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May 18, 2013

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Test careers that started and finished strong

Anantha Narayanan
Michael Hussey began and ended his Test career on a high  © Getty Images
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How they started and how they finished: the batsmen

The idea for this article came to me when Hussey announced his retirement from International cricket towards the end of 2012. I had an instinctive feeling that Michael Hussey had a great start to his career as well as a great end. I thought it was worthwhile looking at the start and end of the careers of all players. And I was almost certain that another player, right at the top of many batting lists, would announce his retirement from Test cricket if he had an ordinary home series against Australia. Well, Sachin Tendulkar had an ordinary series but he did not announce his retirement.

However, I did not want one player's inability to take a call on his fabulous but fading career have an influence on the timing of an important article. Hence, I have done this article knowing fully well that Tendulkar is still on for at least the next series. Let me also say this. Tendulkar's last ten Tests have been played at home and he has scored 367 runs at an average of 24.46. In three away-Tests in the forthcoming Test series against South Africa, facing Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, would he suddenly score 400-500 runs? Even the staunchest of Tendulkar's supporters would realise the futility of such expectations. It is likely that he scores only 200 to 250 runs in these three Tests. So this article might only undergo minor changes.

I am going to standardise the criteria. First, the start of a player's career is defined as the first ten Tests and the finish of his career as the last ten Tests. The cut-off for this analysis is batsmen with 4,000-or-more Test runs and thus, 115 batsmen qualify. Everton Weekes crossed 4,000 comfortably and played 48 Tests, which is the lowest any player has played in this list. So, even he has a middle period of 28 Tests. Because of the rather high cut-off, batsmen like Hanif Mohammad, Dean Jones, Arthur Morris, Tony Greig, Clem Hill et al. do not qualify. But this also means that non-batsmen such as Shane Warne, Chaminda Vaas, Wasim Akram and a host of wicket-keeper-batsmen are also excluded. And, I am very close to the 50-Test cut-off which I was aiming at.

I did not want to filter out players who are still playing Test cricket. That would exclude many players and is an artificial restriction, especially since some of them may play very few Tests in future. I am also going to use the Batting average as the measure of comparison. It is the most used and acceptable of performance measures. Runs-per-Test value implies quantity rather than performance and Runs-per-Innings metric has its own shortcomings especially as we have batsmen who have batted from no.1 to no.8.

I had initially planned to complete both batsmen and bowlers in the same article. Then, as normally happens, I ended with 8 tables and one graph for the batsmen. I did not want to test the ability of cricinfo's production team to handle 16 tables and two graphs in one article. So the article on the bowlers is the next one.

I have incorporated different types of analysis in this article. I have tables which list the best and worst starts to the player's career. I have the best and worst finishes to a player's career. Then I have combined the start and finish to create 4 different combinations. Great starts and great finishes, great starts and poor finishes, poor starts and great finishes and finally poor starts and poor finishes. These are represented in a BCG(Boston Consultancy Group) Chart, which is my favourite graph. Many insights can be drawn from these tables.

First let us look at the great starts. In order to keep the tables to reasonable sizes I have to have cut-offs for each table.

1. Best career starts: over 125%
BatsmanTestsRunsAverageStart-InnsNOsRunsAverageRatio
RN Harvey 79 6149 48.4215 41045 95.00196.2%
TT Samaraweera 81 5462 48.7710 3 581 83.00170.2%
MA Taylor 104 7525 43.5018 11088 64.00147.1%
KD Walters 74 5357 48.2616 3 903 69.46143.9%
AJ Strauss 100 7037 40.9120 21055 58.61143.3%
N Kapil Dev 131 5248 31.0514 2 510 42.50136.9%
Javed Miandad 124 8832 52.5717 4 917 70.54134.2%
MEK Hussey 79 6235 51.5318 4 957 68.36132.7%
H Sutcliffe 54 4555 60.7314 11037 79.77131.3%
IT Botham 102 5200 33.5512 1 479 43.55129.8%
EdeC Weekes 48 4455 58.6215 01125 75.00127.9%
DL Haynes 116 7487 42.3018 1 918 54.00127.7%

Neil Harvey had the best start that any top cricketer has ever had. He had six hundreds in his first ten Tests and averaged 95.00. That is nearly 200% of his career figure. Thilan Samaraweera had a similar start, achieving over 170% of his career average. Mark Taylor, Doug Walters, Andrew Strauss and Michael Hussey should not surprise anyone. My hunch about Hussey was correct. But look at the starts Kapil Dev and Ian Botham had. They had averages like regular batsmen. Herbert Sutcliffe also had a near-80 average. It is surprising that only Sutcliffe, Javed Miandad and Hussey finished with a 50+ career average while the others dropped off.

2. Worst career starts: below 60%
BatsmanTestsRunsAverageStart-InnsNOsRunsAverageRatio
JH Kallis 16213128 56.1015 0 340 22.67 40.4%
SR Waugh 16810927 51.0616 3 271 20.85 40.8%
MS Atapattu 90 5502 39.0219 0 321 16.89 43.3%
MD Crowe 77 5444 45.3716 0 331 20.69 45.6%
HM Amla 70 5785 52.1219 0 455 23.95 45.9%
HH Gibbs 90 6167 41.9519 0 380 20.00 47.7%
DB Vengsarkar 116 6868 42.1318 1 350 20.59 48.9%
ML Hayden 103 8626 50.7416 0 413 25.81 50.9%
GS Sobers 93 8032 57.7817 3 419 29.93 51.8%
DC Boon 107 7422 43.6618 0 431 23.94 54.8%
DL Vettori 112 4516 30.1117 4 230 17.69 58.8%
JL Langer 105 7696 45.2715 0 402 26.80 59.2%

This is the other end of the table. Players, who had miserable starts to their careers. I knew about Steve Waugh's very poor start to his Test career, averaging 20.8. However, I could have never imagined that Jacques Kallis, who is currently averaging 56.1, started his career with an average of 22.67, which is around 40%, the same as Waugh's. Marvan Atapattu's starting sequence of 0 0 0 1 0 0 meant that he was going to be a contender for the worst start. It is a miracle that he has been upstaged by Kallis and Waugh. A knock of 149 runs in the 10th Test took care of that. But his average of 16.89 is the lowest by any batsman in this group at the end of the 10th test. It is surprising to see very poor starts by Martin Crowe and Hashim Amla, who currently averages over 52. But here comes the ball-to-Mike Gatting. Look at the awful start of Garry Sobers. A Kris Srikkanth-like 29.93. The amazing feature of this table is that four of these batsmen recovered very well, to post career averages exceeding 50.

3. Best career finishes: over 125%
BatsmanTestsRunsAverageFinish-InnsNOsRunsAverageRatio
S Chanderpaul 14810830 51.8215 41006 91.45176.5%
SR Waugh 16810927 51.0614 4 863 86.30169.0%
G Kirsten 101 7289 45.2718 31003 66.87147.7%
MS Dhoni 77 4209 39.7115 3 700 58.33146.9%
MJ Clarke 92 7275 52.3418 21227 76.69146.5%
CH Gayle 97 6836 42.4617 3 859 61.36144.5%
CL Hooper 102 5762 36.4715 0 742 49.47135.6%
KC Sangakkara 11710486 56.9919 41125 75.00131.6%
DL Haynes 116 7487 42.3017 4 719 55.31130.8%
N Kapil Dev 131 5248 31.05 9 2 283 40.43130.2%
RC Fredericks 59 4334 42.4920 2 974 54.11127.3%

These are the great finishers. They retired at the top, so to say. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, MS Dhoni, Michael Clarke, Kumar Sangakkara and Chris Gayle are still active and this value represents what they did in their last ten Tests. The amazing thing is the performance of Steve Waugh. Starting at 40%, he finished at 169%. Gary Kirsten, Carl Hooper, Desmond Haynes and Roy Fredericks all finished right at the top. Kapil Dev who appeared in the first Table has also finished well, though as a batsman. When I do the bowling article he is likely to find himself at the other end of the spectrum. It is safe to say that this finish helped Steve Waugh have a very good average.

4. Worst career finishes: below 60%
BatsmanTestsRunsAverageFinish-InnsNOsRunsAverageRatio
IA Healy 119 4356 27.4017 0 138 8.12 29.6%
PD Collingwood 68 4260 40.5713 0 202 15.54 38.3%
Mudassar Nazar 76 4114 38.0916 0 249 15.56 40.9%
AI Kallicharran 66 4399 44.4314 1 253 19.46 43.8%
SR Tendulkar 19815837 53.8716 1 367 24.47 45.4%
GA Gooch 118 8900 42.5819 0 397 20.89 49.1%
TT Samaraweera 81 5462 48.7718 0 440 24.44 50.1%
KJ Hughes 70 4415 37.4219 0 372 19.58 52.3%
DR Martyn 67 4406 46.3818 2 392 24.50 52.8%
MC Cowdrey 114 7624 44.0717 0 396 23.29 52.9%
ST Jayasuriya 110 6973 40.0718 0 393 21.83 54.5%
DB Vengsarkar 116 6868 42.1316 0 370 23.12 54.9%
MP Vaughan 82 5719 41.4417 0 388 22.82 55.1%
Inzamam-ul-Haq 120 8830 49.6118 2 439 27.44 55.3%
ML Hayden 103 8626 50.7418 1 486 28.59 56.3%
L Hutton 79 6971 56.6716 0 511 31.94 56.4%
GR Viswanath 91 6080 41.9315 1 334 23.86 56.9%
V Sehwag 104 8586 49.3417 0 498 29.29 59.4%
H Sutcliffe 54 4555 60.7314 1 471 36.23 59.7%

These batsmen finished very poorly. Ian Healy can be given a miss. Paul Collingwood, Alvin Kallicharran and Mudassar Nazar had nightmare finishes to their careers. But not at the same level as the next entry - Tendulkar. As already mentioned, Tendulkar, in his last 10 Tests, all at home, averaged 24.46. The writing on the wall is big and bright but is unfortunately not seen by many. "He should take the call" is the refrain used by all people, including even the latest entrants to the IPL gravy train. Would any other batsman have survived this level of performance? One really good innings, the fluent and very valuable-81 at Chennai, out of the 16 during the recent past. Graham Gooch also has finished below 50% too. Then a set of quality players have all finished below 60%. The fact that there are 19 players in this sub-60 list indicates that many batsmen stay beyond their sell-by date. And the presence of greats like Tendulkar, Len Hutton, Sutcliffe, Gundappa Viswanath, and Inzamam-ul-Haq in this lot is a matter to ponder over.

Now for the combination analysis. I have considered the two percentage values, start and finish and got them grouped into 4 combination groups. Not all batsmen are covered though. For each combination I have set different criteria and grouped the players. This is to ensure that the graph is not too crowded. The absence of players from these four groups basically means that they are in the circle in the centre. You can have a look at all players by perusing the downloadable file.

To represent these selected players I have used my favourite BCG chart. BCG stands for Boston Consulting Group for whom Bruce Henderson invented this method of depicting growth-share matrix for companies. It has since found many uses and I have used this graph extensively. When there are two independent measures, the quadrant-based representation of BCG chart is an excellent visual method of classifying players. In this case the two independent measures are the first-10-test % and the last-10-test %. These two measures form four groups and lend themselves to an excellent BCG representation.

We have the first-10-tests average percentage in the X-axis and the last-10-tests average % in the Y-axis. The graph is split into four quadrants. The top-right quadrant represents great starts and great finishes. The top-left quadrant represents poor starts and great finishes. The bottom-left quadrant represents poor starts and poor finishes. The bottom-right quadrant represents great starts and poor finishes. Let us now look at the graph.

Since I am going to show the tables for all these classifications I am not going to delve too long on the graph now. Let me highlight a few top players who are presented in the graph. Barring Kapil Dev, the top-right quadrant features many top players including Sunil Gavaskar, Chanderpaul and David Gower. Sutcliffe, Everton Weekes and Miandad are in the bottom-right quadrant. A number of top batsmen including Gooch, Michael Vaughan, Inzamam and Matthew Hayden are in the bottom-left quadrant. The top-left quadrant features Waugh, Sangakkara, Ian Chappell and of course, Kallis.

A BCG matrix visual representation of how batsmen fared at the start and finish of their careers as opposed to their entire careers.  © Anantha Narayanan
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Now let us move on to the tables containing these group combinations. More players are featured in these tables than the graph.

5. Great start and great finish
BatsmanTestsRunsAverageSTART-InnsNOsRunsAverage% of Career avgeFINISH-InnsNOsRunsAverage% of Career avge
S Chanderpaul 14810830 51.8214 4 618 61.80119.3%15 41006 91.45176.5%
MA Taylor 104 7525 43.5018 11088 64.00147.1%19 2 905 53.24122.4%
N Kapil Dev 131 5248 31.0514 2 510 42.50136.9% 9 2 283 40.43130.2%
DL Haynes 116 7487 42.3018 1 918 54.00127.7%17 4 719 55.31130.8%
JH Edrich 77 5138 43.5415 2 657 50.54116.1%17 2 801 53.40122.6%
MEK Hussey 79 6235 51.5318 4 957 68.36132.7%18 3 786 52.40101.7%
SM Gavaskar 12510122 51.1220 4 978 61.12119.6%13 0 755 58.08113.6%
DI Gower 117 8231 44.2516 1 763 50.87114.9%19 4 776 51.73116.9%
AB de Villiers 85 6364 50.5117 1 841 52.56104.1%17 2 907 60.47119.7%
CH Lloyd 110 7515 46.6818 3 795 53.00113.5%14 2 611 50.92109.1%
M Azharuddin 99 6215 45.0416 2 711 50.79112.8%18 2 739 46.19102.6%
AN Cook 90 7307 49.0418 2 815 50.94103.9%19 1 947 52.61107.3%

This table gives the full details of the combination analysis. The criteria here are that both percentage values should be over 100. Chanderpaul is still active. However a start of 119.3% and a finish (on-going) of 176.5% is magnificent. The player that Chanderpaul is, he is unlikely to suffer a drastic loss of form. Mark Taylor had an equally spectacular start and finish to his career. Kapil Dev is the only non-batsman in this list. Hussey had a wonderful start and a very good finish. Gavaskar, the true professional, knew when to quit, complementing his excellent start. AB de Villiers and Alastair Cook are currently active players who could go off this list if their current form drops. Let us not forget that Chanderpaul, Hussey, Gavaskar and de Villiers have achieved this with career averages of 50+. Chanderpaul averages 48.96 during the middle 128 Tests.

6. Poor start and poor finish
BatsmanTestsRunsAverageSTART-InnsNOsRunsAverage% of Career avgeFINISH-InnsNOsRunsAverage% of Career avge
VVS Laxman 134 8781 45.9716 2 405 28.93 62.9%19 2 569 33.47 72.8%
RB Kanhai 79 6227 47.5319 2 505 29.71 62.5%16 2 479 34.21 72.0%
MW Gatting 79 4409 35.5618 1 390 22.94 64.5%19 0 425 22.37 62.9%
Mohammad Yousuf 90 7530 52.2918 1 588 34.59 66.1%20 0 636 31.80 60.8%
DC Boon 107 7422 43.6618 0 431 23.94 54.8%15 0 463 30.87 70.7%
KJ Hughes 70 4415 37.4219 0 513 27.00 72.2%19 0 372 19.58 52.3%
MP Vaughan 82 5719 41.4416 0 439 27.44 66.2%17 0 388 22.82 55.1%
Inzamam-ul-Haq 120 8830 49.6117 2 466 31.07 62.6%18 2 439 27.44 55.3%
GA Gooch 118 8900 42.5817 2 414 27.60 64.8%19 0 397 20.89 49.1%
HH Gibbs 90 6167 41.9519 0 380 20.00 47.7%17 1 439 27.44 65.4%
ML Hayden 103 8626 50.7416 0 413 25.81 50.9%18 1 486 28.59 56.3%
DB Vengsarkar 116 6868 42.1318 1 350 20.59 48.9%16 0 370 23.12 54.9%
IA Healy 119 4356 27.4014 0 231 16.50 60.2%17 0 138 8.12 29.6%

This is the other end of the table. Batsmen whose starts and finishes were below par. The criterion is that both numbers should be below 75%. There are a number of batsmen in this list. Laxman's drop in form and indifferent start are fresh in our memory. Spare a thought for top class batsmen like Gooch, Hayden and Dilip Vengsarkar who had poor starts and finishes. This double low figures also indicate that the career of these batsmen between the 11th and 11th-last Test has been very good: much better than their career averages. Let me take the striking examples of Hayden and Gooch. Hayden averaged 56.40 during the 83 matches in between and Gooch, 46.22 during the intermediate 98 Tests.

7. Great start and poor finish
BatsmanTestsRunsAverageSTART-InnsNOsRunsAverage% of Career avgeFINISH-InnsNOsRunsAverage% of Career avge
TT Samaraweera 81 5462 48.7710 3 581 83.00170.2%18 0 440 24.44 50.1%
H Sutcliffe 54 4555 60.7314 11037 79.77131.3%14 1 471 36.23 59.7%
IT Botham 102 5200 33.5512 1 479 43.55129.8%15 2 271 20.85 62.1%
Javed Miandad 124 8832 52.5717 4 917 70.54134.2%17 1 569 35.56 67.6%
AI Kallicharran 66 4399 44.4317 2 725 48.33108.8%14 1 253 19.46 43.8%
EdeC Weekes 48 4455 58.6215 01125 75.00127.9%18 1 650 38.24 65.2%
MA Atherton 115 7728 37.7019 0 840 44.21117.3%19 0 448 23.58 62.5%
V Sehwag 104 8586 49.3413 0 693 53.31108.0%17 0 498 29.29 59.4%

These batsmen had a wonderful start but finished very poorly. The criteria are that they should have started at over 105% and finished at below 75%. Not many qualify. Samaraweera had the biggest difference between the start and finish, a huge 120%. Sutcliffe, Miandad and Weekes had substantial drops. Virender Sehwag's recent travails are reflected in this table. He averages at only 60% of his career. His return back to the Test team is uncertain. More so since he is not the one to decide when he should quit. He is under the selectorial hammer. Kallicharran probably had the worst end to his career.

8. Poor start and great finish
BatsmanTestsRunsAverageSTART-InnsNOsRunsAverage% of Career avgeFINISH-InnsNOsRunsAverage% of Career avge
SR Waugh 16810927 51.0616 3 271 20.85 40.8%14 4 863 86.30169.0%
G Kirsten 101 7289 45.2718 0 568 31.56 69.7%18 31003 66.87147.7%
HM Amla 70 5785 52.1219 0 455 23.95 45.9%17 11010 63.12121.1%
RC Fredericks 59 4334 42.4919 0 525 27.63 65.0%20 2 974 54.11127.3%
KC Sangakkara 11710486 56.9917 1 638 39.88 70.0%19 41125 75.00131.6%
JG Wright 82 5334 37.8318 0 438 24.33 64.3%20 1 854 44.95118.8%
IM Chappell 75 5345 42.4216 1 409 27.27 64.3%19 3 799 49.94117.7%

These batsmen had a nightmare start and a fairy-tale finish. Steve Waugh: what can one say! He has one of the worst starts any player would have had, averaging just over 20 and finishes with an average of 86.3. This is the perfect example of quitting at the top. Generally Indians talk of Gavaskar's timing of his departure. But he averaged only 58 in the last 10 Tests. Look at Steve Waugh. Amla and Sangakkara are active players and their figures are bound to change. Look at the way Gary Kirsten and Ian Chappell ended their careers. At least Chappell is here because of his low career average. But Kirsten averaged almost 67 at the end.

Some readers might query that quite a few top players have not found a mention in this analysis. The point is that this article is about exceptions, on either side and in combination. Quite a few players are somewhere in the middle. Just to clarify this further I have given below the values for 7 top players across the ages who have not been referred to. This will clarify why these have not found a mention.

Hobbs        61  5410  56.95  785  46.18  81.1%  754  41.89  73.6%
Bradman      52  6996  99.94 1446  96.40  96.5% 1223 111.18 111.2%
Barrington   82  6806  58.67  727  51.93  88.5%  722  65.64 111.9%
Richards    121  8540  50.24  471  31.40  62.5%  550  39.29  78.2%
Lara        131 11953  52.89  812  47.76  90.3%  749  41.61  78.7%
Ponting     168 13378  51.85  670  41.88  80.8%  722  45.12  87.0%
Dravid      164 13288  52.31  773  48.31  92.3%  835  46.39  88.7%
Jayawardene 138 10806  49.57  750  46.88  94.6%  720  40.00  80.7%

Don Bradman just about missed the Great-Great combination. Richards just about missed the Poor-Poor combination. The others are right in the middle.

To download/view the list of 115 batsmen and the complete tables ordered in different forms, in Text file format, please CLICK HERE and to download/view the list of 115 batsmen and the complete tables ordered in different forms, in Excel format, please CLICK HERE.

The bowlers will be covered in Part-2. For bowlers there is no problem at all. The measure used will be wickets because 30 wickets at a bowling average of 25 is decidedly superior to 20 wickets at 20. It is essential for the bowlers to capture wickets. The comparisons should end there.

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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Posted by Bonehead_maz on (May 29, 2013, 13:38 GMT)

It's amazing how "you know" a good player ?

In 1954/55 on first look, Keith Miller and Ron Archer both thought about Garfield Sobers "good bowler, looks a dangerous batsman"

At end of 1954 Lancs league season, Weekes and Walcott, both recommended to a friend who wanted out, Garfield Sobers (or Wes Hall - who won them the championship a few years later) as a replacement professional. Please understand Sobers (and Hall - maybe add a year) was 16/17 and had Weekes and Walcott recommending him !

I was first aware of Ponting when he was twelve....... and I wasn't involved in cricket development - was just trying to play !

They stand out ! To anyone who has any idea it's frighteningly obvious.

Posted by Bonehead_maz on (May 29, 2013, 11:29 GMT)

I apologise Ananth, because I know this is not the right place to make the following comment, but hehe I'm picking on you :).

Why won't Sachin Tendulkar stop playing cricket ? (Dayum even I wouldn't till I was 43 and then still made a "masters" comeback at 50. ) I suspect it's because he loves playing cricket ?

This exploded out of me reading about Ponting and his stint at Surrey. Why won't Ponting give up playing cricket ? I'd bet my bottom dollar if he knew Hussey was about to pull the pin, he'd be in the Ashes not at Surrey !

Why didn't Bradman or Hammond give up cricket during 2nd World War ?

Until the ill advised advent of coaching, anyone who was needed wanted to help. Even the first professional Test coach Bobby Simpson, had previously answered a call to play again. They loved the game ! Now it's not as common, but thankfully some tragics remain. :)

Was amazed at stats of Ponting's last 10 matches, and Mark Taylor's too (probably inflated by a 334* ?). They "felt" worse.

Posted by Bonehead_maz on (May 26, 2013, 0:39 GMT)

@ JeffG Re:- late 80's in Aust. Yes our bowling at that time had been decimated. The "rebel" tour to South Africa had robbed us of a lot of talented bowlers........ Alderman, Hogg, Rackemann, John Maguire, Rod McCurdy, Hohns and Hogan spring to mind.

Our batting was also weakened particularly by the loss of Hughes who was equal to Border and World class. Both openers in Dyson and Steve Smith also lost. Mike Haysman was considered a probable future test player at the time.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anantha Narayanan
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.

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