Stats analysis: Richard Hadlee

The complete fast bowler and more

For a team starved of match-winning bowlers, Richard Hadlee was a godsend

S Rajesh

July 5, 2010

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Sir Richard Hadlee
Richard Hadlee took almost 36% of the team's wickets in the Tests he played, and more than 40% in wins © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Sir Richard Hadlee
Teams: New Zealand

With ball in hand, there was little Richard Hadlee couldn't do. He moved it both ways, in the air and off the pitch, and managed to extract life from even the most unresponsive conditions. His consistency was unparalleled, which ensured he finished with career numbers that rank among the best of all time. His amazing bowling ability wasn't his only suit, though: he was more than handy with the bat, and was one of the four great allrounders of his era.

However, it's his skills with the ball that stood out, especially since he almost single-handedly carried a New Zealand bowling attack that had few other attacking options. Hadlee began his Test career in 1973, but his first five years were fairly ordinary, fetching him only 61 wickets, each costing more than 35.

Thereafter, though, he came into his own, and over the next decade and more every top-class batsman had his share of worries against Hadlee. His golden period was between the beginning of 1978 and the end of 1988, a period when he averaged five-and-a-half wickets per Test and less than 20 runs per wicket. His consistency during this period was remarkable: the average was less than 24 against every team he played, and only in the West Indies did his average go beyond 25. He was phenomenal in matches that New Zealand won, but even in defeats he averaged 21.71, taking 94 wickets in 18 matches.

In his last couple of years his average went up marginally, but it was still below 25. And quite fittingly, he finished his Test career with a five-for, taking 5 for 53 at Edgbaston in a performance that helped him win the Man of the Series award. It was his 36th five-for, which was the record at the time and has subsequently been surpassed only by Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne. (Click here for the list of bowlers with most five-fors.)

Richard Hadlee's Test career
Period Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Till Dec 1977 17 61 35.57 61.2 2/ 1
Jan 1978 to Dec 1988 60 330 19.57 48.4 32/ 8
Jan 1989 onwards 9 40 24.52 54.4 2/ 0
Career 86 431 22.29 50.8 36/ 9

Bowling was clearly his best suit, but Hadlee was a pretty handy batsman as well, especially during the second half of his career. In his last 46 Tests he averaged an impressive 33.16, which was an improvement of more than 50% over his average in his first 40 Tests. His only Test century came during this period too, when he scored an unbeaten 151 against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 1987.

Richard Hadlee's batting career in Tests
Period Runs Average 100s/ 50s
First 40 Tests 1300 21.66 1/ 5
Last 46 Tests 1824 33.16 1/ 10
Career 3124 27.16 2/ 15

Thanks to his improved batting skills, Hadlee was easily among the best allrounders in the world during the second half of his career. During the period between 1983 and 1990, only Imran Khan had a higher difference between batting and bowling averages (but Imran played as a specialist in some games during that period due to injury). The difference between Hadlee's batting and bowling averages was 13.39 - much superior to the corresponding numbers for Kapil Dev and Ian Botham.

Best allounders in Tests between 1983 and 1990 (Qual: 1000 runs, 100 wickets)
Player Tests Runs Average Wickets Bowl ave Difference
Imran Khan 40 2008 51.48 156 21.39 30.09
Richard Hadlee 48 1883 33.03 262 19.64 13.39
Malcolm Marshall 59 1423 20.62 301 19.64 0.98
Kapil Dev 66 2621 29.78 204 30.11 -0.33
Ravi Shastri 60 3172 38.68 112 42.72 -4.04
Ian Botham 39 1890 30.48 114 36.90 -6.42

There were several outstanding bowlers who were at the peak of their powers in the 1980s, but even among them Hadlee stood out. In the 11-year period between 1978 and 1988, his average of 19.57 was bettered only by Imran. Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner had a slightly higher average, while Kapil and Botham find themselves at the bottom of the table below, with their averages almost 10 higher than Hadlee's.

Best Test bowlers between Jan 1978 and Dec 1988 (Qual: 150 wickets)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Imran Khan 58 272 19.39 47.8 19/ 5
Richard Hadlee 60 330 19.57 48.4 32/ 8
Joel Garner 53 234 20.27 50.6 7/ 0
Malcolm Marshall 61 300 20.88 45.8 18/ 3
Michael Holding 47 192 23.69 50.8 9/ 1
Dennis Lillee 38 184 24.32 52.6 11/ 3
Bob Willis 60 218 24.50 53.7 9/ 0
Iqbal Qasim 44 155 27.38 75.2 8/ 2
Ian Botham 92 363 28.07 56.0 25/ 4
Kapil Dev 95 329 29.44 60.0 19/ 2

Playing for one of the weaker teams in international cricket meant some of Hadlee's best performances went in vain, but there were several other occasions when he single-handedly won matches for New Zealand. On the 22 instances when he finished on the winning side, Hadlee took a whopping 173 wickets - that's almost eight wickets per match - at a spectacular average of 13.06, which remains the best among bowlers with 150 wickets in wins. In 22 matches Hadlee had 17 five-wicket hauls, including his career-best figures of 9 for 52 during an unforgettable performance against Australia in Brisbane.

Best averages in Test wins (Qual: 150 wickets)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Richard Hadlee 22 173 13.06 33.5 17/ 8
Imran Khan 26 155 14.50 38.3 11/ 6
Muttiah Muralitharan 53 430 16.03 42.6 40/ 18
Malcolm Marshall 43 254 16.78 38.1 17/ 4
Allan Donald 33 187 16.79 35.5 14/ 3
Curtly Ambrose 44 229 16.86 44.4 13/ 3
Fred Trueman 34 177 17.30 40.8 11/ 2
Waqar Younis 39 222 18.20 35.0 14/ 4
Dennis Lillee 31 203 18.27 39.0 17/ 6
Shaun Pollock 49 223 18.30 47.5 9/ 1

New Zealand's dependence on Hadlee was well known, but here are some numbers to put that into perspective: in the 86 Tests that he played, Hadlee took more than 35% of the wickets for his team (431 out of 1207). In wins, it improved even further, to 40.8% (173 out of 424). The table below compares his numbers to those of Muttiah Muralitharan, the only other bowler in the last 40 years who has had that sort of responsibility thrust upon him.

Contribution to team wickets for Hadlee and Murali
  Tests Bowler wkts Team wkts Percentage
Hadlee - overall 86 431 1207 35.71
Murali - overall 131 787 1950 40.36
Hadlee - in wins 22 173 424 40.80
Murali - in wins 53 430 1018 42.24

One of the most impressive aspects about Hadlee was his ability to deliver regardless of the conditions. The subcontinent proved too tough to conquer for some fast bowlers - Dennis Lillee, for instance, took three wickets at 103 apiece in his three Tests in Pakistan - but not for Hadlee. In the 13 Tests he played in Asia he averaged 21.58, with five five-fors. He struggled a bit in Pakistan, taking 10 wickets in three Tests, but in India he was sensational, with his ten-wicket haul in Mumbai leading New Zealand to a famous win in 1989.

Among fast bowlers from outside the subcontinent who took at least 50 wickets there, Hadlee has one of the best averages, as the table below shows.

Best overseas fast bowlers in Tests in Asia since 1970 (Qual: 50 wickets)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Courtney Walsh 17 77 20.53 45.2 5/ 0
Dale Steyn 11 57 21.33 34.7 4/ 1
Richard Hadlee 13 68 21.58 42.7 5/ 2
Glenn McGrath 19 72 23.02 54.8 1/ 0
Malcolm Marshall 19 71 23.05 48.7 3/ 0
Shaun Pollock 17 60 23.18 56.8 2/ 0
Jason Gillespie 14 54 23.75 51.0 1/ 0

Hadlee was lethal against most opponents, but he saved his very best for his trans-Tasman rivals, Australia. In only 23 Tests against them, Hadlee took 14 five-fors, the most by any bowler. Each wicket against them cost him 20.56, which is among the best for bowlers who got at least 75 Australian wickets. Not surprisingly, Australians dominate the list of batsmen he dismissed most often, with five of them in his top seven.

Best bowlers against Australia in Tests (Qual: 75 wickets)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM
George Lohmann 15 77 13.01 5/ 3
Robert Peel 20 101 16.98 5/ 1
Jim Laker 15 79 18.27 5/ 2
Johhny Briggs 31 97 20.55 7/ 3
Richard Hadlee 23 130 20.56 14/ 3
Joel Garner 18 89 20.89 4/ 0
Curtly Ambrose 27 128 21.23 8/ 1
Sydney Barnes 20 106 21.58 12/ 1

Test cricket was the arena where Hadlee was at his fiercest, but he was more than a handful as a one-day player too. He played only 115 matches over 17 years - an indication of how frequently, or not, ODIs were played in his day - but finished with 158 wickets at an excellent average and economy rate. The strike rate improved tremendously during his last eight years, with his wickets-per-match figure going up to 1.5.

Richard Hadlee as an ODI bowler
Period ODIs Wickets Average Econ rate Strike rate
Till Dec 1981 34 38 27.89 3.31 50.5
Jan 1982 onwards 81 120 19.55 3.30 35.5
Career 115 158 21.56 3.30 39.1

Among bowlers who took at least 100 ODI wickets till 1990, Hadlee averaged fourth, with only Joel Garner, Dennis Lillee and Michael Holding doing better. The last World Cup he played was in 1983, and he finished with an exceptional record in the tournament, conceding only 2.88 runs per over in 13 matches.

Lowest bowling averages among ODI bowlers till 1990 (Qual: 100 wickets)
Bowler ODIs Wickets Average Econ rate Strike rate
Joel Garner 98 146 18.84 3.09 36.5
Dennis Lillee 63 103 20.82 3.58 34.8
Michael Holding 102 142 21.36 3.32 38.5
Richard Hadlee 115 158 21.56 3.30 39.1
Wasim Akram 99 133 23.45 3.78 37.1
Imran Khan 154 167 25.19 3.85 39.2
Malcolm Marshall 115 138 25.20 3.42 44.1
Abdul Qadir 102 131 25.77 4.05 38.1
Ewen Chatfield 114 140 25.84 3.57 43.3
Kapil Dev 162 193 26.52 3.75 42.3

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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Posted by   on (July 8, 2010, 6:40 GMT)

@waspsting - It's interesting to read your comments :) And while we are at the topic of all-rounders I thought it would be worth mentioning a unique feat achieved by Kapil Dev. He is the only cricketer to find a mention in both Wisden's 100 best bowling and batting performances!

Posted by waspsting on (July 7, 2010, 7:33 GMT)

@Ankit Jain - you make a solid case for Botham, and support it well. I remember hearing Ravi Shastri nominate him as the best of the four all arounders because, he was at his best with bat and ball during the same period (which Imran for example, was not, as previously noted). But.... I'm going to suggest Botham could LOSE a match just as well as win it - he could go for a lot of runs in a very short bit of time - in a way the others rarely did. His best period was comparitively short, and all his good bowling performances occured at home. Hadlee's batting wasn't in the same league as the others. NOT SAYING "Botham was rubbish etc." - fine criticisms are often misinterpreted that way in these discussions - just giving the reasons why IMO, he's not quite up there with the others. I'd forgotten about Kallis - yes, he belongs up there too.

Posted by   on (July 6, 2010, 20:22 GMT)

And in terms of rating points, He is the only one to have broken the 800 mark in both batting and bowling. No one else has even crossed 750 in both departments, Sobers being the only other cricketer to cross 700 in each. You can't help being in awe of what Botham achieved.

Posted by   on (July 6, 2010, 20:12 GMT)

@waspsting: I agree those three are great great all-rounders. However, I would like to add Hadlee and Botham too. Hadlee for all the reasons mentioned in the article. And Botham may not have the best overall figures, but what he achieved when he was at his peak is no less than a child's dream. He remains the only cricketer in about 140 years of test cricket to take more than 10 five-wicket hauls and to score more than 10 centuries (reasonable cut-offs for an accomplished batsman and an accomplished bowler). Now that's mind blowing. Look at the all time ICC ratings, the highest ranking he achieved was 3rd as batsman and 1st as bowler. Sobers achieved 1st and 4th, Imran 12th and 1st, Miller 9th and 1st. That tells you about the impact that Botham could have on the game with both the ball and bat. Those 5 are cut above the rest (well, Kallis may just start breaking into their ranks)

Posted by waspsting on (July 6, 2010, 18:13 GMT)

as far as purely bowling goes - i still rank Imran marginally ahead of Hadlee. Hadlee had all those green wickets in New Zealand to bowl on, while Imran had the flat ones in Pakistan - otherwise, their records are comparable. while the stats don't show it, contemporaries reported Hadlee being unthreatening on rare occasion - on a flat pitch and with an old ball (understandable, given that Hadlee wasn't as express fast), whereas Imran had reverse swing and genuine pace. all the same, as the stats show, Hadlee was formidible everywhere. I imagine him as a Glenn Mcgrath - with both ways movement in the air and off the pitch and making the batsman play that much more. And though he wasn't a Holding, Marshall or Lillee for pace alone, he forced as many batsmen to retire hurt as anybody. A great bowler, no doubt - one of the best ever.

Posted by waspsting on (July 6, 2010, 15:39 GMT)

First off - the order in which legends are being presented is not a reflection of their importance (obviously, Bradman and Sobers would have been 1 and 2 if that had been the case).

Regarding Imran Khan - I've long considered him vastly superior to his 3 contemporaries. as far as comparisons with Sobers go - I believe where Imran loses out is that over his long career, he had spells. When he was top of his batting, his bowling wasn't quite as good (indeed, he played as a specialist bat for awhile), and vice versa. Sobers was doing all the things he could as well as he could all at once. That I think is why Sobers is considered greater.

Keith Miller is right up there, too, and i think Mike Procter had a shot at being in the same company. as far as all rounders, Sobers, Imran, Miller are IMO a cut above the rest, with an honorable mention to Procter.

Posted by   on (July 6, 2010, 4:05 GMT)

@Aizad - I would hate to argue against that. It's always tough comparing Imran and Sobers. But the way I will do it is this - As a batsman Sobers would be among the greatest 5 while as a bowler Imran would be between 5th and 10th. As a bowler Sobers was about as good as Imran was a batsman. So that marginally shifts it in Sobers' favour and that's what I tend to agree with too. But again I wouldn't argue too passionately against Imran because you can always throw in his captaincy skills and he is one awe-inspiring, belief-defying cricketer, an "alpha-male" character as I like to call such cricketers. Imran is any day one of my top 5 cricketers ever and the best sub-continent has produced. I will rate him ahead of Tendulkar, despite being an ardent Sachin fan like any Indian :-) But again ESPN legends of cricket ranked Imran behind Warne, Hobbs, Lillee and Tendulkar. Don't agree with that at all!

Posted by   on (July 6, 2010, 0:08 GMT)

These statistics prove one point above others- Imran Khan was the greatest all rounder in Cricket!

Posted by Engle on (July 5, 2010, 15:24 GMT)

While Hadlee was a very good bowler and a decent bat, it is in the leadership category that he is found wanting. Kapil led his team to a World Cup, Botham was given the reins and Imran superceded all expectations. But Hadlee could not garner the Management's confidence in his leadership ability, especially when this is what NZ cricket needed.

Posted by daddygnz on (July 5, 2010, 15:21 GMT)

Along with Viv Richards always my favourite cricketer. Agree with Ankit, 12 was too low, what NZ could've done recently if Shane Bond could've stayed fit and done even half what Hadlee managed. Was there for his 400th wicket at his home ground, was like he'd had that planned all along.

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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