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