Where is No. 2 and No. 20?
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|
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|
|3||Kapil Dev N||5248||7591||69.1||83.9%|
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|
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|
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|
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|
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|
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|
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|
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|
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|
|4||Kallis J.H||Active||162||13128||83.9%||31 tests & 4 years|
|8||Jayawardene||Active||138||10806||69.1%||62 tests & 8 years|
|9||Chanderpaul||Active||146||10696||68.4%||68 tests & 9 years|
|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|
|2||Kallis J.H||Active||162||44||86.3%||26 tests & 3 years|
|8||Jayawardene||Active||138||31||60.8%||89 tests & 11 years|
|10||Sangakkara||Active||115||30||58.8%||80 tests & 9 years|
|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|
|6||Kapil Dev N||131||434||54.2%|
|10||Harbhajan||Active||99||408||51.0%||95 tests & 14 years|
|21||Steyn D.W||Active||64||327||40.9%||93 tests & 14 years|
|SNo||Batsman||Status||Tests||5Ws||% to Top|
|12||Kapil Dev N||131||23||34.3%|
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.
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%.
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