Monday, July 13, 2009

Oldies but Goodies

With apologies to those who have been waiting to discover the elder statesmen of the game who have made their mark on the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for One Day International cricket, it is a case of better late than never.

Viv Richards spent the vast majority of the 1980s on top of the ODI Batting Ratings and he also holds the distinction for having played the greatest-ever innings as calculated by the Ratings computer. His unbeaten 189 at Old Trafford has still not been bettered in the last twenty-five years which have seen a further 2,597 matches played. He first topped the charts on 23 December 1979 after his unbeaten 85 from just 77 deliveries lifted the West Indies to a nine-wicket victory over England at Brisbane and saw him sneak above Greg Chappell. Ten years later, on 19 October 1989 his very un-Richards-like innings of 24 from 48 deliveries against Sri Lanka at Rajkot saw him overtaken for the last time by Javed Miandad. However, Richards was aged 37 years and 226 days, still the greatest age at which anyone has been the number one batsman in the shorter format of the game.

With the ball, it is another of the greats of the 1980s who holds the record for being the oldest bowler to look down on the rest of the world. Richard Hadlee ended his glorious career in 1990 with a knighthood and the record number of Test wickets, but it was earlier that year that he reached the ODI number one spot for the final time. On 10 March he bowled ten economical overs against Australia at Auckland to maintain his Rating of 776 from the previous match which enabled him to enjoy the final match of his 148 spent on top of the bowling tree. However, nine wicket-less overs in a heavy defeat to the Aussies the following day saw him slip below Wasim Akram and his reign at the top was over for good. Hadlee was 38 years 250 days old at the time, and no bowler – paceman or spinner – has bettered that.

In terms of all-rounders, perhaps it is not surprising which veteran holds the honour as the oldest player to top the Ratings. Imran Khan achieved many things in his career – perhaps the highlight of which was leading his Pakistan team to victory in the 1992 World Cup. But two years earlier he took his final bow as the number one all-rounder in the world at the age of 37 years 82 days after taking 1/28 in his ten overs against Sri Lanka at Hobart. In the following match against the same opposition at Adelaide, his ten overs went for 60 and fellow subcontinent legend Kapil Dev took over.

So – it appears that the age of 38 is the upper age limit to reach the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for One Day International Cricket, but a number of older players have achieved greatness in the longer format of the game. They include a 49-year old topping the batting tree and a 50-year-old who managed to be rated the number one bowler, and we will unveil them at a later date.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Who will win the Ashes – a Ratings view

With the battle for The Ashes about to get underway in Cardiff, what better way to analyse who might come out on top than to use the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings. We can compare each team piece by piece to try to ascertain which of them will end up holding the urn come the end of August by summing the total Ratings for the players in each department of the game:

Opening batsmen: England 1372, Australia 1249. Edge – England

Phillip Hughes has made an astonishing start to his Test career, and Simon Katich is enjoying a second lease of life after his disappointments of the last Ashes tour to England. However, England’s pair of Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss are about to surpass Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan as the most used opening pair in England’s Test history. Cook is just a few points short of his career-best Rating and Strauss will be looking to rediscover his 2005 form when he was the only batsman on either side to score two centuries in the Ashes series.

Middle order: England 2399, Australia 2654. Edge – Australia

The Australian middle-order consists of a legend of the game, two excellent players and an experienced newcomer. Ricky Ponting has spent 76 matches on top of the batting tree and Michael Hussey has also enjoyed looking down at the rest of the world even if his current form mirrors the global economic downturn. Add Michael Clarke to the mix who achieved his career-best Rating earlier this year, and Marcus North who made a debut century and has extensive experience of English conditions, and you have a pretty formidable line-up.

For England, Kevin Pietersen appears to be the class act even if his current Rating of 768 is a good deal short of his career-best 909 set two years ago. Paul Collingwood is steady rather than spectacular but he does boast an Ashes double-century – a claim to fame only seven other England batsman can share. Ravi Bopara has hit centuries in three consecutive Tests but has struggled against top-flight bowling. Matt Prior is sitting pretty at his career-best Rating but can he produce substance as well as style?

Wicket-keeper: England 530, Australia 550. Even

There is nothing much to choose between the keepers and both are capable of changing matches with the bat. However, they are also both liable to change them with the gloves too!

All-rounder: England 269, Australia 375. Edge – Australia

Andrew Flintoff’s all-rounder Rating is very much a product of the fact that he has only played in eight of England’s 21 Tests since the last Ashes series. A good, injury-free start could help level the scores in the all-rounder category. However, Mitchell Johnson is very much on the rise. His maiden century and four wickets at Cape Town sent him to his career-best Rating and he will be trying to become the first Australian to top the all-rounder charts since Alan Davidson in 1962.

Pace bowling: England 2060, Australia 2046. Even

The difference may only be fourteen points, but England’s points come from four bowlers (Anderson, Flintoff, Broad, Onions) whereas the Australian points come from three (Johnson, Clark, Siddle). Anderson, Broad and Onions are all at their career-best Ratings and will be brimming with confidence after the West Indies series. Johnson and Siddle are only just short of their peaks, but Clark has been injured of late and – although he is currently rated number four – he is a long way short of the 863 points he reached just over twelve months ago.

Spin bowling: England 598, Australia 495. Edge – England

Graeme Swann has had a meteoric rise and now stands at number 23 in the bowling charts after just seven Tests which have brought him 34 wickets. In the wings they also have Monty Panesar who – despite not being in the best form of late – is still in the world’s top 25 and was as high as number six just two years ago. Australia’s spin is in the hands of Nathan Hauritz who has played just four Tests in five years and the back-up of Katich, Clarke and North. Definitely advantage England.

So – what are the totals? England 7228 and Australia 7369, or in other words – too close to call. So the series really is anyone’s for the taking and it is also a real chance for some of the key names to make a big impression on the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings.