Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 – a Ratings year in review

As the old year comes to a close, it is time to reflect on the Ratings year and who were the biggest movers and shakers.

Five batsmen managed to achieve Test batting Ratings of more than 900 points over the course of the year: Mike Hussey, Jacques Kallis, Kumar Sangakkara, Ricky Ponting and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. In contrast, Muttiah Muralitharan was the only bowler to break the 900 barrier in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings in the twelve months of 2008. Dale Steyn narrowly missed out, peaking at 897 in April.

Virender Sehwag played the two highest-rated innings by the Ratings computer over the year – his undefeated 201 against Sri Lanka at Galle is rated as the third-greatest innings of all time, and his Indian-record 319 against a formidable South African attack at Chennai rated second-best of 2008. AB de Villiers’s undefeated 217 at Ahmedabad, Chris Gayle’s match-saving 197 against New Zealand at Napier and Simon Katich’s undefeated 131 against New Zealand at Brisbane round up the top five.

Jason Krejza’s debut performance of twelve for 358 was the best match performance of the year. Perennial number one Muttiah Muralitharan rated second for his eleven wickets against India at Colombo. Dale Steyn’s match-winning haul in the Boxing Day Test, Mitchell Johnson’s eleven wickets at Perth, and Harbhajan Singh’s ten-wicket haul against Sri Lanka at Galle complete this top five.

In the shorter format of the game, only two batsmen crossed the 800-point barrier during the course of the year. Ricky Ponting peaked at 822 back in February, and Indian skipper MS Dhoni reached 803 in August during the series with Sri Lanka. In terms of bowlers, the only man to crack 800 was Shaun Pollock, who reached 899 points during the home series with the West Indies before retiring. Daniel Vettori and Nathan Bracken were the only other bowlers to achieve a Rating of 750 or more over the course of the year.

Adam Gilchrist played the highest-rated One Day International innings of the year with his 118 against Sri Lanka at Perth back in February before retiring a month later. Yuvraj Singh’s whirlwind undefeated 138 from just 78 deliveries against England at Rajkot was rated just behind. Rounding off the top five were Sachin Tendulkar’s 117 not out against Australia at Sydney, Sanath Jayasuriya’s 125 against India at Karachi and Kumar Sangakkara’s 128 against the Australians at Adelaide.

Stuart Broad’s match-winning five for 23 against South Africa at Trent Bridge was the bowling performance of the year as rated by the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Ranking computer. Next up was Sri Lankan wonderkid Ajantha Mendis’s six for 13 against India at Karachi. Zaheer Khan managed two of the best five bowling performances of the year – both achieved in a five-day stretch against the Sri Lankans – four for 21 at Dambulla and then three for 23 at the Premadasa. Shaun Pollock’s two for 13 against the West Indians at Cape Town enabled him to end his ODI career on top.

In terms of all-rounders, no-one could touch Jacques Kallis at the top of the Test rankings as he maintained the number one position he has held unbroken since May 2006. However, six men shared the ODI number one spot for all-rounders: Shaun Pollock, Sanath Jayasuriya, Andrew Flintoff, Jacob Oram, Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Pantheon of Batting Greats

And so Shiv Chanderpaul takes his place among the elites of the game as his Batting Rating has reached the elusive 900-point level, after maintaining an average of 104.78 over his thirteen Tests in 2007 and 2008.

He is the 25th batsman to reach 900 points in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen and the record seventh from the West Indies. We know that Donald Bradman achieved the highest-ever Rating for batsmen at an astronomical 961 after scoring 715 runs at an average of 178.75 in the 1947/48 series with India, but here are some other little-known facts about the members of the 900-point club:

Bradman is the only player to have spent more than half his career above 900 points ending 28 of his 52 Tests at that level. Here are the top five in terms of the proportion of their entire career they have spent at or above 900 points:



Donald Bradman


Peter May


Garry Sobers


Len Hutton


Jack Hobbs


Among current players, Mike Hussey leads the way with five of his 32 Tests spent at this level - 16%.

In terms of the number of matches spent at this level, here is one batting table that Bradman does not lead. He has to be content with second place to Garry Sobers, with Ricky Ponting – now at his lowest Rating for six years – rounding off the top five:



Garry Sobers


Donald Bradman


Len Hutton


Peter May


Ricky Ponting


The fastest to reach this level was George Headley, who took only nineteen matches. There is a tight bunch of players who took slightly longer – here are the top five:



George Headley


Jack Hobbs


Mike Hussey


Viv Richards


Graeme Pollock


To prove that all things do sometimes come to those who wait, Chanderpaul actually took longer than any other player to reach 900 Batting points, finally achieving the milestone after his 114th Test. Jacques Kallis was the previous record-holder having taken 110 Tests to reach his landmark point level.

The lowest career batting average of the twenty-five players who have reached this level of batting immortality belongs to Peter May, who averaged ‘just’ 46.77 in his career of 66 Tests for England.

In total, the twenty-five batsmen have so far played 1911 Test Matches between them, scoring 159,481 runs at an average of 54.64 with 503 centuries. For good measure, they have also taken a total of 661 Test wickets, helped in no small part by 248 from Jacques Kallis and 235 from Garry Sobers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Taking their sweaters at the top of the tree

By contrast to the mere two batsmen who have taken their leave from the Test arena at the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings pile, a total of sixteen bowlers have managed it. Most of them achieved the feat in the early years of Test cricket when a variety of factors led to them not playing again. For example, the First World War curtailed the career of Sydney Barnes at the age of forty when he had reached the highest-ever Rating of 932 following his fourteen wickets at Durban.

Another of the early all-time greats also ended his career on top. Frederick Spofforth – now immortalised as the ‘Demon’ - was arguably the finest Australian bowler of the nineteenth century and took 94 wickets from just eighteen matches. Ironically his Test career ended when he moved to England in 1888 and subsequently made his fortune as a tea merchant at a time when there wasn’t a great deal of money to be made, even as the finest bowler in the world.

Dale Steyn is currently just three balls per wicket worse than George Lohmann’s Test record strike rate of 34, but no-one will ever better the Surrey man’s extraordinary bowling average of just 10.75. However, after ending the Lord’s Test of 1896 with 928 points, his demand for twice the 10-pound-per-match match fee was rejected. This pay dispute and his deteriorating health meant that he never played for England again, and he died of tuberculosis just five years later.

In the past forty years there have only been two names added to this list. The first was Sir Richard Hadlee who brought his career to an end in England in 1990 with a knighthood and a wicket with his final delivery in Test cricket – trapping Devon Malcolm leg before wicket at Edgbaston to complete his 36th five-wicket hall. Hadlee’s feat emulated Australian Hugh Trumble, who not only took a wicket with his final ball as a Test cricketer, but also a hat-trick to bowl Australia to victory over England at the M.C.G. in March 1904, to also end his career on the top of the tree.

Malcolm Marshall first topped the Bowling Rankings at the end of 1984 and he traded places with Hadlee for the top spot for the next seven years. When he finally called time on his own career at the end of another dominating West Indian performance in England, he was able to hand over the number one spot to a worthy successor – team-mate Curtly Ambrose.

However, perhaps the most remarkable coincidence concerns two Australians whose careers ran parallel for so many years – Clarrie Grimmett and Bill O’Reilly. Both ended their careers top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers with an identical 901 points.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Leaving on a batting high

Donald Bradman’s final Test innings constitutes one of the greatest stories in cricket folklore, despite the fact that it only lasted two deliveries. As far as his Reliance Mobile ICC Player Ranking was concerned, it dropped him a mere three points from 957 to 954, but his batting average dropped far more significantly from 101.39 to its final resting place of 99.94.

Despite that disappointment, Bradman ended his career at the top of the Batting tree – the same position he had occupied since he dislodged Herbert Sutcliffe from the number one spot in January 1933 – 61 points ahead of Denis Compton in second place. However, another noteworthy achievement was the fact that Bradman ended his Test career ranked top, a feat matched by only one other man in the history of Test cricket.

It is someone equally remarkable who shares this distinction with the greatest batsman who ever lived – Colonel The Honourable Sir Francis Stanley Jackson.

During his time at Harrow School his fag was fellow parliamentarian and future Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and he made his England debut in 1893 while he was still studying at Trinity College, Cambridge. He scored 91 against the Australians at Lord’s and in his next Test later that summer at The Oval, he made 103. He was unable to tour abroad as the months away would have come in the way of his business commitments and so all twenty of his Tests were played on home soil.

The epitome of the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of cricket, it was in 1905 when Jackson was really at the peak of his powers. He won the toss in all five Test Matches against the Australians and scored more runs than any other player on either side with 492 including two centuries and two fifties, topping the averages with 70.28. Not content with that, he also topped the bowling averages with thirteen wickets at an average of just 15.46. Unsurprisingly, England won the series 2-0 and had much the better of the other three drawn games.

He was elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament in 1915, representing Howdenshire in Yorkshire until resigning in 1926. He served as Financial Secretary to the War Office 1922-23 and in 1927 he was appointed Governor of Bengal. In 1932, he was shot at close range by a girl student named Bina Das in Calcutta University, but escaped unhurt. He later served as chairman of the Test Match Selection Committee, and in 1943 presided over the special committee appointed by M.C.C. to consider Post-war Cricket.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The South African all-rounder syndrome

The good thing about being an all-rounder is that if you are struggling with one aspect of your game, you can always fall back on the other to maintain your place in the side. Take Jacques Kallis for example: he averages just 13.60 with the bat in his last five Tests but has taken 14 wickets at 24.64. Kallis is a special case – he has been rated the world’s top all-rounder for all but eleven weeks of the last seven years – a run only broken by Chris Cairns in 2002 and Andrew Flintoff in 2005 and 2006.

South Africa returned to the international cricket fray on 10 November 1991 when they played India in front of a capacity crowd at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Since then, there have been a total of 2097 One Day Internationals played, and the Proteas have dominated the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI all-rounders to a massive degree:


ODIs at #1

South Africa






West Indies


Sri Lanka




New Zealand




At first glance, you might think that this might be just down to one outstanding individual. However, in the past sixteen and a half years, no fewer than four South Africans have topped the table, all leading for extended periods of time. Jacques Kallis has been top for 439 matches, Shaun Pollock 331, Hansie Cronje 249, and Lance Klusener 195.

In the Test arena, the South African dominance is even more striking. There have been 707 Test Matches played since South Africa’s return against the West Indies at Bridgetown in early 1992, and only eight different men have topped the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test all-rounders over that time. However, the three longest stints have all belonged to players from the rainbow nation – Jacques Kallis (328 matches), Brian McMillan (110) and Shaun Pollock (104).


Tests at #1

South Africa




New Zealand








But what is it about South Africa that keeps producing these world-class all-rounders? Could it be the climate or maybe even the wine? Australia dominated world cricket in both formats of the game over this time period but were without a world-class all-rounder who could both bat and bowl (it could be argued that Adam Gilchrist should be classed as an all-rounder). The only Aussies to have topped the table over this period were the Waugh brothers, but even they would freely admit that they were both batsmen who bowled rather than true all-rounders.

On a final note, perhaps it is unsurprising to discover that the only man to have topped both the Test batting and bowling Rankings is a South African. You need to go back to the early years of the century to find him, but Aubrey Faulkner displaced Jack Hobbs from top place in the batting table for the whole of 1911. Subsequently, when Test cricket resumed after the First World War, Faulkner replaced the now-retired Sydney Barnes as the top rated bowler. With the break in play for nearly seven years due to the fighting, the South African was the top rated all-rounder for an unbroken spell of eleven and a half years, which has only ever been surpassed by Garry Sobers from 1962 to 1974.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Always the bridesmaids

And so Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly take their leave from the Test arena after two fantastic careers. One of them departs with more than six hundred wickets and the other with over seven thousand runs. However, despite these two being considered among the greats of the game, they share another trait – neither of them managed to reach number one in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test cricket.

Kumble can consider himself the more unlucky of the two. His peak in terms of points came relatively early in his career when he reached 859 after helping to bowl India to an innings victory against Sri Lanka on his home ground at Bangalore in January 1994. However, that was only good enough for fourth place as Waqar Younis, Curtly Ambrose and Shane Warne were all near the peak of their powers. The following year he managed to make it all the way to number two, but again found himself behind the West Indian giant.

For Ganguly, his Test career has been steady rather than spectacular. His highest-ever Rating of 713 which he achieved to reach eighth place in late 1999, doesn’t even place him in the top ten Indians of all time. But – as befits a player whose career average never fell below forty, he was a picture of consistency, never dropping out of the world’s top fifty from his debut to his final curtain call at Nagpur. Kumble can at least console himself that in the shorter form of the game, he did reach the top of the pile. He was number one for a period of eleven matches – back in 1996 – a year in which he took 61 wickets in 32 One Day Internationals.

But poor old Sourav doesn’t even have that as a consolation prize. Despite scoring more than eleven thousand ODI runs, he never managed to achieve the elusive number one spot. But even with that mountain of runs, he is still not the player who managed to score the most runs in One Day International cricket without reaching the top. That ‘honour’ goes to Inzamam-ul-Haq who scored 11,739 runs peaking at number three in 1995.

So – who are the other unlucky players who have scored the most runs and taken the most wickets without reaching the number one spot in the Rankings?

The top twelve Test run-scorers have all made it to number one at some point or other, which leaves Alec Stewart – with 8,463 Test runs, as the leading run-scorer without that particular claim to fame. Next come Geoff Boycott and Mark Waugh, with Mahela Jayawardena the leading current player in fourth place in this particular list with 7,757.

Kumble is the bowler with the most Test wickets never to have made it to the top of the Test bowling tree, but he is followed by two former holders of the world Test wickets record – Courtney Walsh and Kumble’s former team-mate Kapil Dev. The leading current bowlers are Makhaya Ntini who has 358, followed by Chaminda Vaas on 348.

In One Day cricket, despite taking 416 wickets and terrorising opposition batsmen with his yorkers, Waqar Younis never managed to reach number one. For a lot of his career that top spot was taken by his partner in crime Wasim Akram, but Waqar can be content with the fact that he did make it to the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test cricket.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cricketing ‘cups of coffee’

A ‘cup of coffee’ is North American sports terminology for a short time spent by a minor league player at the major league level. The idea behind the term is that the player was only in the big leagues long enough to have a cup of coffee before being returned to the minors

Test Cricket history is littered with players who have represented their country just once. These players range from West Indian Andy Ganteaume who scored 112 in his only innings, to Gavin Hamilton who is one of the nine unfortunate players to have made a pair on their only Test appearance.

So – if we know that there are 382 players who have represented their country once in Tests and a further 169 who have played just one ODI, what about those players who made a name for themselves – albeit a fleeting one – at the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings?

In Test cricket three batsmen have topped the charts for just one match. The first was Australian Percy McDonnell, whose fifteen minutes of fame came way back in 1882 when he topped the batting table with a Rating of 472. The next was South African Herbie Taylor who sneaked above Jack Hobbs for one match in February 1923. The third man was West Indies stalwart Rohan Kanhai, who was the only man to break the Garry Sobers / Ken Barrington domination from 1960 to 1969 by edging ahead in January 1966 after Barrington failed at Sydney. However, with 60 and 102 in his next Test, the England batsmen nudged Kanhai back down to number 2.

Interestingly, there are a total of fifteen bowlers who have held the number one spot for just one Test Match in their careers, and some of the all-time greats are among them. Richie Benaud – one of the great leg-spinners - upset the Laker & Lock double-act in February 1959. John Snow was England’s fast-bowling hero of the 1960s and 1970s and ended with 202 Test wickets, but he only reached number one once – during the 1972 Ashes series. Wasim Akram – who took 414 Test wickets – only peaked at the top once – and then albeit joint top with Curtly Ambrose – in December 1997.

The other bowlers to have achieved the feat are: Alfred Shaw (1877), Tom Kendall (1877), Billy Bates (1887), Billy Barnes (1888), Charlie Turner (1892), Tom Richardson (1898), Monty Noble (1902), Jack Saunders (1908), Tibby Cotter (1910), Tich Freeman (1929), Bill Bowes (1946) and Dale Steyn (2008).

In the shorter form of the game, only two men have topped the charts for a solitary match. The first was John Edrich, whose innings of 82 in the first ODI of all enabled him to be top. The other was Mohammad Yousuf, who took Michael Bevan’s place at the top of the tree in October 2003, before a duck in the next match saw the Australian regain top spot.

Finally, in a stark contrast to the Test bowling, only one man has been top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI bowlers for just one match, and for that we need to go back to the first ODI played. Keith Stackpole took three for 40 in that first match at Melbourne to have a bowling Rating of 141 – enough for first place.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A swing to the left?

A quick glance at the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test cricket shows that Shivnarine Chanderpaul leads the way – albeit narrowly – from Kumar Sangakkara and Michael Hussey. Other than appearing in the current top three of the World Batting Ratings, these batsmen share another characteristic – they are all left-handed.

In fact, there are a total of eleven left-handers in the top thirty batsmen which equates to nearly 37%. If we examine the top thirty in the Rankings at ten-year intervals and analyse how many are right-handed and how many are left-handed, over the past sixty years we obtain the following figures:

Date RH bat LH bat Leftie % RH bowl LH bowl Leftie %
Oct 2008 19 11 36.7 23 7 23.3
Oct 1998 19 11 36.7 24 6 20.0
Oct 1988 23 7 23.3 24 6 20.0
Oct 1978 23 7 23.3 23 7 23.3
Oct 1968 22 8 26.7 21 9 30.0
Oct 1958 24 6 20.0 22 8 26.7
Oct 1948 27 3 10.0 26 4 13.3

Whereas there has been an increase in the proportion of left-handed batsmen playing Test cricket over time, the percentage of left-handed bowlers over time has stayed pretty constant.

In all Test cricket since the Second World War – which equates to the majority of the playing time incorporated in the figures above – left-handed batsmen have had a clear advantage. They average 34.61 whereas their right-handed counterparts average 29.15. Furthermore, 6.1% of all innings played by left-handers over that period of time result in centuries, compared to just 4.6% by right-handers.

So – why the increase in left-handed batsmen performing at the highest level? One possible reason is that having a left-hander and right-hander batting together causes more problems for the bowling team. A typical left-hander would historically have spent most of their time batting in a left-hand / right-hand partnership, whereas right-handers would spend a greater proportion of their time batting with another right-hander.

Of the sixteen batting partnerships who have added the most runs together in Test history, four are all right-handed, one is all left-handed and the remaining eleven all feature one left-hander and one right-hander.

One other possibility is that the natural line of attack for a right-arm over the wicket bowler would make it more difficult for them to achieve LBW decisions against left-hand batsmen, given that a ball which would have hit the stumps will often have pitched outside leg-stump. Without a similar increase in left-handed bowlers utilising their angle of attack to claim more left-handers leg-before, the left-handed batsmen enjoy their slight advantage.

Over the same period, left-arm bowlers average 33.49 runs per wicket with a strike rate of a wicket every 80 deliveries. Their right-arm team-mates average 31.77 with a strike rate of 70, a difference which surely cannot be put down solely to the fact that there have been more right-hand batsmen for their fellow right-hand bowlers to dismiss lbw. So, if any youngsters are reading this and want to reach the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings at some point in the future, it may just be worth your while to train yourself to bat left-handed and bowl with your other arm.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Where have all the great ODI batsmen gone?

There is little doubt that we are currently in the middle of a golden era of Test Match batting, with five batsmen from four different countries all fighting it out for the top spot in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings. In fact, seven of the top ten current batsmen have reached the magical plateau of 900 points, a level achieved by only twenty-four batsmen in the history of the Test game.

In Test cricket, eight batsmen have reached 900 points in Test cricket since 2000. However, in the shorter form of the game, Michael Bevan's Rating of 880 achieved way back in February 2000 is the highest points total achieved by anyone playing One Day International Cricket over the same time period.

Of other batsmen, only Mike Hussey and Matthew Hayden have even reached 850 over the same period of time.

We can further analyse the Test high-achievers by examining how many matches they have each spent above the 900 point mark since 2000:

Ricky Ponting 17
Kumar Sangakkara 6
Jacques Kallis 6
Mohammad Yousuf 6
Mike Hussey 5
Matthew Hayden 4
Brian Lara 3
Kevin Pietersen 1

That makes a total of 48 matches spent in "world class" territory since the turn of the millennium. Contrast that with a grand total of zero matches spent at the same high level by any of the One Day International players and it appears that the Test batsmen are currently achieving greater things than their ODI counterparts. In fact, the last batsman to achieve 900 points in One Day International cricket was Brian Lara in January 1997.

However - it hasn't always been that way. Contrast this current state of affairs with the 1980s. In that decade, only two batsmen managed to reach the 900 point mark in Test cricket - Sunil Gavaskar and Viv Richards. However, in One Day cricket, roles were reversed with six batsmen achieving the feat - Richards, Zaheer Abbas, Greg Chappell. David Gower, Javed Miandad and Desmond Haynes. Which begs the question - why the apparent decline in ODI Batting Ratings since then, given the proliferation of One Day cricket played nowadays in comparison with yesteryear? 516 ODIs were played in the 1980s whereas the 2000s have already seen 1234 matches played.

One possible example is that with the increase in scoring rates from 73.1 in the 1980s to the current level of 81.1 in the 2000s, outstanding batting achievements stood out more in the past. Viv Richards had a strike rate in ODI cricket of 90, which compares exceedingly well with any of the greats playing ODI cricket nowadays, but given his last appearance was back in 1991, it stood out even more given the reduced strike rate in all ODI matches during his career. In Richards case, the difference worked out at over one run per over over the course of his career.

Nowadays, it needs the same sustained level of excellence to reach 900 points in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for One Day International cricket, but with a hectic One-Day schedule worldwide, it is that much more difficult to stand out from your peers over such a greatly increased number of matches.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A tribute to the 'big four'

As the Indian ‘big four’ near the end of their Test careers, what can the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings tell us about their contributions to world cricket over the past decade or more?

In the record 76 Tests they have played together in the middle-order, they have totalled more than twenty-one thousand runs with forty-seven centuries. However, Rankings-wise, it could be argued that only two of the four realised their full potential.

One way of comparing the four greats is to calculate their ‘average’ Rating over their careers. However, only when a batsman has played forty Test innings can he obtain a full Rating. Here are the average Ratings of the ‘big four’ since they have achieved their full Ratings – in other words – since they have fully established themselves in the Indian team.

PlayerAverage Rating
Rahul Dravid791
Sachin Tendulkar783
VVS Laxman659
Sourav Ganguly592

This gives a ‘Total average Rating’ of 2825 points. We can take it one stage further and analyse at what point the Ratings of the four batsmen totalled the most points. After the Sydney Test of January 2004 when India declared at 705 for seven, the four batsmen had a combined total of 2992 Rating points distributed as follows:

Rahul Dravid833
Sachin Tendulkar781
VVS Laxman753
Sourav Ganguly575

For such a potent batting line-up, it is perhaps surprising that only once have all four featured in the top twenty of the world’s batting at the same time and that occurred earlier this year. After the Sydney Test against Australia in January, they were all tightly bunched together from Tendulkar in thirteenth to Laxman in eighteenth.

Sunil Gavaskar remains the only Indian among the 24 batsmen to have reached the magical 900-point mark in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings, with both Tendulkar and Dravid topping out in the 890s. Back in February 1999, both had Ratings of over 850 with just Steve Waugh preventing an Indian one-two.

It is perhaps Sourav Ganguly who lets the side down a little. In his 76 matches with the others he averages 34.56 with just four centuries. This is reflected in the fact that his highest career Rating was ‘just’ 713 which placed him eighth back in December 1999.

Eighth is also the highest place achieved so far by Laxman – not surprisingly soon after his monumental 281 against Australia at Kolkata in 2001, although he did reach a peak of 753 points three years later after scoring 178 at Sydney.

As good a batting line-up as this Indian one has been over the past decade, in early 2002 the Australians had all their top seven in the top twenty batsmen, surely the greatest display of combined batting strength ever assembled in Test history:

Matthew Hayden872
Adam Gilchrist864
Damien Martyn805
Steve Waugh778
Justin Langer768
Mark Waugh690
Ricky Ponting657

Monday, September 1, 2008

A countdown of the top ten one day international bowling performances

Stuart Broad ripped the heart out of the South African batting at Trent Bridge with sensational figures of five for 23 in his ten overs to set up a comprehensive ten-wicket triumph for England. So - having examined the top Test innings, how about giving One-day bowlers their due.

It is always more tricky to compare ODI bowling efforts - for instance - how does five for 50 in ten overs compare with none for 20 in the same ten overs. With the help of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings computer, we can obtain some answers. So - here is a countdown of the top ten One Day international bowling performances

10=Farveez MaharoofSL9-2-14-6v WIMumbai14/10/2006

Taking advantage of the Brabourne's pitch and some woeful choices of strokes, he cut a swathe through the must-vaunted West Indian batting line-up to rout them for just 80 and set up a nine-wicket triumph.

10=Andrew BichelAUS10-0-20-7v ENGPort Elizabeth02/03/2003

This was a must-win game for Australia and Bichel's figures stood out like a sore thumb as his colleagues took one for 181 in their forty overs. Not satisfied with that, he then starred made an unbeaten 34 as Australia scraped home by two wickets with two balls to spare.

9Terry AldermanAUS10-2-17-5v NZWellington20/02/1982

Better known for his Test exploits, Alderman certainly had his days in the shorter form of the game. New Zealand collapsed to the Aussie pace attack at the Basin Reserve for just 74, with Alderman the pick of the bunch with five top order wickets.

8Stuart BroadENG10-3-23-5v SANottingham26/08/2008

A new entry to the top ten, Broad was helped by four catches by keeper Matt Prior as South Africa were bundled out in just 23 overs - the shortest all-out innings in their ODI history. He removed five of the top seven batsmen as England won with more than 35 overs to spare.

7Mike HendrickENG12-6-15-4v PAKLeeds16/06/1979

With a career ODI economy rate of 3.27, Hendrick could certainly bowl a metronomic line and length. With England defending just 165 in this World Cup match, he reduced Pakistan to 34 for six to send England into the semi-finals.

6Farveez MaharoofSL10-5-9-3v WIDambulla02/08/2005

A second entry for Maharoof, who certainly seems to enjoy bowling against the West Indies. This time his miserly new-ball spell set up a fifty-run victory for Sri Lanka as the tourists never recovered from a number of early setbacks which saw them slump to 39 for five.

5Chaminda VaasSL9.3-1-14-5v INDSharjah29/10/2000

Somewhat overshadowed by team-mate Sanath Jayasuriya's innings of 189 which helped set India a daunting target of 300, Vaas set about them immediately with four wickets in his first five overs to hasten them towards their lowest ever ODI total of just 54.

4Glenn McGrathAUS10-4-8-4v INDSydney14/01/2000

Having won the toss and decided to bat, India would soon be ruing that fact as the King of line-and-length bowled an astonishingly accurate spell removing the big top three of Ganguly, Tendulkar and Laxman before twenty had been posted on the board.

3Sunil JoshiIND10-6-6-5v SANairobi26/09/1999

Ironically the only spinner on the list, and who would have picked him? Bowling first-change, he spun a web around the South Africans who were powerless to hit him of the square. They subsided to a mere 117 all out and defeat by eight wickets.

2Phil SimmonsWI10-8-3-4v PAKSydney17/12/1992

Given the new ball ahead of Patrick Patterson and Kenny Benjamin, Simmons did not disappoint as he bowled what is still the most economical ten-over spell in ODI history. Pakistan were only chasing 215, but found Simmons irresistible under the Sydney lights.

1Gary GilmourAUS12-6-14-6v ENGLeeds18/06/1975

In just the 31st ODI ever played, left-armer Gilmour bowled Australia into the World Cup final with an astonishing spell. England's first six wickets fell for just 36 - all to Gilmour - as they were all out for 93.

So - no Wasim Akram, no Murali, no Waqar Younis and no Shaun Pollock, but can anyone honestly argue with any of the above?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Players who have made great impressions in their first few Tests

Ajantha Mendis has been making all the headlines in the recent Tests in Sri Lanka. In his first Test series, he took an incredible 26 wickets – a record for a debut three-match series – and now stands thirtieth in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for bowlers with 515 points.

Throughout Test history, numerous players have made great impressions in their first few Tests and cashed in on their novelty value, but how does Mendis’ first few Tests compare with others who have burst upon the scene? And – furthermore – which of these players have managed to sustain their initial excellence over the course of a long career rather than being flashes in the pan?

1871 men have played three or more Tests and there is a surprising name at the top of the list of highest Ratings achieved after three Tests. In 1975, a bespectacled, grey-haired middle order batsman was picked for England to face Lillee and Thomson at their fiercest. David Steele promptly lived up to his name and scored four fifties to achieve a Rating of 550 – good enough for 26th place.

He is the only batsman to break the 550 point barrier after three Tests – the next two best hark back to cricket’s ‘Golden Age’. The Indian Prince Ranji made two scores of more than 150 in his first three Tests for England to achieve 548 points. Also level on 548 points is Australian Frank Iredale, who opposed Ranji in nine Tests in the 1890s. Further down the top ten come Michael Clarke (546), Sunil Gavaskar (541) and George Headley (535). Javed Miandad – who scored a record 504 runs in his first three Tests rated at 519.

Three classic one-series wonders feature in the top ranks of the leading bowlers after three Tests. Top of the pile is the mercurial leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani, who took 31 wickets in his first three Tests, but only another thirty-five in his last fourteen. However, his Rating of 564 is the highest ever so early in a career. Rodney Hogg burst upon the scene with 27 English wickets in December 1978 to reach 549 points, and fellow Australian Bob Massie reached 484 points in 1972 helped by his tour de force at Lord’s.

Two all-time greats who have both held the Test wicket record started as they meant to carry on. Alec Bedser who retired with 236 wickets, took 24 in his first three Tests for a Rating of 511, but nudging just ahead was fellow Englishman Fred Trueman. His first three Tests saw him take 24 wickets of his own, but his Rating reached 513.

So – how does Mendis compare? With a Reliance Mobile ICC Player Ranking of 515, he is currently the fifth highest-rated bowler after three Tests. He will be hoping for a better prospect than the other man who also took 26 wickets in his first three matches – Herbert Hordern of Australia. He only played another four Tests and ended his career with 46 wickets.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The greatest innings of all-time

As soon as the ink was dry on last week’s column extolling the virtues of Virender Sehwag, he not only played another astonishing innings, but one that rated higher than his other two mentioned last week. And so, to answer all the requests, here is the definitive list of the top ten innings of all time - in reverse order - as rated by the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings computer.

10 - Virender Sehwag, IND, 319 v SA, Chennai, 26/03/2008

The second triple-century of his career, this may have come on a featherbed Chennai pitch, but it was against the same attack who bowled South Africa to a series win over England this summer - Steyn, Ntini, Morkel, Kallis and Harris

9 - Len Hutton, ENG, 364 v AUS, The Oval, 20/08/1938

He broke Bradman’s Ashes record of 334 and Walter Hammond’s Test record of 336 not out, while leading England to victory by an innings and 579 runs. He also had to face 85 overs from the bowler the Don rated the greatest - Bill O’Reilly.

8 - Virender Sehwag, IND, 306 v PAK, Multan, 28/03/2004

Pressure? What pressure! Batting against his side’s fiercest rivals, he brought up India’s first Test triple-century with a six, and the match was won by an innings.

7 - Brian Lara, WI, 213 v AUS, Kingston, 13/03/1999

The first of two mind-blowing innings in the same series from Lara as he lifted his side to a first-innings lead and eventual ten-wicket victory against the might of the Australians and McGrath, Gillespie, Warne and MacGill at the peak of their powers.

6 - Len Hutton, ENG, 202* v WI, The Oval, 12/08/1950

Until last week, England’s first-innings total of 344 was the lowest in Test to include an individual double-century. Hutton carried his bat right through it, but was powerless to prevent an innings defeat as those two little pals of mine - Ramadhin and Valentine caused havoc.

5 - Bill Ponsford, AUS, 266 v ENG, The Oval, 18/08/1934

It was not a bad effort to outscore Bradman, but that is what Ponsford did - if only by 22 runs in an Ashes-clinching partnership of 451. Australia piled up 701 for a mammoth 562-run triumph and England wouldn’t see The Ashes for another nineteen years.

4 - Don Bradman, AUS, 270 v ENG, Melbourne, 01/01/1937

Caught on a vicious "sticky" wicket, Bradman opened the batting with his tail-enders and batted at number seven. Coming in at 97 for five, his innings is still the highest-ever at that position. O’Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith did the rest.

3 - Virender Sehwag, IND, 201* v SL, Galle, 31/07/2008

Where to start? He carried his bat, scoring over 60% of his side’s runs against two men with more than a thousand Test wickets, not to mention wonderkid Ajantha Mendis. Only two other batsmen reached double figures as his innings was the difference between the sides.

2 - Don Bradman, AUS, 299* v SA, Adelaide, 29/01/1932

Ian Bell was gutted to have been dismissed on 199, but how would Bradman have felt to have been stranded on 299 when last man Pud Thurlow was run out? He added over two hundred runs for the last five wickets which helped Australia to a ten-wicket triumph.

1 - Garry Sobers, WI, 365* v PAK, Kingston, 26/02/1958

I know what you’re saying. 'What about Gooch?", "What about Botham?", "What about Laxman?". Well - how about setting a World Test record against two of the top ten Rated bowlers at the time and leading your team to an innings victory? All that at the age of 21.

Apologies to Messrs Gooch, Laxman and Botham, who didn’t quite make it, but now all that remains to be said is "let the debates begin".

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What is the greatest innings this century so far?

Ashwell Prince and AB de VIlliers both played excellent innings at Headingley. As did the four Sri Lankans who all scored centuries in their one-sided match with India at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo. But how do those innings compare with the all-time great innings? Using the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings, it is possible to compare these innings and see how they fit into the top innings played since 2000.

Each innings that a batsman plays is rated using certain criteria. The fundamental starting point is the number of runs scored, but this is then adjusted depending on a number of other factors, such as the strength of the opposition bowling attack, the level of run-scoring in the match and the result of the match.

As a result of these adjustments, none of these innings actually feature all that prominently in the top ten recent innings. This is partly due to the fact that they were all scored in relatively high totals by their teams against medium-strength bowling attacks. In fact de Villiers's innings of 174 - after all the complex adjustments - rates as precisely - 174!

So - if these are not great innings, which are?

Two of the top ten rated innings of all time since Test cricket started way back in 1877 have been played this decade according to the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings. Astonishingly - they were both played by the same man - Virender Sehwag of India.

His innings of 309 at Multan in March 2004 comes out top in this decade. Coming as it did against a Pakistan attack including Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq, it took India to victory by an innings and 52 runs. Not to be outdone, his innings of 319 at Chennai earlier this year is only just behind. On that occasion, the opposing South African attack was exactly the same as the one who bundled out England twice relatively easily at Leeds this past week.

So - as good an innings as de Villiers played, it only rates as the 155th 'best' innings since 2000. Here are the top ten rated innings in Test cricket since 2000 - what is it about batting in March?

1V.SehwagIND309vPAKMultan28 Mar 2004
2V.SehwagIND319vSAChennai26 Mar 2008
3D.P.M.D. JayawardenaSL374vSAColombo27 Jul 2006
4Younis KhanPAK267vINDBangalore24 Mar 2005
5V.V.S.LaxmanIND281vAUSKolkata11 Mar 2001
6K.C.SangakkaraSL232vSAColombo11 Aug 2004
7B.C.LaraWI400*vENGSt John's10 Apr 2004
8S.T.JayasuriyaSL253vPAKFaisalabad20 Oct 2004
9Inzamam-ul-HaqPAK329vNZLahore01 May 2002
10M.L.HaydenAUS380vZIMPerth09 Oct 2003

Thursday, July 24, 2008

At what age do most Test cricketers reach their peaks?

After the Lord's Test, batsmen Ian Bell and Neil McKenzie both reached their highest-ever Ratings, as did bowlers Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson. This begged the question - at what age do most Test cricketers reach their peaks, and is there a way of calculating this?

2518 men have played Test cricket so far, and without doubt, the best measure of current form and peak performance are the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings.

529 different players have achieved a peak Batting Rating of at least 450. These range from Don Bradman who reached 961 in February 1948 to Arthur Richardson, Graham Roope, Nick Knight, Roger Twose and Rob Key who topped out at 450. The next stage was to examine the average age of these players when they reached their peak Rating. For all 529 batsmen, the average age was 29 years 9 months. WG Grace was the oldest at 45 and Madhav Apte the youngest at just 20.

For Test bowlers, 433 bowlers have achieved a peak Rating of at least 400 from the great Sydney Barnes at 932 to William Attewell and Peter Philpott down at 400. The average age of all of these is 29 years 8 months, remarkably similar to the batsmen. Nasim-ul-Ghani was the youngest at 18 and Bert Ironmonger the oldest at 51! However, it can be taken one stage further - they can be split between pace bowlers and spinners. Pacemen reach their peak Rating at an average age of 29 years 2 months, whereas spinners are somewhat older - at 30 years 6 months.

Assuming batsmen peak at age 30, here is the current crop of players aged 27-29 who should be approaching their peak in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings:

Michael Clarke (Australia)
Chris Gayle (West Indies)
Jamie How (New Zealand)
Phil Jaques (Australia)
Runako Morton (West Indies)
Kevin Pietersen (England)
Virender Sehwag (India)
Owais Shah (England)
Graeme Smith (Graeme Smith)
Michael Vandort (Sri Lanka)

Assuming fast bowlers peak at 29, here are some approaching that age, who may make big strides in the next couple of years:

Dilhara Fernando (Sri Lanka)
Mark Gillespie (New Zealand)
James Franklin (New Zealand)
Mohammad Sami (Pakistan)
Chanaka Welegedara (Sri Lanka)
Shane Watson (Australia)

And finally, look out for these spinners aged 27-29 assuming they peak at 30:

Abdur Rehman (Pakistan)
Danish Kaneria (Pakistan)
Harbhajan Singh (India)
Paul Harris (South Africa)
Graeme Swann (England)
Daniel Vettori (New Zealand)