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)