THE CORDON HOME

BLOGS ARCHIVES
SELECT BLOG
June 1, 2013

Statistics

How the bowlers started and finished

Anantha Narayanan
Fred Trueman began and ended his Test career with a flourish  © Getty Images
Enlarge

How the bowlers started & finished?

This is the second part of the analysis on the first ten and last ten Tests in a player's career. I looked at the batsmen in the first part and this article concentrates on the bowlers.

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. Ninety-two bowlers qualify with my cut-off for wickets which is 150. Sydney Barnes has crossed this landmark in the short span of 27 Tests, which is the lowest any player has played in this list. So, his middle period is only seven Tests. Because of the rather high cut-off, bowlers like Subhash Gupte, Hedley Verity, Bill O'Reilly, Fazal Mahmood, Colin Croft, Saeed Ajmal et al. do not qualify. But this cannot be helped. Lowering the cut-off to 100 wickets will mean that a few bowlers who have played either side of 20 Tests will get it and that does not seem correct.

I did not want to draw the line at the "active status" of players. 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 Wickets-per-Test (WpT) as the measure of comparison. The Bowling-average is only an add-on information data element. The most important task of a bowler is to capture wickets and whether he captures 5 for 50 or 5 for 100, there is very little difference. 'Five-fors' are very important. It is also common knowledge that 5 for 80 scores over 4 for 50, almost always.

I have incorporated different types of analysis in this article. I have tables which list the best and worst starts among players' careers. I have the best and worst finishes among players' careers. Then I have combined the start and finish to create four 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 Chart, which is my favourite graph. Many insights can be drawn from these tables.

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

1. Best career starts: over 120%
CareerFirst-10
BowlersTestsWicketsAverageWpTWicketsAverageWpTWpT-Ratio
MW Tate 3915526.163.97 6520.086.50163.5%
RJ Shastri 8015140.961.89 2730.412.70143.0%
IT Botham 10238328.403.75 5317.345.30141.1%
AME Roberts 4720225.614.30 6021.376.00139.6%
HH Streak 6521628.123.32 4621.504.60138.4%
S Venkataraghavan 5715636.122.74 3725.193.70135.2%
S Ramadhin 4315828.983.67 4929.064.90133.4%
TM Alderman 4117027.154.15 5422.635.40130.2%
WW Hall 4819226.394.00 5220.505.20130.0%
WPUJC Vaas 11135529.583.20 4120.714.10128.2%
WA Johnston 4016023.914.00 5117.205.10127.5%
JR Thomson 5120028.013.92 4923.654.90125.0%
Waqar Younis 8737323.564.29 5318.555.30123.6%
IR Bishop 4316124.293.74 4621.544.60122.9%

Maurice Tate had the best ever start for a bowler: 67 wickets at 20.0 in 10 Tests. Ravi Shastri's final figures were so poor that even the 2.7 WpT he captured during the start of his career pushed him into the second place. In a way, Srinivas Venkataraghavan was in a similar position. Ian Botham and Andy Roberts had great starts at over 5 WpT. Many famous bowlers have had wonderful starts, including Waqar Younis. It is clear that these starts would be neutralised by below-average figures for the rest of their career, especially for bowlers such as Tate and Botham.

2. Worst career starts: below 67%
CareerFirst-10
BowlersTestsWicketsAverageWpTWicketsAverageWpTWpT-Ratio
A Flintoff 7922632.792.86 766.430.70 24.5%
AK Davidson 4418620.534.23 1337.541.30 30.8%
R Benaud 6324827.033.94 1735.711.70 43.2%
GS Sobers 9323534.042.53 1235.001.20 47.5%
SK Warne 14570825.424.88 2535.722.50 51.2%
JB Statham 7025224.853.60 2130.762.10 58.3%
JH Kallis 16228832.431.78 1130.001.10 61.9%
Mushtaq Ahmed 5218532.973.56 2337.782.30 64.6%
MD Marshall 8137620.954.64 3032.503.00 64.6%
HMRKB Herath 4419428.844.41 2934.242.90 65.8%
M Muralitharan 13380022.736.02 4027.324.00 66.5%

The figures are true. Andrew Flintoff, in whatever capacity he was playing, captured seven wickets in his first ten Tests, nine lower than Bob Massie and Narendra Hirwani captured in their first Test. Alan Davidson had a similar nightmare start, with a princely haul of 13 wickets in ten Tests. And his playing comrade, Richie Benaud, pitched in with 17. Garry Sobers and Jacques Kallis had awful starts as bowlers, capturing 12 and 11 wickets in their ten Tests. I remember that both had poor starts as batsmen also. And Shane Warne, and Muralitharan. But Muttiah Muralitharan had an excellent start, by anybody's standards, with 40 wickets. It is only his stupendous career figure which has pushed him down.

3. Best career finishes: over 110%
CareerLast-10
BowlersTestsWicketsAverageWpTWicketsAverageWpTWpT-Ratio
HMRKB Herath 4419428.844.41 6123.676.10138.4%
AV Bedser 5123624.904.63 5919.755.90127.5%
SF Barnes 2718916.437.00 8810.688.80125.7%
KR Miller 5517022.983.09 3828.113.80122.9%
FS Trueman 6730721.584.58 5520.645.50120.0%
CV Grimmett 3721624.225.84 6918.996.90118.2%
MS Panesar 4816433.783.42 3933.953.90114.1%
AK Davidson 4418620.534.23 4722.384.70111.2%
Iqbal Qasim 5017128.113.42 3824.663.80111.1%

These are the great finishers. They retired at the top, so to say. Rangana Herath is still active and his presence at the top is a testament to his phenomenal form over the past year. He led the wicket-takers table for 2012-13. Alec Bedser finished very strongly. Sydney Barnes finished with 88 wickets, most of it against South Africa in two series. If anyone glances through this illustrious set of bowlers, it is a representation of truly great bowlers across the generation: Barnes, Fred Trueman, Clarrie Grimmett and Davidson. Davidson made up for his miserable start with this good finish. Monty Panesar is still active and could go better or worse.

4. Worst career finishes: below 60.5%
CareerLast-10
BowlersTestsWicketsAverageWpTWicketsAverageWpTWpT-Ratio
Imran Khan 8836222.814.11 1328.151.30 31.6%
IR Bishop 4316124.293.74 1448.711.40 37.4%
IT Botham 10238328.403.75 1655.621.60 42.6%
Mushtaq Ahmed 5218532.973.56 1672.621.60 45.0%
RJ Shastri 8015140.961.89 1047.601.00 53.0%
Abdul Qadir 6723632.813.52 2046.952.00 56.8%
J Srinath 6723630.473.52 2040.952.00 56.8%
Waqar Younis 8737323.564.29 2535.202.50 58.3%
GD McKenzie 6024629.794.10 2442.622.40 58.5%
FJ Titmus 5315332.232.89 1745.001.70 58.9%
A Kumble 13261929.654.69 2851.072.80 59.7%
Kapil Dev 13143429.653.31 2027.552.00 60.4%
MW Tate 3915526.163.97 2429.332.40 60.4%

They finished poorly and probably after their sell-by-date. Imran Khan's presence is understandable since he played most of his later Tests as a batsman. But the fall of Ian Bishop and Botham was dramatic: they captured only 14 and 16 wickets in their last 10 Tests. Shastri fell off as a bowler. Javagal Srinath as a shadow of his peak period. But look at Abdul Qadir. Like his mentor, Imran, he also finished with a whimper: 20 wickets in ten Tests to finish his career. Waqar, who had a great start, fares poorly here. Anil Kumble and Kapil Dev round off this list. The presence of so many Indian bowlers in this list should make one think: do these bowlers stretch their career about a series or two past their retirement? Kapil, often highlighted in India for stretching his career, still finished with 20 wickets, a reasonable performance for an allrounder. Combined with his good batting finish, quite good: maybe he is the wronged player in this regard.

Now for the combination analysis. I have considered the two percentage values, start and finish and got them grouped into four combination groups. Not all bowlers 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 precentages and the last-10-Test percentages. These two measures form four groups and lend themselves to an excellent BCG representation.

We have the first-10-Tests WpT percentages in the X-axis and the last-10-Tests WpT % 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 dwell too long on the graph now since the tables with detailed data for these players are presented later.

A BCG matrix visual representation of how bowlers fared at the start and finish of their careers as opposed to their entire careers.  © Anantha Narayanan
Enlarge

Now let us move on to the tables containing these group combinations.

5. Great start and great finish
CareerFirst-10Last-10
BowlersTestsWicketsAverageWpTWicketsAverageWpTWpT-RatioWicketsAverageWpTWpT-Ratio
FS Trueman 6730721.584.58 5122.595.10111.3% 5520.645.50120.0%
AV Bedser 5123624.904.63 4829.294.80103.7% 5919.755.90127.5%
J Garner 5825920.984.47 5222.775.20116.4% 4718.324.70105.3%
CJ McDermott 7129128.634.10 4332.234.30104.9% 4525.934.50109.8%
CS Martin 7123333.813.28 3332.363.30100.6% 3428.793.40103.6%
Saqlain Mushtaq 4920829.834.24 4335.234.30101.3% 4333.584.30101.3%

This table gives the full details of the combination analysis. The criteria here are that both percentage values should be over 100%. Trueman had the best start and best finish, considered together: 51 and 55 wickets respectively. This necessarily means that his middle period was below par. He captured only 201 wickets in these 47 Tests, an average of 4.27 WpT, compared to a career value of 4.58. It is clear that it is not easy to start and finish well, as evidenced by the fact that only 6 bowlers meet these criteria. The only modern bowler is Chris Martin, who has almost certainly played his last Test for New Zealand.

6. Poor start and poor finish
CareerFirst-10Last-10
BowlersTestsWicketsAverageWpTWicketsAverageWpTWpT-RatioWicketsAverageWpTWpT-Ratio
Mushtaq Ahmed 5218532.973.56 2337.782.30 64.6% 1672.621.60 45.0%
J Srinath 6723630.473.52 2538.802.50 71.0% 2040.952.00 56.8%
JH Kallis 16228832.431.78 1130.001.10 61.9% 1232.001.20 67.5%
BS Bedi 6726628.713.97 2935.282.90 73.0% 2548.082.50 63.0%
M Muralitharan 13380022.736.02 4027.324.00 66.5% 4435.824.40 73.2%

This is the other end of the table. Bowlers whose starts and finishes were below par. The criterion is that both percentages should be below 75%. Again very few bowlers have got into this combination. Bishan Bedi and Srinath represent India. Surprising that Bedi should figure in this, having played some of his initial Tests in India. The other great bowler to figure here is Muralitharan. This also means that Muralitharan captured 716 wickets during the interim 113 Tests at a WpT value of 6.33. But let us face it. Muralitharan sits here, despite capturing 4 WpT during both start and finish, only because of his way-out career WpT value of 6.02. The other interesting presence is Kallis. Readers might remember that Kallis also had a poor start. So he started his career poorly. However it is possible that he was pulling his weight as an allrounder. His recent form, as a bowler, has been poor. This might change in the future.

7. Great start and poor finish
CareerFirst-10Last-10
BowlersTestsWicketsAverageWpTWicketsAverageWpTWpT-RatioWicketsAverageWpTWpT-Ratio
MW Tate 3915526.163.97 6520.086.50163.5% 2429.332.40 60.4%
IT Botham 10238328.403.75 5317.345.30141.1% 1655.621.60 42.6%
RJ Shastri 8015140.961.89 2730.412.70143.0% 1047.601.00 53.0%
IR Bishop 4316124.293.74 4621.544.60122.9% 1448.711.40 37.4%
S Venkataraghavan 5715636.122.74 3725.193.70135.2% 1758.711.70 62.1%
Waqar Younis 8737323.564.29 5318.555.30123.6% 2535.202.50 58.3%
WW Hall 4819226.394.00 5220.505.20130.0% 2637.922.60 65.0%
WA Johnston 4016023.914.00 5117.205.10127.5% 2832.822.80 70.0%
A Kumble 13261929.654.69 5324.665.30113.0% 2851.072.80 59.7%
EAS Prasanna 4918930.383.86 4334.914.30111.5% 2635.352.60 67.4%

These bowlers had wonderful starts but finished very poorly. The criteria are that they should have started at over 110% and finished at below 70%. We have already seen these bowlers in the best start category- Botham. Bishop and Shastri had excellent starts, relative to their respective careers, but failed quite badly at the end. Bishop finished the worst. No doubt caused by the debilitating injury. Many others did not know when to quit, a malaise present with many batsmen too. Tate had a difference of over 100% between start and finish, the only bowler in this group.

8. Poor start and great finish
CareerFirst-10Last-10
BowlersTestsWicketsAverageWpTWicketsAverageWpTWpT-RatioWicketsAverageWpTWpT-Ratio
AK Davidson 4418620.534.23 1337.541.30 30.8% 4722.384.70111.2%
HMRKB Herath 4419428.844.41 2934.242.90 65.8% 6123.676.10138.4%
GS Sobers 9323534.042.53 1235.001.20 47.5% 2729.332.70106.9%
SK Warne 14570825.424.88 2535.722.50 51.2% 4929.004.90100.4%
DW Steyn 6533222.665.11 3832.583.80 74.4% 5320.025.30103.8%

These bowlers had nightmare starts and fairy-tale finishes. Davidson started very poorly but finished quite well. Herath's "finish" is on-going and would change. Warne also finished very well. Dale Steyn is still playing and his figures will change. So there are only three players in this table unlike the batsmen table which was reasonably well populated.

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. As Craig Dengate put it nicely in his comment on the Batsmen start and finishes, the non-mention of a bowler in these tables would be a testament to the very steady career these bowlers had. Just to clarify this further, I have given below the values for seven top bowlers across the ages that have not been referred to. This will clarify why these have not found a mention.

 
	 
	Bowler Career-----> First 10-----> Last 10 ----> 

GD McGrath 124 563 4.54 33 3.30 72.7% 38 3.80 83.7% RJ Hadlee 86 431 5.01 37 3.70 73.8% 43 4.30 85.8% Wasim Akram 104 414 3.98 34 3.40 85.4% 27 2.70 67.8% CEL Ambrose 98 405 4.13 43 4.30 104.0% 36 3.60 87.1% DK Lillee 70 355 5.07 51 5.10 100.6% 34 3.40 67.0% AA Donald 72 330 4.58 46 4.60 100.4% 33 3.30 72.0% JM Anderson 81 305 3.77 29 2.90 77.0% 35 3.50 93.0%

Wasim Akram and Dennis Lillee just about missed the poor finish list. However they were still reasonably okay since they captured 27 and 34 wickets. The others have had fairly good starts and finishes. In terms of sheer consistency, the best bowler in this elite lot is Curtly Ambrose.

To download/view the list of 92 bowlers and the complete tables ordered in different forms, in Text file format, please CLICK HERE.

A couple of readers had asked me for my comments on the recent off-field happenings. I had incorporated my comments in this article. Unfortunately, these did not meet the current editorial policy standards of ESPNcricinfo. If you want to see the comments you have to mail me directly at ananth.itfigures@gmail.com. I appreciate and understand ESPNcricinfo's reservations.

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems

RSS Feeds: Anantha Narayanan

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (June 3, 2013, 2:04 GMT)

Hi Ananth, I liked your analysis very much, but judging a player's performance based on number of tests is a bit inaccurate in my opinion. I understand the difficulty of pulling records of old matches, but would you consider the number of innings instead of number of matches in which the players bowled? I think that will help bowlers from world champion windies and aussie teams. It might just help Murali as well.
[[
The match is a good unit. The innings is more a batsman-oriented entity. It is obvious that even 4 wickets per Test is good. So even if a weaker bowler has only one innings to bowl in, 4 wickets in that innings is not that outlandish. And the match is the unit for measures, including results.
Ananth
: ]]

Posted by LourensGrobbelaar on (June 2, 2013, 5:34 GMT)

I would have to disagree with the WpT measurement used for certain players. Batting All rounders like Kallis bowl less these days. But Kallis is used quite effectively as a partnership breaker, and in some short innings don't bowl at all during a test. Average and strike rate still remain a better analysis.
[[
I have to disagree. Any one would testify that 10 wickets at 20 is no match for 30 wickets at 30. The all-rounders might lose when considered separately on the batting and bowling front but are unbeatable when considered together. Let us also accept that the batting all-rounders like Sobers & Kallis would lose out in the bowling analyses and the bowling all-rounders like Hadlee would lose in the batting analysis.
I also feel strongly that RpT are indicative of opportunities, number of innings played etc. On the other hand WpT indicate the effectivemness to the team. It must also be noted that I might not have analyzed based on Bowling average but given the same. in the tables.
Ananth
: ]]

Posted by dinosaurus on (June 2, 2013, 4:52 GMT)

Hi Ananth,

Not on topic at all (I really enjoy your analyses, incidentally) but I can't resist the temptation to challenge your rating of Roger Federer. I'm old enough to have seen Rod Laver in his prime (and it was an extraordinary long prime). Not only did he manage to win the "grand slam" of tennis twice, but the two occasions were separated by a full ten years (and his "turning professional" was the reason why he was not allowed to compete for that decade). Add to that the fact that he had the same silken grace and catlike pounce.
[[
If you have noted I have always maintained that Fed is ahead of Laver by a very thin margin. I have also seen Laver's playing clips and agree with you. My feeling is that at 16 GS probably Fed was bracketed with Rod, at 17, at least in my opinion, slightly ahead and at 18 (if ever he reaches it), he would be clearly ahead.
Anyhow I also feel that the 36 consecutive QF appearances is as great an achievement as the 17 GSs. 9 consecutive years of entering the second week, no illness, no injury, no loss and 144-0 if one takes the first four rounds: that is something no one can dream of.
Thanks for your comments. I will certainly agree that both stand very, very tall. For me Fed is half an inch higher and for you, half an inch lower, taht is all.
Ananth
: ]]

Posted by vedula0522 on (June 1, 2013, 22:12 GMT)

Nice analysis! Just a minor quibble-all your tables say "batsman" as the column header for the first column. Should probably saw bowler eh.
[[
Since I don't have access to the thread I willrequest Rajesh to correct the same.
Ananth
: ]]

Posted by   on (June 1, 2013, 19:46 GMT)

1) 3 of the top 4 80's allrounder feature in the poor finishes. Can not comment about Imran, but Botham and Kapil name appears because of their delayed retirements.Regarding Bishop, the injury stopped what could have been one of the most fearsome fast bowlers of all time. Regarding the first few names featuring in the great finishes - poor starts,I see that the performances in the last phase has had a positive impact on the results of the team 2) Recently,S.Rajesh did an article on best 20 tests vs rest, but his focus was on English bowlers only. It would be great if you extend his analysis , but by increasing the no of tests for best performances.
[[
Pawan, will study Rajesh's article and see whether I can extend the scope.
Ananth
: ]]

Posted by Harpreet on (June 1, 2013, 19:11 GMT)

I am surprised that Harbhajan is missing from this (poor end) list. Has he done better in his last 10 tests?
[[
Harbhajan is in the middle category of reasonably consistent bowlers: 92.9% start and 80% finish.
Ananth
: ]]

Posted by P.N.Sudarshan on (June 1, 2013, 18:39 GMT)

As always, a very interesting analysis Ananth. Thanks a lot. A rather high proportion of sub-continental bowlers in the poor finishers category....is there a thread? Just wondering if this could be tweaked to first 20% and last 20% of the bowler's career or 10 tests either end, whichever is higher. Perhaps that would make a good case for bowlers who had a long career.
[[
I have already responded to a similar comment. While I agree that we have one bowler in this group who bowled 27 Tests and another, 145, I think anything more than 10 Tests would take away the idea of start and finish. 10 Tests is nowadays 3 series and that is enough to bookmark the finish of the start phase and start of the finish phase.
It is clear that the sub-continental bowlers, and batsmen, go past their optimal retirement date. There are exceptions on the other side like Botham and Gavaskar but this is generally true. Probably not worth a separate article. Maybe the discussions can take plae here itself. Alternately one article which identifies the players who did not retire at the right time is possible.Let me see.
Ananth
: ]]

Comments have now been closed for this article

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.

All articles by this writer