In Bradman’s shadow – the best of the rest

Just found an interesting article on the race to be “second best batsman ever” (no need to argue about the no.1 spot). Unfortunately at the original url the html’s buggered, so I’ve done some web devvy dabbling and reproduced the original article in all its glory below.

Note that the analysis dates from August 2006.

First among second-bests : A re-visit of the Best Test Batsman analysis

With Donald Bradman streets ahead of everyone else, there is little point is asking who the best Test batsman of all time is. But the race for the other top spots is not nearly as settled, and is the subject of a lot of heated debate. Third Slip weighs in, in typical analytical fashion.

I first undertook this exercise about three years ago; since then, during August 2005 it was completely revamped to include additional weightage criteria not taken into account in the first effort.

Now there is a further tweak since I have been able to get more analysis work completed in the Database. Primarily the Batting Average has been further analyzed into more relevant and important components relating to Away and Second innings performances. It is also true that there has been a significant move to the top by a few of the current batsmen during the past 12 months.

How does one measure a great batsman? Primarily by his performances in individual matches, and secondarily by his career performances. Averages can hide all sorts of things, even in a long career, whereas individual performances are more straightforward to assess. One the individual efforts and the career average performances have both been sorted out, the two need to be brought together in a weighted average to indicate overall achievement. The weightages used in this analysis are as follows: The individual performances count for twice as much as the career indicators. The latter are broken down into separate categories which together make up the career statistics, and each is assigned a fraction of the overall career indicator’s weight.

====================================================
Innings Performances       66.67%

Career Performances        33.33%

   Batting Average   10.00%
	- Career Average  5.00%   (Prev basis: 8.00%)
        - Away Average    2.00%   (Newly introduced)
	- 2nd Inns Avge   1.00%   (Newly introduced)
	- Runs/Test       2.00%   (Prev basis: 2.00%)
   Runs scored       10.00%
   Scoring Rate       5.00%
   High Score Index   2.50%
   Highest Score      1.33%
   % of Team Runs     2.50%
   Matches won        2.00%
=====================================================

1. Innings performances

The Innings Performance analysis is based on the redesigned Hallmark-Thirdslip Innings Analysis work which is an improved version of the Wisden 100 work done by the author for Wisden Online, whose contributions are acknowledged herein. The earlier computations have been streamlined and a major component – the Scoring Rate – has been incorporated. The factors considered for Batting performances are outlined below.

  • Runs scored. This is not a linear computation. As scores become bigger, the points allotted taper off.
  • The Scoring Rate. This is the actual Rate of scoring where “Balls played” information is available. Else the Team scoring rate for the concerned innings is used.
  • The team’s position at the time of arrival of a batsman (Lara entering at 12 for 2)
  • Match status at entry of a batsman. Which innings. What is the score being defended or chased et al.
  • The type of pitch. Headingley type of seaming one or a gluepot at Mohali or a batting paradise at Faisalabad.
  • Quality of the opposition bowling attack, based on their career figures.
  • Support received from other batsmen.
  • Did the batsman add runs along with the tail? (e.g. Clem Hill at the MCG)
  • Percentage of Team Score made by the batsmen.
  • Result of the match.
  • If win or draw, the batsman’s contribution to the outcome, based on the points computed based on the previous 10 criteria.

This analysis is one we’ve encountered before on Third Slip. The total Innings Performance points are divided by the number of innings played and an average arrived at. This average is then converted to the Innings Index points. An Innings Performance average of 100.0 will convert to the maximum Innings Index value of 66.67. The top 3 batsmen for this measure are given below. Lara has slipped a bit over the past 12 months.

======================================
            IP Avge    Innings Index

Bradman      80.86        59.90
Hobbs        56.29        41.70
Lara         55.61        41.20
======================================

Career Performance Analysis

As noted above, this is looked at through several subcategories.

2. Batting Average / Runs per Test: This classification has undergone a major change. The computations continue to be fairly direct, except that this is further sub-divided into four components, the straight forward Career Batting Average (weightage of 5.00), Away Batting Average (weightage of 2.00), Second innings Batting Average (weightage of 1.00) and Runs per Test (weightage of 2.00). Under both Away and Second innings computations, there is a further minor computational segment introduced to reward the rare batsmen who play better Away than Home (Dravid, Hammond et al) or play better in the Second innings than First innings (Kallis, A Flower et al). The Runs per Test analysis is to reduce the impact of Not outs. The top 3 batsmen by this measure are given below. Significant changes have taken place here. Dravid and Barrington have moved into the top 3 positions.

=========================================================================
            Career Avge Away Avge  2 Inns Avge  Index   RPT  Index  Total

Bradman        99.96     102.85      104.50      7.70  134.5  1.79   9.49
Dravid         58.76      65.28       51.95      4.72   87.0  1.16   5.84
Barrington     58.67      69.18       44.54      4.73   83.0  1.11   5.84
=========================================================================

3. Runs scored : This is a tribute to the longevity of a player and the runs he scores. The weightage is reasonably small so that it does not distort the overall picture. A run aggregate of 12500 will fetch the maximum of 10.0 Index points. The top 3 batsmen for this measure are given below.

==========================================
             Runs scored    Runs Index
Lara            11505          9.05
Border          11174          8.94
S Waugh         10927          8.74
==========================================

There is no doubt that Tendulkar, Dravid and Ponting will push for these places, although it must be remembered that if Lara continues to score runs, he will make it difficult for these batsmen to overtake him.

4. Scoring Rate : This is a tricky measure. The strike rates for the Test matches have only been available for the past 15 years or so (albiet for about 450 tests). It is essential to consider the strike rate in order to give due recognition to the extraordinary batting skills of batsmen like Gilchrist, Sehwag, Hayden et al. To be equally fair to all the batsmen of the first 1300 tests or so, the team scoring rates are taken for the innings and extrapolated to all the batsmen. This would reduce any anomalities to within the innings.

5 points are allotted for the strike rate. The basis being that a career strike rate of 83.33 gets the full 5 points. In other words the index points are equal to the career RPO of the batsman. The top 3 batsmen for this measure are given below. It is interesting to note that the entire career strike rate is available for these three batsmen.

==========================================
                Strike Rate   S/R Index
Gilchrist          81.6         4.90
Sehwag             75.8         4.55
Flintoff           65.0         3.90
==========================================

5. High Score Average: This measure is to recognize the ability for the batsmen to consistently compile high scores. The High Score Average, created by Hallmark Software, is used for this purpose. This is the average of the centuries. A High Score Average of 250 gets the full 2.50 points. The top 3 batsmen by this measure are given below. Major change has happened here in that Sangakkara, with a great High Score Average of 187.2, has gone to the top, displacing Bradman.

==========================================
               High Score Avge   HSA Index
Sangakkara         187.2            1.87
Bradman            186.0            1.86
Zaheer Abbas       179.8            1.80
==========================================

6. Batsman High Score: This measure is a straight computation of an index based on the highest score reached by the batsman. A score of 400 and above will fetch the maximum index value of 1.33 points and the other scores are proportionately computed. The impact is minimal. However it is a recognition of truly great performances. The top 3 batsmen for this measure are given below. Jayawardene has displaced Sobers in the third place.

==========================================
            Batsman HS    BHS Index

Lara            400          1.33
Hayden          380          1.26
Jayawardene     374          1.24
==========================================

7. Percentage of Team Score: A strong measure of the value of a batsmen is the extent of contribution to the team score. This value is computed for each batsmen across their careers. The maximum index value of 2.50 is given where the batsman has scored 25% of the team runs or more. Lower values are proportionately computed. Players in strong teams might lose out slightly, (e-g) Ponting, Hayden, Gilchrist. However they are more than likely to make up in the next measure, as we will see. The top 3 batsmen by this measure are given below. No real changes here.

==========================================
            % of team Score   %TS Index

Bradman         25.0             2.50
Headley         21.6             2.16
Lara            18.7             1.87
==========================================

8. Team Wins: Winning is certainly not everything. But it can be an important measure of a batsman’s contribution, considering the result is a desired one. Each batsman’s %-of-wins (the number of games won/games played) is computed and translated to the index value. The top 3 batsmen by this measure are given below. No changes at all here, continuing with the domination of the current Australian team.

==========================================
             % of matches won   %TW Index

Gilchrist        75.5             1.51
Hayden           70.0             1.40
Ponting          69.6             1.40
==========================================

Some observations

We find that Bradman leads in 3 measures, Lara in 2, Gilchrist in 2 and Sangakkara in 1. Based on these measures, the Top 20 Test batsmen are listed below, with the final ratings points obtained by the weightage average scheme indicated above.

============================================================================================
Top Test Batsmen of all time : All : as at 10/08/2006 - Upto Test # 1813

(Qualification: Minimum 2000 test runs)

No Player          Cty RtgPts InsIdx AvgIdx RPTIdx  RunIdx S/RIdx HSIdx BhsIdx %TSIdx WinIdx

   Maximum weightage   100.00  66.67   8.00   2.00  10.00   5.00   2.50   1.33   2.50   2.00

 1.Bradman D.G     Aus  84.57  59.90   7.70   1.79   5.60   2.96   1.86   1.11   2.50   1.15
 2.Lara B.C        Win  64.26  41.20   3.69   1.20   9.20   3.54   1.73   1.33   1.87   0.50
 3.Ponting R.T     Aus  61.91  40.89   4.21   1.12   7.03   3.53   1.42   0.85   1.47   1.39
 4.Richards I.V.A  Win  60.85  41.00   3.78   0.94   6.83   3.32   1.47   0.97   1.50   1.04
 5.Dravid R        Ind  60.83  40.40   4.72   1.16   7.24   2.53   1.56   0.90   1.69   0.63
 6.Hayden M.L      Aus  60.82  40.80   3.84   1.16   5.86   3.61   1.38   1.26   1.50   1.40
 7.Hobbs J.B       Eng  59.34  41.70   4.39   1.18   4.33   2.87   1.43   0.70   1.82   0.92
 8.Barrington K.F  Eng  58.26  39.78   4.73   1.11   5.44   2.52   1.38   0.85   1.70   0.76
 9.Inzamam-ul-Haq  Pak  58.08  38.50   3.76   1.01   6.77   3.23   1.37   1.09   1.52   0.82
10.Sobers G.St.A   Win  58.05  38.46   4.19   1.15   6.43   2.85   1.51   1.21   1.58   0.67
11.Chappell G.S    Aus  57.52  39.09   3.97   1.09   5.69   2.96   1.44   0.82   1.58   0.87
12.Tendulkar S.R   Ind  57.47  36.15   4.09   1.06   8.38   3.24   1.52   0.82   1.59   0.62
13.Border A.R      Aus  57.39  36.48   4.29   0.96   8.94   2.63   1.33   0.68   1.44   0.64
14.Gavaskar S.M    Ind  57.33  37.20   3.90   1.08   8.10   2.81   1.41   0.78   1.67   0.37
15.EdeC Weekes     Win  56.84  40.48   4.07   1.24   3.56   2.86   1.50   0.69   1.77   0.67
16.Hutton L        Eng  56.52  37.96   4.12   1.18   5.58   2.40   1.56   1.21   1.83   0.68
17.Kallis J.H      Saf  56.35  37.63   4.27   1.05   6.43   2.57   1.36   0.63   1.52   0.90
18.Sutcliffe H     Eng  55.95  39.38   4.59   1.12   3.64   2.61   1.31   0.65   1.72   0.93
19.Headley G.A     Win  55.85  40.90   4.28   1.33   1.75   2.59   1.48   0.90   2.16   0.45
20.Walcott C.L     Win  55.74  40.50   3.93   1.15   3.04   2.90   1.33   0.73   1.61   0.55
============================================================================================

Some observations

  • As already mentioned Bradman, leading in 3 of the measures, is not a surprise at the top. He is so far ahead of the second best that it is safe to say that he will be No.1 forever. His batting exploits can only be compared to the domination of Nicklaus and Pele in other sports.
  • Lara at second place should have few dissenters. He has played more great innings than any other player in history (at last count, 5 in most people’s Top 20 : 153*/214/400/375/277). He scores quickly and often compiles huge innings. 2 x 300s and 8 x 200s are proof of this. He is, arguably, the greatest modern player and deserves his place as the “best amongst the second bests”. It must be said that he has slipped slightly over the past 12 months and others such as Ponting and Dravid are closing in.
  • Ponting has had a great year and this shows up in his move to the third position. During these 12 months Ponting has scored 1567 runs (8 hundreds) at an average of 71.22, mostly against good quality opposition. He is making a serious attempt to take over Lara’s second position. The major reason for his move up is his performance.
  • Richards’ position is again a well-deserved one. He was in a much stronger West Indies lineup than Lara. This has its advantages and disadvantages for an individual player. However the total domination he exercised over the bowlers is probably matched only by Gilchrist or Sehwag today.
  • Dravid is at no.5. This is a very well deserved position, partly earned by the re-alignment of the Ratings computations. However mostly it is his performance on the field, especially outside India which has helped him move up. It is safe to say that, barring Bradman, he has been the most successful “Away” batsman ever. The two fifties at Jamaica in the last test against West Indies are worth more than couple of centuries. He should move past Richards soon. Then it is tough. He would then have two current great players ahead of him.
  • Hayden, Hobbs, Barrington, Inzamam and Sobers complete the illustrious group of Top ten. There has been quite a move up forward for Hayden and Inzamam, who have both had good years behind them. Tendulkar has done very little during this period.
  • There have been comparisons between Lara and Tendulkar as to who is the greatest modern batsman. This position of Dravid, at No.5, ahead of Tendulkar should settle this argument once and for all. Tendulkar is not even India’s best batsman, leave alone the world’s best. In Rawalpindi, Adelaide, Calcutta, Kingston and Headingley, Dravid showcased his outstanding batsmanship, against top quality bowlers.

Y Anantha Narayanan

August 2006

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