February 21, 2013

Where is No. 2 and No. 20?

A study to rank and analyse Test batsmen and bowlers across various performance parameters

Jacques Kallis has a slight possibility of catching up with Tendulkar's tally of runs and centuries © Getty Images

The idea for this article transpired when I was asked about the likelihood of any player catching up with Tendulkar. Although the prevailing opinion was in the negative, I was not as convinced as others. It is essential to put the contrasting measures in perspective and carry out an objective evaluation of the relative positions of players. Hence this article with the intriguing title.

Let me make it clear upfront to the readers that many of these conclusions would be obvious but there are some additional deductions which would throw fresh insights. This method of reducing all numbers to a % of the top value will make these measures dimension-less thereby providing easier comparisons.

I have separated Performance based measures from the Longevity based numbers. Conceding that extraordinary skill levels, stamina, fitness and sustained performance levels are a prerequisite to achieve the numbers, there is no doubt that these are the result of players playing in a lot of Tests over several years.

For the performance based tables, I have set 3000 runs as the cut-off point for batting. This would exclude great batsmen like Pollock and Headley but will also exclude the bowler-batsmen like Kumble, Akram, Harbhajan et al. We must have a cut-off to keep the population size manageable. Similarly the bowler cut-off is 100 wickets. Bond gets excluded, that is all. In addition, for reasons I have explained many times, I have excluded bowlers who made their debut before 1900. Bowling averages and strike rates were at a completely different level during the pre-1900 period due to uncovered wickets, batsmen finding their feet and Test match techniques at a nascent stage.

The tables are presented in a standardised format. I have shown the top-5 players, 20th placed player and the last three players in Performance tables. In addition, the highest placed currently active player is highlighted, if not present already. For the Longevity analysis, the top 10-12 players are shown depending on the way the numbers pan out. In addition, the highest placed active player is included, if not in the list already. For active players who have achieved at least 40% of the top value, an extrapolation is done, based on their own data, to indicate how many years and Tests it would take for the concerned player to overtake the top player. This is nothing but a ball-park estimate, I may add.

I have selected 5 batting measures and 5 bowling measures for Performance analysis. For the longevity analysis I have taken the staple of runs, wickets, hundreds and 5-wicket-captures. First let us inspect the Batting Performance measures.

Performance: Batting Average

SNo Batsman Inns Runs Avge % to Top Status  
               
1 Bradman D.G 80 6996 99.94 100.0%    
2 Sutcliffe H 84 4555 60.73 60.8%    
3 Barrington 131 6806 58.67 58.7%    
4 EdeC Weekes 81 4455 58.62 58.7%    
5 Hammond W.R 140 7249 58.46 58.5%    
               
10 Kallis J.H 274 13128 56.10 56.1% Active Highest
               
20 Amla H.M 120 5693 51.75 51.8% Active  
               
162 Marsh R.W 150 3633 26.52 26.5%    
163 Vaas WPUJC 163 3087 24.31 24.3%    
164 Warne S.K 199 3154 17.33 17.3%    

Unfortunately the lily, already gilded a million times over, has to be gilded again. The next best player at 60% and the twentieth placed player at around 50% reveals the real domination of Bradman. Suffice to say that no one, I repeat no one, is ever going to accomplish even 75% of what Bradman has achieved. Just for information, let me state that Hussey, with a phenomenal start to his career, was averaging 55 when he reached 3000 Test runs. The highest average at the 3000 mark was that of Sutcliffe, with 64.83. Then a host of West Indians - Sobers, Weekes, Lara - reached 60. There might be one or two others who have done that.

Performance: Batting Strike rate

SNo Batsman Runs Balls StRt % to Top Status
             
1 Sehwag V 8559 10389 82.4 100.0% Active
2 Gilchrist 5570 6796 82.0 99.5%  
3 Kapil Dev N 5248 7591 69.1 83.9%  
4 Dilshan T.M 5255 8052 65.3 79.2% Active
5 Jayasuriya 6973 10686 65.3 79.2%  
             
20 Vettori D.L 4516 7768 58.1 70.6% Active
             
162 Congdon B.E 3448 9656 35.7 43.3%  
163 Wright J.G 5334 14995 35.6 43.2%  
164 Flower G.W 3457 10011 34.5 41.9%  

This is the domain of modern day batsmen. Sehwag may be going through a bad patch now and can hardly put bat to ball, but no can disregard his outstanding attacking ability, with which he scored his 8500 runs at a strike rate of just over 82. The only batsman to challenge him is the already-retired Gilchrist who is close behind. It is possible that Sehwag may drop below 82. Note the wide gap which exists after Gilchrist. However this table is reasonably close as indicated by the strike rate of 20th placed Vettori who strikes at 70.

Performance: Runs per Test

SNo Batsman Tests Runs RpT % to Top Status  
               
1 Bradman D.G 52 6996 134.5 100.0%    
2 EdeC Weekes 48 4455 92.8 69.0%    
3 Lara B.C 131 11953 91.2 67.8%    
4 Hobbs J.B 61 5410 88.7 65.9%    
5 Hutton L 79 6971 88.2 65.6%    
6 Sangakkara 115 10045 87.3 64.9% Active Highest
               
20 Kallis J.H 162 13128 81.0 60.2% Active  
               
162 Pollock S.M 108 3781 35.0 26.0%    
163 Vaas WPUJC 111 3087 27.8 20.7%    
164 Warne S.K 145 3154 21.8 16.2%    

Bradman is way ahead, probably not as much as the Batting average, in this measure. Weekes and Lara come in at above 67%. Kallis is the 20th placed batsman who clocks at 60%. Sangakkara is the highest placed of the modern batsmen, at 65%.

Performance: Innings per hundred

SNo Batsman Inns 100s Inns/100 % to Top Status  
               
1 Bradman D.G 80 29 2.76 100.0%    
2 Headley G.A 40 10 4.00 69.0%    
3 Walcott C.L 74 15 4.93 55.9%    
4 Sutcliffe H 84 16 5.25 52.5%    
5 EdeC Weekes 81 15 5.40 51.1%    
               
8 Kallis J.H 274 44 6.23 44.3% Active Highest
               
20 Cook A.N 154 23 6.70 41.2% Active  
               
110 Jayasuriya 188 14 13.43 20.5%    
111 Gatting M.W 138 10 13.80 20.0%    
112 Stewart A.J 235 15 15.67 17.6%    

This is the frequency of scoring hundreds. The cut-off is 10 hundreds. Like WpT, the second best batsman in this regard, Headley is at 69%. Then there is a big drop. Cook is the 20th placed batsman at a very low 41%. Kallis is the highest placed modern batsmen at 44%. Until now it is certain that in these four measures, Bradman's numbers are as unassailable as a mountain which scales at Mt.Everset + Aconcagua together.

Performance: Single digit dismissal %

SNo Batsman Inns SglDgtOuts % % to Top Status  
               
1 Hobbs J.B 102 13 12.7 100.0%    
2 Sutcliffe H 84 12 14.3 89.2%    
3 Hammond W.R 140 24 17.1 74.3%    
4 Hutton L 138 24 17.4 73.3%    
5 Bradman D.G 80 14 17.5 72.8%    
               
15 Smith G.C 191 38 19.9 64.1% Active Lowest
               
20 Sangakkara 196 40 20.4 62.5% Active  
               
162 Flower G.W 123 48 39.0 32.7%    
163 Vaas WPUJC 163 67 41.1 31.0%    
164 Warne S.K 199 92 46.2 27.6%    

This table exposes life beyond Bradman. It is a tabulation of the % of single-digit dismissals, which are true failures in every sense. Hobbs has had a failure once every 8 innings and is at 100%. His partner, Sutcliffe, follows closely at 89%. For a change Bradman is only fifth at 72%. Sangakkara occupies the 20th position, clocking in at 62.5%. Graeme Smith, surprisingly for an opener, is the best modern batsman, at 64%, just ahead of Sangakkara. He has failed once every 5 innings. Note the presence of many an opener in the top-20.

In summary, at the risk of repeating myself, let me say, with 100% conviction and analytical proof, that none of Bradman's Performance marks will ever be overhauled.

Performance: Bowling Average

SNo Bowler Wkts Runs Avge % to Top Status  
               
1 Barnes S.F 189 3106 16.43 100.0%    
2 Blythe C 100 1863 18.63 88.2%    
3 Wardle J.H 102 2080 20.39 80.6%    
4 Davidson 186 3819 20.53 80.0%    
5 Marshall 376 7876 20.95 78.5%    
               
15 Steyn D.W 327 7418 22.69 72.4% Active Lowest
               
20 Pollock S.M 421 9733 23.12 71.1%    
               
152 Shastri R.J 151 6185 40.96 40.1%    
153 Boje N 100 4265 42.65 38.5%    
154 Hooper C.L 114 5635 49.43 33.2%    

While Barnes is at the top, quite a few bowlers are within 80% of the top. Shaun Pollock is 20th placed bowler, at a reasonable 71%. The best modern bowler is Steyn who clocks in at 72%. Even though Steyn's average is unlikely to drop below 20 there is no doubt that he has been magnificent. Let me add that Vernon Philander has 87 wickets at 16.82 currently. Two more successful Tests, 13 more wickets conceding 200 runs, would put him at the cut-off point of 100 wickets at 16.63, below Barnes!!!. We would need to pinch ourselves to believe this modern miracle. Can anyone bet against it?

Performance: Bowling Strike rate

SNo Bowler Wkts Balls StRt % to Top Status
             
1 Steyn D.W 327 13456 41.1 100.0% Active
2 Barnes S.F 189 7873 41.7 98.8%  
3 Waqar Younis 373 16223 43.5 94.6%  
4 Blythe C 100 4546 45.5 90.5%  
5 ShoaibAkhtar 178 8143 45.7 90.0%  
             
20 Lee B 310 16531 53.3 77.2%  
             
152 Shastri R.J 151 15751 104.3 39.4%  
153 Emburey J.E 147 15391 104.7 39.3%  
154 Hooper C.L 114 13788 120.9 34.0%  

Well the miracle has happened. We have a modern bowler at the top of a table, comprising of bowlers across 110 years. Dale Steyn, with a truly majestic strike rate of just over 41, is standing at the top with 100%. Barnes breaks the sequence of modern greatness since Waqar Younis is at no.3 with 94.6%. Then Blythe comes in between Waqar and the much-maligned Shoaib Akhtar who is at 90%. The 20th best player is Lee standing at 77%, a fairly close bunch of bowlers. We can safely say that this is one measure where the modern bowlers, led by Steyn, truly reign. And let us not forget Philander, currently striking at 36 balls per wicket.

Performance: Bowling accuracy

SNo Bowler Overs Runs RpO % to Top Status  
               
1 Goddard T.L 1956 3226 1.65 100.0%    
2 Nadkarni 1527 2559 1.68 98.4%    
3 Verity H 1862 3510 1.88 87.5%    
4 Wardle J.H 1099 2080 1.89 87.2%    
5 Illingworth 1989 3807 1.91 86.2%    
               
20 Benaud R 3184 6704 2.11 78.3%    
               
81 Vettori D.L 4779 12392 2.59 63.6% Active Lowest
               
190 Mohd Sami 1249 4483 3.59 46.0%    
191 Fernando 1030 3784 3.67 44.9%    
192 Edwards F.H 1600 6249 3.90 42.2% Active  

It is unbelievable that Nadkarni has been pushed into the second place, by the wonderful South African medium-pacer, Goddard. Then comes Verity. All the five bowlers are within 15% of the top. Benaud is placed at the 20th position at 78%. That the modern game affords no such luxuries is indicated by the poor placement, in the 81st position, of Vettori, the best modern bowler, at 63%. No one is going to breach the 50th place, leave alone the top place. The cut-off for this exercise is 1000 overs.

Performance: Wickets per Test

SNo Bowler Tests Wkts WpT % to Top Status  
               
1 Barnes S.F 27 189 7.0 100.0%    
2 Muralitharan 133 800 6.0 85.9%    
3 Grimmett 37 216 5.8 83.4%    
4 O'Reilly 27 144 5.3 76.2%    
5 Saeed Ajmal 25 133 5.3 76.0% Active Highest
               
20 McGrath G.D 124 563 4.5 64.9%    
               
152 Shastri R.J 80 151 1.9 27.0%    
153 Kallis J.H 162 288 1.8 25.4% Active  
154 Hooper C.L 102 114 1.1 16.0%    

Barnes stands alone at 7 WpT and 100%. Muralitharan's greatness is divulged by his comfortable second position, at 86%. It is not a surprise that Saeed Ajmal is in the top-5, at 76%. McGrath is the 20th placed bowler, at 65%.

Performance: Spells per 5-wicket-captures

SNo Bowler Spells 5wInns Spells/5WI % to Top Status  
               
1 Barnes S.F 50 24 2.08 100.0%    
2 Grimmett 67 21 3.19 65.3%    
3 Muralitharan 230 67 3.43 60.7%    
4 FazalMahmood 53 13 4.08 51.1%    
5 Hadlee R.J 150 36 4.17 50.0%    
               
10 Herath HMRKB 76 14 5.43 38.4% Active Lowest
               
20 Swann G.P 90 14 6.43 32.4% Active  
               
62 Lee B 150 10 15.00 13.9%    
63 Zaheer Khan 158 10 15.80 13.2% Active  
64 Vaas WPUJC 194 12 16.17 12.9%    

Barnes had a 5-wkt capture every two spells, amazing but true. Grimmett went past 3 and Muralitharan, around 3.4. See how rapidly this value increases, with Hadlee at 50% of Barnes. The 20th bowler is conveniently Swann who is at a very low 32.4%. However he is upstaged by Herath, the best active bowler, who is at 38.4%.

Summarizing, I am unable to say with certainty that Barnes' average will not be overhauled by Philander, if not in his entire career, at least while crossing the threshold of 100 wickets. Same conclusion applies to the Strike rate and, to a lesser extent, the WpT measures. But one thing can be said, with as much certainty as Bradman's achievements, the Goddard/Nadkarni axis is never going to be breached.

Longevity: Runs scored

SNo Batsman Status Tests Runs % to Top How long to catch up
             
1 Tendulkar Active 194 15645 100.0%  
2 Ponting R.T   168 13378 85.5%  
3 Dravid R   164 13288 84.9%  
4 Kallis J.H Active 162 13128 83.9% 31 tests & 4 years
5 Lara B.C   131 11953 76.4%  
6 Border A.R   156 11174 71.4%  
7 Waugh S.R   168 10927 69.8%  
8 Jayawardene Active 138 10806 69.1% 62 tests & 8 years
9 Chanderpaul Active 146 10696 68.4% 68 tests & 9 years
10 Gavaskar   125 10122 64.7%  
11 Sangakkara Active 115 10045 64.2% 64 tests & 7 years
             
39 Cook A.N Active 87 7117 45.5% 104 tests & 8 years

Longevity: Hundreds scored

SNo Batsman Status Tests Hundreds % to Top How long to catch up
             
1 Tendulkar Active 194 51 100.0%  
2 Kallis J.H Active 162 44 86.3% 26 tests & 3 years
3 Ponting R.T   168 41 80.4%  
4 Dravid R   164 36 70.6%  
5 Lara B.C   131 34 66.7%  
6 Gavaskar   125 34 66.7%  
7 Waugh S.R   168 32 62.7%  
8 Jayawardene Active 138 31 60.8% 89 tests & 11 years
9 Hayden M.L   103 30 58.8%  
10 Sangakkara Active 115 30 58.8% 80 tests & 9 years
11 Bradman D.G   52 29 56.9%  
             
23 Cook A.N Active 87 23 45.1% 106 tests & 9 years

Are Tendulkar's marks that unbreachable? I do not think so. Kallis, to a lesser extent, and Cook, to a greater extent, have a fighting chance of overhauling Tendulkar's aggregate of runs and hundreds. It is unlikely, though. With the proliferation of IPL, BPL, BBL, SLL, EPL, APL (Albanian Pro League), ZPL(Zambian Pro League) and the likes, it may very well be impossible for Cook to play as many Tests and maintain the same level of consistency through the next 10 years, as he has done over the past 8. And the slight possibility, considering Tendulkar's current form, of Tendulkar raising the bar. It is unlikely, but not out of the realms of possibility, that Tendulkar stands second.

Longevity: Wickets captured

SNo Batsman Status Tests Wickets % to Top How long to catch up
             
1 Muralitharan   133 800 100.0%  
2 Warne S.K   145 708 88.5%  
3 Kumble A   132 619 77.4%  
4 McGrath G.D   124 563 70.4%  
5 Walsh C.A   132 519 64.9%  
6 Kapil Dev N   131 434 54.2%  
7 Hadlee R.J   86 431 53.9%  
8 Pollock S.M   108 421 52.6%  
9 Wasim Akram   104 414 51.8%  
10 Harbhajan Active 99 408 51.0% 95 tests & 14 years
11 Ambrose   98 405 50.6%  
             
21 Steyn D.W Active 64 327 40.9% 93 tests & 14 years

Longevity: 5-wicket-captures

SNo Batsman Status Tests 5Ws % to Top
           
1 Muralitharan   133 67 100.0%
2 Warne S.K   145 37 55.2%
3 Hadlee R.J   86 36 53.7%
4 Kumble A   132 35 52.2%
5 McGrath G.D   124 29 43.3%
6 Botham I.T   102 27 40.3%
7 Wasim Akram   104 25 37.3%
8 Harbhajan Active 99 25 37.3%
9 Barnes S.F   27 24 35.8%
10 Lillee D.K   70 23 34.3%
11 Imran Khan   88 23 34.3%
12 Kapil Dev N   131 23 34.3%
           
18 Steyn D.W Active 64 21 31.3%

Is Muralitharan ever going to be the no.2? Certainly never. The possibility of someone crossing 800 wickets and 67 x 5-wicket-hauls is as unlikely as any batsman scoring 5000+ runs at an average 100+. This is proved by the numbers. Harbhajan, unlikely to play 5 more Tests, is at 50% of Muralitharan's mark. Steyn, with more years ahead of him, could reach 500 wickets, no more. And no active bowler is even at 40% of Muralitharan's number of 5-wicket hauls: hence any projection becomes meaningless.

To download/view the comprehensive Excel sheet containing the values for the 5 Batting Performance tables, please CLICK HERE.

To download/view the comprehensive Excel sheet containing the values for the 5 Bowling Performance tables, please CLICK HERE.

To download/view the comprehensive Excel sheet containing the values for the 4 Longevity tables, please CLICK HERE.

Wicket-keeper dismissals

How long to catch up
1 Boucher M.V           147   555 100.0%
2 Gilchrist              96   416  75.0%
3 Healy I.A             119   395  71.2%
4 Marsh R.W              96   355  64.0%
5 Stewart A.J           133   277  49.9%
6 Dujon P.J.L            81   272  49.0%
7 Knott A.P.E            95   269  48.5%
8 Dhoni M.S    Active    73   234  42.2%       100 tests
9 Wasim Bari             81   228  41.1%
10 Evans T.G              91   219  39.5%

It seems very unlikely that Boucher's landmark will be breached. I cannot really see Dhoni playing 100 more Tests. With his interest in CSK et al, I would expect him to play 20 more Tests. So the chances are probably around 1%.

Non-WK dismissals

How long to catch up
1 Dravid R              164   209 100.0%
2 Ponting R.T           168   195  93.3%
3 Kallis J.H   Active   162   195  93.3%        11 Tests
4 Jayawardene  Active   138   193  92.3%        11 Tests
5 Waugh M.E             128   181  86.6%
6 Fleming S.P           111   171  81.8%
7 Lara B.C              131   164  78.4%
8 Taylor M.A            104   157  75.1%
9 Smith G.C    Active   109   157  75.1%        36 Tests
10 Border A.R            156   156  74.6%

I can clearly see both Kallis and Jayawardene overtaking Dravid's mark. It is almost certain that either or both would do that. Smith is less likely though.

Wicket-keeper dismissals / Test

1 Gilchrist       96   416  4.33 100.0%
2 Jones G.O       34   133  3.91  90.3%
3 Kamran Akmal    53   206  3.89  89.7%
4 Haddin B.J      43   164  3.81  88.0%
5 Boucher M.V    147   555  3.78  87.1%
6 Marsh R.W       96   355  3.70  85.3%
7 Grout A.T.W     51   187  3.67  84.6%
8 Richardson      42   152  3.62  83.5%
9 Rashid Latif    37   130  3.51  81.1%
10 Dujon P.J.L     81   272  3.36  77.5%
11 Jacobs R.D      65   218  3.35  77.4%
12 Healy I.A      119   395  3.32  76.6%
13 Saleem Yousu    32   104  3.25  75.0%
14 Dhoni M.S       73   234  3.21  74.0%
15 Murray J.R      33   102  3.09  71.3%
16 Russell R.C     54   165  3.06  70.5%
17 Taylor R.W      57   174  3.05  70.4%
18 Murray D.L      62   189  3.05  70.3%
19 Prior M.J       62   186  3.00  69.2%
20 Ramdin D        49   147  3.00  69.2%

The cut-off is 100 wicket-keeping dismissals. In this table those wicket-keepers who have dismissed more than 3 dismissals per Test are shown. It is not surprising that Gilchrist leads the table. The 20th entry is Ramdin at 69.2%.

Non-WK dismissals / Test

1 Simpson R.B     62   110  1.77 100.0%
2 Fleming S.P    111   171  1.54  86.8%
3 Taylor M.A     104   157  1.51  85.1%
4 Smith G.C      109   157  1.44  81.2%
5 Waugh M.E      128   181  1.41  79.7%
6 Chappell G      87   122  1.40  79.0%
7 Chappell I      75   105  1.40  78.9%
8 Jayawardene    138   193  1.40  78.8%
9 Hammond W.R     85   110  1.29  72.9%
10 Dravid R       164   209  1.27  71.8%
11 Lara B.C       131   164  1.25  70.6%
12 Hayden M.L     103   128  1.24  70.0%
13 Strauss A.J    100   121  1.21  68.2%
14 Kallis J.H     162   195  1.20  67.8%
15 Botham I.T     102   120  1.18  66.3%
16 Sobers          93   109  1.17  66.1%
17 Ponting R.T    168   195  1.16  65.4%
18 Clarke M.J      89   103  1.16  65.2%
19 Hooper C.L     102   115  1.13  63.5%
20 Azharuddin      99   105  1.06  59.8%
21 Cowdrey M.C    114   120  1.05  59.3%
22 Thorpe G.P     100   105  1.05  59.2%
23 Richards       121   122  1.01  56.8%
24 Laxman         134   135  1.01  56.8%
25 Border A.R     156   156  1.00  56.4%

The cut-off is 100 dismissals. In this table those fielders who have effected more than 1 dismissal per Test are shown. Simpson and Taylor are separated by Fleming at the top. The 20th entry is Azharuddin at 59.8%. If the cut-off is lowered to 50, Solkar leads with more than 2 catches per Test.

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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