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 need some crowd-sourcing help. I want a lot of top of head lists of the 5 best batsmen ever. Please reply with your 5 and then RT. Thanks!— Michael Wagener (@Mykuhl) January 7, 2015
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:
|13||AB de Villiers||11||52.10||52.99|
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.
|AB de Villiers||52.10||52.99|
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.