August 5, 2014

Celebrating 3500 ODIs

An analysis of one-day internationals, breaking up the 3500 games played so far into five sets of 700 each

In the last set of 700 ODIs, Saeed Ajmal has taken 178 wickets at 21.97, which is remarkable given that batsmen have generally dominated this period © AFP

The passing of the 3500th ODI last month creates an opportunity to analyse the evolution of this particular form of cricket over forty-three and a half years since the first was played in January 1971. This averages out to 80 such games a year, but it took a while for the ODI idea to catch on, and it wasn't until 1992, more than 20 years after the first, that a calendar year had as many as 80 ODIs. The frequency reached a peak in 2007, when there were 191 ODIs (including a convoluted World Cup), but the number played per year has plateaued since then as the T20 juggernaut has gained momentum, and 2012 (which had 90 ODIs) was the first year since 1995 when fewer than 100 were played.

I have divided the ODI era into five periods, each containing exactly 700 matches, and we can use this division of the experience to observe the changing frequency patterns.

© Ric Finlay

You may observe the exponential decline in the time elapsed to reach each increment of 700 ODIs, until the last period, when the advent of T20 cricket has necessarily meant a reduction in its nearest imitator to accommodate the new form. There has been speculation that ODIs may be sacrificed in favour of the shorter 20-over game, but with 136 played in 2013, and 54 so far this year, it is clear that we are far from hearing the death knell for the 50-over game.

It is interesting to note some key indicators over each of these five periods:

© Ric Finlay

These measures show that batting has become much easier over the ODI era, due to a variety of factors. Fielding restrictions (and Powerplays), shorter boundaries, flatter pitches and improved bat technology have all no doubt contributed to this, so that we can observe that the runs-per-wicket measure has increased 8%, the scoring rate 17%, boundary runs 34% and the frequency of centuries 84% over the era. The escalation in the number of "ducks" in the third period is an interesting one. It may be that initially batsmen were keen to play themselves in, much like in Test innings, and that the urgency to score right from ball one wasn't seen as much as an imperative as it perhaps became later. But overall, the above table is validation of the theory that ODIs have become much more of a batsman's game.

Looking at the dominant players, the following tables show the five leading batsmen for each period:

Batting (Runs and Average)

© Ric Finlay

The number of years required to stage 700 ODIs early in the era was too large for some of the great players of the 1970s and 1980s to appear in the above table more than once, but with the contraction of time needed to clock up 700 ODIs in the 1990s and beyond, it has been possible for the likes of Tendulkar, Sangakkara and Dhoni to appear more than once. The dominance of India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, who take up 17 of the 25 spots, is clear, and it points to the fact that these teams tend to retain their proven stars for longer than teams outside the region perhaps do, as well as the increasing popularity of this form of cricket on the subcontinent, leading to more matches being played. There are only three batsmen from Australia, two from South Africa, and none from England or New Zealand, while West Indies' dominance in the 1970s and '80s is clear: they have three out of the five top players in the first period.

The number of runs to gain admittance to this select group in later periods is lessened by the fact that more of each set of 700 ODIs contains matches played by Associate teams, thus lessening the opportunity for these top batsmen to play. But a cursory glance at the individual averages gives the distinct impression of increasing productivity as time has gone on, with three of the five in the fifth period exceeding 50 runs per innings, a landmark than had been unattained in the previous four periods.

Bowling (Wickets and Average)

© Ric Finlay

Fourteen of the 25 players in the bowling table come from the subcontinent - a slightly lower proportion than with the batting, but in line with generally shorter bowling careers, only one, the durable Muralitharan, appears more than once. Pakistan had a potent attack in the second period, with Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, followed by the spin of Saqlain Mushtaq, a fearsome prospect. There are a few surprises in the table, with Abdul Razzaq, Irfan Pathan and Nathan Bracken. It is interesting to note that after the raw speed of the bowlers of the first period, spinners become more prevalent thereafter, as the value of this type of bowler becomes more widely respected from the 1990s. In line with the increasing cost of wickets in more recent times, the bowling averages tend to blow out a little - even Lasith Malinga, considered one of the most effective short-form bowlers, was prone to leaking runs in between his destructive wicket-taking bursts. In this context, Saeed Ajmal's average of under 22 is outstanding.

Finally, a table of results for the ten Test-playing teams:

Countries by Winning Percentage

© Ric Finlay

One of the saddest points to be made from this table is the abject and well-documented decline of West Indies, who have suffered a reduction of their winning percentage at every stage from their dominance of the first period, so much so that even lowly Bangladesh have exceeded West Indies' performance in the last period. Once West Indies had lost their edge, built on a plethora of fast bowlers and mercurial hitters, Australia and South Africa took over to share dominance thereafter. England's fortunes have also suffered a steady decline over the ODI era, although improved performances over the last few years have resulted in an improved position in the last period. Pakistan have never been far from the top-ranking teams, until the last period, when the enforced exile from their own country has taken from them the advantage of having a home base in which to play at least half their matches.

Given their huge resources, India's performance over the ODI era is less impressive than expected, but their ranking in the last period may be an indicator of things to come from this hugely supported team. It is interesting to note, too, the subdued percentages of the top teams in the last period, compared to the two prior periods, when Australia was able to win at least seven games out of ten. This latest trend is an indication that competition at the top level is now more even, which makes the outcome of the forthcoming World Cup intriguing, to say the least.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harsh on August 8, 2014, 19:10 GMT

    My best players-in order of merit in each era

    1970's batsmen Viv Richards,Gordon Greenidge,Zaheer Abbas Glen Turner,Ian Chappell

    Bowlers Dennis Lillee,Joel Garner,Gary Gilmour,Andy Roberts

    1980's batsmen Viv Richards,Javed Miandad,David Gower,Gordon Greenidge,Desmond Haynes,Zaheer Abbas,Alan Lamb,Graham Gooch

    bowlers Joel Garner,Richard Hadlee,Imran Khan,Michael Holding,Kapil Dev,Abdul Qadir,Bruce Reid

    1990's batsmen Sachin Tendulkar,Brian Lara,Mark Waugh,Sanath Jayasuriya,Dean Jone,sInzamam Ul Haq ,Azharrudin Michael Bevan,Aravinda de'Silva and Saed Anwar

    bowlers Wasim Akram,Waqar Younus,Shane Warne,Murlitharan,

    2000-10 batsmen Adam Gilchrist,Ricky Ponting ,Jacques Kallis,Sachin Tendulkar,K.Sangakkara,Mahela Jayewardene,Matthew Hayden.Andrew Symonds

    bowlers Glen Mcgrath,Shane Warne,Murlitharan,,Dale Steyn,Shane Bond

  • Harsh on August 8, 2014, 18:54 GMT

    My best teams 1970s-West Indies outright 1980's From 1980-86 West Indies followed by India , from 1986-1989 England,Pakistan, and Australia dominant.


    Australia followed by Pakistan from 1990-96.From 1996-99 South Africa followed by Sri Lanka and Australia.

    2000 completely Australia

    best teams in order of merit 1.Clive Lloyd's West Indies team 1979-84 2.Ricky Ponting's Australian team-2003-07 3.Hanse Cronje's South African side1996-1999 4.Alan Border's Australian team1987-91 5.Imran Khan's Pakistan team1987-92 6.Arjuna Ranatunga' s Sri Lankans in 1996-1998 7.Kapil l Dev's India-1983-85 8.Wasim Akram's 1999 Pakistan team 9.Clive Lloyd's 1975 West Indies team 10.Mike Gatting's English side-1986-89

  • Harsh on August 8, 2014, 3:27 GMT

    In the 1st phase the West Indies were the undisputed kings folowed closely by England and Pakistan. .In the late 1980's England became a formidable force and for a while played like the champion one day team in 1987.India and Pakistan had flashes of brilliance with India winning 4 major tournaments including the world cup and Pakistan too attaining some classic wins.From 1987-92 Australia became the best team even beating the Calypsos on their own soil in 1991 apart from winning the Reliance World Cup.Pakistan was just inches below with famous wins in the 1992 World Cup1989 Nehru cup and 1990 Australasia Cup.

    .Morally South Africa was the team of the 1990's if you asses their percentage win rate,just edging Australia and Pakistan.From 2000 for almost the whole decade the Aussies became the undisputed champions closely followed by SriLanka or South Africa.

    Today we have reached a stage when 4-5 teams are closely bunched together as never before with the flux continuously changing.

  • Harsh on August 8, 2014, 3:13 GMT

    The study of how the one day game has evolved is fascinating from 1974 to the present.In the 1975 or 83 World Cups around 260 was considered a very good score while 300 was almost considered imposibble.From the 1980's the pace really quickened up which again phenomenally accelerated i the 1990's which was the turning point for the one day game.In the 90's 300 in 50 overs became very attainable.A stage is reached now that on the sub -continent pancakes even 350 is quite gettable.

    In the 1st phase I remember Viv Richards who was like a dynamite exploding followed by the power of Greenidge ,the and the artistry of Zaheer Abbas.In the next phases I remembered Javed Miandad's controlled agression,Kapil Dev's all-round skill,Des Hayne's fluidity ,WasimAkram's wizardry,Tendulkar's controlled agression,Lara's innovation,Mark Waugh's composure,Adam Gilchrist's and Virendra Sehwag's devastation,Glen Mcgrath's control .

    Chris Gayle's devastating batting is the feature of the last era.

  • Dummy4 on August 7, 2014, 16:54 GMT

    Mainly bowling strategies have gone wrong, ie squarer 3rd man & fine leg means edges now go for boundaries also quality have deteriorated over later periods as unlike previous eras we seldom see 85 + MPH bowler making it much less challenging for batsmen

  • Pritam on August 7, 2014, 7:03 GMT

    ODIs are the games many youngsters like me grew up watching in early 2000s, Fancy domestic T20 leagues and World T20 weren't there and newbie cricket lovers don't like Test cricket , so ODIs were all over! I remember World Cup 2003, I was 10, India's climb to finals, me Falling in love with this beautiful and interesting game! LONG live One Day Internationals.....

  • Dummy4 on August 7, 2014, 6:06 GMT

    i think the reason pak are in sixth place in period fifth w.r.t win percentage is that pak are not playing on home soil, they are mostly playing in sa, sri, uae and eng. moreover, india is in the third place because they play on their home grounds mostly; inviting teams to their backyard and beating them on spinning tracks. if there is a test match series between pak and ind it could be (i didnt say "will most certainly be") in favour of pak because pak have quality spinners who will prove even more effective considering india's weakness of off-spinners (if any are in doubt, moeen ali's recent performance is known to all). a good article, well done ric finlay.

  • Pad on August 7, 2014, 1:42 GMT

    This is interesting absolutely great analysis. Few of my observations.. Sub-continent batters have dominated battings stats, but looks like they have not made their teams win as much as they have piled up runs. Perhaps for most Sub-continent victories the bowlers should be given credits. In the eras 2, 3 and 4 both Sri Lanka and Pakistan has done better than India [wow!!!]. Where is Shane Warne? perhaps he never took many wickets within the era, but took the most crucial breakthroughs to make Aussies win more. Phenominal that Sangakkara has topped two eras!! India has two bowlers and two batsmen in period 2, but with a winning % of 43% [performing well when it didnt matter to the result?]. RSA jumped from no 7 to no 1, and never dropped below no2 after that.. wow!! Great Analysis!!

  • asad on August 6, 2014, 18:53 GMT

    The last chart is a good way to see how every team has done. WI, no.1 by a long shot in 1st period fall all the way to 9th by the 5th period. Australia are consistent and stay 1st or 2nd throughout. England, like WI, fall continuously after initially being 3rd until 4th period but in the 5th period they recover. Pakistan have stayed at 3rd or 4th but faltered a bit in the last period to finish 6th. India staying in the middle of the table but finishing 3rd in the last period. NZ staying in the middle for most of the time but they peaked in the 4th period after going back to normal again. SA have been amazing starting off 7th but being 1st in the next period and remaining in top 2 since. SL started off 8th but have increased since then to finish 5th. Zim are the worst staying 9th for the 1st 3 periods and being last in 4th and 5th periods (as consistent as AUS but at the bottom). Ban have stayed last but finished above even NZ in last period at no.7 showing they have improved.

  • asad on August 6, 2014, 18:32 GMT

    I'm really amazed by Pakistan, in the 4th period they are 3rd place with a high win percentage despite not having any batsman or bowler in the top 5 for that period. In the 5th period I think the reason Pakistan is not 3rd/4th is cuz we don't have quality fast bowlers or batsmen during that period. But even then our win percentage in the 5th period is marginally higher then it was in the 1st period.

  • No featured comments at the moment.