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The previous article was a huge data-rich one involving bowler-pairs. Even understanding the significance of data presented there would have taken some time. This is also a bowler-centric article but much simpler to read and understand, if not in analysis. I must thank Arijit Dasgupta for this suggestion.
A few days after India won the World Cup during 1983, it was decided that the wides and no balls would be debited to the bowler analysis. It was a simple idea but had significant problems in execution and it took more than 2 years for the first scorecards to be rolled out with the wides/no balls information shown against the bowler's analysis. It is possible that the bowlers and wides were debited to the bowlers from Test # 961 onwards (India-Pakistan match played at Bangalore during September 1983). However the debited numbers were not shown against the bowler analysis until Test # 1029 (Australia-New Zealand Test match at Brisbane starting on 8 November 1985).
So this is our real cut-off Test. So one can say that the cut-off is data-driven than law-implementation-driven especially as the 1983-87 period is a grey area. Milind's query to MCC on this has resulted in a vague unclear answer. The only assumption, and a valid one, is that where wides/no balls have been shown against a bowler analysis, these are included in the bowling analysis runs.
Arijit's idea was that this single law change had a profound influence on the Bowling averages of bowlers over the past 25 plus years and that I should study this in depth. This seemed an excellent idea and I have been working on it for the past month. It turned out to be a complex exercise, because of the reasons outlined below.
This analysis concentrates almost totally on the post-1985 period, or more correctly the post-T1029 period. For the pre-T1029 period, I will present a single summary of the wides/no balls which would have been debited to the bowlers. This will give an idea of the possible increase in bowling averages.
For the first 1028 Tests the total number of wides/no balls stands at 15353 and the number of bowler wickets at 31727. This leads to a notional increase of 0.48 runs per wicket. For the next 1027 Tests the total number of wides/no balls stands at 29118 and the number of bowler wickets at 31449. This has led to an increase of 0.93 runs per wicket. This clearly shows a doubling of the number of wides/no balls post-T1029. This may be due to the stricter interpretation of extras-related rules, stricter handling of short balls, significant law changes and the increase in declaring a ball wide owing to the influence of ODIs.
Before anything, let me be clear that the overriding consideration in all these adjustments is simply that Team wides/no balls are king. These would remain sacrosanct. All adjustments will be done only with the bowler level wides/no balls. With this guiding principle I have ensured that the Team scores remain untouched. The salient points of this analysis are outlined below.
1. All scorecards, including the Cricinfo ones, do not include full information about the number of deliveries that were declared wide/no ball and how many runs were scored off these deliveries. When 5 wides are conceded, 5 runs are added properly to the team score, extras total, no balls tally in the team extras line and bowler runs conceded. However, somewhat inconsistently, this is shown as only 1 wide delivery against the bowler. Same is true for the rare case where 5 runs are scored off a no ball. As an example, please peruse the very last innings scorecard. Test # 2055, India-New Zealand Test at Bangalore. In the Indian second innings, Southee bowled a 5-ball wide in the team's second over. The extras shows 5 wides, team total and bowler runs are increased by 5 runs but only 1 wide is shown against Southee in the bowling analysis.
2. Even after Test # 1029, there are matches in which no wides and no balls are shown against the bowler analysis even though there are team wides and no balls. Nothing can be done about these and such Test matches are kept out of these calculations.
3. There are matches in which the team wides/no balls are less than the sum of the bowler wides/no balls. The adjustment here is simple. Reduce the bowler wides/no balls proportionately to match the team wides/no balls. Very logical and correct. If there is something wrongly done, I would rather assume that all mistakes are restricted to the bowler figures rather than the team numbers.
4. Now comes the difficult part. The team wides/no balls are higher than the sum of the bowler wides/no balls. This is a highly nuanced situation. There are many types of differences so I had to use a different method for each adjustment.
In view of my own physical condition, I am not going to offer detailed comments on the tables. I will present all the tables and at the end, summarise what I perceive are the key points. Readers can always contribute their bit and make this a discussion forum. Let me also say that I will publish many more comments without any response from me. I have to necessarily cut the amount of work I do. More often than not, I have to let my silence speak.
Since it is not possible to identify the wides/no balls conceded by the pre-T1029 bowlers, it is not possible to increase their averages. So the only fair method of comparison will be a notional reduction of the post-T1029 bowlers' averages.
|Kapil Dev N||RFM||Ind||1978||1994||131||434||29.65||3||20||23||29.59||0.18%|
1. Probably the most significant bowling average change is one for Curtly Ambrose. The already very low average of this great bowler has been further reduced to below-20.0, 19.93 to be exact, making comparisons with Syd Barnes possible.
2. The next two significant reductions are for two very dissimilar bowlers, Brett Lee and Shaun Pollock. Their bowling averages have been reduced by over 6%. Pollock's average has been reduced to a wonderful figure of 21.62. They have bowled over 600 wides/no balls. What may be the reason for an accurate bowler like bowling so many no balls?
3. Similarly two totally dissimilar bowlers head the % reduction: Malinga and Reiffel. A real paradox. One a tear-away slinger and the other, a seemingly accurate medium-pacer.
4. Look at Swann's tally of wides/no balls. He has bowled a single wide in his 5 year career. That was in the 2011 Birmingham Test against India. That must have been a momentous occasion. And the icing on the cake: these were 5 wides.
5. If Swann is so accurate, how does one explain Muralitharan's 388 no balls? Warne, on the other hand, seems to have bowled only 163 no balls.
6. Not just Murali. Why do so many top bowlers bowl so many no balls. Surely some of these resulted in loss of a wicket.
7. Look at Waqar Younis' accuracy, only 52 wides/no balls and compare the same with Wasim Akram's 400 wides/no balls. The faster bowler has far fewer wides/no balls.In fact Waqar Younis has the lowest wides/no balls per Test amongst the top pace bowlers.
8. Saqlain Mushtaq and Muralitharan have the highest average of wides/no balls per Test, for spinners, either side of 3.0. If we conclude that unconventional off-spin is the reason, then Harbhajan seems to have excellent control with only 0.22 wides/no balls per Test.
9. Now for the maximum number of wides and no balls bowled by a bowler in an innings. These are either from the raw unadjusted scorecard data or where the changes are 100% correct (1 wide in analysis line for a single bowler and 5 wides in team extras line).
One final summary. I have given below the top-10 of the current Bowling average tables, for bowlers who have captured more than 150 wickets.
Barnes, Davidson, Marshall, Garner, Ambrose, Laker, Trueman, McGrath, Donald, Hadlee.
Now the same table with the wides/no balls removed for post-T1029 bowlers.
Barnes, Ambrose, Davidson, Marshall, McGrath, Garner, Laker, Trueman, Pollock, Donald.
The most significant change is Shaun Pollock moving from no.15 to no.9. Ambrose moves from 5 to 2. McGrath moves from 8 to 5. Muralitharan remains at no.11 in both tables.
To download the complete bowler tables and match summaries, please CLICK HERE.
Finally my thanks once again to Arijit.
Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systemsFeeds: Anantha Narayanan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Anantha spent the first half of his four-decade working career with corporates like IBM, Shaw Wallace, NCR, Sime Darby and the Spinneys group in IT-related positions. In the second half, he has worked on cricket simulation, ratings, data mining, analysis and writing, amongst other things. He was the creator of the Wisden 100 lists, released in 2001. He has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket, and worked extensively with Maruti Motors, Idea Cellular and Castrol on their performance ratings-related systems. He is an armchair connoisseur of most sports. His other passion is tennis, and he thinks Roger Federer is the greatest sportsman to have walked on earth.