February 19, 2014

All hail the Man of the Series

In modern times, the most accurate method of anointing the best of the best is surely an analysis of those who have been voted top performers in series most often
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His Mitchness: four Man-of-the-Match awards in six Tests
His Mitchness: four Man-of-the-Match awards in six Tests © Associated Press

This is getting ridiculous. Fifty-seven Tests, nine Man-of-the-Match awards. Never mind Sheila, Morrissey dear: Mitchell Johnson take a bow, a bloody great, feathered-hat flourish of a bow. Vernon Philander's five in 21 outings may yet bloom into something equally extraordinary, perhaps even a havoc-wreaking record to match Wasim Akram's 17 in 104, but neither has matched His Mitchness' current astounding streaks: thanks to those 49 wickets, he's picked up four in six.

The field, of course, is narrowed by time, custom and manufacturers of outsize cheques: not until Test cricket was a century old were such individual baubles distributed (since you asked, Derek Randall was the first recipient, in the 1977 Centenary bash). Given the relentlessness with which they dominated their respective eras, George Lohmann, Don Bradman and Sydney Barnes would have harvested truckloads, as might Clarrie Grimmett and Bill O'Reilly; Dennis Lillee, who averaged six scalps per outing over his first 50, would doubtless have swagged a whole lot more. But four MoMs in six?

Wasim and Ian Botham both pulled off a hat-trick - awards in three consecutive Tests - and Malcolm Marshall and Jacques Kallis reeled off three in four. Three in a series, so far as I can ascertain, has been accomplished only by Botham (in the 1981 Ashes) and Johnson, although many of us would argue that the second member of Botham's trio could and probably should have gone to John Emburey. Kallis once went on a roll of five in 13, but four in six? Call it greedy if you like, but I'm thinking phenomenal. Which it is, even if Muttiah Muralitharan did once grab four in five.

His Mitchness is certainly keeping up with the cream of the Joneses: only five men have taken 250-plus Test wickets at a better strike rate than his 49.88 - Marshall, Allan Donald, Dale Steyn, Fred Trueman and Waqar Younis. Which makes him nothing less remarkable than the most incisive Australian, not to mention - sorry Wasim - the most lethal left-armer.

As someone who likes to think he goaded His Mitchness into his current purple patch with some stern and possibly provocative words on the eve of the last Ashes debate - in reality, the odds of him having read that particular column are probably less attractive than a million to one against - it gives this Pom enormous if slightly guilty pleasure to note his ascent to the honourable company of all-time masters. An ascent, moreover, that stirs up that timeless sporting argument: is reliability more valuable than brilliance?

Let's put it a slightly different way. Is there truly a distinction - as drawn recently by Messrs Atherton and Crowe in downplaying Kevin Pietersen's place in the pantheon - between a great batsman and a creator of great innings? The former suggests consistent high quality, the latter mercurial genius, and Atherton and Crowe both seem to have concluded that dependability means more to a team than the capacity to win matches. Much as I hesitate to take issue with such sagacious judges, I can't resist.

Pietersen's greatness actually lies as much in his reliable brilliance across all formats as that thrilling sense of adventure

Imagine you're a coach. If you had a player at your disposal who could be relied upon to put on a match-winning performance every dozen games and do decently in half the rest - a 40-plus average with the bat or a strike rate of under 60 with the ball, or under 70 if he's a spinner - you'd pick him and keep picking him, right? Eleven of those and you'd be laughing. Five and you'd be pretty damned pleased with yourself: MoM awards almost always coincide with victory, and there is a not unreasonable chance that one or two of the other six will also come to the party at some juncture. And if you had one who had made more than 100 appearances and averaged such an award once every ten games, even at a time when the side had five other proven if lesser match-winners, you'd be extremely reluctant to ditch him, right?

It seems fair to suggest, therefore, that KP has reason to be miffed. That said, when five of those six match-winners have a bad trot simultaneously, as he, Anderson, Cook, Prior and Swann did in Australia, it is easy to conclude that the best alternative to throwing babies out with bathwater is to chuck out the one who strikes you as the most problematic. Not that this suffices as any form of consolation for those of us who feel saddened and betrayed: with the exception of Graeme Swann, all the other key contributors to England's most prosperous period for half a century were empowered to give us a chance to say goodbye.

****

Still, while we're here, let's delve deeper. In modern times, the most accurate method of anointing the best of the best is surely an analysis of the top bananas: the men of the series. Granted, accolades of this ilk are not scientific, but there is even less likelihood of a miscarriage of justice when performances are assessed over a period of time.

And if I told you that, according to this measure, Messrs Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting, Dravid and Kallis have all been eclipsed by a Pom, you would presumably accuse me of chronic myopia and wonder about the number of marbles in my possession. Well, consider the following Top 12 - compiled from those who have participated in more than 15 rubbers - and weep:

Player MoS Series played %
Imran Khan 8 28 28.57
Malcolm Marshall 6 21 28.57
Richard Hadlee 8 33 24.24
Curtly Ambrose 6 27 22.22
Muttiah Muralitharan 11 61 18.03
Shane Warne 8 46 17.39
Andrew Strauss 5 29 17.24
Wasim Akram 7 43 16.28
Andrew Flintoff 4 25 16.00
Mark Butcher 3 20 15.00
Jacques Kallis 9 61 14.75
Michael Clarle 5 34 14.71
Graham Gooch 5 34 14.71

I'm not sure you could ask for a more illuminating, easy-to-follow ranking system - nor a louder affirmation of that ancient adage: when it comes to resolving outcomes, bowlers are more important than batsmen. Maintaining such an impact over a couple of decades is patently more impressive but it seems unfair to penalise those obliged to run rather than walk to the stumps. It is also worth mentioning that the aforementioned luminaries are currently being pursued not only by Saeed Ajmal (three MoS awards in 15 series) but also by Ravichandran Ashwin, who would top a condition-free chart on the basis of his three in seven. That's right, the chap India saw fit to omit in New Zealand.

By way of instructive comparison, the corresponding ODI top ten numbers contain not a single out-and-out bowler:

Player MoS Series played %
Kepler Wessels 4 21 19.05
Viv Richards 7 40 17.50
Shaun Pollock 9 60 15.00
Hashim Amla 4 27 14.81
Sachin Tendulkar 15 108 13.89
Shakib Al Hasan 5 38 13.16
David Gower 4 32 12.50
Shahriar Nafees 3 24 12.50
Chris Gayle 7 61 11.48
AB de Villiers 5 44 11.36

Tendulkar's figures are extraordinary, as are those compiled by Richards. Time, though, to dilute that ancient adage: bowlers are more important than batsmen so long as the regulations aren't stacked against them.

Even more revealing than the preponderance of them in that elite Test list, though, is the fact that the leading specialist batsman is Strauss. For the record, Lara's ratio is 10.76%, comfortably ahead of Ponting (6.8%), Tendulkar (6.76%) and Dravid (6.67%). All four, in fact, trail behind the second tier of batsmen: Steve Waugh (11.11%), Matty Hayden (11.76%), de Villiers (12.12%), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (12.50%), Virender Sehwag (12.82%) and Atherton (12.90%). Bet you're glad I decided to pick an argument with you, Athers.

All of which, I grudgingly concede, reinforces his and Crowe's point about KP, who failed to glean a Man-of-the-Series award against Australia, India, Pakistan or South Africa. In this particular classification, however, four of the five undisputed "great" batsmen of the age have markedly inferior records to purported lesser mortals. Even if the laws of regression decree as much, it still suggests that our concept of greatness might need re-evaluation.

Furthermore, it can also be stated, without the vaguest fear of contradiction, that England would not have achieved their most significant and celebrated Test successes over the past decade - against Australia in 2005 and India last winter - without KP; and that, but for his sumptuous century in Colombo, the 2011-12 rubber in Sri Lanka would have been lost rather than drawn. All three cases underline the inestimable value of a great innings: one four-hour salvo can reverberate for weeks, reviving, enthusing and emboldening.

That two of the aforementioned knocks more than adequately answer the question "What have you done for us lately?" is this column's penultimate contribution to this debate. The final one is to stress that Pietersen's greatness actually lies as much in his reliable brilliance across all formats as that thrilling sense of adventure: no other batsman has averaged 45 in Tests and 40 in ODIs while totting up more than 1000 runs in T20 internationals at a strike rate of 140 while averaging over 35.

Anyway, let's not miss the wider picture painted by those charts: the most valuable cricketer over the past decade has been de Villiers - no one else has exceeded 11% in both lists - and the most valuable Test combatants over the past 35 years have been Imran and Marshall. Let captaincy be the tie-breaker and we have our No. 1. Talk about messing with the consensus.

Then again, we can always go back to conventional stats and assert that a billion Indians can be wrong there, too: for sustained team-carrying brilliance, Murali's still the man.

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton. His latest book is Floodlights and Touchlines: A History of Spectator Sport

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on February 19, 2014, 9:23 GMT

    Imran, incidentally, won 12 Man of Match awards in 59 Tests, the highest percentage of any player (minimum 50 Tests). In his other Tests, awards were not recorded.

    Also incidentally, the first 'official' individual MoM was Greg Chappell at Brisbane in 1975. Match awards date back to 1966, but earlier ones were all multiple awards (separate awards for Best Batsman and Best Bowler etc). Garry Sobers won Best Bowler and Best Batsman awards for the same Test on two occasions in 1966.

  • ygkd on February 23, 2014, 8:14 GMT

    Or you could follow the tried-and-tested youth development position in Australia - just look down the list until you find your favourite player. Hint: He'll always be at the top of the list. As an analytical method, it seems to work for some.

  • IPSY on February 22, 2014, 16:25 GMT

    Rob, I'm a bit late on this one. Your rebuttal to Martin Crowe's "Man-of-the-Series' (MoS) statement about Kevin Pietersen is excellent. Your sarcastic conclusion, "our concept of greatness might need re-evaluation" in this regard is also brilliant. I must confess though, that once, I too thought that MoS ratios should be the most appropriate yardstick to use to judge greatness; but I quickly discovered that it would be affected by too many variables to be fair: Eg: A player may begin a 3 or 5 match series, but gets an injury after taking the Man-of-the-Match (MoM) award in the first match, and never plays in that series again; yet that series would be included in his analysis, if this criteria is used. Or he may only play one match; etc. Eg. Ryan Harris and Watson hardly complete a series. On the other hand, each player has to account for his individual performance in every match that he plays. Hence, I think MoM ratios should be the most correct yardstick used to determine greatness.

  • on February 20, 2014, 11:14 GMT

    No SevereCritic, 51 centuries from 200 tests is NOT a century every 3½ tests. To be exact it is one every 3.92 tests, i.e. one every four tests. If you look a little deeper, you will find that Hayden and Dravid had far more match-defining innings than either of your favourites. While SRT, RTP and BCL were indeed great players, they were not the greatest of their generation. That honour belongs to Jacques Kallis (best cricketer since Sobers whom he equals - and remember that Bradman rated Sobers a better cricketer than himself), Matthew Hayden and Rahul Dravid.

  • Meety on February 20, 2014, 5:45 GMT

    I wonder if the ICC or wisden could retrospectively award man of the match & series awards. Gather half a dozen experts (Richie Benaud has to be one, whilst he is still firm of mind), & trawl thru reports & scorecards. This would give us a much better database to use these things to ascertain greatness. == == == I will agree with the authors conclusion that Imran Khan is the MVP of the professional era of cricket. Not only does (IMO) being captain provide the edge in a tie break - being captain of the rabble that is Pakistan makes it beyond doubt! (From an Ozzy perspective). == == == @Charles Davis - FANTASTIC post!

  • Lodhisingh on February 20, 2014, 4:38 GMT

    Well you do need bowlers in your team to make your batting contributions count towards MOS. Which would explain the reason why we dont have Lara and Sachin featuring in many.

  • Vikas_Vadgama on February 20, 2014, 4:18 GMT

    Tendulkar played 200 Tests and series mentioned in the table is 108, an average of less than 2 Tests per series. I doubt there is some mistake in the statistics.

  • on February 20, 2014, 3:57 GMT

    I think sa can com back if de kock ealger and parnel in .sa can destroy aus bating

  • CricFan24 on February 20, 2014, 3:30 GMT

    As others have mentioned when you have Staus, Butcher, Clake etc. higher up on a "best of the best" list than the Tendulkars and Laras - it should be a red flag. It seems to imply players who are more "form" players. i.e when comparing like-to-like. i.e pure batsmen-to-batsmen or bowlers-to-bowlers it seems to imply players who make it count when in form.

  • Sepathie on February 20, 2014, 3:08 GMT

    Hi To "BradmanBestEver" Do you Know Bradman never had a Century outside Australia or England? He only played in pitches which is friendly for him.

  • on February 19, 2014, 9:23 GMT

    Imran, incidentally, won 12 Man of Match awards in 59 Tests, the highest percentage of any player (minimum 50 Tests). In his other Tests, awards were not recorded.

    Also incidentally, the first 'official' individual MoM was Greg Chappell at Brisbane in 1975. Match awards date back to 1966, but earlier ones were all multiple awards (separate awards for Best Batsman and Best Bowler etc). Garry Sobers won Best Bowler and Best Batsman awards for the same Test on two occasions in 1966.

  • ygkd on February 23, 2014, 8:14 GMT

    Or you could follow the tried-and-tested youth development position in Australia - just look down the list until you find your favourite player. Hint: He'll always be at the top of the list. As an analytical method, it seems to work for some.

  • IPSY on February 22, 2014, 16:25 GMT

    Rob, I'm a bit late on this one. Your rebuttal to Martin Crowe's "Man-of-the-Series' (MoS) statement about Kevin Pietersen is excellent. Your sarcastic conclusion, "our concept of greatness might need re-evaluation" in this regard is also brilliant. I must confess though, that once, I too thought that MoS ratios should be the most appropriate yardstick to use to judge greatness; but I quickly discovered that it would be affected by too many variables to be fair: Eg: A player may begin a 3 or 5 match series, but gets an injury after taking the Man-of-the-Match (MoM) award in the first match, and never plays in that series again; yet that series would be included in his analysis, if this criteria is used. Or he may only play one match; etc. Eg. Ryan Harris and Watson hardly complete a series. On the other hand, each player has to account for his individual performance in every match that he plays. Hence, I think MoM ratios should be the most correct yardstick used to determine greatness.

  • on February 20, 2014, 11:14 GMT

    No SevereCritic, 51 centuries from 200 tests is NOT a century every 3½ tests. To be exact it is one every 3.92 tests, i.e. one every four tests. If you look a little deeper, you will find that Hayden and Dravid had far more match-defining innings than either of your favourites. While SRT, RTP and BCL were indeed great players, they were not the greatest of their generation. That honour belongs to Jacques Kallis (best cricketer since Sobers whom he equals - and remember that Bradman rated Sobers a better cricketer than himself), Matthew Hayden and Rahul Dravid.

  • Meety on February 20, 2014, 5:45 GMT

    I wonder if the ICC or wisden could retrospectively award man of the match & series awards. Gather half a dozen experts (Richie Benaud has to be one, whilst he is still firm of mind), & trawl thru reports & scorecards. This would give us a much better database to use these things to ascertain greatness. == == == I will agree with the authors conclusion that Imran Khan is the MVP of the professional era of cricket. Not only does (IMO) being captain provide the edge in a tie break - being captain of the rabble that is Pakistan makes it beyond doubt! (From an Ozzy perspective). == == == @Charles Davis - FANTASTIC post!

  • Lodhisingh on February 20, 2014, 4:38 GMT

    Well you do need bowlers in your team to make your batting contributions count towards MOS. Which would explain the reason why we dont have Lara and Sachin featuring in many.

  • Vikas_Vadgama on February 20, 2014, 4:18 GMT

    Tendulkar played 200 Tests and series mentioned in the table is 108, an average of less than 2 Tests per series. I doubt there is some mistake in the statistics.

  • on February 20, 2014, 3:57 GMT

    I think sa can com back if de kock ealger and parnel in .sa can destroy aus bating

  • CricFan24 on February 20, 2014, 3:30 GMT

    As others have mentioned when you have Staus, Butcher, Clake etc. higher up on a "best of the best" list than the Tendulkars and Laras - it should be a red flag. It seems to imply players who are more "form" players. i.e when comparing like-to-like. i.e pure batsmen-to-batsmen or bowlers-to-bowlers it seems to imply players who make it count when in form.

  • Sepathie on February 20, 2014, 3:08 GMT

    Hi To "BradmanBestEver" Do you Know Bradman never had a Century outside Australia or England? He only played in pitches which is friendly for him.

  • CricFan24 on February 20, 2014, 3:08 GMT

    ... 4) A series is a single arbitrary data point . Any one data point is essentially of not much use unless it is considerably superior to a contemporaries. For eg. Bradman's average.

    Also, the point about consistency is that the "match losing" innings should also be taken into account.i.e innings wherein a frontline batsman may have helped a team avoid a loss had be scored around his average.For eg. in the 2004 series WI Lara had a string of 23,0,0,8,36,33 in the first 3 live Tests for an avg of 14, only to score 400* in the 4th Test and end up with a "series" avg. of 83. This match winning( or saving) knock came after 3 "match losing" knocks. It may be argued that had he scored a 50 in the prior 6 innings and then a 100 the team may have benefited much more. So the "match losing" innings ( where a team loses if a batsman scores well below par) should be counterweighted with the matchwinning ones . Only if this ratio is in the batsman's favour may he be considered "matchwinning".

  • CricFan24 on February 20, 2014, 3:04 GMT

    The author asks - "Is there truly a distinction … - between a great batsman and a creator of great innings? The former suggests consistent high quality, the latter mercurial genius, and Atherton and Crowe both seem to have concluded that dependability means more to a team than the capacity to win matches. Much as I hesitate to take issue with such sagacious judges, I can't resist." He then substitutes "innings" with "series". However: 1)This is mereley substituting the narrowest "unit" available in cricket with another slightly longer string. 2)A player who does win a MoS award may not have played a single "mercurial" innings - but had a solid overall performance. 3) Using different or overalapping "units" will result in different results. Such as end of one series and beginning of another. i.e a series is essentially an arbitrary unit .

    Contd...

  • SevereCritic on February 20, 2014, 0:10 GMT

    The reason why Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting are regarded by most as the most revered batsmen of the last generation had nothing to do with their MoS awards. They were all remarkably consistent and ruthlessly destructive. E.g. SRT has 51 test centuries from 200 tests. That's little more than a century every 3.5 Tests. That in itself is a remarkable stat. Lara was maddeningly destructive and could take the best attacks apart quickly and efficiently on any surface. He was also a daddy-hundred player: kept going on and on if he got going. Ponting was a big match player -- ruthless against pace and as destructive as you will ever see. So, it was never about how many runs they scored; it was always about how they scored it, that made them world beaters. It is difficult to explain to the younger generation who havent had the pleasures of watching any of these 3 bat.

  • Yokozuna_JW on February 19, 2014, 22:18 GMT

    "Three in a series, so far as I can ascertain, has been accomplished only by Botham (in the 1981 Ashes) and Johnson..."

    Michael Hussey was Man of the Match for all 3 tests in Sri Lanka in 2011.

  • on February 19, 2014, 20:59 GMT

    Great article, but as you say, there's always Sydney Francis Barnes. In his last nine matches where he bowled, ten in all, he had no less than six ten-fors:

    11-110 off 47 overs vs SA at Lord's (Test #122) 10-115 off 43.2 vs SA at Leeds (Test #124) 13-57 off 37.4 vs SA at The Oval (Test #128) 10-105 off 44.4 vs SA at Durban (Test #130) 17-159 off 65.3 vs SA at Johannesburg (Test #131) 14-144 off 61.5 vs SA at Durban (Test # 133 and S.F. Barnes' last)

    In his last ten tests from 1912 to 1914, he took no less than 88 wickets at an avge of 10.68 and SR of 28.3 with 13 five-fors and six ten-fors - and his last test at almost 41 years of age. Barnes would probably have been the MoM in Test #132 as well where he took eight wickets and broke the back of SA in the 2nd Inns with five of the first seven wickets to fall, so seven MoMs out of his last ten Tests. While MJ's performances over the last six tests have been outstanding, matching Barnes is a tall order.

  • ChulaW on February 19, 2014, 20:38 GMT

    Those who say Murali's record is only better because of Ban and Zim should know that even without those teams Murali's average (24.87) is slightly better than Warne's (25.52). This isn't a fair comparison though - Warne never had to bowl to the best batting lineup of his time (Australia) and had an easy buffet of barely-better-than-Zimbabwe English wickets in the 90s (note that Murali's record vs Eng is better than Warne's, so imagine if SL had an Ashes equivalent).

    Ignoring the huge benefit Warne had by playing Eng so often, a more fair comparison would be to ignore Ban, Zim, SL and Aus - this way the comparison is vs the same countries. The difference is even clearer (Murali 23.70 average vs Warne 25.52) then.

  • Beazle on February 19, 2014, 20:31 GMT

    1928-29- Hammond 1930- Bradman 1930-31v WI- Bradman 1931-32- v SA- Bradman 1932-33- Larwood 1934- Bradman 1936-37- Bradman 1938- Bradman 1946-47- Bradman 1947-48- v Ind- Bradman 1948- Morris

  • FieryFerg on February 19, 2014, 20:26 GMT

    Sorry Rob but the argument falls flat with the presence of Andrew Strauss at No. 7 in the list. An adequate batsman and captain but nothing more - this mainly reflects the bias in awarding these types of awards, especially in the UK where Sky call the tune. As for Mitch ahead of Wasim, don't make me laugh! One five month purple patch doesn't make up for all the dross in the past.

  • absha1 on February 19, 2014, 17:03 GMT

    Murali, Ambrose, Hadlee, Marshall and Imran would be a great bowling attack, not to mention a strong batting order 6 and down...

  • Neal_88 on February 19, 2014, 16:58 GMT

    Everyone has his own opinion in cricket and you seemed to have one too.But its not a very big deal. I can give you a thousand other fact analysis who proves Sachin as the greatest player in the last decade of cricket.

  • EdwinD on February 19, 2014, 16:29 GMT

    'although many of us would argue that the second member of Botham's trio could and probably should have gone to John Emburey'

    No chance - Botham's 5-11 won England the game when Australia were coasting to victory.

  • Brahams on February 19, 2014, 16:16 GMT

    Glad to see Mitch firing those thunderbolts AND taking wickets. Glad to see aggressive captaincy by M. Clarke. Glad to see poor batsmen getting sorted out and good ones getting runs. Hope Steyn will rise to the challenge in the next test.

    Used to follow Imran and Marshall as a kid - never a dull moment when they bowling and never got tired of talking about them.

    Please send your article to Dhoni and DF - if you want to see a contest when India comes to England.

  • on February 19, 2014, 13:56 GMT

    I´m not sure about the last paragraph. Murali had Mahela, Sanga, Jayasurira and Vaas to back him up. Hadlee, basically was on his own for most of the time.

  • BradmanBestEver on February 19, 2014, 13:48 GMT

    Yes BillyCC you are correct.

    Bradman was on a level of his own - he is to cricket what Albert Einstein is to physics - a batting genius - beyond the status of "great".

    The other players often discussed are mere mortals fighting for the ranking of second best. IMHO, "daylight" is the second best batsman of all time, and these other players are fighting for the ranking of 3rd best

  • BillyCC on February 19, 2014, 13:33 GMT

    On the batsmen side of things, yet another stat that proves Bradman is the greatest batsmen of all time. I'm guessing he would have taken more than 50% of the Man of the Series awards, double the next best no doubt or perhaps even more.

  • Tumbarumbar on February 19, 2014, 10:43 GMT

    The thing about great batsmen like Lara, Ponting and Tendulkar is that they produced the wonderful on such a regular basis that anything less than that was seen as a relative failure. Sure they might have saved their teams from embarassment on any number of occasions and steered another batsmen to a big score but that was expected so their performances weren't seen as anything special and they were rarely considered for awards of any type.

  • NALINWIJ on February 19, 2014, 10:09 GMT

    If Australia need to get most out of Mitch Johnson at age of 32 then they need to put him in moth balls and relieve him of other forms of cricket such as ODI,T20 including IPL or he would not last. Botham"s Ashes were a great individual effort when the series was rightfully described as Botham 3-Australia 1. Mitch not only pulverised England to the point it was easier for other bowlers and batsmen and they were so psychologically scarred they lost the ODIs and T20 and to deal with their post traumatic stress disorder they need a psychologist like Brearley whose replacement of Botham as captain played a part as Hughes the Australian captain was no match.

  • sifter132 on February 19, 2014, 10:00 GMT

    I think series anaylsis is very underused, congrats Mr Steen! The reason being that teams plan (and review) almost exclusively based on a series by series basis, but that is somehow forgotten when analysing careers. eg. A batsmen who plays 1 great innings in a series might maintain his average, but he hasn't had a big effect on the result of the series. Whereas a batsmen or bowler who can maintain his performance over a couple of Tests and a whole series is a proven threat, a player to plan around if in your team, and to fear if in the opposition.

    I also like to look at a minimum 'good' series eg. 300 runs @ average of 45+, or 12 wickets @ average of under 30 for bowlers. It's interesting how few of these actually occur and who has met that minimum most frequently.

  • __PK on February 19, 2014, 9:38 GMT

    DanushkaD your comment is wrong in EVERY way, most significantly your claim that Murali bowled. And Blal, those two expressions are contradictory, if you actually understand what they mean, rather than just repeating them.

  • yoadie on February 19, 2014, 9:33 GMT

    We should also give a `shout-out' to the cricket powers-to--be in Australia, for persisting with the enigmatic Mitchell Johnson. Because, if Johnson was to have been unfortunate enough, to have been in the West Indies set-up, he would have been long tossed into the dust-bin of cricket history.

  • heartbreakerz on February 19, 2014, 8:57 GMT

    IMRAN KHAN, what a legend...8 MoS awards in just 28 series n WASIM AKRAM as well...17 MoMs in just 104 tests

    Just goes to show that bowlers are the real n ultimate matchwinners in test cricket

  • NAP73 on February 19, 2014, 8:54 GMT

    I am glad it is not just me. I always thought Marshall and Hadlee were the best and most consistent bowlers in full flight, so am glad this article supports this view. Of course I am only largely basing my judgment on by being an avid watcher of bowling over many years ...

  • on February 19, 2014, 8:51 GMT

    If we compare Murali's and Shane Warne's records against all Test teams excluding Ban and Zim, there is very less difference in bowling averages. This proves that Warne did as well as Murali but in unfavourable conditions.

  • dunger.bob on February 19, 2014, 8:26 GMT

    It just goes to show that no matter how you look at it the cream always rises. That's an impressive list of cricketers and I agree that bowlers win games. You have to get 20 wickets (barring declarations) to win a test so bowling is all important. When we see a batsman take a game by the scruff of the neck we are watching the bowlers fail as much as the batsman succeed.

  • on February 19, 2014, 7:44 GMT

    Mike Hussey got Man of the Match in every Test of the three Test series in Sri Lanka in 2011. Unsurprisingly, he was also Man of the Series.

  • smalishah84 on February 19, 2014, 7:25 GMT

    Imran Khan, what a legend. Definitely one of the most valuable test cricketers ever. Top 3 IMO.

  • DanushkaD on February 19, 2014, 7:13 GMT

    Towards the members who are disputing Muralis glorious record, you should be ashamed. This is the difference between Asian Fans and you guys. We appreciate and admire Shane Warne and other players in-spite their race but you guys can not get past the fact the Muralis record is better than any of your cricketers. But It doesn't matter how much you moan and cry he will be always know as the best test bowler in the world....PERIOD.

  • Blal on February 19, 2014, 6:50 GMT

    @Greg Hut: "Murali isn't fit to tie Warney's shoes". Agreed. But Warney is certainly fit to tie Murali's shoes, though!

  • DRS_Flawed_NeedsImprovement on February 19, 2014, 6:25 GMT

    murali is far better than warne in any means both on field and off field.

  • on February 19, 2014, 6:21 GMT

    Not really the best way of measuring how great someone is, more just how great they are compared to who they are playing against, and importantly with. if I great and play in a team where everyone else is terrible I am going to get a man of the match almost every time we win, as there is no one else to do much heroics in my team. A lot of good players in great teams don't get to be in your list because they have so much stiff competition from their team as well as the opposition

  • timmyw on February 19, 2014, 5:43 GMT

    @Sepathie - "Murali The best bowler ever to walk on this planet by in any means"..... NO.

  • on February 19, 2014, 5:35 GMT

    Murali isn't fit to tie Warney's shoes.

  • heathrf1974 on February 19, 2014, 5:27 GMT

    If you could show the list of MOM awards that would be interesting too and also MOS and MOM away from home, now they are great achievements.

  • Longmemory on February 19, 2014, 5:24 GMT

    The statistic about Ashwin is extraordinary. 3 out of 7 Man of the Series awards at home - and the guy cannot buy a wicket abroad for less than 70 runs apiece. And most of those wickets are utterly meaningless anyway: batsman slogging just before a declaration etc. Of course, every one except the Indian cricket board knows that nothing will change unless Indian wickets change. In fact, as recent series have proven, things are only going to get worse. S Africa were poised to overhaul the biggest 4th inning target ever until they inexplicably lost their nerve. And the Kiwis looked good to get a thousand runs after losing 4 for 85 or whatever.

  • on February 19, 2014, 4:55 GMT

    Batsmen save tests, but bowlers win them. It's pretty simple, really.

  • VisBal on February 19, 2014, 4:51 GMT

    Very interesting analysis. In addition to the MoS metric, could you possibly add in a MoM metric as well? MoS addresses the consistency aspect. The MoM would then address the mercurial performances. Obviously there would be some overlap - the MoS and MoM metrics would not be linearly independent because the MoMs in a series actually do affect the choice of MoS. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to rate players on both of these metrics separately and maybe a combined metric. This way we can judge which players are consistently top-shelf performers (this article), and who are the most impactful performers to turn a match around (MoM). It might be interesting to look at the overlap as well: MoMs in series where the player got a MoS.

  • on February 19, 2014, 4:51 GMT

    Rob Steen, go and have a read of some of Martin Crowe's or Mark Nicholas's cricinfo articles - far more succint and entertaining than this.

    Using statistics in an argument doesn't work, because they can be presented in a completely subjective way. Comparing players between era's is even worse.

  • Sepathie on February 19, 2014, 4:34 GMT

    Murali The best bowler ever to walk on this planet by in any means.

  • on February 19, 2014, 4:22 GMT

    Nicely constructed reasoning.

  • TATTUs on February 19, 2014, 3:32 GMT

    Tests are definitely won by the bowlers. [Precisely why India has not won 14 tests]. One dayers can be won by batsmen sometimes. Period. Let the comparison bickering begin.

  • TATTUs on February 19, 2014, 3:32 GMT

    Tests are definitely won by the bowlers. [Precisely why India has not won 14 tests]. One dayers can be won by batsmen sometimes. Period. Let the comparison bickering begin.

  • on February 19, 2014, 4:22 GMT

    Nicely constructed reasoning.

  • Sepathie on February 19, 2014, 4:34 GMT

    Murali The best bowler ever to walk on this planet by in any means.

  • on February 19, 2014, 4:51 GMT

    Rob Steen, go and have a read of some of Martin Crowe's or Mark Nicholas's cricinfo articles - far more succint and entertaining than this.

    Using statistics in an argument doesn't work, because they can be presented in a completely subjective way. Comparing players between era's is even worse.

  • VisBal on February 19, 2014, 4:51 GMT

    Very interesting analysis. In addition to the MoS metric, could you possibly add in a MoM metric as well? MoS addresses the consistency aspect. The MoM would then address the mercurial performances. Obviously there would be some overlap - the MoS and MoM metrics would not be linearly independent because the MoMs in a series actually do affect the choice of MoS. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to rate players on both of these metrics separately and maybe a combined metric. This way we can judge which players are consistently top-shelf performers (this article), and who are the most impactful performers to turn a match around (MoM). It might be interesting to look at the overlap as well: MoMs in series where the player got a MoS.

  • on February 19, 2014, 4:55 GMT

    Batsmen save tests, but bowlers win them. It's pretty simple, really.

  • Longmemory on February 19, 2014, 5:24 GMT

    The statistic about Ashwin is extraordinary. 3 out of 7 Man of the Series awards at home - and the guy cannot buy a wicket abroad for less than 70 runs apiece. And most of those wickets are utterly meaningless anyway: batsman slogging just before a declaration etc. Of course, every one except the Indian cricket board knows that nothing will change unless Indian wickets change. In fact, as recent series have proven, things are only going to get worse. S Africa were poised to overhaul the biggest 4th inning target ever until they inexplicably lost their nerve. And the Kiwis looked good to get a thousand runs after losing 4 for 85 or whatever.

  • heathrf1974 on February 19, 2014, 5:27 GMT

    If you could show the list of MOM awards that would be interesting too and also MOS and MOM away from home, now they are great achievements.

  • on February 19, 2014, 5:35 GMT

    Murali isn't fit to tie Warney's shoes.

  • timmyw on February 19, 2014, 5:43 GMT

    @Sepathie - "Murali The best bowler ever to walk on this planet by in any means"..... NO.