November 27, 2013

The Richards Standard for ODI batsmen

Kartikeya Date
Which modern-day batsmen can match the speed and certainty of Viv Richards' run-making?

Viv Richards scored a century every 15 innings in ODIs during an era when the norm was one every 61 innings © Getty Images

One-day cricket has not seen a batsman dominate the way Bradman did in Tests. Viv Richards comes very close, though. In the Richards era, which ran from the beginnings of limited-overs internationals to the eve of inventions like the 30-yard circle, fielding restrictions and pinch-hitting, the average scoring rate for middle-order batsmen (3, 4, 5 and 6 in batting order) was 70 runs per 100 balls. Richards scored his runs at 90 runs per hundred balls. His ODI batting average at the end of his career was an even 47. A typical middle-order batsman averaged 30. ODI centuries were rare. During Richards' career, 80 ODI centuries were scored in 4921 innings in the middle order, one in every 61 innings. Richards made 11 in 166 innings, or one every 15 innings. Every sixth inning played in the middle order was worth 50 or more between 1975 and 1991. Richards made a half-century every three innings.

The speed and certainty of Richards' run-making in ODI cricket was unmatched in his day. The distance between his ability to produce runs in ODI cricket (leave alone the style in which he made them) and that of the typical ODI batsman remains, I suggest, unmatched to this day. He achieved the highest-ever rating in the ICC's ODI Player Ratings. But even Richards' career numbers, impressive as they are, do not convey the dominance of his play. His average over his first 100 ODI matches was 53, over his best stretch of 100 ODI matches, 58. His career record, like that of many great players in both formats - ODI and Tests - should be read by adding about five runs to his career average to get a true measure of how good he was. See the Test records of Miandad, Ponting, Tendulkar, Gavaskar and even Richards in the same way. At their peak, each of these batsmen averaged closer to 60 than 50.

When compared to the numbers produced by today's top batsmen, Richards' figures look less exceptional. Over admittedly shorter careers so far, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni have produced arguably more impressive figures than Viv Richards. The typical middle-order ODI batsman in the 1990s scored at 71 runs per 100 balls. In the 2000s, this rose to 75, in the 2010s it has risen further to 78. The batting average of the typical batsman has risen to 34 in the 2010s from 30 in Richards' era.

A fairer measure across eras is one that considers how far ahead of contemporaries a batsman is. Here is one way to make such a measure. This will form the basis of the Richards Standard for ODI batsmen, to go with the Bradman Standard for Test batsmen and the Barnes Standard for Test bowlers.

I propose that each batsman's performance in each innings is best measured by a Score that takes into account the batsman's run share (the fraction of the team's runs scored by the batsman), and scoring rate ratio (the ratio of the batsman's scoring rate in the innings, to the combined scoring rate for all the other runs in the innings). A batsman who is dismissed for 0 would have a Score of 0 for the match. A batsman's career score will be the average of all his match scores. Here are the career Scores of all ODI batsmen who made at least 9000 runs.

© Kartikeya Date

When have these players been at their peak? And how far ahead of their peers were they at their peak? I'll use 100 matches as the span for the Richards Standard. This is admittedly an arbitrary figure (101 or 99 of 108 would be just as reasonable, and I hope some of you readers will figure out a novel way to say which is more reasonable). I chose it because it typically takes about four or five years for a player to play 100 matches, a period long enough to account for more than just a blistering run of form (the kind Virat Kohli has been in recently).

This Richards Standard Score measures the importance of a batsman in ODI cricket in a given era. Important batsmen are central to a team's batting fortunes. It's harder for individual batsmen in strong batting outfits to be highly influential. Strong outfits can afford to lose the odd player for a series or two without suffering too much in terms of run output. In the tables below, I present the top 100 batsmen in terms of a 100-match Richards Standard Score. Each of these batsmen have played more than 100 games, and hence, have more than one sequence of 100 consecutive ODI matches. I consider their highest stretch, which is given by the start and end date.

These figures represents the period when each player has produced his highest score. Sachin Tendulkar, for example, has had more prolific 100-match stretches. His most prolific 100-match stretch was from April 7, 1998 to January 28, 2002, when he made 4796 runs. This is also the most prolific 100-match stretch for any batsman. But his Score during this phase was lower. The most remarkable figures in this list are those of Adam Gilchrist and Virender Sehwag, and to a lesser extent (given his low average), Sanath Jayasuriya. Sri Lanka, between 1996 and 2000, were not a big-scoring ODI team, but invariably managed to score enough runs for their Murali-led attack to defend. Gilchrist batted in a very successful Australian side from 2002 to 2006. The Indian side Sehwag played in between 2005 and 2011 was in a very successful phase after Ganguly had been replaced by Sehwag. It would lead India to the 2011 World Cup. The bulk of Sehwag's record was built up after his recall to the Indian side in 2008. The difference between South Africa and Bangladesh is clear when you compare Graeme Smith and Tamim Iqbal, who achieve the same Score. Smith averaged 12 runs more than Iqbal.

Some of the players who rank high in the list do so because the teams they played in were in decline. The West Indies sides Chris Gayle played in between 2006 and 2012 (an eventful period off the field for the Jamaican) had some top players like Chanderpaul, Sarwan and Samuels, but didn't have the authority of Gilchrist's Australian line-up or Sehwag's Indian line-up. The same can be said of Brian Lara during his period of domination. West Indies were a more successful side in the Lara phase than in the Gayle phase in my chart.

The most unfortunate batsman, in some ways, in the lists below is AB de Villiers. He has consistently produced astonishing numbers for South Africa. He bats in the shadow of Jacques Kallis and, to a lesser extent, Hashim Amla, and after a powerful South African top four, which limits his importance. Even so, he remains the highest-ranked South African on the list. Javed Miandad is the highest-ranked Pakistani player, while Allan Lamb is the highest-ranked Englishman. Brendon McCullum ranks higher than any other New Zealander.

If you were to ask the question: "Who are the most important ODI batsmen at a given time?", the charts above would give you a better answer than simple aggregates or averages or strike rates or century counts. The man after whom the standard is named remains the most important batsman in ODI history.

© Kartikeya Date

© Kartikeya Date

© Kartikeya Date

© Kartikeya Date

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harsh on December 1, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    Staistically Tendulkar maybe the best or 2nd to Viv Richards but my favourite one day batsman after Viv was Zaheer Abbas.I have never seen a batsmen with such an ability to improvise as Zaheer abbas nor a batsman with equally good timing.He would simply caress a ball to the boundary with the deftest of touches.Zaheer's average was 47.62 in O.D.I's which was remarkable.In later years dean Jones and Mark Waugh reflected the talent of Zaheer Abbas.

    When the chips were down in a run chase my choices would be Javed Miandad,Michael Bevan and Alan Lamb.All were masters in formulating match-winning innings in tight run -chases.

    In destructive ability Adam Gilchrist would come closest to Viv who literally blew the top off the ball closely followed by Virendra Sehwag.For consistency in match-winning Inzamam Ul Haq ,Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni came closest to the black genius.

  • Harsh on December 1, 2013, 7:53 GMT

    Viv Richards was an incomparable genius and even the Don would not have emulated Viv in the one day game.No batsmen ever has been more intimidating had quicker reflexes or a sharper eye.He simply strode with his bat on a cricket field with the majestic aura of an emperor.In full flow he made the impact of a bomber destroying an enemy airbase and made the opposing team's bowlers look like cattle walking to a slaughterhouse.Viv would make the rest of the field look like pawns on a chessboard and would simply direct the ball in any direction as though it was controlled by a machine.He brilliantly combined brutal power with infinite imagination.For his era his strike rate was phenomenal and he was the best match-winner of all time who could sinlgle-handedly turn a game.My favourite Viv innings was his 153n.o at the M.C.G in 1979-80 .

    Tendulkar had greater longevity or even Ponting but none could match Viv's change the complexion of a game like superman Viv Richards.

  • Jineesh on November 29, 2013, 12:55 GMT

    Quite a nice read. A very convenient proposal to address the issue I guess. Very surprising still to find Steve Tikolo occupying a high position way ahead of say MSD, Pieterson, Inzamam, Yuvraj , Bevan, Ponting etc. Maybe it isnt that foolproof enough. I would like to know whether while calculating the scoring rate ratio; was only the teammates' rates considered or whether the rates of the opposition batsmen were included as well? I suppose the latter would be ideal as that would eliminate the one off players in a weak side, who may be giants within the team but just good enough in the international spectrum.

  • tom on November 29, 2013, 9:51 GMT

    Can't believe Botham does rate a mention?

  • Dummy4 on November 29, 2013, 0:55 GMT

    Viv is ultimate. He was the God father of ODI cricket. What we see today's improvisation was done long back by Viv. For me there is no words to express since I lived in his era and I have seen most of his matches. He was not only a brilliant batsmen,a classy fielder, intelligent bowler, a great captain above all his control over the match winning. I dont think no one can near him. In today's ODI events a cricketer easily play 200 to 300 ODI. Hence dont count the aggregate of a batsmen look on his match winning performances. Viva Viv!

  • usman on November 28, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    Richards never played against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe or Kenya. Tendulkar has, many times. Richards era saw fresher and faster bowlers as compared to at the turn of the century.

  • Dummy4 on November 28, 2013, 19:50 GMT

    Why bowlers of that era are not compared? In Viv days some of the finest bowlers were present including Lilee, Imran, Kapil dev, Wasim Akram etc. But he demolished every attack he faced. Even now in ICC Ranking Saeed Ajmal is the number one bowler but can he be compared to Abdul Qadir or Bishan Singh Bedi? In fast bowlers category none of the current era bowlers can be compared with bowlers of that era, but still viv was devastating. I want to quote Imran Khan words as my final verdict, "I have never faced or even seen anybody even close to as destructive as viv". According to world's best empire dicky bird viv would be his no 3 in any team without a shadow of doubt, he used to murder opponent's attack.

  • Pundit on November 28, 2013, 16:36 GMT

    Viv in my view best player of my watching career during which we have had Tendulkar, bc Lara, pointing, and others. Viv is different league...statics alone do not explain it. His authority and total arrogance was unbelievable...the greatest! Riaz

  • Kartikeya on November 28, 2013, 16:20 GMT

    The chart is sorted by Score, but it also provides batting average. As you will have noticed, the Score, given the way it is calculated, gives a sense of not just a player's performance relative to his teammates, but also of his performance relative to the circumstances. Take two examples:

    One: 25(25) out of 200 (300) 100 (100) out of 200 (300) 50(50) out of 250(300)

    Two: 0(1) out of 200(300) 50(50) out of 200(300) 125(100) out of 250(300)

    In both cases, the batsman would average 58 over those three innings. Team totals in each case are identical. In Case One, batsman's Score would be 0.393, while in Case Two, it would be 0.375.

    There is a lot to be interpreted in these tables.

    I considered the best 100 match stretch for each player because I think this is a reasonable way of roughly identifying the player's peak phase.

  • Arvin on November 28, 2013, 16:04 GMT

    Nice effort but it is unfair to compare openers with middle order batsmen. The problem with the whole approach is that just because one player is making runs he is taking the opportunity away from other players especially in the ODI when overs are limited to 50. If Sachin starts to bat as an opener it is pretty much impossible to a batsman at no. 5 to contribute 20% of the runs -- just because there is no time left. There is no simple way to correct for this bias.

    Perhaps the easy thing would be to condition it on the entry score or maybe the exit score. You could try to say that how much Viv score when he entered at the team score of 100-125 and so on...

    In any case comparing Viv with Sachin is not fair.

    But it is remarkable to see players with lesser averages and more contributions e.g. Azhar, deSilva, Kapil, Crowe....