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.