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

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  • fanedlive on August 15, 2012, 14:37 GMT

    Oh Yes... Olympics, World Cup Football, and some world championships like Athletics and swimming keep me going. Eng / SA has been great viewing too.

    Before the olympics, I did not know of the official Olympics youtube site. Now I know the power of youtube - as good as watching on TV. You can watch what you want, as many times as you want, in true HD, and events are beautifully classified.

    That means that I dont have to rely on sports channels anymore to keep abreast of major world sports events. You tube it is going to be...instead if one were to watch ESPN, during offseason in cricket (which is shrinking by the year), one can only see India v/s Sri Lanka / Nigeria / Dubai / Zimbabwe and strictly one day matches in some past World Cup.

  • fanedlive on August 15, 2012, 2:29 GMT

    @Ananth: Thanks for the pointer to Nirmal Shekhar's article. He has said exactly what our side discussions/comments on your articles keep re-iterating. It is feeding people trite day in & day out and glorifying it to the point that is all they can focus on and celebrate because they are not good for anything else. That extremity is a hallmark of one religion and no wonder it has carried on to cricket which is marketed as a "religion". I am glad to be out of its clutches ... now if I can only escape the enticing clutches of Ananth's blog!! [[ Nirmal Shekhar is the Sports Editor of "The Hindu" and, in my opinion, the best sports writer in India. Quite unknown outside the south. His forte is Tennis. One should be blessed to read his writings on Federer. Over the years I have cultivated a fascination for sports of every kind: Archery to Yachting. And this keeps me sane. That is where Olympics to me is the pinnacle of sports-viewing, much more than any of the World Cups, which are all one-dimensional. Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on August 14, 2012, 14:30 GMT

    Abouelkassem Alaaeldin, a Fencer from Egypt, won a Silver in Men's Individual Foil but made a visual impact from the early rounds and was a stand-out performer amongst a flurry of fencers. There are 8 fencers in action on four different pistes in non-medal events. The style of play becomes important for a viewer who does not have any knowledge of the game. So he was The Olympian in our household.

    It was nice to see a beaming Federer who won a silver medal but no match to the happiness shown by Yogeshwar Dutt after winning his bronze medal match. He won 6 points in deciding round, one point at a time. It was a memorable bout and I now know that he "pulled off a stunning 'fitele', a term used by wrestlers when they twirl their opponent on their back a few times with great speed, to score match-winning six technical pts." [[ Milind, By sheer fluke I stayed up and watched the later two fights. The triple "fitele" was totally unknown to me but was visually stunning. And this battered and bruised guy suddenly became a hero. What I liked were Federer's words in ATP. "I did not lose the gold. Murray won the gold because he was outstanding today. I am very pleased that I won the silver medal. I will treasure it." or nearly the words. He took the bad loss very well. While at it, please peruse the following excellent comment by Nirmal Shekhar, the doyen amongst Indian sports writers. Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on August 14, 2012, 11:26 GMT

    "Quite debatable and difficult to go beyond Bolt. However you have also changed the gender of Farah. " Oh my bad.While i was writing about Farah i remembered Farah Khan and there the Gender got Changed. [[ The two Farahs are about 10000 kms apart, both literally and figuratively. Ananth: ]] Anyways coming to athlete it depends on how people look at it.I probably looked at the tougher event.You probably looked at Lightning. [[ I have also not gone on the speed or related things. Probably the overall impact was Bolt's. But any Brit would say Ennis, Farah or Murray. All of Uganda would say Kiprotich. Anyhow why argue over who was top of pile. They were all kings and queens. Barring very few unsavoury moments it was wonderful. Now Rio should match it. The samba-loving fun-loving Brazilians would do a great job. Ananth: ]] All said London 2012 was better than the brazen money power displayed in China.Here from the looks of it common man felt part of the Olympics unlike Beijing.

  • fanedlive on August 13, 2012, 19:48 GMT


    You forgot the Womens 4X100 relay.The way USA smashed the World record.Boy for me that has to be the highlight along with Rudisha's world record and of course MO Farah's mind boggling achievement of 5K and 10K.She is the athlete of the Event and not Bolt or Phelps. [[ Quite debatable and difficult to go beyond Bolt. However you have also changed the gender of Farah !!! Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on August 13, 2012, 15:46 GMT

    London and its sights were indeed integrated. The women's swimming marathon was incredible. And the beach volleyball...

  • fanedlive on August 13, 2012, 7:46 GMT

    Hi Ananth, with me it was Olympics. Could not think of cricket even for a second. My favourite moments were Zanetti on Roman Rings, Zonderland on Horizontal bar, Kanayeva on Rhythmic Gymnastics, Phelps on return leg of 100m butterfly, Bahamas winning the 4x400 relays defeating US in the last 20 meters, Russia winning volleyball in a stunning turnaround. [[ I stayed up to watch 100m and 200m and in the bargain saw the 800m WR. Most of the Phelps finals were perfectly scheduled. Russia's comeback was legend and will be talked about for years to come. 0-2 and 19-22 and match-point down and going on to win. Reminded me of Graf-Novotna in 1993 and the 2010 T20WC Sf between Aus and Pak. The women's marathon was amazing, 5 seconds separating a 145 minute race. Both the 10km swimming races were thrillers. The men's separation was 3 seconds in a 110 minute race and the women's was 0.4 sec in a near-120 minute race. All in all one, arguably, the greatest modern olympics. London and its sights were integrated into the events and it was wonderful. The Marathon route was inspirational. Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on August 9, 2012, 10:17 GMT

    Ananth: No comments in your article since two days.Did cricinfo again direct towards Junk? [[ No. not this time, Dinesh. It is either the readers running out of ideas or wanting to give me some rest or both. Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on August 7, 2012, 15:39 GMT

    @Yogesh & @Ananth: (max-min)/avg is an excellent metric but I feel the cut-off should be 15-20 tests (2 years' maturation) since 10 tests is too low a threshold. [[ Do not look at it only from the 100+ Tests players. Probably no more than 50: I could not really care about the exact number. Many players have played 50/60+ Tests. 15-20 is a fourth of their careers and would be too long a settling down period. I do not accept that 10 Tests are too low. It is an year's play and is sufficient to start measuring the variations. Ananth: ]] Ananth might have misread the excel file: Vengsarkar's (max-min)/ave is 60 and not sub-20. Anwar is at 18, Fleming is at 18.5, Don's is at 23, Thorpe is at 14(!!), Cook & Waugh are at 21, AB-Lawry-Slater-Nasser are at 23 while SMG & Hutton clock in at 26. Much maligned KP & Richardson are quite solid at 24. [[ Ues, Vengsarkar's ratio is 60%. Ananth: ]]

  • fanedlive on August 7, 2012, 12:24 GMT

    re: spin bowling, his two worst series' was against WI in 51/52 and in Eng 56.

    In the first Ramadin and Valentine were the two lead bowlers. average 26.1 in 10 innings - dismissed 5 times by the pair.

    In the second, Laker (and Lock) were the strike men. Average 19.7 in 10 innings - dismissed 8 times by the pair (Lock 6)

    (one the flip side, there's nothing in his record against Eng that suggests any obvious problems with Trueman, Statham, Tyson - - though failing to average over 50 in a series in 7 complete series' {he played 2 matches in '48}, is less than ideal.


    Good player Harvey, but I've always felt he was WELL BEHIND say Hutton or Sobers. and Border (re: possible Aus all time 11 spot).

    His stupendous early record came from massacaring weak bowling and/or on flat pitches - Ind, SA, WI (which is GREAT, that's EXACTLY what a class player SHOULD do in such situations)

    His overall record is VERY GOOD.

    But, IMO, not quite in the first league of great batsman [[ Excellent summing up of Harvey, the flavour of the fortnight. Ananth: ]]

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