Sunday 11 January 2015

Comparing between Eras, Part 1, Crowe, Sutcliffe, Turner and Williamson.

When you write a stats piece, it's not uncommon to get criticism. It's also not unwelcome. I think my statistics have become better, and my writing has improved through interaction that I've had with readers.

Some criticism is not so welcome or useful. The person that said that he was going to "come to England and burn my house down for being a bias English" for example. This gentleman was upset that I said that Matt Prior had a better batting average than MS Dhoni.

Then there's the type that makes me think. Just after the declaration in the second test in Wellington, I tweeted a comparison of a bunch of New Zealand batsmen after 71 test innings. I received an interesting reply from someone that knows a bit about batting.

Barry Richards, the great South African batsman tweeted me back saying that Williamson was a nice kid, but couldn't be compared with Crowe.

Over the next couple of days we sent tweets back and forth discussing the concept of comparing different players from different eras.

One of the points that he made is that statistics don't take into account the context of an innings. There are times that an innings of 30 can be a match winner, while other times an innings of 70 can be meaningless. This is true, and in part there is not a lot that can be done about this. The hope is that these sort of innings end up cancelling themselves out.

Another point that he made was that the pitches, outfields and bowling were all different. How do you compare a player who has played against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to one that hasn't? Sabina Park in the 80's was a minefield. Sabina Park now is a featherbed. How can you compare someone who played on those different pitches. To hit a six used to require the ball to be hit over the fence. Now it just needs to hit the rope, that's placed 2 m inside the speakers that are 1 m inside the advertising hoardings that are 1 m inside the boundary.

Likewise it's easier to bat against some bowlers than others. You would expect a batsman playing against Garner, Holding, Marshall and Roberts to find things more difficult than one playing against Powell, Rampaul, Sammy and Bravo.

It's impossible to account for these factors perfectly. However, there are some ways that we can deal with these differences. In order to be able to answer some of Richards' issues I decided to look at the results for some of the New Zealand batsmen at each ground. Then I looked at the results of every top order batsman at that ground throughout each player's career. I decided to normalise to having an average of 40. So a ground where the batsman averaged 32, I would multiply any run scored at that ground by 1.25.

For example during Martin Crowe's career batsmen averaged 53.86 at Bulawayo Athletic Club. This means that any runs scored at that ground would only count for 0.743 of a run. Accordingly, Crowe's 48 runs there would count as 35.6 runs. There is an advantage here for any player who played for a team with a really good bowling attack, but it's hard to account for that completely.

I decided to look at Crowe, Turner, Sutcliffe and Williamson to see how Williamson compares to some of the greats. In the last post I showed that Williamson now has a higher test average than any of the greats of NZ cricket had, and had also scored more runs, at a higher average than they had after the same number of innings.

You can click on a players name to see their stats, or skip the individual grounds by clicking on table:

Martin Crowe:

GroundActual RunsFactorMod. Runs
Adelaide Oval - Australia1450.951137.9
AMI Stadium, Christchurch - New Zealand3891.352526
Asgiriya Stadium, Kandy - Sri Lanka341.43348.7
Barabati Stadium, Cuttack - India151.50622.6
Basin Reserve, Wellington - New Zealand11230.9081019.3
Bourda, Georgetown, Guyana - West Indies1880.875164.5
Brisbane Cricket Ground, Brisbane - Australia2781.088302.4
Bulawayo Athletic Club - Zimbabwe480.74335.6
Carisbrook, Dunedin - New Zealand1411.114157
Colombo Cricket Club Ground - Sri Lanka721.20286.5
Eden Park, Auckland - New Zealand7121.1783.5
Edgbaston, Birmingham - England361.12640.5
Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore - Pakistan2161.065230.1
Harare Sports Club - Zimbabwe2011.076216.2
Headingley, Leeds - England381.1443.3
Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad - Pakistan411.06143.5
Kennington Oval, London - England460.94843.6
Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados - West Indies161.11317.8
Kingsmead, Durban - South Africa281.13931.9
Lord's, London - England3271.006329.1
M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore - India351.31145.9
Melbourne Cricket Ground - Australia1611.139183.4
National Stadium, Karachi - Pakistan1201.126135.1
Newlands, Cape Town - South Africa231.23628.4
Niaz Stadium, Hyderabad - Pakistan400.87334.9
Old Trafford, Manchester - England1850.996184.2
Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad - West Indies51.4117.1
Sabina Park, Jamaica - West Indies71.1388
Seddon Park, Hamilton - New Zealand361.16441.9
Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo - Sri Lanka1261.094137.8
Sydney Cricket Ground - Australia80.957.6
The Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg - South Africa831.319109.5
Trent Bridge, Nottingham - England2131.003213.6
Tyronne Fernando Stadium, Moratuwa - Sri Lanka301.21136.3
W.A.C.A. Ground, Perth - Australia2781.064295.7

Crowe's actual average was 45.37. His modified average is 47.91

Bert Sutcliffe:

GroundRunsFactorMod. Runs
AMI Stadium, Christchurch - New Zealand3031.25378.6
Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore - Pakistan291.19434.6
Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka - Pakistan201.53230.6
Basin Reserve, Wellington - New Zealand1261.508190
Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai - India1150.972111.8
Carisbrook, Dunedin - New Zealand1662.014334.3
Eden Gardens, Kolkata - India1871.119209.2
Eden Park, Auckland - New Zealand1981.329263.1
Edgbaston, Birmingham - England571.08561.9
Ellis Park, Johannesburg - South Africa1131.074121.3
Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi - India2860.805230.1
Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore - Pakistan230.96522.2
Headingley, Leeds - England1201.09130.8
Kennington Oval, London - England1711.177201.3
Kingsmead, Durban - South Africa361.27946
Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium, Hyderabad - India1540.53382
Lord's, London - England751.21791.2
National Stadium, Karachi - Pakistan631.18674.7
Nehru Stadium, Madras - India1431.058151.3
Newlands, Cape Town - South Africa660.93161.5
Old Trafford, Manchester - England1791.097196.4
Pindi Club Ground, Rawalpindi - Pakistan72.51917.6
St George's Park, Port Elizabeth - South Africa901.316118.5

Sutcliffe's actual average was 40.10. His modified average is 46.46

Glenn Turner:

GroundRunsFactorMod. Runs
Adelaide Oval - Australia541.0355.6
AMI Stadium, Christchurch - New Zealand6641.094726.3
Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka - Pakistan1361.197162.7
Basin Reserve, Wellington - New Zealand3491.241433.1
Bourda, Georgetown, Guyana - West Indies2590.768198.9
Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai - India291.10632.1
Carisbrook, Dunedin - New Zealand611.41486.2
Eden Park, Auckland - New Zealand3811.137433.1
Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore - Pakistan90.9398.5
Green Park, Kanpur - India1480.91134.7
Headingley, Leeds - England921.403129.1
Kennington Oval, London - England780.99677.7
Kensington Oval, Barbados - West Indies211.0321.6
Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium, Hyderabad - India172.92849.8
Lord's, London - England521.1157.7
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai - India421.30955
Melbourne Cricket Ground - Australia61.0836.5
Niaz Stadium, Hyderabad - Pakistan510.83242.4
Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad - West Indies1481.116165.2
Sabina Park, Jamaica - West Indies2440.864210.8
Trent Bridge, Nottingham - England201.11522.3
Vidarbha C.A. Ground, Nagpur - India591.57993.2
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai - India711.16182.5

Turner's actual average was 44.64. His modified average is 49.03

Kane Williamson:

Groundrunsmodifiermodified runs
Basin Reserve, Wellington - New Zealand6840.973665.5
Bellerive Oval, Hobart - Australia531.17962.5
Brisbane Cricket Ground, Brisbane - Australia190.90717.2
Dubai International Cricket Stadium - U.A.E.430.99942.9
Eden Park, Auckland - New Zealand2081.085225.7
Galle International Stadium - Sri Lanka100.9689.7
Hagley Oval, Christchurch - New Zealand850.94180
Headingley, Leeds - England161.06417
Kensington Oval, Barbados - West Indies2041.353276
Lord's, London - England661.09272.1
M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore - India301.14934.5
McLean Park, Napier - New Zealand41.8597.4
Newlands, Cape Town - South Africa280.98427.6
P Sara Oval, Colombo - Sri Lanka1531.024156.7
Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad - West Indies940.99793.7
Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo - Zimbabwe1170.885103.6
Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Uppal, Hyderabad - India1570.892140.1
Sabina Park, Jamaica - West Indies1451.503217.9
Sardar Patel (Gujarat) Stadium, Motera, Ahmedabad - India1310.852111.6
Seddon Park, Hamilton - New Zealand2421.362329.6
Sharjah Cricket Stadium - U.A.E.1920.859165
Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi - U.A.E.260.81821.3
Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur, Dhaka - Bangladesh620.93357.8
Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua - West Indies190.7714.6
St George's Park, Port Elizabeth - South Africa151.05115.8
University Oval, Dunedin - New Zealand350.82128.7
Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Jamtha, Nagpur - India80.9747.8
Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chittagong - Bangladesh1880.788148.2

Williamson's average is currently 45.97. His modified average is 47.73.

Final table

NameAverageModified average

After doing this analysis it seems that Crowe and Turner are still ahead of Williamson. However, he's catching them quickly.

Once I started doing this for these batsmen, I started to wonder what would happen if we did this for all the greats. To help with that I did a quick crowd-source on twitter by asking people who they thought the 5 greatest batsmen ever were. In my next post on this topic, I'll look at how the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sir Donald Bradman, WG Grace, Bruce Mitchell and Sir Vivian Richards stack up, once this modification is made. Check back here to see the results of the survey and also the batsmen's numbers.


  1. Clearly it's not just Williamson who's in form. Well done.

  2. Nice. You should probably normalise local averages by opposition/NZ batsmen as well. Overseas averages are more or less covered by the opponent being fixed, although you should probably limit it to tourists, not locals, which will bias the sample. Similarly, the strength of other NZ batsmen (and bowlers) of the period will bias the average at NZ grounds. It may only make a handful of points difference, but there is only a handful of points difference anyway. For something similar, see:

    1. I thought of that, but it does make things quite difficult. The reason I didn't go with that was in part because I wanted something that was relatively simple. Also, the strength of the NZ sides does make a difference, but they will only be roughly 5/11 of the innings that are counted at those grounds. The difference that they make will be very small, and while that will count against Crowe and Wiliamson (having Coney, Wright, Jones and Taylor, McCullum, Watling respectively) good batsmen bring out the best in the batsmen they are playing with, so there needs to be a benefit for that.