August 1, 2012

Test players' career-to-date average analysis

A detailed analysis of Test batsmen and bowlers using career-to-date averages

Javed Miandad never let his average drop below 50 in a 125-Test career © The Cricketer International

This is a happenstance article. It was never planned. As I was working on the career halves article, I saw in front of me a 200-data-capsule segment for each player, each capsule containing the player's summary for one Test. Until last year my CTD values were embedded in the specific Test data segment. This could be used effectively but only for analysis related to that specific Test. Only now do I have the complete career data, including individual Test performances, for each player in one place. That paved the way for the career-halves analysis. And I can instantly say "Yes" to the career-thirds analysis. It also made me think of the way the CTD values have progressed and do some nice analysis of the CTD averages. Hence this article.

Most important feature of this article is that I have used the Test as the basis rather than the innings/spell. It is unfair to look at positions during the middle of a Test. A batsman might have had a stroke of misfortune and got out for a low score or a bowler gets caught on a flat track and has a 1 for 100 spell. However the second innings allows the batsman and bowler to make up for this, if the circumstances allowed it. And the unit of Test makes it fair across types of players. Finally it allows me to limit the data capsules to 200. If Tendulkar plays in more than 12 Tests, let me see. I can only see 6 home Tests in the next 12 months for India and do not want to see Tendulkar struggling in his 41st year, limping towards the 200th Test, leave alone my data related problems !!!

I have analyzed both batting and bowling CTD averages in this article. I have used as a criterion of top quality, could easily be some other values, 50.0 for Batting average and 25.0 for Bowling average. Let us not get anything else into this: the period, peer comparisons, the quality of bowling/batting, pitches etc. Let this be a reasonably tough benchmark so that the final numbers have a lot of weight behind them.

This is not a binary 1-0 situation. It is a waste of time saying that XYZ never fell below 50 or ABC never went above 25 in their careers. That is a one paragraph answer to a reader query. I am going to measure the % of such falls so that we can derive a number of useful insights. As I do normally now, I have a graph based on the performance parameter, a short table ordered on the career accumulations and an all-encompassing Excel sheet which covers the entire lot of players. You would always do well to download and view the Excel sheet.

First the graphs. The graphs, as nowadays often happens, are special for this article. The tally of my specialized graph-generation programs has now crossed 20. Here I wanted to show each bowler separately for clarity. Hence I could only show six batsmen and six bowlers. Anything more would have made the graphs uncomfortably tall.

Batsmen CTD Avge analysis

Batsmen with highest % of Tests with 50-plus averages
© Anantha Narayanan

One thing which the graphs clearly explain is the fact that the players may start way-out in either direction but soon gravitate to their career average and plateau around there. Unlike individual innings, there would not be any positive or negative spikes. Once a batsman has reached, say, 100 innings at 50, a score of 0 or 100 will only move his average up or down by 0.5. Similarly after 200 wickets at 25, a 0 for 100 or 5 for 25 spell would move the average up or down by 0.5.

Only two batsmen have never fallen below 50.0 in their entire career. It is that tough a mark. The first is that fighter extraordinaire, the thorn in any bowling attack for long times, the feisty Javed Miandad. Miandad played 125 Tests, spread over 17 years. He never dropped below 50.0. Please stop for a moment and reflect on the achievement. Dwell on the number of Tests played and the length of time. Hats off to one great character and cricketer.

The other is a totally different type of batsman. Coming as he does from the doughty Yorkshire stock, Sutcliffe never fell below 50.0, why let me extend it further, never fell below 60.0 in his 54-Test, 11-year career. Not a short career by any means: only looks short compared to Miandad. He built up a good average and even though he had an indifferent second half of his career, his buffer was enough to never let his career average go below 60.

Now comes Bradman. His poor start meant that he averaged 18.0 and 32.67 at the end of his first two Tests. Then he managed to reach exactly 50.0 at the end of the third Test. Afterwards he moved steadily through the 60s/70s/80s/90s to 103.0 at the end of his 9th Test. Then onwards, he dropped below 90, just once. So his % of >50 averages is 98.1, 50 out of 52. Anyone can work out that Bradman could have sustained a string of 69 consecutive zeros, after 1948, and could still have maintained a 50+ average.

Hussey is next, with 97.3%. In 73 Tests he has fallen below 50 twice, due to his recent drop in form. Worrell gets a 94.1% (48 out of 51) and Hutton 93.7% (74 out of 79). Note Hutton's pretty poor start and Worrell's stupendous start.

Bowlers CTD Avge analysis

Bowlers with highest % of Tests with sub-25 averages
© Anantha Narayanan

In contrast to the batsmen, there are five bowlers who have achieved 100% rate of maintaining a sub-25 bowling average throughout their careers. These are presented in order of wickets captured. Trueman, Barnes, Miller, Johnston and Colin Croft form the quintet. Trueman has gone through a 70-Test career without ever dropping below 25. Maybe he did not tour the sub-continent and that might have helped. But this is one heck of an achievement. Barnes never fell below 22.1, leave alone 25. But the caveat is always that the South Africans were there providing Barnes with 83 wickets at 9.9. That helped.

Miller, a very much under-rated bowler and the only all-rounder in this elite group never went above 23.2. It is time Miller comes into all discussions on top all-rounders: he should be there right in the first minute of discussion, not as an after-thought. Did someone ask me what his batting average was: a mere 37. Now comes Johnston, another under-rated left arm pace bowler, most of the times playing under the shadow of Davidson, but a wonderful bowler on his own rights. He never went above 24. Colin Croft, who could not get to play more matches, is the fifth bowler who never went above 24. He is an enigma. How did he not get to play more matches?

Finally the only bowler in this group who does not have 100%. But really does not matter. This should set right any doubts on Lillee's greatness. In a career of 70 Tests Lillee went above 25 just three times, that too only to 25.3. Oh what a bowler. I think it would be a great disservice to call Lillee over-rated and would only betray a narrow chauvinistic attitude. Let us not demean greatness. We demean ourselves.

Batsmen CTD Average Analysis Table

BatsmanStartFinish   Tests HighLowHigh-Low
CTD Averages  TestsRunsAvge> 50%AvgeAvge/CarAvge
Ponting R.T199520121651334652.7510261.860.036.644.2
Dravid R199620121641328852.3114689.058.847.022.5
Kallis J.H199520121531256157.628555.658.222.761.7
Lara B.C199020061311195352.8910076.362.646.131.2
Border A.R197919941561117450.5611573.754.142.822.5
Waugh S.R198520041681092751.065532.751.920.860.8
Gooch G.A19751995118890042.5800.044.824.946.6
J Miandad19761993124883252.57124100.075.851.745.8
Hayden M.L19942009103862650.747269.959.024.468.2
Stewart A.J19902003133846539.5600.046.124.654.4
Gower D.I19781992117823144.251512.860.040.544.0
Sehwag V2001201296817850.807982.356.739.933.1
Smith G.C20022012100817450.155959.078.645.865.4
Boycott G19641982108811447.731513.952.136.732.4
Waugh M.E19912002128802941.8297.047.833.235.0
Bradman D.G1928194852699699.945198.1112.389.622.8
Sutcliffe H1924193554455560.7354100.082.660.736.0

This table is ordered by the career aggregate of runs to ensure that all top batsmen are covered. One other important information needs to be understood. The career-high average and career-low average values are computed after the first 10 Tests are played. This is to allow the batsmen to settle down after very poor starts (Gooch/Kallis/S Waugh) or come down to earth after terrific starts (Gavaskar/Harvey/Azharuddin). I had initially done this work after 5 Tests but Milind, who is currently doing the editing task, suggested a change to 10 Tests to reduce the differences between maximum and minimum. It has worked out very well. Thanks a lot, Milind.

In order to get a handle on the variations, I have also determined a simple Avge Ratio which is (HighAvge - LowAvge) / CareerAvge, expressed as a percentage. I know Std Deviation might be a better divisor but this is sufficient at this stage. A high ratio need not necessarily mean an inconsistent career, it may be a reflection of a great or atrocious start. However a low ratio does mean a very consistent career. Do not forget that 10 Tests are given for the player to settle down.

We already know about Miandad who has 100%. Tendulkar's >50 tally is a good 82%, exceeded by Dravid and Gavaskar with 89%. Ponting has an indifferent 62% and Steve Waugh, a poor 33%. Lara is thereabouts with 76%. Richards has a high 89% indicating that the later Tests were the odd ones out. At the other end, Laxman, Vengsarkar, Gooch, Cowdrey, Boon, Langer et al have never exceeded 50.

Miandad reached 76 and his lowest was 52. Tendulkar has never exceeded 59 and once fell to around 35. Lara's range is a respectable 63 and 46. Look at Harvey who went to 95, after the tenth Test. Also Hussey reached 86.3. Samaraweera reached Bradmanesque levels of 83.0. Graeme Smith's band is between 78 and 45. Mark Taylor's range is 70 and 42. Steve Waugh once went as low as 21. Kallis to 23 and now he is 57+. Finally look at Adams, not in this table, who is the only one with an Avge Ratio exceeding 110. He has a range of 87 and 51 which is wider than his career average.

Harvey's extraordinarily high Avge Ratio is easy to understand. A phenomenal start to the career meant that he came down to 50 only in the 70th Test. This is reflected in the 97% ratio. And the amazing thing is that Harvey has this high ratio because of a fabulous start, not a terrible one like many top batsmen. Kallis is the other way around: a very poor start means he has an Avge Ratio of 87. And Steve Waugh, similarly on 77%. Many top batsmen are around the 40% mark.

Border is the best amongst the top batsmen with a very low Avge Ratio of 22.5. Gavaskar has an equally low figure of 26% and Lara and Jayawardene clock in at 31%.

Bowlers CTD Average Analysis Table

BowlerStartFinish   Tests LowHighHigh-Low
CTD Averages  TestsWktsAvge< 25%AvgeAvge/CarAvge
Warne S.K1992200714570825.425034.522.635.751.8
Kumble A1990200813261929.65139.823.229.822.3
McGrath G.D1993200712456321.6410080.621.033.959.3
Walsh C.A1984200113251924.445642.421.226.220.6
Kapil Dev N1978199413143429.6500.
Hadlee R.J197319908643122.303945.322.035.660.9
Pollock S.M1995200810842123.1210294.419.925.825.5
Wasim Akram1985200210441423.627572.122.328.827.4
Ntini M1998200910139028.8300.025.737.842.2
Botham I.T1977199210238328.406361.816.528.441.7
Waqar Younis198920038737323.568294.318.423.622.1
Imran Khan197119928836222.814652.321.535.360.6
Vettori D.L1997201211236034.4210.930.338.122.8
Vaas WPUJC1994200911135529.581311.720.732.138.7
Lillee D.K197119847035523.926795.721.625.315.5
Donald A.A199220027233022.256184.721.526.522.7
Lee B199920087631030.821823.719.433.044.3
Gibbs L.R195819767930929.093848.120.629.129.3
Trueman F.S195219656730721.5867100.020.723.010.5
Barnes S.F190119142718916.4327100.016.422.134.3
Miller K.R194619565517022.9855100.020.523.212.1
Croft C.E.H197719822712523.3027100.020.523.713.8

This table is ordered by the career aggregate of wickets to ensure that all top bowlers are covered. The career-high average and career-low average values are computed after the first 10 Tests are played. This is to allow the bowlers to settle down after very poor starts (Warne/Hadlee/Kapil) or come down to earth after terrific starts (Botham/Underwood/Lee).

McGrath has a very high 80% sub-25 average situations. However Waqar Younis and Shaun Pollock have better figures with 94%. But the best is Lillee with 95.7%. Donald is also quite high at 85%. Of course Trueman amongst the top bowlers stands alone at 100%. There are four other bowlers, with sub-200 wicket tally, who have 100%: Barnes, Miller, Johnston and Croft. Barnes stabilized to a figure around 20 after 20 Tests had been played but finished with an excellent average of 16+, mainly because he captured 67 wickets in his last Tests at an extraordinary sub-10 average.

Kapil has never been there. Similarly Ntini and Harbhajan Singh. And Flintoff, Bedi, Qadir et al. Vettori touched the mark once in the fourth Test. It can be understood why Kumble has touched this mark a mere 13 times.

Botham's average had come down to 16.5. Waqar Younis came down to 18+. And Lee and Underwood also had very low figures.

Look at the well-above 50% values of the Avge Ratios for Murali, Warne, McGrath, Hadlee, Marshall, Imran Khan. This indicates indifferent starts to their illustrious careers: And how they all turned the tide. And look at how little the careers of Kumble, Harbhajan, Waqar Younis, have oscillated, with ratios of around 22%. Finally look at Croft: albeit a brief career, but within a narrow band of 14%. Amongst top bowlers, only Flintoff, not in the table, has a 100+ Avge Ratio.

To download/view the Excel sheet containing the Batsmen CTD Avge analysis and Bowlers CTD Avge analysis tables, please Click/Right-Click HERE. The serious students of the game are going to have a link to this Excel file on their desktop and refer to it a few times a day. I have also given the CTD Averages for each of the 160 odd players at the end of each Test they played. Thus this is a huge data bank.

Again a personal request. Please stick to the article and don't start a "xyz vs abc" discussion which does not relate to the article.

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