a master with the new ball and his 8-43 at Leeds in 1981 v Australia is one of pace bowling's 3-4 greatest spells ever,virtually winning a lost match.However I woonder whether Willis would be as effective on sub-continent tracks or on flat surfaces. [[ Yes, as the next article would show, one of very few bowlers to come close to 50% top-order wickets. Ananth: ]] @shrikanthk David Gower was one of the greatest batsmen ever who played pace bowling with more ease than even Greg Chappell or Graeme Pollock.At times he was lack-adaisical but remember his great performances against West Indies and Australia.

    Sorry,if repeating but to me the Packer stats have to be counted which would put Viv Richards and Greg Chappell in the correct light as well as Dennis Lillee.(His haul would be 434 wickets)

  • shrikanthk on July 12, 2012, 16:01 GMT

    But Willis had quite good pace, plus bounce and was very consistent with his averages.

    No doubt. But I wonder if he was consistently fast throughout his career. I've seen some of his footage from the mid-70s when he looks a little quicker than medium pace at the most.

    Also, the other thing I look for is the ability of a certain bowler to get the very best batsmen out. One of the reasons Lillee ranks so high in everybody's mind is his ability to get top-order batsmen out cheaply. Same thing holds for McGrath. Anderson also has an edge in this regard. Take his record against Sachin Tendulkar for instance. He troubles the best batsmen in the business.

  • shrikanthk on July 12, 2012, 15:53 GMT

    Greig played very well in Australia in 1974-75 when Australia was up 4-0 after 5 tests, and would have not lost the 6th if Lillee and Thompson had been there. That attack was as hostile as anything the West Indies ever assembled. Greig and Knott played very bravely, which many technically better Indian batsmen have not managed in our beloved 8-0.

    Gerry : Sometimes lesser batsmen often out-do themselves against very high-class opposition because of extremely low expectations from them which alleviates the pressure! Eg: MS Dhoni's half-centuries at Edgbaston last year when all was lost. Or Darren Sammy's half-century against Aus this year in the third test.

    When everything is lost, it gets easy to bat atleast pressure-wise!

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 12, 2012, 7:24 GMT

    Agree that Willis is an underrated bowler, but I remember thinking that his wickets per test was overshadowed by exact contemporaries Lillee and Botham in Ashes (that was the metric we used to monitor, and for a time, Kapil Dev was also superior 250 in 60 tests). But Willis had quite good pace, plus bounce and was very consistent with his averages. So still surprised that Richards rated Willis so highly.

  • Vikram on July 12, 2012, 1:41 GMT

    @Alex @shrikanthk: McDermott played in a team which wasn't the greatest so his exploits don't stand out as much as Anderson's does. Also, there is a certain charisma attached to swing, so a line-and-length bowler or a back-of-length, chest high bounce bowler doesn't seem as enigmatic. However, my personal belief is that bowlers like Ian Bishop, McDermott, Gillespie were more effective than Anderson across conditions and if you are looking at pure skill then Simon Jones, in the recent English bowlers had better skills than Anderson. Another bowler who one can include in this list is Vaas. He didn't have a lot to excite the audience, but he was a very smart bowler - again someone I would look out for in Ananth's next article. The only bowler today who could get into top 30 is Steyn. Anderson might, but not as of today. @Waspsting: very interesting quotes. I have seen very little of Willis but what I have (obviously highlights and therefore the best footage maybe) are of the top drawer.

  • Alex on July 11, 2012, 19:33 GMT

    @Wasp: Thanks a lot. Willis averages 29.8 in Oz and 51 (in 3 tests) in WI. Everywhere else, he averages between 22 to 26. Very impressive!

  • Alex on July 11, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    @Ananth and @Ramesh: Ramesh's suggestion is quite valid. For a while, I have requested you for an analysis that scales the performance of a bowler (or batsman) in a series by the performance of the top 4 bowlers (or batsmen) in the series. Ramesh has asked for something similar to it for the final 10 tests.

    However, match results should be disregarded. If you scale the average by that of the top 4 batsmen in the series, it will automatically get accounted for. [[ Will do when I get the time. Ananth: ]]

  • Ramesh Kumar on July 11, 2012, 12:37 GMT

    Ananth,

    Interesting read, Ananth.

    Interesting thought on last 10 tests for key players. Apart from a fixed number of tests, we should look at specific number of last years, probably last 4 years and the actual retirement age. Will it be possible to measure the top performers (top 4 for batsmen and top 3 for bowlers) in the team for those years? My point is even if the player is under par, if he is one of the top performers of the team, from the team perspective, he is still adding value. The classic case is Ponting’s test numbers from Jan 2007. Sorry to go back to an earlier idea discussed in this thread and interrupting passionate exchange of points on some of the players [[ Welcome change of topic or should one say, getting the thread back on rails. You have a very valid point. People forget that the objective of a player is to help his team do well. If, in the bargain, he achieves personal records, fine. So, if a player plays his last 10 Tests on green tops and his team ends with a 5-2-3 record, any runs he scored are gold. He might very well have averaged 35 during this period against a career figure of 50. That is where I have always regarded Laxman's runs as worth more. This is just an intuition. Ananth: ]]

  • Ranga on July 11, 2012, 9:17 GMT

    To maintain the standards of FC cricket, particularly tour games, England used to announce a cash award for a tour success - like winning x% of matches, etc for the touring team. I think in 1996 Pakistan won the cash award (Those days cricket wasnt typically affluent in Pakistan). This ensured that the intensity wasnt lost for those FC matches. I dont know if this was a consistent affair or one-off. Though FC cricket is structurally simlilar, not many take that seriously, particularly when they are into the national team. Only when they are dropped due to "performance" is when they suddenly feel the need to take it seriously. In general, Boycott generation did take FC cricket seriously. Even Sunny used to take even Moin-Ud-Dowla, Buchi Babu tourneys very seriously. Only when FC cricket doesnt matter, do they slacken. WIndies had a selection policy linked to participating in Red Stripe competition. Maybe thats why they were such a good team. Stars get to play FC ckt and raise the bar [[ With so much money available, you would think that these matches could be mede more important. Except that when was the last time did we see a serious FC match between a visiting team and a top FC team. The teams are possibly the "Board Secretary's neighbourhood XI", "The under-15 and over-37 XI" or "Surray Third XI" and so on. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on July 11, 2012, 8:39 GMT

    he was a bowler who looked to swing the ball in most often. His dot ball was the one that straightened a little bit, and I never knew it was coming. He could also be hostile and really quick. i have seen him bounce people out, and to do that you have to have good pace; and to take over 300 wickets he had to be a big special. And he was

    It may surprise people, but, alongside Dennis Lillee, BOB WILLIS WAS THE BEST FAST BOWLER I FACED. The entire situation was misread as a racial confrontation, black versus white. I can't ever remember a racial comment passing between us... he is a good guy and i have never had any serious hook-ups with him".

    (I've highlighted some parts with capitals and cut out some irrelevant parts)

  • Waspsting on July 11, 2012, 8:30 GMT

    Viv on Willis - "I didn't have too many problems with the English bowlers (he means personally) "even though the media often tried to hype up a war between myself and Bob Willis...(it) blew up in 1973 when ...i faced Bob for the 1st time.. and he bowled 5 successive bouncers at me. I hit four of them and was visibly annoyed when I was out in the end of the fifth, but i enjoyed the confrontation. he had won that day so i was determined to catch him on another day, not to let him get me out and to be even more aggressive than usual

    (next year, in England) every time i played against him i tried to get the better of him. BUT WHAT THE CRITICS FAILED TO REALIZE was that I did it because I RATED HIM SO HIGH.

    People have weird opinions about Willis, but he was one of Eng's best and most hostile fast bowlers. Everyone though he had a dodgy run-up, but you only have to look at how many wickets he took and how competitive he was to realize what an outstanding quickie he was (cont)

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 11, 2012, 5:22 GMT

    Gerig played very well in Australia in 1974-75 when Australia was up 4-0 after 5 tests, and would have not lost the 6th if Lillee and Thompson had been there. That attack was as hostile as anything the West Indies ever assembled. Greig and Knott played very bravely, which many technically better Indian batsmen have not managed in our beloved 8-0. In English country cricket, because of the regularity of the matches, and the assurance of professional continuity (so many counties), the pressure cannot be anything like what it is in tests. In all your discussion, Shrikanthk, you dont mention the pressure word. That is the main reason why FC and tests are different. Playing for the country is the ultimate honour.

  • Alex on July 11, 2012, 5:08 GMT

    @srikanthk: We have jumped the gun on Ananth's next article anyway. Richardson is, of course, English. I meant to type "Davidson" for Oz.

    1. Anderson is a super bowler but stop ... stop it there only. All said, he averages 30 overall, 36 in Oz-NZ, 38 in WI, 39 in SA, and 41 in SL. I have seen dozens of bowlers better than that and certainly put Thommo above Anderson.

    2. Men like McDermott & Gillespie --- Gillespie is too recent to need any arguments from me but McDermott isn't (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYtxnNT5G0k). McDermott had an array full of weapons with a magnificent classical action. He overcame an injury to finish with a career avg of 29. He averages 37 in subcontinent where he really was mediocre. Elsewhere, he was superb: 34 in Eng, 27 in Oz-Nz, and 24 in WI.

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 11, 2012, 3:36 GMT

    In general, a top 3 England bowler must be in the top 30.

  • shrikanthk on July 11, 2012, 3:31 GMT

    Gower was exactly the type of guy to play half-heartedly in FC, and his test figures are more telling

    A lot of people (including the late Peter Roebuck) have said that Gower liked playing Tests more because the pitches are often firmer and faster. The bowlers are also quicker which means the ball comes on to the bat.

    People like Gower who like to hang back on the back-foot and play from the crease often struggle in county cricket conditions which render even slow medium pacers to be a considerable threat. I'd back a Laxman or a Gower to score more runs against the Windies attack of the 80s on a true Adeleide wicket than against a half-decent county attack in early May with the ball doing all sorts of things.

  • shrikanthk on July 11, 2012, 3:18 GMT

    i like the idea of using FC records as a gauge, particularly for old players (30s and before) who might not have been able to play much test cricket. Beyond that, I'd always give first weight to test records

    So would I. I am not looking down upon test stats here... I generally look at test stats first as a rule. Then I examine the FC stats. One way of QC'ing the test stats is to check if the Test average is worse than the First class average as one would expect. If it isn't, then I get a little more careful and start examining the FC record more closely.

  • Alex on July 10, 2012, 20:12 GMT

    @Vikram, @Wasp, @Ananth, @sri:

    1. sri's point of test avg being pretty close to FC avg is valid. E.g., when Viv retired, his FC & test avg were no longer 48 & 59 but 49 & 50. But Ananth is right on Greig --- somehow Greig was at his worst in England, his "adopted" homeland.

    Greig's avg: 35 (in Eng), 39 (in Oz), 50's (in Ind, Pak, NZ), and 48 (in WI). He probably faced substandard attacks & batsmen-friendly wkts in Ind, Pak, NZ, & WI; certainly so in '74 WI (the basis of "grovel" boast) and might explain his good avg away. In Eng, his test avg dropped close to his FC avg (i.e., 35 vs 31) ... not sure how much of his FC was in Eng though (some was in SA).

    2. Sanga's FC avg is 49, test avg is 56, test avg in SL is 63! However, his is a superstar in idol loving SL. Unlike Greig, he doesn't play domestic matches much and doesn't need to prove himself there. He has played 88 domestic matches & 110 tests whereas Greig played @300 domestic matches & 50 tests!!

  • shrikanthk on July 10, 2012, 18:24 GMT

    Vikram: Anderson's first half was really a case in mismanagement, when people tried to tweak his action among other things. Also that first half of his career lasted half a decade when he wasn't sure of his place in the side.

    Alex: Richardson (my mythological favourite) was English, not Aus :)

    Was going through your list. I really wouldn't place men like Croft McDermott or even Gillespie ahead of Anderson.

  • Vikram on July 10, 2012, 15:39 GMT

    @shrikanthk: while I agree that Anderson is good, is he much better than say Gillespie, McDermott et al? While Anderson doesn't get the star value, at the same time, doesn't he benefit from the fact that apart from Steyn there is no real potential great around. Also, Anderson seen over his entire career may not break into the top 30. If we look at sections of a career, then Zaheer also had a few very good years (and again I am focusing on results, not capability).

  • Alex on July 10, 2012, 14:04 GMT

    @shrikanthk:

    1. Siddle is an excellent bowler. If he stays fit and Oz support him well enough, a career of 300+ test wkts at sub-30 average is a strong possibility. But will they do it? Look how they let Michell Johnson go to pieces.

    3. 30 pace bowlers:

    Eng: Barnes, Bedser, Trueman, Statham, Snow Oz: Richardson, Lindwall, Miller, Lillee, McDermott, McGrath, Gillespie, and maybe 2-3 more SA: Proctor, le Roux, Donald, Pollock, Steyn, and maybe Morkel & Ntini NZ: Hadlee Ind: Kapil Pak: Fazal, Imran, W&W, Shaoib WI: Hall, Roberts, Holding, Garner, Croft, Marshall, Walsh, Ambrose, and maybe 4-5 more.

  • Boll on July 10, 2012, 12:33 GMT

    Yes, I would agree that Anderson has been a world-class fast bowler for a number of years. Not express, but more than quick enough, love watching him bowl, and probably touching the top-30/40.

  • Waspsting on July 10, 2012, 11:05 GMT

    i like the idea of using FC records as a gauge, particularly for old players (30s and before) who might not have been able to play much test cricket.

    Beyond that, I'd always give first weight to test records.

    Some interpretation needed to make sense of discrepancies, often.

    Viv's figures given in Dexter's book are from when he only had about 3,000 test runs @59. That, I think, can be accounted for by a 'run of good form', without time to even things out. Harvey was averaging 60 I believe when he had 2,000-3,000 runs.

    Gower was exactly the type of guy to play half-heartedly in FC, and his test figures are more telling.

    Boycott took FC as seriously as tests, and the big difference in record speaks to how much tougher test cricket is (in other words, factor 'motivation' kept constant)

    Alex, I'll post up the relevant passages from Viv on Willis. It seems to me for whatever reason he's fudging about a bit (also mentions how he's good friends with Willis' brother, who is a "cool guy")

  • shrikanthk on July 10, 2012, 6:27 GMT

    Sangakkara, one of the greatest of modern batsmen, has a FC average of 37

    You're quoting a FC average after excluding Tests. Greig's average of 31 includes Tests. If I exclude Tests, it will be in the 20s.

    Also, Greig was a professional First-class cricketer in England in an era when FC cricket was taken damn seriously. Unlike Sangakkarra who plays FC cricket for practically no money in Sri Lanka in a country where FC stats have no signalling effect.

    An average of 27-28 in county cricket is ordinary in any era. No amount of lack of interest can explain such a record. I've seen Greig bat. There were obviously technical deficiencies in his batting which were camouflaged at the Test level thanks to better wickets and also the greater responsibility (which probably buoyed him).

  • shrikanthk on July 10, 2012, 6:05 GMT

    The current England attack is excellent in England but it will probably not fare that well in subcontinental conditions.

    I thought they were brilliant last winter both in UAE and Sri Lanka. Anderson was classy in Sri Lanka, especially in that 2nd test.

    If he performs on this level for 2+ more years, he should be rated among England's all-time top 3 pace bowlers. Of course, he will still finish well outside the world's all-time top 30 pace bowlers.

    Not in the top 30? I can't recall 30 other seam bowlers from cricket history who rank ahead of Anderson! The history of fast/fast-medium bowling isn't as rich as we make it out to be!

  • shrikanthk on July 10, 2012, 6:00 GMT

    Anderson doesn't have 90+ mph pace and can't extract great bounce

    Very very few bowlers in cricket history have been 90mph+ throughout their careers consistently day in and day out. WI fast bowlers being exceptions.

    Anderson is in the mid 80s. That's pretty quick by the standards of cricket history. We seriously underestimate modern fast bowlers.

    The great DK Lillee operated at around Anderson's pace in the last 4-5 years of his career. So did Trueman, who was never an outright fast bowler after the initial few years. Willis was often just medium fast (let's not get carried away by that 8-43 spell). Botham was around Bill Bowes' pace for most part of his career.

    Now these names I just mentioned are greats! Yet we look down upon the moderns like Broad ans Siddle who are amongst us - bowlers who consistently operate in the 85-90mph bracket all day with no let-up. These guys are very fine bowlers.

  • shrikanthk on July 10, 2012, 5:49 GMT

    Sehwag, Samaraweera and Cook have lower FC averages than Test. Sangakkara's average drops by 30% in FCs

    But those guys still have very very healthy FC averages. Motivation or lack of it may explain a difference between an average of say 45 instead of 55 in FC cricket. But 31?? 31 for God's sake. It's mediocre. Period. [[ Sangakkara, one of the greatest of modern batsmen, has a FC average of 37. Ananth: ]] Lots and lots of English cricketers in that era did FAR better in Tests than FC! Including Barrington. WHY?

    Not because of a lack of motivation. But because FC runs were seriously tougher due to the poor quality of pitches right up to the 70s. Test wickets are faster, truer, firmer thus encouraging strokemakers like Greig. Even Gower did far better on the fast, true Test surfaces as compared to the wider variety of conditions encountered in the FC circuit.

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 10, 2012, 5:19 GMT

    Alex, Anderson has a magnificent inswinger. It is bowled with an identical action as the outswinger. He also bowls it beautifully round the wicket. Recently in the West Indies series, he clean bowled batsmen twice with that ball. Only the best natural swing bowlers like Kapil Dev and Botham used to take that to such a high level. I am talking about conventional swing, not reverse, which Glenn McGrath, Steyn also do.

    The English attack, especially Anderson, did an excellent job in Australia and South Africa as well. They may not do as well in India, though.

  • Alex on July 10, 2012, 4:03 GMT

    @shrikanthk:

    1. Anderson doesn't have 90+ mph pace and can't extract great bounce. That apart, he is very skilled, patient, and cerebral. If he performs on this level for 2+ more years, he should be rated among England's all-time top 3 pace bowlers. Of course, he will still finish well outside the world's all-time top 30 pace bowlers.

    2. The current England attack is excellent in England but it will probably not fare that well in subcontinental conditions.

    @Wasp: I will have to read Viv's book to make sense of that comment. He must have been joking. Patil hit Willis for 6 boundaries in one over (it was a 7-ball over) in a test. In the WC '83 semis, he hit Willis for 4 boundaries in a over. He was fearless and had oodles of natural talent but none of Shastri's shrewdness and career focus.

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 10, 2012, 3:17 GMT

    "Grieg was a journeyman who overachieved in test cricket. Look at his Test vs FC average. He could average only 31 in FC cricket, but overachieved in Test cricket to average 40!"

    Shrikanthk, come off it man! Dont take FC so seriously. Some top flight cricketers dont give their best. I mentioned it previously some weeks back - in the book "from Bradman to Boycott", Ted Dexter gives a snapshot of all batsmen's test and TC avgs in 1980. Richards was at 59 and 48. [[ I agree on this. Shri takes the importance to FC to an uncomfortably high level. First Class cricket has moved like a yo-yo in most countries. You always have to qualify about FC. And why not say "Greig under-achieved at FC level" rather than "Greig over-achieved at Test level". After all, Test performances are more valuable, anyday. Sehwag, Samaraweera and Cook have lower FC averages than Test. Sangakkara's average drops by 30% in FCs., Ananth: ]] Agree that this English attack is a very high class attack, especially as it is backed up by one of the best batting line ups I have seen, and the pressure they exert. Else the Indian team would also have scored against this bowling.

    My prediction is that England will easily defeat South Africa in the test series (dont care about One Days).

  • shrikanthk on July 10, 2012, 2:42 GMT

    This is the Cardus piece on Sobers I was referring to. Some minor factual typos, but very sincere in his admiration.

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/wisdenalmanack/content/story/152358.html

    Another piece of his on post-War cricketers of the 50s/60s. Goes to show he was more than willing to acknowledge the present.

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/wisdenalmanack/content/story/152385.html

  • shrikanthk on July 10, 2012, 2:33 GMT

    Shri - I agree Cardus is a thoroughly unreliable character. He insisted Frank Woolley was a greater player than Gary Sobers!

    Did he go that far? I remember reading him on Sobers circa 1967. Wherein he speculates if Sobers is the greatest allrounder ever. Seemed very sincere in his admiration of the man.

    It is difficult anyway to appreciate legends when they're still playing.

    My favourite Cardus writings are his match reports in the Manchester Guardian on the 1938 Home Ashes tests. Terrific writing, where he often dabbles in non-linear narrative (probably a first in sporting reportage). Eg: He discusses the post-tea session and then suddenly jumps to the pre-lunch session. Fascinating.

  • shrikanthk on July 9, 2012, 19:01 GMT

    Firstly, Willis was not that good

    Inclined to agree based on all the footage I've seen.

    Back in the 70s, the English attack of Willis, Old, Hendrick, Lever, Underwood seemed so very good on paper.

    But the present English attack is a couple of notches higher in my book.

    Anderson, I think, is the best English seam bowler since the 50s. More skillful than Willis and maybe even Snow. More consistent than Botham. Finn *arguably* the quickest English bowler since Tyson! (am excluding failures like Devon Malcolm here).

    Broad - the only bowler who I think makes the ball dip a little and pitches it a wee bit shorter than the batsman expects it to. I know it sounds crazy. But that's what I feel. (He reminds me of Bill Lockwood, Richardson's partner in crime, who also had this rather unique ability to make the ball dip at high pace).

    Bresnan/Onions/Tremlett : Not too many teams in cricket history besides WI teams of the late 70s/80s have had better 4th bowlers.

  • shrikanthk on July 9, 2012, 18:45 GMT

    Also, whoever played FC cricket in England in 50's & 60's was sure to run into him. All this is enough to spread his influence world-wide.

    Not many did. This whole culture of overseas players earning their bread playing county cricket really took off only in the 70s when every other international cricketer landed in England in May and stayed put in the mother country till September..

    Back in the 50s, county cricket was not yet an international pastime as it became in the 70s.

  • shrikanthk on July 9, 2012, 18:41 GMT

    Among all-rounders who were inspiring leaders, a forgotten name is Warwick Armstrong. He was more a Tony Greig type of all-rounder albeit considerably heavier

    Well, atleast in terms of his stature in the game, Armstrong was a far greater cricketer than Tony Grieg. A talented leg-spinner and easily one of Australia's best batsmen.

    Grieg was a journeyman who overachieved in test cricket. Look at his Test vs FC average. He could average only 31 in FC cricket, but overachieved in Test cricket to average 40!

    By the way, Armstrong was a tall and lissome athlete in his younger days. He became a "Big Ship" only towards the fag end of his career after WWI.

  • Waspsting on July 9, 2012, 11:59 GMT

    Shri - I agree Cardus is a thoroughly unreliable character. He insisted Frank Woolley was a greater player than Gary Sobers! In the 60s he was given a copy of an all time 11 he'd made in the 30s and asked if he wanted to make any changes.

    He made one change. Sobers for F.S Jackson. Says it all, i think.

    @Alex. agree with you about Trueman.

    In Viv's latest autobiography, "Sir Vivian", he names Willis as the 2nd best paceman he faced (after Lillee). Also claims he doesn't recall any racist altercation with Willis, and blames the press for over-playing their encounters.

    this contradicts Imran Khan's recollection of Imran asking Viv if he had something personal against Willis - after observing how aggresively he dealt with that bowler - and Viv replying that Willis had had a racist dig at him, early on in Viv's career.

    And this... is why i don't always trust what the players themselves say. Hadn't heard the Patil story before.

    Viv having his little joke, probably - still he said it

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 9, 2012, 9:23 GMT

    Ananth, is that THE article (bowlers across batsman groups across ages) or an interim article which you are referring to ? [[ How can an aticle analyzing bowler performance across countries be interim. It is an important one completing the quartet I started couple of months back. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on July 9, 2012, 4:50 GMT

    @shrikanthk & @Wasp:

    1. Even if Trueman had not played outside England, poms would still trumpet him to the skies. Also, whoever played FC cricket in England in 50's & 60's was sure to run into him. All this is enough to spread his influence world-wide.

    2. I don't think Viv thought Willis the second best bowler he faced. Firstly, Willis was not that good and secondly, if anything, he hated Willis for a markedly racist attitude. Sandip Patil hit Willis a lot and Viv used to buy Patil a congratulatory drink if he happened to be in town whenever that happened.

    3. Among all-rounders who were inspiring leaders, a forgotten name is Warwick Armstrong. He was more a Tony Greig type of all-rounder albeit considerably heavier ... his weight was 140kg during his final test match. Again goes to illustrate that you cannot compare eras separated by 40+ years: 140kg makes Ranatunga look like a fitness role model!

  • shrikanthk on July 9, 2012, 2:39 GMT

    Cardus thought the long retired Ted MacDonald was a better fast bowler

    As an aside, don't take Cardus too seriously when it comes to Lancastrian cricketers. He can be very biased in their favour ;)

    This is the guy who created a legend out of one Mr.AC MacLaren. A somewhat ordinary Lancashire and England cricketer by any standards!

  • shrikanthk on July 9, 2012, 2:13 GMT

    Also Ananth will tell you that Lindwall's 2nd half (or more specifically his last 1/3rd) was much worse than his 1st half. [[ 119 @ 20.29 against 109 @ 26.03. Not that much of a difference. However by perusing his career table I can say that the fourth one-sixth was more productive than the next ones. So a 3-way split would put the third one-third at a very average level. Ananth: ]] Mainly because he got old. Lindwall is one of those rare fast bowlers who was past 38 when he retired. And a lot of his test cricket was played after he turned 30.

    But for WWII he'd have played a lot more cricket in his early 20s presumably with greater success.

  • shrikanthk on July 9, 2012, 2:08 GMT

    I think Fazal & hence Pak bowlers were influenced by Lindwall & Trueman

    My problem with Trueman is that he hardly did anything outside England!

    His record in Aus isn't special. And he played precious little elsewhere. So all his great cricket was played in England on extremely helpful pitches of the 50s (a decade when pitches in England were extremely bowler friendly)

    So I am not sure if Trueman really was influential outside England!

    Whereas Lindwall was a truly international crickter, who played a good deal of cricket everywhere. Aus, England, WI, India, Pak, SA...you name it.

    Am sure he inspired many, many more bowlers than Trueman did. Also Lindwall's record would've been much better had he played all his cricket in Eng and Aus, like Lillee or Trueman.

  • shrikanthk on July 9, 2012, 1:58 GMT

    Hard to adjust for a bowler's merits given he had to bowl to Bradman, but bodyline aside, he did very little for his side (ave. against Aus sans bodyline 43) - and i think most fast bowlers could have done well using bodyline tactics

    My point is - the test stats of someone like Larwood don't reveal much given the really small sample size. A couple of bad rubbers and you end up with an average of 40!

    Bodyline - Voce and Bowes were nowhere near as successful as Larwood. Also Bodyline also meant a more expensive economy rate (given the empty off-side fields). So it evens out a bit.

    His FC average is much better than McDonald's (who also played most of his FC cricket in English conditions). Unlike McDonald who played for Lancashire up north, Larwood plied his trade for Notts (on a flatter Trent Bridge wicket). So an average of 17.5 is brilliant. His FC record is much better than other "fast" bowlers like Gubby Allen and Ken Farnes.

  • Waspsting on July 8, 2012, 12:20 GMT

    Larwood was also a chucker when he pitched short - probably even by the modern 15 degree thing. See the slow mo's of his bouncers in bodyline footage.

    Hard to adjust for a bowler's merits given he had to bowl to Bradman, but bodyline aside, he did very little for his side (ave. against Aus sans bodyline 43) - and i think most fast bowlers could have done well using bodyline tactics.

    Cardus thought the long retired Ted MacDonald was a better fast bowler - when Mac was in his mid-late 30s, and the 1st class records for both guys at the time support this.

    Best thing he did was influence Lindwall, but it boggles my mind that he got 11 votes in Wisden's 100 list.

    re: Willis... Viv Richards named him as the second best fast bowler he faced! (i put this down to the tendancy in many players of naming players they got the better off as amongst the best more than anything else - but its worth still worth a mention)

  • Waspsting on July 8, 2012, 12:04 GMT

    re: Imran's place amongst the greats of his time - I put him right up there just behind Marshall, just ahead of Hadlee (all very marginal, of course)

    He was streets ahead of the rest with the old ball (big weakness for many. Hadlee could be downright mediocore with old ball).

    He was as quick a any (before even hitting peak pace, he was measured quicker than all but Thomson)

    Those pitches in Pak were no help to quick bowlers. And he was successful everywhere else too. compare against Botham or Hadlee

    (ignore the hype about Pak umpiring being behind this. While that didn't hurt, Imran being an inswing bowler naturally would get more LBs than most. and he suffered from umpiring abroad to balance it out at the very least)

    He's right up there amongst the best with the bouncer, and probably the best with the yorker (maybe Garner edges him here

    His success following injury is up there with Lillee.

    Could move it both ways, new ball and old, any conditions. Phenomenal.

  • Waspsting on July 8, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    @Alex - I agree Viv wasn't the best - or most positive - of leaders. I remember in his last series in Eng, the WI players jubilantly carrying him off when WI went 1 up with 1 to play (a reaction i found strange coming from the best team in the world against a team they had not long ago won 14 out of 15 tests in a row against)

    @Ananth - I blame you - entirely - for hinting at what the next article will be and having us jump the gun on discussions! Guess we can just carry on from here when it comes out! [[ No problems at all. That article packs quite a few surprises. Ananth: ]] re: Imran and outswingers - he bowled them all right, too well if anything. Like Waqar after him, no one could nick them - unlike the more controlled and subtle Lillee, Marshall and Hadlee.

    re: in vs out movement - when the balls going sharply, the general rule that the outgoing ball is harder to play gets blurred a bit.

    Compare Steyn making batsmen play and miss constantly to Waqar bowling them out/trapping them LBW (or Lock and Laker for the slows)

    (cont)

  • shrikanthk on July 8, 2012, 5:46 GMT

    Larwood's influence is great. Doesn't look like anyone from 1910's or 1920's have anything close to his action/speed

    Actually fast bowling was more fashionable in the 1890s-early 1900s than it was in Larwood's time.

    It is not inconceivable that Richardson, Kortright, Ernie Jones, Cotter and a couple of others from that era might have been close to Larwood in terms of pace.

    But Larwood is a more significant bowler because he revived the culture of bowling fast - a culture that had become temporarily extinct post WWI (with Gregory/McDonald being exceptions).

    Also unlike the older bowlers, Larwood was captured on film! So his perfect textbook action inspired more people thanks to newsreels played countless times in movie houses.

  • Vikram on July 8, 2012, 5:21 GMT

    A lot of times these rankings get based on capability or potenital. As I said, I am a more football guy now - so using that example, Ronaldinho had better capability but Messi is a better player because he demonstrated that capability for a longer time. So yes, Roberts is definitely better in terms of capability but in terms of delivering it, I sincerely believe that Kapil was there with him. Kapil did taint his memory by his last couple of years, but if you look at some of his earlier performances, he was awesome. Refer to Ananth's peer performance analysis and you will see that he was nearly in the top right quadrant. As for Imran, don't believe that Pak tracks were really flat. That has to be reserved for Indian tracks. Pak and SL tracks (apart from SSC) shouldn't be clubbed with Indian tracks.

  • Alex on July 8, 2012, 4:56 GMT

    @Wasp: Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBb3rFc241A to illustrate my comment on Patterson. This was in 1991, after he had lost pace & effectiveness. Yet, some of those deliveries are top-drawer stuff.

    As a bonus, this clip has fantastic shots by AB & M Waugh, some unplayable stuff from Marshall & Ambrose, and a lightening piece of fielding by Harper (Harper, IMO, was a better outfielder than Jonty/Ponting/ABdV).

  • Alex on July 8, 2012, 3:07 GMT

    @shrikanthk:

    1. Larwood's influence is great. Doesn't look like anyone from 1910's or 1920's have anything close to his action/speed. The influence went Larwood -> Lindwall -> Trueman -> Snow & McKenzie -> Lillee. I think Fazal & hence Pak bowlers were influenced by Lindwall & Trueman. The WI branch (Hall/Gilchrist/Griffith) developed almost independently until the arrival of Lillee. Roberts, with his novel action, methodical planning & leadership was another original. [[ I have been telling this for some time now. Keep your powder dry for the next article which is bowler-oriented. Ananth: ]] 2. Most influential: captaincy, statesmanship, commenting, admin, spectators+money brought in, etc. should also be considered. Constantine, Worrell, Benaud, WG , etc., would score well on those. But, IMO, the Don reigns supreme here as well: captaincy, admin, books, ... this man did it all and did better than almost anybody else.

  • shrikanthk on July 7, 2012, 17:48 GMT

    Davidson's action is like that of Mitchell Johnson. He does look very crafty and cerebral in this clip.

    Agree. Seen this clip. Still nobody ever ranks Davidson ahead of say Akram based on averages! Don Bradman, for one, doesn't. Akram had all of Davidson's wilyness and accuracy PLUS an extra yard of pace! (which makes a difference).

  • shrikanthk on July 7, 2012, 17:37 GMT

    Willis is not even among top 3 fast/medium-fast bowlers from England: those would be Trueman, Snow, & Statham.

    I'd pick Larwood in my list of great English bowlers for his sheer uniqueness. The guy bowled fast in an era when it simply wasn't fashionable to bowl fast. The era of medium pacers like Tate/Bowes/Bedser. Yet, this guy bowled fast on unforgiving wickets against unforgiving batsmen. And he was really the progenitor of the fast bowling culture you see today.

    Larwood inspired Lindwall the kid. Lindwall inspired countless other English/Aus fast bowlers (including perhaps Lillee). Lillee inspired well...everybody.

    Great English fast bowlers - I'd go with Trueman, Larwood, Snow....and......Jimmy Anderson! I'm serious here. This guy Anderson is terrific. I've seen Statham bowl a fair bit in clips and also read abt him. He was fast and accurate. But not really a high class swing and seam bowler like Jimmy!

    Anderson will go down as one of the English greats. Period.

  • shrikanthk on July 7, 2012, 17:26 GMT

    Alex: Making lists is all about lending historical perspective. It's about stepping back and pondering - which cricketers have really stood out for their skill keeping in mind the challenges of their respective eras. I see no problem ranking Tom Richardson in my top 10 fast bowler list. There aren't too many great "pure" fast bowlers from cricket's first century of overarm bowling (1864-1964). Richardson is one of a handful (along with Larwood, Lindwall, Lockwood and McDonald).

    BTW, Grace is not really "batting" in that clip. It's a clip where he is well past 50. Patting back deliveries thrown by some kid in the garden. That's not how you judge him. He was a dominant player of fast bowling. Someone who handled fast slingers as a teen and even handled young bowlers like Richardson and Lockwood 30 years later when he was himself past 40!

    By the way, Grace among the 10 most influential cricketers ever? Understatement. He is THE MOST INFLUENTIAL CRICKETER EVER. There's no argument there.

  • Alex on July 7, 2012, 16:30 GMT

    @Wasp: I am not a Patterson fan but he had enough weapons to supplement great pace (approaching 95+ mph over '86-'89): great bounce, good yorker, good in-cutter, and a good leg-cutter. He could have lasted 60+ tests under a caring captain/leader --- Viv was not a super tactician and a super leader. To make matters worse, by his own admission, Viv lost some of his batting prowess due captaincy pressure '86 onwards.

    WI think-tank and support structure really let them down after Lloyd's retirement. Starting '86 itself, WI lost its aura. They started losing matches in tests (but did not lose a series till '95) and were no longer the best team in ODI's either. Unlike BCCI and its support structure which dupes vast Indian population by selling mediocrities as world beating superstars to fill its cash reserves, WICB showed no business savvy and foresight.

  • Alex on July 7, 2012, 16:02 GMT

    @shrikanthk:

    1. Davidson's action is like that of Mitchell Johnson (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7FEcLTdDZk), whose career could have been far better had he been mentally stronger. He does look very crafty and cerebral in this clip.

    2. Best to avoid choosing Top 10 bowlers across 130 yrs (Top 10 in 20 yrs is hard enough) since the game changes a lot every 30/40 yrs. Watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-kMhFe18IA --- batting like that, WG Grace wouldn't last an over vs Steyn, and yet he is easily one of the 10 most "influential" cricketers of all time.

    3. Yes, Willis alongside Holding & above Roberts is funny. IMO, Botham got it spot right in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIY0AK0YFtI . Willis is not even among top 3 fast/medium-fast bowlers from England: those would be Trueman, Snow, & Statham.

    4. Wes Hall was truly magnificent but his 2nd half stats are not that great (80 wkts in 25 matches at ave=30).

  • Smudger23 on July 7, 2012, 15:53 GMT

    Another excellent article, thank you. I have also been re-reading your "consistency" series and wondered if there was a third area to look at; consistency of selectors? How successful have consecutively picked groups of players been over their careers; how many tests have they played? For example, England selected ashes winners Collingwood, Geraint Jones, Strauss, Bell and Pietersen in a row, yet the four new caps directly before them were Kabir Ali, Batty, Clarke and Saggers, who were unable to make such a mark. Obviously there would need to be some parameters, central contract era or not, relative strength of opposition but it seems unfair that selection committees/coaches/captains should not be put under a similar spotlight! [[ John, what would be the basis. Succesful performances against indifferent performances (and continued selection). We would never know anything about the guys who were NOT selected. Ananth: ]]

  • shrikanthk on July 7, 2012, 13:14 GMT

    IOW, it seems to me Barnes bowled as well against the best as other great bowlers did overall - against good and bad combined. His record at any rate, is more impressive

    I don't deny that. He's no doubt a giant bowler. I just included him in my rather whimsical top 10 bowler list.

    But he isn't really the "greatest" as many English romantics believe (including the usually hard-headed Geoffrey Boycott). Low 20s wasn't a big deal in 1900s.

    There are only two bowlers of any kind in the whole history of overarm cricket (1864-2012) whose figures startle me from head to toe.

    They're Bill O'Reilly and Muttiah Murali.

    I CANNOT explain their figures. They defy all logic. How can a wrist spinner of the 30s in an era of really flat wickets and great batsmen average 22 in Tests and 16 in FC cricket?

    How can an off-break bowler who has played all his wickets on generally true, dry surfaces against largely professional sides of the modern era average 22 in Tests and 19 in FC?

    FREAKS.

  • Waspsting on July 7, 2012, 12:37 GMT

    Be a good topic for one of Ananth's spectacularly thorough analysis. [[ Tough one. Lot of subjective elements. Anyhow worth a try. Ananth: ]]

    @Alex - with Lloyd I was thinking more in terms of the team he handed over to his successor carrying on the success (Steve Waugh had that, plus inheriting a succesful side, which as you've pointed out, wasn't the case with Lloyd).

    I'm sure he was a great leader of men, but its easier to isolate factor leadership in success, when the team goes to pieces once the leader is changed (as with Imran, and not with Lloyd - or Waugh)

    Interesting idea about Patterson and Gray. Didn't see much of Grey so can't say. Patterson looked 1 dimensionally dependent on intimidation to me. Would speculate that the mentorship these guys needed should have come from established fast bowlers like Marshall and Garner, rather than the batsman captain Viv Richards.

    Agree though that Lloyd was undoubtedly a unifying figurehead superior to others (save possibly Worrell) from WI.

  • Harsh Thakor on July 7, 2012, 12:35 GMT

    @Alex Overall combining performances with skill my selection in order maybe 1.Marshall 2.Lillee 3.Barnes 4.Imran 5.Mcgrath 6.Akram 7.Hadlee 8.Ambrose 9.Lindwall 10.Trueman 11.Holding 12.Waqar Younus Marshall and Lillee were the most complete who combined skill with agression as well as great stats records,Barnes record spoke for itself,Imran and Hadlee were the champion paceman in their peak eras,Mcgrath had a phenomenal record and all the ingredients of a great pace bowler,Akram the best ever pace bowler of an old ball and the ultimate magician of swing,Ambrose was the ultimate match-winner and champion on bad wickets.Imran's great performances on docile sub-continent surfaces and against the West Indies have been given consideration .

  • shrikanthk on July 7, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    My next bracket of bowlers will be Imran/Willis/Holding/Waqar/Wasim with Botham/Kapil/Ntini/Garner/Roberts in the next bracket, each being within 3-5% of each other

    Vikram: Willis in the same league as Imran/2Ws/Holding? Also Ntini/Kapil/Botham alongside Roberts?

    Am sure Alex will take exception to that!

    Here's my list of pure fast bowlers in chronological order :

    Tom Richardson Bill Lockwood Harold Larwood Ray Lindwall Wes Hall Dennis Lillee Andy Roberts Michael Holding Malcolm Marshall Wasim Akram

    I haven't included McGrath as he's not really a fast bowler. Also Ambrose has been excluded since pace wasn't his greatest asset. (though both of them feature in my best bowler list).

    Greatest spin bowlers list :

    Sydney Barnes (yes, he was a spinner of the ball) Rhodes Colin Blythe Grimmett Hedley Verity Bill O'Reilly (the greatest bowler of them all?) Erapalli Prasanna (the only finger spinner to have excelled down under) Derek Underwood Shane Warne Muralitharan

  • Harsh Thakor on July 7, 2012, 12:22 GMT

    @shrikantk In pure skill this is my list in order of merit of pace bowlers 1.Malcolm Marshall 2.Wasim Akram 3.Ray Lindwall 4.Dennis Lillee 5.Andy Roberts 6.Sydney Barnes 7.Michael Holding 8.Glen Mcgrath 9.Imran Khan 10.Richard Hadlee 11.Joel Garner 12.Curtly Ambrose

    Marshall ,the most lethal who combined pace with control and delivered skidding bouncers and deliveries that doubled speed after impact,Wasim Akram ,the most versatile of all who could swing the ball in any conditions,Lindwall posessed the best control and movement of any tearaway pace bowler,Dennis Lillee the most classically complete with Andy Roberts his virtual replica,Sydney Barnes was the most lethal mediumpacer of all,Holding was consistently the fastest with the most perfect action,Imran was lethal with his reverse swing,Garner the most accurate of all while Mcgrath and Hadlee posessed the best control of all paceman.

  • Waspsting on July 7, 2012, 12:19 GMT

    @Boll - thanks for the feedback on Botham.

    @Shri - going to argue with you (mischievously - I have no particular opinion of Barnes) a bit re: O'Reilly and Barnes.

    Barnes averaging low 20s against Aus Isn't that exceptional - against the best batting side (as opposed to an overall figure - which is usually comprised of a low average against weaker teams and a higher average against the best teams, to even out to a low 20 figure)?

    IOW, it seems to me Barnes bowled as well against the best as other great bowlers did overall - against good and bad combined. His record at any rate, is more impressive.

    In Ashes matches -

    Overall - Barnes 106 @21.58--- O'Reilly 102 @25.36 In Eng -Barnes 29 @ 19.34--- O'Reilly 50 @26.16 In Aus - Barnes 77 @ 22.42--- O'Reilly 52 @24.60

    Given the rise in scoring at O'Reilly period (Trumper, Hill averaged about 40, Hammond and Sutcliffe about 60) - Barnes and O'Reilly might be about equals, maybe.

    (cont)

  • shrikanthk on July 7, 2012, 11:34 GMT

    Figures don't say everything (e.g., Andy Roberts) but Davidson must have been one heck of a bowler.

    One heck of a bowler yes. My point was that just on the basis of figures alone, you can't really rate him ahead of people like Lillee or Roberts. Most people who saw both Davidson and Lillee/Roberts will disagree with the argument that Davidson was superior.

    Same thing holds for Imran. Great figures. Great bowler. But not as complete a bowler as say an Akram or a Lillee or a Marshall (or even a Lindwall based on written reports).

    Am in a mood to make lists. So here's a top 10 bowler list in chronological order:

    Tom Richardson Sydney Barnes Bill O'Reilly Ray Lindwall Dennis Lillee Malcolm Marshall Curtly Ambrose Shane Warne Glenn McGrath Muthiah Muralitharan

    Richardson is a romantic choice. Mainly because he was probably the first truly great fast bowler to grace the world.(Note: Spofforth was only medium-fast contrary to popular perception)

  • Vikram on July 7, 2012, 11:21 GMT

    @Alex: While I like your list of Lillee/Marshall/Ambrose/Mcgrath as amongst the best fast bowlers in the last 50 years, I think Hadlee and Donanld should be in the same league. Steyn is another one would could join that rank if he delivers in the next series against Eng. His bowling in India was simply sensational and he has done well in most situations. My next bracket of bowlers will be Imran/Willis/Holding/Waqar/Wasim with Botham/Kapil/Ntini/Garner/Roberts in the next bracket, each being within 3-5% of each other. Again, there are bowlers from over 50 years back (Hall/Davidson/Lindwall) who I don't know enough to rank. Anyways, Ananth, as you can see, we are really looking forward to your next article. [[ I suggest all of you take a deep breath and wait for a week. I am taking as many deep breaths as possible and hoping that the king would be anointed the emperor tomorrow. Ananth: ]]

  • Vikram on July 7, 2012, 11:12 GMT

    @shrikanthk: while outswinger is a powerful delivery, a bowler who can manage to mix inswingers very well with a ball that holds its line can do a lot of damage, especially if you add the reverse swing to it. I don't say that Imran is in the same league as the best bowler, but that has to do with his overall control and bowling success in different conditions. You wouldn't name Hadlee and Mcgrath as the best swing bowlers but they rank amongst the best bowlers because of their control of line and length and ability to adapt across conditions.

  • Harsh Thakor on July 7, 2012, 10:29 GMT

    Sorry,If I am overposting but I could not help sharing Shrikanth's views .The most talented and skilled pace bowlers have not been statistically the best and Andy Roberts and Ray Lindwall are the best examples.Lindwall posessed more skill than Lillee,while Andy Roberts was rated by Lillee himself as the best pace bowler of the 1970's and so did Sunil Gavaskar and the Chappell brothers rate him the most difficult paceman they ever encountered.In pure bowling skil Wasim Akram was head and shoulders ahead of any paceman of his time and was better than Imran Khan.

    In that light Viv Richard's posessed unimaginable batting talent and if fully tested in a crisis could have proved himself more and broken all the batting records.

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 7, 2012, 10:20 GMT

    Alex, in 1982-83, in the Karachi Test, Imran clean bowled Vishwanath with a fast outswinger which cut back, and took off stump. Vishy was finished for ever. It was the ball of the series. Imran also bowls a fast outswinger in the clip you posted, from wide of the crease and bowls an England batsman. In WC 87 group match, as Richards approached his fifty, Imran bowled a fast outswinger with an inswing angle (wide of crease) which took Richards by surprise, took his outside edge and went to fine third man for four. Some deliveries which Lillee did not have are a yorker and inswinger. Holding, Imran, Ambrose etc. had very good yorkers. But each one had his strengths. Imran's figures would have been very good if he had played more in 1977-1983, which was his peak. In Sydney test, he took 12 wickets in a match winning performance against a full strength team. Dont know any other performance of that quality by a paceman in Sydney.

  • Harsh Thakor on July 7, 2012, 9:43 GMT

    Imran Khan was the best bowler in terms of strike rate and average from 1980-88 ,but considering the brunt of the attack Hadlee bore his peformances could be better.Imran was however more attacking and far more effective on docile subcontinent tracks.

    I would have loved to have seen the analysis of Gordon Greenidge and Clive Lloyd whose careers took a major leap in certain periods.Lloyd's improvement in his batting after becoming a captain was noteworthy,particularly his reliabilty in a crisis.For a time in the 1980's ,Greenidge was the best batsman in the world.

    In my previous posts I ignored Alan Border who again had similar tow halves in his batting career,unlike Javed Miandad,proving his greatness as a test batsman.

    Figures don't do justice to Wasim Akram arguably the most skilled pace bowler ever who was arguably the best pace bowler of his era.

  • Harsh Thakor on July 7, 2012, 9:31 GMT

    Vikram,I disagree with you on Imran Khan.Richard Hadlee could have been better but Imran was an ultimate match-winnner who bowled better against the mighty West Indies team than any paceman of his era.Infact his bowling almost won the series in the Carribean in 1988 to make his team the world champions.Remember how he almost single-handdly spearheaded the pace attack in England in 1982,particularly at Leeds to almost win the series for his country.

    In the 1st part of his career Ian Botham was the most intelligent pace bowler in the world whose deception was a trumpcard.In that period he was an ultimate match-winner and of more utility than Kapil Dev.

    To me in his peak period Viv Richards was the best batsman after Bradman,followed by Brian Lara while Marshall from 1983-1989 was the best fast bowler ever.Had Viv Richard's and Lillee's Packer (and Lillee's matches v Rest of the World) figures added they would figure closer to the very top.

  • Boll on July 7, 2012, 8:38 GMT

    Samaraweera`a always been a bit of an enigma for me. His stats (especially 2nd half obviously) are excellent, both home and away, much to my surprise. He averages over 50 after 75 tests - he must be a decent batsmen. Whenever I`ve seen him play against Aus though he`s looked pretty average, out of his depth even, and then you see him play like he did in South Africa - some brilliant cricket.

    In a way, the big 2nd half improvers are more impressive, bowlers having had plenty of time to work on their weaknesses.

    So can anyone enlighten me? Is he just hot and cold? Injuries? Is he just a damn fine bat? [[ Samaraweera has also been treated poorly by the selectors. Ananth: ]]

  • Harsh Thakor on July 7, 2012, 7:57 GMT

    For consistency an absolute tribute to Glen Mcgrath-a true bowling metronome and Shane Warne ,eclipsing even the likes of Dennis Lillee and Wasim Akram in consistency.Curtly Ambrose and Malcolm Marshall would come close runner-ups.Akram and Lillee had parallel 2 halves in their bowling career.Ian Botham was virtually a different bowler in his 2nd half by a mile ,being amongst the all-time greats in his 1st half-in the Lillee class.Waqar Younus was also considerably better in his first half and so was Shaun Pollock..n contrast Imran and Hadlee proved themselves true greats in their 2nd halves,in particular Imran.

    The point is whether consistency is the most important or the peak period of performance of bowler or batsman.In the Light of peak era Viv Richards or Brian Lara may eclipse Tendulkar and Imran Khan or Richard Hadlee would eclipse Glen Mcgrath or even Malcolm Marshall.

  • Arjun on July 7, 2012, 7:52 GMT

    Ananth,

    Completely agree with you on 1960-61 series. Is there any way to measure/rate series or match and see where it stands ? What about Ind-Aus series (2000-01) or 2005 Ashes ?

    A Strong English side toured SAF in 1956-57 for 5 test series. SAF made great comeback after losing first 2 tests. What happened in 3rd test i don't know ? Chasing a target of 190 in 4th inns, SAF made only 142/6 in 58 8-ball overs. HJ Tayfield was hero for SAF in 4th and 5th tests. Possibly Best Test Series ever ? [[ If nothing else, that series contained the best ever bowling performance in a Test innings, as published in Wisden-100: Tayfield's 9 for 113 while defending 231 runs and winning by 17 runs. Too many series like the 2001 series. Also 3-test series do not have the ingredients to become great ones. Tough to define the criteria. 1960-61 contained a tie, 2 easy wins, a nerve-wracking last pair draw and a win by 2 wkts. Plus the quality of players. My feeling is that each of the matches has to have possibilities for both teams. 2001's Mumbai Test was a wash-out and the second one would have been if Steve had batted again. More thought needed. Ananth: ]]

  • Harsh Thakor on July 7, 2012, 7:42 GMT

    Justice is done to Sachin Tendulkar,revealing his superb consistency averaging 53-56 for both his halves.A phenomenal achievement,considering his long career and his mammoth aggregate.He has revealed greater consistency than Rahul Dravid,a more dour batsman,who averages less than 50 in his latter half.The chart displays the great achievements of Jacques Kallis and Brian Lara where their batting average in the latter half period betters the first part,by a considerable margin.

    Interesting that Viv Richards and Gavaskar have a convincing drop in the 2nd half,while Graham Gooch is the opposite.I feel they faced more challenging bowling than the modern day greats and it is remarkable that Gooch performed against great bowling attacks.

    The greatest accolade goes to Garfield Sobers who averaged nearly the same(57+ for both halves) -arguably 2nd best test batsman to the Don.

  • ad captandum on July 7, 2012, 6:57 GMT

    "If you look at the six greatest all-rounders the world has ever produced, only Imran Khan stands out as a charismatic and inspirational leader. Sobers, Botham, Hadlee, Kallis and Kapil Dev (better than the other four) were not known for leadership qualities." Ananth.

    Wouldn't Miller qualify as one of the 6 great allrounders? His stats are pretty similar to that of Imran's. Certainly a better all rounder than either Dev or Hadlee.

    Also, Sobers was a charismatic and inspirational leader. He wasn't a good captain, or rather, he played to win/(or lose, if he didn't win), and often got panned for it.

  • Boll on July 7, 2012, 0:54 GMT

    I know we`re getting a little off track with discussions of all-round WC performances, but I`d rate Klusener (99) and Yuvraj (11) as the clear leaders ahead of Kapil, Jaya etc.

    Kapil`s figures in particular are a little misleading, considering he scored well over half his runs and almost half his wickets in 1 innings (stunning performances both). Klusener and Yuvraj (5 fifties) made an impact in almost every match they played.

  • Alex on July 6, 2012, 21:27 GMT

    @shrikanthk:

    1. Figures don't say everything (e.g., Andy Roberts) but Davidson must have been one heck of a bowler.

    2. I never saw Imran bowl an outswinger but he had a very potent leg-cutter --- check out the URL mentioned in my comment. You don't need all weapons anyway and he had mastered the reverse swing which was introduced in world cricket by Sarfraz Nawaz. Imran is surely a top 10 bowler of the last 50 yrs, IMO ... I would put Lillee, Marshall, Ambrose & McGrath just a little bit ahead of him though.

  • Alex on July 6, 2012, 16:38 GMT

    @Srini: Surprisingly, WC stats don't show a single dominant all-round performance in a series. Kapil's '83 might be the best all-round campaign. Other candidates: Yuvraj ('11), Klusener ('99), Jayasuriya ('96), Waugh ('87 _AND_ '96). Waugh was the clutch player in '87 WC and that world cup changed the Oz fortunes for good. Amazingly, he repeated that feat 12 yrs later as well. [[ Yes, over the entire WC spectrum and for the impact, it would be difficult to go past Steve Waugh. Ananth: ]]

  • Boll on July 6, 2012, 15:22 GMT

    @Waspsting. re.Botham as a bowler. I was a very young boy when Botham started playing - although an obsessive cricket fan - but I certainly wouldn`t rate him up there with Hadlee/Lillee/Marshall. Maybe more a Kapil - at his best brilliant, a little slower than than true fast bowlers, but with an extra gear. Bowled some tripe interspersed with unplayable balls, had a great ability to bowl a 3-over match-changing spell, snare a diving one-handed take in slips, jag a wicket off a long-hop, and take big wickets through sheer force of will. He was simply phenomenal at times - a force of nature and compulsive viewing. His batting was not dissimilar. Of the big 4 of the 80s I think Hadlee was probably the best with the ball, Imran not far behind (neither of them out of place in a World XI on their bowling alone) - couldn`t really say the same of Kapil or Botham, (or indeed Sobers) inspirational as they were. Sobers of course walks it in as batsman extraordinaire though.

  • Boll on July 6, 2012, 14:44 GMT

    To Alex`s list of the most influential West Indian cricketers, I would have to add the incomparable Frank Worrell however. Perhaps I`m showing my Australian bias there but, if only because he gave so much to cricket in our country, I would rate him as the most influential West Indian of them all.

    Even for those of us far too young to remember him as a player, images of `that series` in Australia were a standard fill-in for rained out sessions throughout the 70s/80s and beyond in Oz. Fathers and uncles were equally keen to remind us that they`d been around when Worrell`s team toured - in a period of very `white` Australia, of at the very least, covert racism against `a fully black team` - within a few months a great man, some brilliant cricketers, the advent of television, and a series for the ages had helped all of Australia mature as a nation. Richie Benaud also had a great role to play, but it`s not without reason that we still play for The Frank Worrell Trophy. [[ If anyone has to nominate a single series for the Gods, it would be difficult to keep the 1960-61 series out of the short list. Two great captains, two great teams and 50 years hence remembered fondly even today. Ananth: ]]

  • Boll on July 6, 2012, 14:19 GMT

    It`s always tough joining the conversation a few days late...but I`ll start with the great Clive Hubert Lloyd. I agree wholeheartedly with Alex`s assessment of the team he inherited. They were hardly world-beaters, having won about 5, lost 10, and drawn 15 of their last 30 tests. Lloyd`s tenure was also a tough beginning, trounced 5-1 in Oz in his 2nd or 3rd series, (despite Lloyd`s 500-odd runs) but grew in stature from that moment. He was a tremendous presence, obviously had the complete respect of his team (perhaps as Ananth mentioned, his Guyanese heritage may have helped there), but I think more importantly was just the sort of figure to bring a disparate group of men together to form one of the greatest sporting teams/stories of them all.

    It probably didn`t hurt that he averaged over 50 with the bat as captain, was a brilliant fieldsman and a brilliant if understated statesman.

  • shrikanthk on July 6, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    Alex : While we're on Imran -

    I have no memories of him besides what I saw at the fag end of his career in 1992 WC.

    But from what I've read about the man, it appears his main weapon was the inswinger/in-ducker/off-cutter. Not sure if he was a great outswing bowler. Also I don't think he had a great leg-cutter either.

    I've always held the view that the ball going away is harder to face than the ball coming back in. Which is why Lillee/Marshall/Lindwall probably get the nod slightly ahead of Imran in my book.

    Imran has the figures no doubt. But figures don't necessarily tell everything. Even Davidson has great figures, but not really a better bowler than say an Akram for instance.

  • shrikanthk on July 6, 2012, 12:07 GMT

    But the media still complains that test cricket is dying and needs to be played more often ... we have been hearing that since 1980 and the media should stop such BS propaganda now.

    I think we play too much test cricket. No doubt about it. What test cricket needs today is fewer matches, involving only the top 5-6 teams (Eng-Aus-SA-Ind-Pak-SL). Matches involving these teams played on reasonably sporting surfaces should make great entertainment and bring in significant crowds if not full houses.

    I think the days of 4-test and 5-test series is past us. People don't have that kind of appetite for test cricket anymore. We have to content ourselves with 3-test series (with Ashes being an honourable exception). [[ 3 Tests are fine. There is every chance of a result. 2 Tests certainly no. Ananth: ]]

  • Vikram on July 6, 2012, 11:11 GMT

    I guess people like Imran and Ganguly are considered great captains because they pretty much took ownership of the team, developed an image for the team and ensured that they delivered against that image by backing players. Both of these captains were responsible for bringing in talent which could very easily have been lost in the unorganized and regional-bias based selections in India and Pakistan. I believe Allan Border and Clive Lloyd can be seen as being similar leaders. If I use a jargon, they really were change agents for their teams, as compared to say a Waugh or a Ponting, who were more efficient and effective managers.

  • Vikram on July 6, 2012, 11:02 GMT

    Amongst the Ars of 80s, I rate Kapil and Hadlee higher than Imran and Botham in terms of their value to their respective teams. Imran always had a very formidable support cast and also had the luxury to bring himself when he could be the most effective. Botham had some lovely conditions to back his bowling and he tapered off very quickly. Kapil and Hadlee were the stock and shock bowlers for each and every match. If you throw in the fact about Kapil's fitness so he rarely got a break and still worked like a warhorse for a very feeble Indian bowling attack, you see his contribution. His stats against WI and AU are very impressive. As for Hadlee, very similar story. They did let themselves down a bit with their bat but if you add the context, you realize their value to the team. [[ Hadlee possibly amongst the best 5 bowlers ever: and then add the runs. And Kapil bowling nearly 15000 balls in India. Ananth: ]]

  • Vikram on July 6, 2012, 10:53 GMT

    Sorry for bringing up SRT here, Gerry_the_Merry. However SRT's 1H stats remind me why I find him my fav batsman. I haven't been a regular follower of cricket after 2002, as football became my main game. So, my main memories of SRT are pre 2002 when he averaged the highest amongst all peers, despite needing a couple of initial years to find his feet. His stats for 1H will include matches against Zim, but Zim at that time was a formidable team. So it was usually decent opposition against which he scored very well, with some outstanding gems against each team away (perth, Headingley, Cape Town). So in one way i was lucky to have not really followed cricket post 2H when he used Ban to find his feet on a regular basis. Brings back good memories. Anyways, back to the main topic and a really useful analysis Ananth, as readers have brought a lot of context to bring the stats to life. [[ Somewhere there there has to be a full stop, at least in the shorter version. Otherwise he is doing Indian cricket a great disservice. Let us assume that Sehwag and Gambhir have a great series in Sri Lanka. What does Tendulkar's return do. Break up this partnership. The same Sehwag might sing a different tune if that happens. Ananth: ]]

  • srini on July 6, 2012, 10:20 GMT

    Ranga: I may be completely off but injuries generally seem to be on high these days even though the amount of cricket has hardly reduced. Viv Richards has played like 600+ FC matches and 400+ List A ODIs, which is fairly similar to what Sachin has done in 20 odd years.

    My feeling is that those days players rarely hit the gym from what I have read. Only exercise/training they had was jog and bowl/bat 500 balls each day. These days many players work out in addition to practice. The mind might wanna keep going but the body will shut itself down after a limit. So thats probably the reason why those work horses hardly broke down whereas players these days have injury after injury. [[ And let us not forget that in many matches the player delivers 4 overs and/or bat for about 30 balls. The workload is certainly less. Ananth: ]]

  • Ranga on July 6, 2012, 9:54 GMT

    An interesting observation out of Srini's stats: All the ARs of the 80s (who at various points, were leading their teams' new ball attacks)-43 overs per match - may be rougly 25 overs per innings. For fast bowling allrounder, who also contributed with the bat, this was high, esp Imran and Kapil, who played a lot in the subcontinental heat. And Hadlee, close to 40, bowled 25/inns. That again, is wonderful, considering some lost greats like Shane Bond, who broke down after sending 17 overs/inns and 18 tests over 8 years. The article, throws a lot of light on Sustained skill, sustained fitness, sustained contributions! I havent seen much of Hadlee due to limited TV footages, but to me, he is a workhorse worth emulating. He also enjoyed success in Subcontinent, 68 wkts from 13 tests, across all 3 countries. Bowled 22 ov/inns in Asia. My respect for him grows tremendous. I might go after a few more footages to see him in full throttle. [[ Hadlee's numbers will make interesting and impressive reading in the next artice: across countries. Ananth: ]]

  • Srini on July 6, 2012, 6:41 GMT

    Contd... but we remember Amarnath more than Kapil from that campaign. Kapil's 83 has to be the best allround campaign in WC history so far (with all due respect to Yuvraj '11 and Klusener '99).

    My point is not to denigrate Imran. I agree with others that he is Asia's finest cricketer, definitely should have been Wisden 5 ahead of Warne. The oft repeated statistic of 50 & 19 in his last 10 years is not very surprising given that Imran could pace himself much better than before.

  • srini on July 6, 2012, 6:36 GMT

    As I suspected, Imran reduced his bowling load post 83. Although he had some exceptional bowling spells (like 10/77) he bowling load was much less than before. Matches 1-44 - 43 Overs per match Matches 45-88 - 30 Overs per match He bowled almost 30% less than before. No wonder his batting improved later on (he scored all his 100s in the 2nd half).

    Comparing the other ARs from the 80s Hadlee - 1-43 - 41 Overs per match 44-86 - 44 Overs per match Kapil - 1-65 - 35 Overs per match 66-131 - 36 Overs per match Botham - 1-51 - 39 Overs per match 52-102 - 33 Overs per match

    I agree with Alex that Imran's contribution to the 92 world cup is overstated. I believe he could have single-handedly cost Pak the semis scoring 44 of 100 balls. It was a superhuman effort by Inzi that saved Imran. Imo Kapil had a far more inspiration 83 campaign as captain. Numbers look fantastic 300 runs (bloated by 175 of course) 12 wickets and that catch! Contd.... [[ Srini I approved this from my iPad which does not allow for good editing. This is an excellent derivation and can be used by me in a later article for a more elaborate coverage across bowlers. Ananth: ]]

  • Ananth on July 6, 2012, 6:22 GMT

    [[ WaspSting: You had made two requests. One was to split the career into three one-thirds. The other was to incorporate strike rates into the analysis. Both are excellent ideas. It is certainly possible to do the work. However the presentation is special and needs a separate article. The trends have to be studied to see how the middle peak period has been handled by players. The graphs have to be re-designed so that three contiguous numbers can be shown effectively. The tables have to be looked at carefully since the number of columns is quite high. I would also do this first with the ODI career analysis which will follow in due course. Later I will re-do the Test career analysis. I can assure you it will not be forgotten. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on July 6, 2012, 4:34 GMT

    @Ananth and @shrikanthk: I should like to digress a bit. After some discussion on Imran in this post, I checked out:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejr069kK9Nw&feature=related .

    It is a great clip. When Imran took 300th wkt, Benaud the commentator exclaims "Imran has now joined a very exclusive club". Observe the quality of his bowling. On that day, after 12+ yrs of international cricket, Imran joined a select group of maybe 5 bowlers who had taken 300+ wkts. Today, the likes of Bhajji have taken 400 wkts in 13 yrs and people play 12+ tests/year. But the media still complains that test cricket is dying and needs to be played more often ... we have been hearing that since 1980 and the media should stop such BS propaganda now. [[ Unfortunately the barometer is the crowd in the ground, especially the Indian ones. Now that the 100th hundred is out of the way, the next hype would be the 50th ODI hundred and the crowd/media would flock in. Would there be crowd to watch a poor New Zealand team play India in the next few months. But let us also take comfort from the number of spectators for the Eng-Saf Test series. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on July 6, 2012, 3:59 GMT

    @Ananth: I edited out 2 sentences to get the last post within character limits. Those were to solicit your opinion on Lloyd's place in history (I saw WI starting '83 only) --- did WI simply have a sudden outburst of talent 1974-82 or was Lloyd instrumental in tapping the talent? I think latter is the case.

    E.g., I think Gray & Patterson were almost as good as Croft but not well groomed & then left out --- not for a Marshall but for Benjamins & Harpers. Lara should have got in 2 yrs earlier (in '88 itself). I already argued that WI of 1994-99 had at least two batsmen (plus Lara, Chander, & Hooper) who could have averaged 45+ but got laid to waste.

    I think Lloyd was incredible at recognizing talent & opportunities, and at building a team that would win series after series. Pak is a weird boiling pot but WI is not very different: it comprises different countries so that building a harmonious great WI team is not an easy task at all. Only Lloyd & Worrell have aced it. [[ No problems at all, Alex. Lloyd's great strength was in getting the individualistic great players to play together as a team. The fact that he was from outside the island group and from the Guianese mainland might also have helped. He could handle the J-B-T conflicts quite well. Of course the luxury of being able to keep Croft out of the playing XI also helped. Ananth: ]]

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 6, 2012, 3:34 GMT

    Alex, remember, it was MCG, no ropes, only concrete boundaries going behind the sightscreen, so Imran's innings was not too slow. From 113/ in 34 overs, the score rose by 84 runs in the next 10 overs, and Imran played a big part himself in the acceleration. Inzy 42 in 35 was not faster than Imran in this phase.

    Botham's numbers say it all - excluding weak NZ/Pak teams, and WI teams (since he was burdened with captaincy), his bowling stats against strong / regular teams i.e. England, Aus (full strength), Pak (full strength), India (good batting) were in terms of tests, wickets, avg

    Aus 2/10/20 India 4/20/24 Australia (away) 3/19/20 India 1/13/8 Aus 1/1/132 Aus 6/34/20 India 3/9/35 Pak 3/18/26

    Total - 23/124/22. No weak opposition in this (packerless Pak, Aus) or NZ or SL. Includes a century and 13 wickets in the same match.

    Was faster than Kapil Dev, enormous variety in swing and seam, expensive, extremely attacking a bit shorter than Younus, Steyn etc. who are full).

  • Alex on July 6, 2012, 1:34 GMT

    @Wasp and @Ananth: I beg to differ on Lloyd. WI team inherited by him was a not a world beater. Consider this:

    1. WW2 through 1974, Eng & Oz were easily the top 2 teams.

    2. Until 1974, the perception was that many WI cricketers were fun watch but not consistent winners. Viv admits that he shaped his batting approach solely to eradicate this "race fit to be ruled" (his own words) tag.

    3. Cozier says: "The players came from different islands and lacked a sense of unity & purpose. When Lloyd became the captain, he deemed it his duty to carry on & develop the great work of Worrell". And how he succeeded!!

    The WI team in '75 WC had very young batsmen and only Roberts as a great bowler ... Lloyd himself bowled a lot in that WC. His leadership was a big reason why WI won WC75. WI lost its invincibility aura within a year of his retirement. I often feel that, apart from Sobers & maybe Viv, Lloyd is the most important cricketer produced by WI. [[ Since I made no comments on Lloyd I am assuming you are including me as courtesy !!! No problems. Ananth: ]]

  • Pawan Mathur on July 5, 2012, 20:28 GMT

    Among the current bowlers, the figures of Mohd Asif (If he is not history) stand out, averaging below 25 in one half, and just above 25 in the other. With Ajmal in his prime, what a dream attack could Pakistan now have possesed of Asif, Ajmal, and Aamir, sans for the fast bowlers deeds off the field (and in it!). Also looking at figures of Dale Steyn, they are unbelievable for a fast bowler of this period. Slightly off the topic, I would like to know your opinion on two subjects 1) how do you rate Vernon Philander,51@14.15, pretty small career but amazing figures till now 2)Who holds the edge in the upcoming England- South Africa series, perhaps the biggest series in terms of significance and equal team strenght in along time. [[ People are wondering when the Philander bubble will burst. But it does not look like to, especially with the lovely damp and wet English summer beckoning. 1-1 draw is what I see. England is very strong at home but South Africa probably carries too many guns to at least draw the series. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on July 5, 2012, 18:36 GMT

    @shrikanthk: You have hit the nail on Barnes. Precisely for that reason, I think O'Reilly and modern great medium pacers or spinners should definitely be rated above Barnes.

    @Ananth: If you disregard Holding's debut series, he has the best stats in Oz: average of 18 across 3 test series. [[ No contest, Alex. 130 at 20.6 beats 76 at 23.3 any day, one series notwithstanding. For that matter Ambrose is 128 at 21.2. But let us keep these wonderful exchanges to the next article. Ananth: ]] @Gerry: As chastised by Ananth, I probably got a bit carried away on Imran. IMO, the 72 was an important innings but too slow to win vs Eng ... when he departed, the score was 197/4 off 44 overs with Ijaz, Mallik, and Moin yet to come. But Pak does play in unpredictable manner anyway (I was afraid of the outcome until the second last over in WC11 SF) and Imran's leadership qualities were undeniable. IMO, he is a Wisden 5. It is just that Akram & Inzy were easily the best on-field contributors on Pak's biggest day.

  • shrikanthk on July 5, 2012, 17:46 GMT

    where do you think he ranked, particularly as a bowler? In the very highest, Lillee/Hadlee/Marshall league? or a little lower

    I don't remember seeing Botham at all. My only memory of him is his pumped-up celebration after getting Sachin Tendulkar out at Perth in the 1992 WC.

    But whenever I look at any bowler's figures, the first thing I ask is - Is this guy English? If you're a seam bowler (whatever your pace), the place to be is England.

    Take any bowler you like. Ranging from Tom Richardson, Alec Bedser, Fred Trueman, Bob Willis. They all do much, much better in England than say in Aus. It makes one wonder - would they have been "legends" if they were born down under. This theory may not be germane to Botham. But in general, English bowlers have better Test/FC averages than bowlers of similar quality elsewhere.

    I shudder to imagine what a swing bowler of high pace like Lindwall would've averaged in his career had he been an Englishman!!!

  • shrikanthk on July 5, 2012, 17:25 GMT

    Surprising that nobody has picked up on the SF Barnes stat raised by Ananth in the comments.

    Barnes' bowling average against the Australians led by Trumper, Hill, Noble and co was in the low 20s. However that average improved to 16 thanks to a phenomenal run against SA teams in his late 30s.

    This is the reason I never regard Barnes as the Bradman among bowlers simply going by the aggregate career average. Against the best opposition (i.e Aus) his average is not all that different from other great bowlers of the 1890s (Richardson and Lockwood for instance). His legend is built on those series against SAF.

    He was no doubt a great bowler, but by no means the greatest as the English press would have us believe. A simple test as always would be the first-class average! An average of 17 in FC cricket - great yes, but not exceptional in that era.

    I am more overawed by the stats of someone like O'Reilly who managed a FC average of 16 on flat Aus wickets against better FC opposition! [[ My next article is the Bowlers vs All teams one and should provide a lot more insights. Jumping the gun, Barnes' 106 at 21.6 against Australia is nothing to be ashamed of. That said, let me also mention that the best against Australia is not Barnes, but Hadlee with 130 at 20.6: during these days when a 20 is almost unheard of. Anyhow lot more like this in the next article. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on July 5, 2012, 14:53 GMT

    @Gerry, Ananth - its good to get your take on the reasons for Botham's dip. I've always wondered and never been able to come up with a satisfactory conclusion.

    On his first half form, where do you think he ranked, particularly as a bowler? In the very highest, Lillee/Hadlee/Marshall league? or a little lower? (somewhat subjective query)

    Anyone else who saw Botham play in first half - i'd be interested to hear your opinions on this, (and to a lesser degree, on where you think his batting placed him) [[ I saw almost all of Botham's first dozen Tests and he was something out of the world. Ananth: ]]

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 5, 2012, 14:46 GMT

    Alex takes the cake once again. Tendulkar gets praise for WC11, but Imran's crucial 72, coming in at 1 down, under serious pressure, against a team that had trampled over all opposition, bowled Pak for 72 in the group match, leading the team to a peak at the right time, peaking with the bat spectacularly in the final, all is forgotten. Imran paced the innings brilliantly. 15 overs 30, 34/113, last 16 overs 136. Inzamam and Akram played crucial knocks, but Imran controlled the entire match. Multiply all runs by 1.5 to equate to today's runs.

    A real leader must step up exactly in this manner.

  • Waspsting on July 5, 2012, 14:40 GMT

    e.g - Bradman with O'Reilly/Fingleton down to S. Waugh with Warne.

    I agree his great leadership is based on off-field stuff. Given his record as captain and given the team under him, suggests his leadership played a substantial role in Pak teams success.

    by contrast, its hard to isolate Lloyd or S. Waugh's leadership from their record, given the strenght of their teams - and how the teams success continued on after or was already in place before - they took over.

    even in his writing, that's where he seems to be coming from - the attitude he tried to install in the players (seems to have been pretty succesful with that), believing they could win and planning/playing accordingly etc. as opposed to subtleties in field placing, tactics against specific batsmen etc.

    That '92 WC "I've done it" speech was hilariously arrogant!

    ----

  • Waspsting on July 5, 2012, 14:24 GMT

    @Alex, Meety - I think there were plenty of better tacticians than Imran and on at least once occasion, I distinction remember him passing the buck.

    In Eng 87, in the match that Eng eventually fell 16 runs of winning, i distinctly remember him going off to the boundary and leaving Miandad in charge of Eng's 4th innings chase (when things were going badly for Pak).

    but I can't account for Pak's success under him purely on cricketing ability. Beat Eng in Eng, beat Ind in Ind, held WI to 3 drawn series (and the umpiring went against them in Ind and in WI - they would have won in WI otherwise). The teams wasn't particularly strong - probably weaker than Lara's teams and a lot weaker than the mid 90s Pak teams.

    Also factor in what 'leading' Pak is (compared to leading say, Aus). Pak players don't like the captain, they just go in half heartedly. Aus players tend to be more professional and keep their own personal standards regardless (cont)

  • Pawan Mathur on July 5, 2012, 13:07 GMT

    A split of Gilchrist career Home – 30 tests, 1684@51.03 In Victory- 23, 1172@53.27 Away- 18 tests, 1363@64.90 In victory- 13, 1196@99.66 2nd Half, Home – 46 tests, 2411@38.88, in victory, 34, 1842@43.85 Away- 20 tests, 1149@39.62, in victory 13, 759@42.16 When it came to match winner among batsmen overseas, among his contemporaries, he was best by a distance in this period. As the link shows, during this period in away wins, he scored the most runs, averaged almost 1 00, and is incredibly infact top of charts in every batting aspect (boundary, sixes,SR). In second half however, his figures have shown a considerable decline. But these are still very respectable figures . And when one considers his outstanding ODI record, it would not be wromg to state that Gilchrist till date is THE CRICKETER of 21st Century. http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=1;home_or_away=2;result=1;spanmax1=2+jan+2004;spanmin1=5+Nov+1999;spanval1=span;template=results;type=batting

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 5, 2012, 4:31 GMT

    Speaking of Botham's captaincy, it has to be considered a most unusual coincidence that 2 of the game's greatest all rounders Botham and Kapil Dev, were both, at the age of 24, given their first taste of captaincy, against the strongest team of all time, in consecutive series, home and well as away.

    Botham was such a forceful superstar that it would have been suicidal for selectors to give it to anyone else. In Kapil's case, after a brutal thrashing at the hands of Pakistan, India had to have a new captain.

    Nevertheless, as a captain, in Botham's case, it was the wrong time, and against the wrong opposition, and I dont think it can be conclusively stated that he was not captaincy material. In that case, so was David Gower, Allan Border etc. They all led teams that were routinely thrashed by West Indies. Botham may well have been a Sobers type of leading from the front captain, had he got a second chance (in a team that had 4 captains in 5 tests against WI in 1988).

  • Alex on July 5, 2012, 4:00 GMT

    @Ravi and @Ananth: Ravi's comment on Imran is on spot. I think he bowled on bowler-friendly pitches in the 80's. Can Ananth pl do an analysis? I suggest scaling the bowling avg in a series as (avg*avg)/(avg of 4 top bowlers in it).

    @Meety: Imran is given too much credit for WC92. I followed WC92 closely. His locker room leadership might have been effective but on-field leadership & performance were non-evident. He was gone as a bowler. As batsmen, he & Javed plodded through WC92. Pak was all but gone when a series of weird coincidences took them to semis. Akram reached his zenith & Inzy played blinders in SF & final. That won them WC92. Yet, while accepting the trophy, Imran did not thank his team, said "I won this", and dedicated it to his mom; he got roundly criticized for that. In comparison, SRT was more responsible for Ind winning WC11!! [[ A winning captain is a winning captain. Nothing is gained by analyzing to the nth degree diluting his share. If nothing else, the timing of bringing back Wasim in the Final and the freedom given to Inzamam should get Imran his due. Ananth: ]] Arguably, Benaud, Chappell, Taylor, & Lloyd were better skippers while Benaud, Worrell, Lloyd, AB, & Waugh were better leaders.

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 5, 2012, 3:17 GMT

    Plenty of discussion around bowlers in this article. So refreshing to not discuss Tendulkar.

    Ravi M, you may be surprised that Kapil Dev has a better record in Australia + West Indies in tests than Imran, Wasim, Waqar etc. Noteworthy since he would have been expected to prosper in swing and seam England, rather than Aus/WI which are true pitches.

    The bowler with the best record in Australia is Hadlee, closely followed by Ambrose. Lillee, McGrath etc. dont have comparable averages. Hadlee did well in every tour of Australia, not only in 1985-86.

    Botham did have this reputation of having gained good early numbers against easy opposition, but his performance in the 3-0 whitewash by Australia in 1979-80 put all such doubts to rest. His team was in tatters, but his deeds were titanic. In his next tour in 1982-83 his problems with stiffening up started. His last 10 years record is so poor that it has to be his own ability, not opposition. [[ I agree on Botham. We were living in England at the time of Botham's debut. I watched his debut Test at Trent Bridge. We were there until Botham's 11th Test against New Zealand. He had scored 500 runs at 40+ and captured 64 wickets at 16. He was like a collossus. Forget about any English hype. I thought he was going to finish between Bradman and Sobers. To see him 10+ years later, with tyres around the waist and lumbering along was a difficult sight. It was the loss of his own ability which caused this downfall. And he did not have Imran Khan's captaincy skills to make up for this loss. Ananth: ]]

  • Dinesh on July 4, 2012, 19:22 GMT

    Tony greig can go around world trumpeting about BCCI not doing enough but if we have these kind of pitches then even if BCCI decides to do anything(I dont know hat greig wants BCCI to do apart from accepting DRS) we cannot save test cricket. These flat batting tracks are the worst TEST cricket can offer. I personnaly feel a Galle/Kanpur/Mumbai kind of pitches should be there once in a while. BUt they wont be there as most of the captains are batsmen and they will protest if these kind of pitches are prepared but will not utter a word when we have Airport runways as pitches An Angry Cricket Fan [[ Why bring Greig into a discussion on the state of pitches today. It is the respobnsibility of the home board to make sporting pitches. Greig talks clearly about DRS/IPL/FTP when he talks about BCCI's negative stance. All true. Just now look at the brazen fourth automatic IPL team introduction in CL12. Ananth: ]]

  • Dinesh on July 4, 2012, 19:17 GMT

    Ananth

    Have a doubt. When you did the Country wise analysis of bowling averages did you leave out SSC(Sri Lanka) from this analysis.Whenever i hear/Read of this ground all i find is Centuries.Double centuries.. 500/600 runs..Highway or a bedroom with marble flooring. There is Galle which produces results no matter what and then there is SSC which produces drawa no matter what. I think the reason for the low average of bowlers in Lanka should be attributed to Murali as he could spin a ball on any expressway. We all talk of how falt some of the pitches are in India. But i feel some Lankan pitches take the cake as far this is concerned.

    ICC is a body which doesnt follow what it preaches.It say they will make cricket more balanced but at the smallest possible oppurtunity they slam a Mumbai-2004/Kanour-2008/Galle-2011/ kind of pitches but dont utter a damn word when some one these kind of pitches are found.

  • Waspsting on July 4, 2012, 14:51 GMT

    Botham's half way record is staggering. I wonder to what extent his fall off was due to a) tougher competition vs b) fall in his own ability?

    I didn't see his early career, but hear that round about mid-point, he put on weight, lost pace, couldn't get as side-on as a bowler (thus hurting his outswinger).

    What I did see of his bowling (late years)... made me wonder how he took so many wickets in the first place. long hops aplenty, half volleys not rare, little movement either way.

    As for batting,the Windies really sorted him out. that could happen to anyone, i guess.

    While we're on the topic of all rounders, let me throw out Aubrey Faulkner - the only guy as far as i know to be ranked #1 both as bowler and batsman.

    25 matches - 82 wickets @ 26.58, 1745 runs @ 40.79.

    The bowling average is solid for a leg-spinner (Warne's is 25.41)

    The top batsman of the period were Trumper and Hill - both averaged 39. [[ I have never forgotten about Faulkner. I specifically referred to him in my multiple pieces on all-rounders. Ananth: ]]

  • Meety on July 4, 2012, 12:48 GMT

    @arch - loathe to classify Hadlee as a line & length metronome! @Ananth - re: Imran Khan. He is in my top 3 captains. he is probably number ONE - under the category of leader of men. Of all sportsmen of all sporting codes (possibly/probably because of his surname), I could imagine him leading araid of horseback soldiers across the Gobi dessert & sack Beijing! It seemed in the W/Cup winning Paki side of 92 - that's exactly what they were prepared to do! IMO - he turned a nation that was (sports-wise relatively passive - respect for that), into a warrior nation in cricket circles - mind you without any obvious sledging or bad behaviour! He'll always be close to the front of my mind when discussing great/influential cricketers - oh, & he was a pretty dam good allrounder too! [[ And now making half-Tsunami level waves in the political circles also. Good possibility that a WC winning charismatic all-rounder-captain would be at the helm of a tumultuos nation. Ananth: ]]

  • Pawan Mathur on July 4, 2012, 12:18 GMT

    Anaanh, Thanks a lot for the split up dates.. I did one similar home away analysis for Kumble. The results are : First half -Home Matches: 36 Wickets: 210 Avg: 21.30 Away Matches: 32 Wickets :106 Avg: 39.90 Second Half- Home Matches- 28 Wickets- 147 Avg 29.81 Away Matches 37 Wickets: 163 Avg: 33. 22 (28 Feb 2002 cut off date)

    Actually, i am a bit surprised to see that Kumble's avg in home went to almost 30 in the second half. But, in his second half, he was a much better bowler overseas including 2 good tours of Australia. Also, his first half home stats reveal that he was unplayable in Indian turners in the 90s. This was one of reasons why India remained undefeated in a home test seris for a decade [[ Kumble reversed his home/away performances in the two halves of his career. He used the bounce in Australian pitches much better later on in his career. Ananth: ]] Another query I wanted to ask is that you have taken cerain midpoint dates of career in between a player having a good series. (Harbhajan for eg.) Is this for symmetry . will it make any difference if such mid-dates are fixed at the end of the series [[ My half-way stage is determined purely by numbers. It could very well be during the middle of a Test. Ananth: ]]

  • Ravi M on July 4, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    Imran Khan's last 10 years or so were amazing & his overall bowling stats were tremendous. Lot of people, however, tend to forget that Imran made sure - by opting NOT to play in the 2nd Test** vs Australia in 1980 - that there was something for the pace bowlers throughout the 80s SINCE. 80s was in general THE era for bowler-friendly wickets in Pakistan since they stopped using the matting wickets.

    **@ Faisalabad: 4 days play, 340 overs, 1000 runs, 12 wickets

    Ray Bright & Iqbal Qasim ended up with 0-227 after taking 21 for 229 in the first Test - that's right - from TWENTY ONE wickets to NONE!

    Imran Khan remains, IMO, Asia's greatest pace bowler ever (with all due respect to Ws).

    But, I don't buy into people adding that he had to bowl on dead wickets throughout; because Imran made sure that Faisalabad 1980 never happened again, until he retired.

  • David on July 4, 2012, 2:40 GMT

    Re injuries and the last 10 tests, I've just been looking at Brett Lee's figures: his last 2 tests (playing with illness and injury - he finished with a broken foot) brought him 1 wicket @249; his previous 15 tests, following a year off for injury, brought 78 wickets @25.71.

    Compare this to Warne, whose last 2 tests netted 9 wickets @19.67, while his previous 15 (from the ICC World IX test) brought 76 @28.20.

    Lee was actually more effective than Warne at the end, but then his body broke down once too often, and he was forced to retire.

  • David on July 4, 2012, 2:03 GMT

    A variation on Rasbihari Mathur's explanation of the difference in drop off between pace and spin is the relative ability of each type of bowler to play through injury, and the types of injuries they suffer. Warne's shoulder and finger soreness meant he was a little less effective, but his guile and competitiveness kept him bowling quality leg spin until he chose to retire. Bruce Reid could have been one of Australia's great fast bowlers, but his injuries ended his career. (Lillee is the exception that proves the rule here!) [[ Arjun's off-the-box suggestion of a special last-10-tests analysis will throw a lot of light on this intriguing topic. Ananth: ]]

  • Tom on July 3, 2012, 23:12 GMT

    The same high quality as always, Ananth.

    From the players identified above, I find Valentine's stats particularly interesting. According to legend, of course, Ramadhin was taken to pieces by the pads of Cowdrey and May at Edgbaston in 1957, was traumatised and never the same bowler again. However Ramadhin seems to have been more consistent across the two halves of his career while Valentine (who didn't bowl at Edgbaston) declined sharply.

    His player page suggests Valentine suffered from injury and illness in the second half of his career - perhaps this, together with 33 clueless England wickets from the 1950 series propping up the figures for the first half of his career, accounts for the contrast. [[ 99 @ 25.5 vs 40 @ 42.1. Seems amazing that there can be such a drop. As you say 1950 set a wrong pattern. And then tough West Indian pitches. My next article, which is the follow-up article on Test bowlers vs different teams will give additional info on Valentine's second half failures. Ananth: ]]

  • Engle on July 3, 2012, 22:25 GMT

    Would be interested to see a future project depicting cricketers with the greatest difference in performances as non-captain vs as captain [[ Will do. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on July 3, 2012, 18:52 GMT

    @Waspsting and @Arjun:

    1. Had Imran been British/Oz, he would be regarded as the greatest player of all-time (over '77-'81, poms trumpeted Botham as the world's best cricketer & Gower as the world's best batsman!!). IMO, Imran is a Wisden 5. [[ Yes, agree with that. Ananth: ]] 2. Garner became the #1 or #2 option in March '84, just past the mid-way point (as per # tests). His stats:

    Before March '84:

    32 tests, 61 inn, 1221 overs, 131 wkts, ave=21.8, RPO=2.47, SR=51, two 5-wkt hauls.

    Starting March '84:

    26 tests, 50 inn, 974 overs, 128 wkts, ave=20.1, RPO=2.64, SR=46, five 5-wkt hauls.

    So, starting March '84, he actually bowled 1 over/innings less, his SR improved at a slight expense of RPO, and the # 5 wkt hauls increased dramatically. Imran said that he would have given Garner the new ball after the 7th over and not after the 16th, as he usually got. So, looks like Imran preferred Holding opening the bowling, going flat out for 4 overs and then getting replaced by Garner. Seems sensible & exciting. [[ Problem of plenty. Someone like Croft does not get his share. Ananth: ]]

  • Arjun on July 3, 2012, 18:13 GMT

    Ananth,

    If we split career into 2 halves, Ian Botham's stats are like chalk and cheese. In 1st half he seems to be real challenger to Don Bradman as 'the greatest cricket ever'. After 25 tests, 139 wkts @ 18.52 plus 1336 runs @ 40.48 (probably best ever) After 50 tests, 229 wkts @ 22.89 plus 2625 runs @ 36.45 (probably greatest peak an allrounder has ever reached) He Scored his only double hundred(208) in his 51st test(his midpoint) Has any other cricketer scored 10 hundereds and 19 5-wkt hauls in his first 50 tests ? If he had retired at his mid-point(51 tests) he would have been greatest cricketer ever.

    His Mid-point stats 2833 runs @ 38.80 with 11 hundereds 231 wkts @ 23.06 with 19(5w) and 4(10w) [[ Your figures are slightly different from mine since you have gone on Tests as the base. 102 Tests played and your figures reflect the career figures at the end of 51st Test. I have gone independently on innings and innspells. But the result is almost the same. Quite difficult to find an all-rounder difference of 15.7 and a sub-25 bowling figure. Ananth: ]]

  • Ananth on July 3, 2012, 17:56 GMT

    Pawan I have also updated the Bowler table with the following. Career mid-point Date and Test. Career start Date and Test. Career end Date and Test. Ananth

  • Ananth on July 3, 2012, 13:11 GMT

    Pawan I have updated the Batsman table with the following. Career mid-point Date and Test. Career start Date and Test. Career end Date and Test. I will update the Bowler table by tomorrow morning. Ananth

  • Cliff Bradford on July 3, 2012, 13:07 GMT

    You ask about the lower variation for pace bowlers and I think part of that is that as a fast bowler gets more stature on a team he tends to bowl earlier in an innings i.e. in a more favorable time. Courtney Walsh for much of his early career was stuck with old balls as 4th change sometimes on and off the team but later in his career he was opening with Ambrose consistently. Spinners OTOH are often best when new (Mendis anyone?) and almost always bowl when the conditions and ball suit them. Shane Warne's consistency is pretty amazing a testament to how he developed during his career which is instructive for any bowler.

  • Nitin Gautam on July 3, 2012, 12:02 GMT

    Anantha

    As usual your work is just too gud to summaries in few words. like always it helped in busting few thoughts & created new beliefs

    However the highlight of this article so far has to be the fictional letter from Mr. Chris martin to Raghav penned by you

    Too gud & very funny to read with very gud explanation.

    Im sure your writing is as gud as your data analysis skills..

    Too Gud [[ Thank you, Nitin. I am glad to have been the spokesman for our dear Chris Martin. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on July 3, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    REALLY special. (one of the worst fielders ever though!)

    re: Murali's halves, my impression was that he lost some bite in the 2nd half. In first half, he didn't need arm balls - every ball was the perfect off break - flighted, dipping, landing on the perfect spot and spinning sharply.

    As he went on, he didn't seem to spin it as sharply, or consistently (early on, watching Murali told me nothing about the wicket. he spun if a mile everywhere. in second half, it varied according to conditions).

    I'd speculate that the doosra made up for the slack, thus keeping his record nice and even.

    ---

    Adding on to McGrath and Ambrose, i just found Garner. 1st half 126 wickets @20.77 2nd half 133 wickets @21.17

    Beautiful!

    Looks like the guys who work on putting the ball in the right areas more than pace or sideways movement tend to be more consistent over their career.

    A little surprised to see Garner this even though, given he didn't use the new ball much early on. [[ WS, I never realized myself the nuggets strewn throughout like this. These are not just over a few Tests but across multiple years. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on July 3, 2012, 11:42 GMT

    re: Lara's influence on the team... he was no Frank Worrell or Imran Khan, that's for sure. Still, that's unrelated to his feats with the bat any. the WI team might have done better with a lesser player and finer leader - like Lloyd or Worrell in Lara's place.

    I agree that Lara's WI teams weren't that bad on paper. The mid 90s Pak team was as strong a team on paper as I've seen, and they did poorly too (given their strength). Leadership clearly counts for something.

    re: Imran Khan's bowling - what date is his half way point? Guy started in 70, took time off for studies etc. Didn't even finalize his action - the leaping one we remember til 80

    He's very underrated generally. As good a bowler as there's been, a pioneer in reverse swing, and a leader second to none (look at the disarry Pak teams were in before he took over and after he left to see what a difficult job that is). When a 37 average of batting is only the "bonus" part of a player, you know your dealing with someone (cont)

  • Raghav Bihani on July 3, 2012, 9:31 GMT

    Very interesting read. There was a comment on how people tend to underperform towards the end of the career and get dropped. Though there are a few who leave on their own terms, mostly greats like McGrath or Tendulkar (Though it also depends on your cricket board antics e.g. Lara).

    how about analysing only at a Macro level the end of a career. A player with a 100 tests would typically get a 10 test window to perform/fail i.e. 10% of career. Could you at a macro level test the hypothesis that players taper off towards the end of their career (last 10% innings). [[ As always, a very good idea. However this would require a real sit-down-and-think effort since we may have to analyze this test-by-test. Will keep the idea in active wishlist. Ananth: ]] On a lighter note, I am not impressed by Chris Martin's consistency. His runs in 2nd half are lower by 16% and average lower by 3%. Thus we can say that he is much better in the 2nd half (his speciality is scoring less and he has shown significant improvement) [[ You are a hard person to please, Mr.Bihani. When someone like me has averaged 2.46 in 64 innings over quite a few years of wonderful quality batting and almost replicates THAT feat over another few years and 55 innings at 2.43, you do not give me credit. It is not too difficult for someone like Sobers to average 58.xx over the two halves of his career. I have a real problem. I have to make sure that I do not get a fortuitous four which would spoil everything. I have to make sure I do not swing or french-cut. At the same time, to please my Bat sponsor, I have to last a few balls. That, let me say, Mr.Bihani, is quite tough. What Mr.Amarnath did over 6 innings, I have to do over 120 innings. Thank you, Christopher Stewart Martin Christchurch, New Zealand. ]]

  • Matt j on July 3, 2012, 8:58 GMT

    And how good was Imran Khan? I was not old enough to see Sobers, but Imran would have to be in the grand final of the greatest cricketers it he last 40 years. Started as a slogger and young tear away, went to World Series Cricket and soaked up all the tricks and professionalism that he could, brought it back home, took responsibility for his team with both hands and transformed himself in the 2nd half of his career into the greatest batsman/bowler/captain package I've ever seen. As an Aussie I look at Shane Watson, who is a very good and valuable player, and Imran was so far above in envy way. [[ It is a real surprise that Imran Khan gets overlooked when most of us/them look at players who had a profound influence on the game. If you look at the six greatest all-rounders the world has ever produced, only Imran Khan stands out as a charismatic and inspirational leader. Sobers, Botham, Hadlee, Kallis and Kapil Dev (better than the other four) were not known for leadership qualities. Ananth: ]]

  • srini on July 3, 2012, 7:11 GMT

    I agree with Waspsting. SRs will also give an important indicator as to how effective the bowler was. Plus, it will either prove or disprove the myth that Imran batted more and bowled less as he aged (post 84-85). Given that he had to concentrate only one discipline, it is not surprising that he averaged 50 with the bat and 19 with ball in his last 10 years (or not!!!!). [[ It is probably a fallacy to think that Imran bowled little in his second half. This happened only 2 Tests against Australia in 1983-84 and in his last 8 Tests. Ananth: ]]

  • Gerry_the_Merry on July 3, 2012, 4:30 GMT

    1) Walsh was indeed a vastly improved bowler in 2H, but WI were no longer splitting wickets between 4 quicks. 2) Ambrose last bowled explosively in MCG/Perth 1997, winning both tests by himself. Thereafter he seemed to drop in pace, frequently came on first change, and was already 35 then. He still was productive in the reduced-pace Hadlee/Lillee/McGrath type of bowling, though nowhere as clever, but still formidable. His extreme accuracy helped. But Walsh bowled much faster and in England 2001, made a massive impact. 3) Am taken by surprise at Donald's brilliant 2H numbers, which almost coincide with Pollock's equally great 1H numbers. South Africa must have been a great attack in the 1995-2001 period. [[ Yes, especially towards the later part of this period. Ananth: ]]

  • Micko on July 3, 2012, 4:08 GMT

    Good analysis as always, Ananth. I was wondering if you have done any analysis of performances versus age, as my friend made the comment that "a batsman's golden years are when he is aged 30-35, but a bowlers is 25-30" and I was wondering whether his theory is backed up by figures. [[ As i have already mentioned, Mick, I do not have the personal information of players. Ananth: ]]

  • Ranga on July 3, 2012, 2:32 GMT

    Another curious observation is that, while many belived that Imran peaked more as a batsman than a bowler towards the latter half of his career (which is true, as reflected in the surge in his career average), he also took more wickets at a lesser cost in his latter half! Similar is the case with Vettori, whose rise as a batsman also coincided with him silently collecting more wickets than he did in the first half (when many believed that his ability to run through a line up has more than dimnished).

    Of all pace bowlers, Walsh's renaissance was phenomenal . . . close to 300 wkts in the 2nd half of his career for a fast bowler well past 34 is amazing! For spinners, they are believed to mature with age, but for a fast bowler, this is brilliant. But despite lack of superstars in WI towards the fag end of his career, Walsh remained the unsung hero. [[ Ranga Very valid brace of comments. Walsh's 57.2% in the second half is the highest amongst the 24 300+ wicket bowlers. Both Imran and Vettori seem to have blossomed into more balanced all-rounders in the second half from being bowling all-rounders in the first. Ananth: ]]

  • arch on July 3, 2012, 0:49 GMT

    @rasbihari I agree. Looking at the retirement ages of the bowlers will tell us quite a bit. (Combined with a look at the last third or quarter). Very few fast bowlers play beyond 35. [[ Unfortunately I do not have that information. Ananth: ]] I have a feeling that the line and length metronomes like McGrath and Hadlee had a longer shelf life than out and out fast bowlers like Younis.

  • Matt h on July 2, 2012, 20:43 GMT

    With the spinners could it be that during the first half they are meeting teams for the first time and the "mystery" factor gathers extra wickets? In the latter half, while still great bowlers their records drop slightly as opposing players are more familiar with their tricks? Whereas pace is pace.

  • Pawan Mathur on July 2, 2012, 19:41 GMT

    Regarding my earlier post on home, away split,I agree that too many splits will lead to problems of data presentation. Infact can you then as an alternate give the cut off date of player split so then it can be easily worked up with Statsguru for a player of one's choice. I tried to do the same for a few but without a cut off date, it is very tedious to count no of test/innings and then halv it. [[ As you can see I am not going by date but innings/innspells. Let me see whether I can incorporate the specific Test/date which is the cut-off one. Ananth: ]]

  • Rasbihari Mathur on July 2, 2012, 17:31 GMT

    "The bowling average variation is more pronounced. The spinners go from 105% to 95%, a very significant drop indeed. Again, quite surprisingly, the pace bowlers drop off very little, 101.4% to 99.1%. What could be the reason, I wonder. Fine, let the readers explain this."

    Well its actually very easy to explain. Since pace bowling takes its toll on the body, the pacers retire immediately once they feel that they are no longer effective( There are exceptions like Kapil, but this is true generally). Whereas in case of spinners they tend to stretch it just a wee bit at the fag end of their careers, despite knowing that they are no longer effective. The overall impact of this is shown in that why they drop off in the end. Also since we are talking about all good players here, rarely are these people dropped for bad performances, because they have already built a good name for themselves. Hence most of the time they take their own retirement decision. [[ Fair explanation. But let us look at the top three bowlers, all spinners. I don't think any of the three extended their careers. All three retired when all of them had at least two series ahead of them and there were no obvious replacements. Ananth: ]]

  • Pankaj Joshi on July 2, 2012, 17:18 GMT

    Would the average not be bit more significant? Most players spend the first half searching for their limitations, the second half playing within their limitations. Laxman's Superman-stop-the-bullet-train efforts have diminished substantially after 2004 but this is compensated by shepherding the tail and not (generally) throwing away his wicket. If you do strictly in terms of 50% dismissals .. only nit picking. Strike rates likewise have been mentioned already. One Mr Hadlee is an amazing exception. Maybe a general juxtaposition with how well the team was doing (W/D/L) would help explain player behaviour. Particularly for Mr Ponting and perhaps the Mr Tendulkar. [[ Yes, I have shown complete details of Runs/Wkts and Averages. So what is needed can be taken. We have already have Strike rates. Home/Away. Now W/D/L. As I have already mentioned too many splits. Ananth: ]]

  • Ravi M on July 2, 2012, 15:26 GMT

    Very interesting to see the differences. Sobers' split is surprisingly even, I must admit.

    As for McGrath, they don't come any better; do they?

    I remember he has a sub-24 bowling average in matches lost; and from memory, nobody averaged under 24 (min 75 wkts in losses) in history. Considering how strong Australia were, it's such a telling stat!

    Meteoric rise from 2nd grade cricket to Test meant McGrath's first 2 years were very ordinary (8 Tests, 19 wkts, avg 44). I know statistically, McGrath had great 2004 (8-24) & 05 (Lord of Lord's); but to me, his last truly great year was 2002 - in a sense, he'd beat the bat or miss the bail by an inch a million times to get a 3-fer. Never really recovered from ankle injuries & late Jane's health. Understandably, his stats across those best 8 years (out of 14) still only had an average of 20.4 (down from 21.6 career). When he played the full series in his prime, I only remember two poor series from him (v NZ at home in 01/02 & in SL 1999).

  • Alex on July 2, 2012, 15:08 GMT

    @Wasp: In 1994, at the half-career stage, Ambrose was already 30 and suffered a major injury. But his avg & RPO improved in his second half (RPO went to 2.26 from 2.34 and avg went to 20.88 from 21.1); his SR did go up from 54.3 to 55.4 but the % of 5 wkt/innings spells stayed the same.

    The big difference: three 10-wkt match-hauls in 1st half but zero in the 2nd. This might simply be due to the WI decline which reduced the 2nd innings opportunities for him: McGrath fared better there since Oz was by far the best team in his 2nd half.

    This illustrates the root cause of my main & only gripe against Lara: his presence simply did not lift the game of his team-mates. After 1994, Bishop was gone but Ambrose & Walsh were great for 6 more years. The team had Hooper (a good captain), Chander, Adams, Campbell, & Arthurton. IMO, this group was one inspiration away from producing two 45+ average batsmen (in addition to Chander) and that would have kept WI near the top for another decade. [[ The last comment is unnecessary. If his compatriots did not lift their game, it cannot be laid at the feet of Lara. Just as his fellow batsmen's failures cannot be blamed on Dravid in 2011. We are talking of national cricketers who are professionals not wet-behind-the-ears youngsters. Anyhow let us not get side-tracked like this. Ananth: ]]

  • Pawan Mathur on July 2, 2012, 13:48 GMT

    Ananth, A request: Please subdivide the analysis for both halves in terms of home and away performance and then look for the consistency or gap . I myself did one for Harbhajan Singh, the career mid point cut off test: 2nd test 2005 vs Delhi , the split shows the following result: Career mid point cut off date: 14 December 2005 First Half Home matches: 24 Wickets: 144 Avg: 24.68 Away matches 22, Wickets: 65, Avg 37.07 2nd half, Home Matches: 25, Wickets 114,Avg 33.17 Away Matches: 24 , Wickets: 83,AVg 40.21 shocked to see these figures really [[ Let me see what can be done. Too many splits create problems in data presentation. Ananth: ]]

  • arch on July 2, 2012, 13:44 GMT

    Hmm, very interesting. What about a split by thirds (33%, 33%, 33%) as this would account for a player establishing himself, playing at his peak and then petering off at the end... [[ History repeats itself. I did a career analysis three years back and started with a midpoint analysis and based on a request split this into three career-thirds analysis. Of course the current analysis is more relevant since it encompasses the recent 3 years for current players and increased scope. Let me see how best to do it. Ananth: ]]

  • CricketPissek on July 2, 2012, 12:52 GMT

    This makes me think, did Murali's addition of the Doosra mean he was able to continue taking wickets at that amazing rate in his 2nd half? (since batsmen who read him now had something new to read) Or does it mean regardless of his doosra he would have maintained his rate? We'll never know the answer of course, but I do wonder :) [[ Good point on doosra. Makes sense. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on July 2, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    I think the drop in Ambrose's wickets in 2nd half probably reflects WI team going downhill as his career progressed.

    1st half - probably WI were taking 20 wickets in a match regularly

    2nd half - probably doing so far less often

    Do you have the strike rates for the two halves?

    my guess would be Ambrose's was slightly better in 1st half - he was faster, used yorkers and bouncers more in first half, and in second half, i'd speculate batsman played more safely against him since he stood out more clearly from the other bowlers in quality (save Walsh)

    McGrath's is probably slightly better in 2nd half. he just got smarter as he went on, until he knew exactly what he wanted to do in every situation, against every batsman in every condition.

    (note the emphasis on SLIGHTLY. hence the beauty of their uniformity of performance over long careers) [[ Ah! I was waiting for this. You guys are relentless. If "wasp" does not "sting" you, the "bee" would !!! Interesting idea. Will look at getting in strike rates. Again minor problem of creating additional database fields. But no problems. In all probablity will get this into the Excel tables only since updating would be easier. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on July 2, 2012, 11:19 GMT

    2 things struck me going through this. ----- 1) Surprised to see the uniformity in Marshall and Sobers. Both took a fair while to establish themselves as top class - and i would have anticipated that would be reflected in a noticeable better second half.

    Sobers I can possibly have guessed at, as his most prolific period was in 1st half to go along with the ordinary early part, and I guess the two cancel out to leave a figure similar to his 2nd half (which i guess was uniformly good). In other words, if put into quadrants, his career would be - 1st low, 2nd very high, 3rd and 4th high. Marshall, though, I would not have guessed had such an even record between two halves. ----- 2) Just look at the beautiful uniformity of McGrath and Ambrose. Two really special bowlers there. [[ McGrath's is slightly more special. The two halves are 298 @ 21.76 and 265 @ 21.51. He has made up for the loss of a few wickets with a similar improvement in average. Perfect half splits indeed. Ambrose's figures are 218 @ 20.87 and 187 @ 21.12. Minimal drop in performance levels after the mid-point. Guess I am just playing devil's advocate. Two wonderful creeers, every which way you look at. Ananth: ]]

  • The smudge on July 2, 2012, 10:22 GMT

    Interesting as ever. Would one issue affecting this statistic be than not all, or even most, players go into voluntary retirement at a time of their choosing. Many (most?) players end their career after being dropped which would suggest that there was a series of bad performances right at the end of their careers. I'd imagine this is common enough to be significant. I'm also curious as the the influence of including current players. I realise that you have to include all or none and it would be a shame to exclude people like Sachin or Ponting who are near the end of their careers, but for someone like Swann who is probably about at what will be his final midpoint, I'm not sure the stat is so helpful. [[ Let us sum up like this. "At this mid-stage in Swann's career he has proved his amazing consistency by having two almost perfect halves to his career. Same with Umar Gul.". Looks nice. Would include in the main article. Ananth: ]]

  • HP on July 2, 2012, 8:19 GMT

    Very Nice Article. But seems you forgot to wrote about swann & umar gul under fourth graph. Also you should include Gilly & steyn in batting & bowling list respectively.BTW thanks for this. [[ Have referred to Swann and Gul. Ananth: ]]

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  • HP on July 2, 2012, 8:19 GMT

    Very Nice Article. But seems you forgot to wrote about swann & umar gul under fourth graph. Also you should include Gilly & steyn in batting & bowling list respectively.BTW thanks for this. [[ Have referred to Swann and Gul. Ananth: ]]

  • The smudge on July 2, 2012, 10:22 GMT

    Interesting as ever. Would one issue affecting this statistic be than not all, or even most, players go into voluntary retirement at a time of their choosing. Many (most?) players end their career after being dropped which would suggest that there was a series of bad performances right at the end of their careers. I'd imagine this is common enough to be significant. I'm also curious as the the influence of including current players. I realise that you have to include all or none and it would be a shame to exclude people like Sachin or Ponting who are near the end of their careers, but for someone like Swann who is probably about at what will be his final midpoint, I'm not sure the stat is so helpful. [[ Let us sum up like this. "At this mid-stage in Swann's career he has proved his amazing consistency by having two almost perfect halves to his career. Same with Umar Gul.". Looks nice. Would include in the main article. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on July 2, 2012, 11:19 GMT

    2 things struck me going through this. ----- 1) Surprised to see the uniformity in Marshall and Sobers. Both took a fair while to establish themselves as top class - and i would have anticipated that would be reflected in a noticeable better second half.

    Sobers I can possibly have guessed at, as his most prolific period was in 1st half to go along with the ordinary early part, and I guess the two cancel out to leave a figure similar to his 2nd half (which i guess was uniformly good). In other words, if put into quadrants, his career would be - 1st low, 2nd very high, 3rd and 4th high. Marshall, though, I would not have guessed had such an even record between two halves. ----- 2) Just look at the beautiful uniformity of McGrath and Ambrose. Two really special bowlers there. [[ McGrath's is slightly more special. The two halves are 298 @ 21.76 and 265 @ 21.51. He has made up for the loss of a few wickets with a similar improvement in average. Perfect half splits indeed. Ambrose's figures are 218 @ 20.87 and 187 @ 21.12. Minimal drop in performance levels after the mid-point. Guess I am just playing devil's advocate. Two wonderful creeers, every which way you look at. Ananth: ]]

  • Waspsting on July 2, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    I think the drop in Ambrose's wickets in 2nd half probably reflects WI team going downhill as his career progressed.

    1st half - probably WI were taking 20 wickets in a match regularly

    2nd half - probably doing so far less often

    Do you have the strike rates for the two halves?

    my guess would be Ambrose's was slightly better in 1st half - he was faster, used yorkers and bouncers more in first half, and in second half, i'd speculate batsman played more safely against him since he stood out more clearly from the other bowlers in quality (save Walsh)

    McGrath's is probably slightly better in 2nd half. he just got smarter as he went on, until he knew exactly what he wanted to do in every situation, against every batsman in every condition.

    (note the emphasis on SLIGHTLY. hence the beauty of their uniformity of performance over long careers) [[ Ah! I was waiting for this. You guys are relentless. If "wasp" does not "sting" you, the "bee" would !!! Interesting idea. Will look at getting in strike rates. Again minor problem of creating additional database fields. But no problems. In all probablity will get this into the Excel tables only since updating would be easier. Ananth: ]]

  • CricketPissek on July 2, 2012, 12:52 GMT

    This makes me think, did Murali's addition of the Doosra mean he was able to continue taking wickets at that amazing rate in his 2nd half? (since batsmen who read him now had something new to read) Or does it mean regardless of his doosra he would have maintained his rate? We'll never know the answer of course, but I do wonder :) [[ Good point on doosra. Makes sense. Ananth: ]]

  • arch on July 2, 2012, 13:44 GMT

    Hmm, very interesting. What about a split by thirds (33%, 33%, 33%) as this would account for a player establishing himself, playing at his peak and then petering off at the end... [[ History repeats itself. I did a career analysis three years back and started with a midpoint analysis and based on a request split this into three career-thirds analysis. Of course the current analysis is more relevant since it encompasses the recent 3 years for current players and increased scope. Let me see how best to do it. Ananth: ]]

  • Pawan Mathur on July 2, 2012, 13:48 GMT

    Ananth, A request: Please subdivide the analysis for both halves in terms of home and away performance and then look for the consistency or gap . I myself did one for Harbhajan Singh, the career mid point cut off test: 2nd test 2005 vs Delhi , the split shows the following result: Career mid point cut off date: 14 December 2005 First Half Home matches: 24 Wickets: 144 Avg: 24.68 Away matches 22, Wickets: 65, Avg 37.07 2nd half, Home Matches: 25, Wickets 114,Avg 33.17 Away Matches: 24 , Wickets: 83,AVg 40.21 shocked to see these figures really [[ Let me see what can be done. Too many splits create problems in data presentation. Ananth: ]]

  • Alex on July 2, 2012, 15:08 GMT

    @Wasp: In 1994, at the half-career stage, Ambrose was already 30 and suffered a major injury. But his avg & RPO improved in his second half (RPO went to 2.26 from 2.34 and avg went to 20.88 from 21.1); his SR did go up from 54.3 to 55.4 but the % of 5 wkt/innings spells stayed the same.

    The big difference: three 10-wkt match-hauls in 1st half but zero in the 2nd. This might simply be due to the WI decline which reduced the 2nd innings opportunities for him: McGrath fared better there since Oz was by far the best team in his 2nd half.

    This illustrates the root cause of my main & only gripe against Lara: his presence simply did not lift the game of his team-mates. After 1994, Bishop was gone but Ambrose & Walsh were great for 6 more years. The team had Hooper (a good captain), Chander, Adams, Campbell, & Arthurton. IMO, this group was one inspiration away from producing two 45+ average batsmen (in addition to Chander) and that would have kept WI near the top for another decade. [[ The last comment is unnecessary. If his compatriots did not lift their game, it cannot be laid at the feet of Lara. Just as his fellow batsmen's failures cannot be blamed on Dravid in 2011. We are talking of national cricketers who are professionals not wet-behind-the-ears youngsters. Anyhow let us not get side-tracked like this. Ananth: ]]

  • Ravi M on July 2, 2012, 15:26 GMT

    Very interesting to see the differences. Sobers' split is surprisingly even, I must admit.

    As for McGrath, they don't come any better; do they?

    I remember he has a sub-24 bowling average in matches lost; and from memory, nobody averaged under 24 (min 75 wkts in losses) in history. Considering how strong Australia were, it's such a telling stat!

    Meteoric rise from 2nd grade cricket to Test meant McGrath's first 2 years were very ordinary (8 Tests, 19 wkts, avg 44). I know statistically, McGrath had great 2004 (8-24) & 05 (Lord of Lord's); but to me, his last truly great year was 2002 - in a sense, he'd beat the bat or miss the bail by an inch a million times to get a 3-fer. Never really recovered from ankle injuries & late Jane's health. Understandably, his stats across those best 8 years (out of 14) still only had an average of 20.4 (down from 21.6 career). When he played the full series in his prime, I only remember two poor series from him (v NZ at home in 01/02 & in SL 1999).

  • Pankaj Joshi on July 2, 2012, 17:18 GMT

    Would the average not be bit more significant? Most players spend the first half searching for their limitations, the second half playing within their limitations. Laxman's Superman-stop-the-bullet-train efforts have diminished substantially after 2004 but this is compensated by shepherding the tail and not (generally) throwing away his wicket. If you do strictly in terms of 50% dismissals .. only nit picking. Strike rates likewise have been mentioned already. One Mr Hadlee is an amazing exception. Maybe a general juxtaposition with how well the team was doing (W/D/L) would help explain player behaviour. Particularly for Mr Ponting and perhaps the Mr Tendulkar. [[ Yes, I have shown complete details of Runs/Wkts and Averages. So what is needed can be taken. We have already have Strike rates. Home/Away. Now W/D/L. As I have already mentioned too many splits. Ananth: ]]