Friday 23 January 2015

Comparing between eras part 2. The survey results

In the previous post I looked at some New Zealand batsmen throughout the years and compared them, by trying to take into account some of the factors that might have batting either easier or harder for them.

I did this by looking at the runs that each player scored at a particular ground, and then looking at how easy/difficult that ground was to score at during that player's career. After that I allocated each ground a modifier value, and multiplied the runs scored at each ground by that ground's modifier. As a result (for example) the 188 runs that Martin Crowe scored at the Bourda in Georgetown were worth 164.5, because (during Crowe's era) it was a batting friendly pitch. However, his 120 runs that he scored at Karachi were worth 135.1 because that ground favoured bowlers.

I wanted to try the technique across a wider range of batsmen, so I put a simple request on twitter, for people to send me their top 5 batsmen. The tweets started pouring in.

I received a few humerous replies such as 5 votes for Rohit Sharma, 5 votes for Graham Thorpe and my personal favourite:

But eventually I had 159 serious lists of 5.

From the top 20 (plus ties) I then worked out their Normalised Averages. I left out two players, Barry Richards and WG Grace, as neither of their test careers were really the reason that people put them in the list. For both, test matches made up less than 5% of their first class career. I'll deal with them (and Charles Bannerman) in a future post.

Here's the list:

RankNameVotesAverageNorm Average
1Don Bradman11999.94101.03
2Sachin Tendulkar11253.7954.10
3Brian Lara10852.8954.41
4Viv Richards8450.2454.96
5Ricky Ponting5551.8552.50
6Kumar Sangakkara5258.4558.27
7Gary Sobers3157.7857.71
8Rahul Dravid2852.3152.73
9Jacques Kallis2755.3759.55
10Jack Hobbs2456.9563.01
11Barry Richards1272.57*
11Wally Hammond1258.4658.44
13AB de Villiers1152.1052.99
13Steve Waugh1151.0653.56
15WG Grace1032.29*
16Graeme Pollock960.9759.91
16Sunil Gavaskar951.1254.76
18Herbert Sutcliffe460.7362.00
18Dennis Compton450.0653.44
18Martin Crowe445.3747.91
18Adam Gilchrist447.6149.24
18Allan Border449.5454.30

There are a couple of interesting things here. Less than 3/4 of people picked Bradman. Often they said that it was because they had never watched him bat, and that's understandable, but I would have thought his extraordinary average alone was sufficient to put him in the mix. You don't need to know much about batting averages to know that Bradman's numbers are almost unbelievable.

The tendency to only vote for batsmen that people had seen meant that players who had played since 2000 had to score at a lower average than players who had played before that. Here's a graph comparing the number of votes that a batsmen got with their normalised average:

There was also a tendency for people to nominate players who had done well against their sides. Most votes out of England included Brian Lara who hit both of hit triple centuries against England, while votes from India often included Ricky Ponting who averaged mid fifties against the Indians.

Here's the list ordered by their Normalised Average. I've added in two other older players who only got one vote each, Ken Barrington and Everton Weekes but who both had exceptional records.

NameAverageNorm Average
Don Bradman99.94101.03
Ken Barrington58.6764.00
Jack Hobbs56.9563.01
Herbert Sutcliffe60.7362.00
Graeme Pollock60.9759.91
Jacques Kallis55.3759.55
Everton Weekes59.4659.39
Wally Hammond58.4658.44
Kumar Sangakkara58.4558.27
Gary Sobers57.7857.71
Viv Richards50.2454.96
Sunil Gavaskar51.1254.76
Brian Lara52.8954.41
Allan Border49.5454.30
Sachin Tendulkar53.7954.10
Steve Waugh51.0653.56
Dennis Compton50.0653.44
AB de Villiers52.1052.99
Rahul Dravid52.3152.73
Ricky Ponting51.8552.50
Adam Gilchrist47.6149.24
Martin Crowe45.3747.91

A couple of interesting things here are the way that players are rewarded for scoring on the harder pitches. Sutcliffe and Hobbs played together through a large part of their careers. But Hobbs was the one that scored the most runs when the conditions were the hardest for batting. As a result Hobbs' average increased by 6.06 while Sutcliffe's only increased by 1.27.

Jacques Kallis likewise scored a lot of runs at Newlands, which has been a graveyard for batsmen, and he has been rewarded for that. Kumar Sangakkara however, has scored a lot of his at the SSC, which is a place that batsmen have prospered, and so that saw his normalised average end up lower than his actual average.

I still have a number of players that I'd like to look at such as Victor Trumper, Bruce Mitchell, Zaheer Abbas and Andy Flower. But there's plenty of time for that in the next installment.


  1. Interesting that you identify a 'resistance' to nominate players not personally seen.

    Since I didn't grow up with cricket and have only watched it for about a decade, I find it possible that my own 'resistance' in that respect is lowered: to me, Bradman was a given. I'm also pretty sure I included Border, whom I've never seen 'live', and Lara, whom I only caught toward the end of his career, in my list ... but I would agree that having seen a player matters — if nothing else, the name is probably more easily evoked. I didn't include any of the West Indians from their Great Era simply because I've never seen them and their names rarely pop up naturally to me.

    On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that I didn't include Tendulkar, whom I also only caught toward the end of his career (12 years is totally 'the end' when we're talking Tendulkar, right?!), and just never found that exciting. And my dislike of Ponting's captaincy in particular and general failure with the bat in his last 3-4 years of playing overshadows whatever brilliance he displayed earlier on.

    Interesting comparison, though.

    1. I put Sangakkara in my list, when I would have put in Brian Lara if I had thought about it more. But I guess that's the nature of the quick lists. For me, I probably picked Sangakkara because I was watching him the day that I did the survey.

      However, the idea was to find a reasonable estimate of the highest regarded batsmen, and we have that.

  2. Junaid King Robi24 January 2015 at 01:01

    Amla will feature in this list very soon.

  3. Interesting. Very interesting.