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George Binoy and Travis Basevi dig into our stats database

Good and bad starts to careers

Great oaks from little acorns grow

The List looks at players who had relatively poor starts to their careers but eventually turned out great and vice versa

Travis Basevi and George Binoy

December 14, 2005

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Some statistics, like Bradman's average and the number of centuries Tendulkar has made are known to pretty much every cricket buff. But The List will bring you facts and figures that aren't so obvious, adding fuel to those fiery debates about the most valuable middle-order bat, and the most useless tailender. If there's a particular List that you would like to see, e-mail us with your comments and suggestions.



Matthew Hayden became a run-making machine after the tour of India in 2000-01 © Getty Images
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If you're the kind that looks at a glass and says it's quarter full, you'd have told Marvan Atapattu not to worry after his first three Tests because he could not help but improve on his average of 0.16. More than ten years have elapsed since he made five ducks in his first six innings and Atapattu, as captain of Sri Lanka, gives hope to all those who fail miserably at their first, second, or if they're lucky enough, third chance.

Even the men who make up Test cricket's second-most prolific opening pair had modest starts to eventually successful careers. Matthew Hayden was relegated to the sidelines for several years after a making a forgettable debut against South Africa in 1994. Since his comeback, cemented after striking gold in India in 2000-01, Hayden has become one of two batsmen, Brian Lara being the other, to score 1000 runs in five calendar years but he is the first to perform this feat in consecutive years. Justin Langer took five years to play his first eight Tests but thereafter his tale has only got better. The Hayden-Langer combination at the top of the Australian order has yielded 5084 runs and they're far from done. Garry Sobers had an average of 29.92 after ten Tests and that figure hovered around 30 until three consecutive hundreds - the first of which was the famous 365 not out - pole-vaulted him to greatness.

Poor Starts - Comparing Career Batting Average with Average After 10 Tests (qualification: 10 innings in first 10 Tests, 2000 runs in career)
Player Span Inns Runs HS Ave 100 Runs Career Diff
JH Kallis (ICC/SAf) 1995-2005 15 340 101 22.66 1 7420 57.07 34.41
SR Waugh (Aust) 1985-2004 16 271 74 20.84 0 10927 51.06 30.21
ML Hayden (Aust) 1994-2005 16 413 125 25.81 1 6672 54.24 28.43
GS Sobers (WI) 1954-1974 17 419 64 29.92 0 8032 57.78 27.85
HH Gibbs (SAf) 1996-2005 19 380 54 20.00 0 5227 47.09 27.09
DL Amiss (Eng) 1966-1977 17 313 56 20.86 0 3612 46.30 25.44
MD Crowe (NZ) 1982-1995 16 331 100 20.68 1 5444 45.36 24.67
MS Atapattu (SL) 1990-2005 19 321 108 16.89 1 5119 38.48 21.59
DB Vengsarkar (India) 1976-1992 18 350 49 20.58 0 6868 42.13 21.54
Inzamam-ul-Haq (ICC/Pak) 1992-2005 17 466 123 31.06 1 8052 51.61 20.54


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    The flip side to having a sensational sequence in your first few international games is that, inevitably, normalcy and sometimes even mediocrity will ensue. Unless you are Don Bradman.



    Azhar Mahmood gave indications of greater achievements before he eventually fizzled out © Getty Images
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    In the twilight of Bradman's career, there emerged one Neil Harvey, and after ten Tests his average was indeed Bradman-esque. But no country could be so fortunate to be blessed with two anomalies in such quick succession and sure enough Harvey's average of 95 went into freefall and he ended with a very good but mortal 48.41.

    When Imran Khan, one of cricket's most athletic allrounders, had played ten tests, the stats didn't indicate any signs of greatness. In fact, they showed Imran to be, if anything, an average cricketer. He had just one half-century and a batting average of 20.57 while his bowling had begun to show more promise with a hat-trick of five-fors against Australia. Only in the latter half of his career did he blossom as a batsman and became one of five players to have more than 3000 runs and 300 wickets in Test cricket.

    After Imran, the allrounder's mantle in Pakistan fell on Wasim Akram, who was extravagantly equipped in the bowling department but didn't quite fit the bill as a batsman. In 1997, Azhar Mahmood exploded into Test cricket with a heroic century against South Africa. Mahmood made 128 and put on 225 with the last two batsmen, claimed two wickets with the new ball and followed up with 50 not out in the second innings. It was as rosy as a debut could get. He averaged 90 with three centuries, all against South Africa, in his first eight Tests. Unfortunately, he played just 13 more Tests and his decline was as spectacular as his entrance. After the tour of South Africa in 1997-98 his form deserted him and in his last 12 Tests he averaged a lowly 14.33.

    Great Starts - Comparing Career Batting Average with Average After 10 Tests (qualification: 10 innings in first 10 Tests, 2000 runs in career)
    Player Span Inns Runs HS Ave 100 Runs Career Diff
    RN Harvey (Aust) 1948-1963 15 1045 178 95.00 6 6149 48.41 -46.58
    MJ Greatbatch (NZ) 1988-1996 16 786 146* 65.50 2 2021 30.62 -34.87
    LG Rowe (WI) 1972-1980 14 955 302 73.46 4 2047 43.55 -29.90
    SL Campbell (WI) 1995-2002 16 836 208 55.73 1 2882 32.38 -23.35
    FMM Worrell (WI) 1948-1963 16 1008 261 72.00 3 3860 49.48 -22.51
    KR Miller (Aust) 1946-1956 12 585 141* 58.50 1 2958 36.97 -21.52
    KD Walters (Aust) 1965-1981 16 903 155 69.46 2 5357 48.26 -21.20
    MA Taylor (Aust) 1989-1999 18 1088 219 64.00 3 7525 43.49 -20.50
    ML Jaisimha (India) 1959-1971 16 706 127 50.42 1 2056 30.68 -19.74
    JC Adams (WI) 1992-2001 15 732 137 61.00 1 3012 41.26 -19.73


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    Heath Streak had an excellent start to his Test career © Getty Images
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    Much has been written about Andrew Flintoff's coming of age during England's tour of India in 2001-02 and the figures merely drive home that point. Flintoff's tenth Test was the first of that series and until then he had taken his wickets at 66.42 apiece, hardly the stuff that made Australia totter this summer. Against India, even though he took just six wickets in three Tests, he did so at 31.50 and a miserly economy rate of 2.05 and since that series, Flintoff averages 30.42.

    If it surprises you to see Malcom Marshall among the relatively poor starters, it's only because his first series was a poor one in India, where he averaged 88.33 for 3 wickets in as many matches. Thereafter he was right on the button, and he went for more than 30 per wicket in just two of his 20 series.

    Poor Starts - Comparing Career Bowling Average with Average After 10 Tests (qualification: 1000 balls in first 10 Tests, 100 wickets in career)
    Player Span Balls Wkts BBI Ave 5 Wkts Career Diff
    A Flintoff (Eng/ICC) 1998-2005 1031 7 2/31 66.42 0 163 31.51 -34.91
    Intikhab Alam (Pak) 1959-1977 1884 16 2/33 54.12 0 125 35.95 -18.17
    AK Davidson (Aust) 1953-1963 1436 13 2/22 37.53 0 186 20.53 -17.00
    JC Laker (Eng) 1948-1959 2706 36 7/103 35.66 1 193 21.24 -14.41
    MH Mankad (India) 1946-1959 3035 28 5/101 46.42 1 162 32.32 -14.10
    CL Cairns (NZ) 1989-2004 1995 28 6/52 43.10 2 218 29.40 -13.70
    BA Reid (Aust) 1985-1992 2355 30 4/90 37.33 0 113 24.63 -12.69
    MD Marshall (WI) 1978-1991 2022 30 4/25 32.50 0 376 20.94 -11.55
    GD McGrath (Aust) 1993-2005 2361 33 5/68 32.48 1 534 21.27 -11.21
    GAR Lock (Eng) 1952-1968 2666 29 5/45 36.68 1 174 25.58 -11.10


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    The Australia and Pakistan teams that toured England in 1977 and 1978 had lost several of their stars to World Series Cricket and Ian Botham exploited this advantage to the hilt. He took 53 wickets in his first ten tests that also included five against New Zealand, who by then had just nine Test wins to their credit. Brett Lee, too, took advantage of a pace-suspect India and a weak West Indies to burst on to the Test circuit. Which is why, Heath Streak's impressive showing in his early matches against much stronger teams such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand is more commendable. His haul of 22 wickets in three Tests against Pakistan in 1994-95 was his best in a series.

    Great Starts - Comparing Career Bowling Average with Average After 10 Tests (qualification: 1000 balls in first 10 Tests, 100 wickets in career)
    Player Span Balls Wkts BBI Ave 5 Wkts Career Diff
    JE Emburey (Eng) 1978-1995 1850 25 4/46 22.71 0 147 38.40 15.68
    B Lee (Aust) 1999-2005 1726 48 5/47 19.37 3 179 31.82 12.45
    PH Edmonds (Eng) 1975-1987 2341 33 7/66 22.90 2 125 34.18 11.27
    IT Botham (Eng) 1977-1992 2217 53 8/34 17.33 6 383 28.40 11.06
    S Venkataraghavan (India) 1965-1983 2902 37 8/72 25.18 2 156 36.11 10.92
    RJ Shastri (India) 1981-1992 2496 27 5/125 30.40 1 151 40.96 10.55
    W Rhodes (Eng) 1899-1930 2105 57 8/68 16.42 5 127 26.96 10.54
    RM Hogg (Aust) 1978-1984 2664 53 6/74 18.62 5 123 28.47 9.85
    PCR Tufnell (Eng) 1990-2001 2773 38 7/47 28.71 4 121 37.68 8.97
    GG Arnold (Eng) 1967-1975 2006 38 6/45 19.89 2 115 28.29 8.40


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  • George Binoy is editorial assistant of Cricinfo

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    George BinoyClose
    George Binoy Assistant Editor After a major in Economics and nine months in a financial research firm, George realised that equity, capital and the like were not for him. He decided that he wanted to be one of those lucky few who did what they love at work. Alas, his prodigious talent was never spotted and he had to reconcile himself to the fact that he would never earn his money playing cricket for his country, state or even district. He jumped at the opportunity to work for ESPNcricinfo and is now confident of mastering the art of office cricket

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