Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The ODI 800ers

In mountaineering they are known as the 8000ers – the fourteen summits in the world which rise to more than eight thousand metres. Seventeen people have managed to make it to the top of all of these peaks – no mean achievement.

The Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings have a similar threshold of greatness – the achieving of 800 points in either the batting or bowling tables. Less rare than the mountaineering achievement above, these players still form a select band as only 43 batsmen and 26 bowlers have attained this level of success in One Day International cricket.

First, we need to examine what 800 points in the Ratings actually means? The first batsman to achieve this mark was Greg Chappell back in December 1980 when his innings of 48 against New Zealand at Melbourne saw him rise to 803 points. His Australian team-mate Dennis Lillee had the honour of being the first ODI bowler to reach this level – on 31 January 1981 – when he took two for 25 in eight overs also against the Kiwis at the M.C.G.

As more matches have been played, naturally more players have achieved 800 points. The ‘golden age’ of ODI batting came in early February 1985 when there were a record nine batsmen above this level: Viv Richards, Zaheer Abbas, Allan Lamb, David Gower, Kepler Wessels, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Clive Lloyd and Javed Miandad.

For bowlers, the peak came the previous year – in April 1984. At that time, eight bowlers stood at this level: Richard Hadlee, Joel Garner, Ewen Chatfield, Bob Willis, Geoff Lawson, Michael Holding, Kapil Dev and Malcolm Marshall. By way of comparison, as we currently stand, only MS Dhoni with the bat is above 800 points and no bowler has reached the magical 800 figure since Shaun Pollock hung up his boots in February 2008.

So – in the shorter format of the game – who has spent the longest time at or above 800 points? Does this measure produce a true measure of the greatest ODI players of all time? Here are the figures – and there is no surprise who tops the batting charts:


Total days

Viv Richards


Dean Jones


Allan Lamb


Desmond Haynes


Brian Lara


Michael Bevan


Sachin Tendulkar


Gordon Greenidge


Javed Miandad


Graham Gooch


No real surprises there – as all of these players can be considered among the greatest batsmen to play One Day International cricket. Perhaps some may be surprised to see Allan Lamb in third place but he ended his career with an average of 39 and a strike rate of nearly 76 in an era when scoring rates were far lower than they are today. Who can forget his 18 from Bruce Reid’s last over at the S.C.G. in January 1987.

Here are the bowlers:


Total days

Shaun Pollock


Joel Garner


Richard Hadlee


Glenn McGrath


Muttiah Muralitharan


Curtly Ambrose


Ewen Chatfield


Michael Holding


Malcolm Marshall


Kapil Dev


Again – plenty of familiar names here and only one spinner. Shaun Pollock is far ahead of the rest – his miserly economy rate of 3.67 runs per over was achieved in an era when the overall economy rate was 4.82. The one surprise in the top ten is New Zealand’s Ewen Chatfield. Often playing second fiddle to Richard Hadlee, Chatfield had his brief moment in the sun when he topped the Ratings for just two days in March 1988, but he spent a large part of the 1980s above 800 points in second place to Joel Garner. Even in that era, his final bowling average of 25.84 and economy rate of 3.57 were superb.

The average for the top ten batsmen is 2,181 days and for the top ten bowlers 1,624 days perhaps illustrating the fact that top-class bowlers spend less time at the peak of their form than batsmen due to the wear and tear on their bodies.

Next time, we’ll look at the equivalent tables for Test cricket. Can anyone topple the Don?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Botham v Flintoff

As the Ashes merry-go-round moves on to Leeds, memories will no doubt be stirred of the great deeds from twenty-eight years ago when first Ian Botham and then Bob Willis upset the odds of 500/1 to give England the most unlikely of victories.

While Bob Willis’s eight for 43 was crucial in applying the coup de grace, it was Ian Botham’s unbeaten 149 which really captured the imagination and secured his status as a true legend of the game.

Fast-forward to 2009 and the headlines are again being made by a weighty all-rounder whose off-the-field exploits often provide tabloid headlines – this time Andrew Flintoff. As if his Herculean efforts of 2005 were not enough, he bowled throughout the morning session in the second Test at Lord’s to give England their first victory over Australia at Headquarters since the Hedley Verity-inspired triumph of 1934 – when the average house price in England was a princely £515.

So – how do the two of them compare Ratings-wise? As Flintoff comes to the end of his Test career, what can the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings tell us about these two greats of the modern game?

Botham: Highest Rating 811 (1982). Highest Ranking 3rd (1982). Average 586
Flintoff: Highest Rating 646 (2006). Highest Ranking 20th (2006) Average 468

Not much comparison there on first inpection. Botham was a good enough batsman in his own right to reach the top three in the world and it is often forgotten that he scored fourteen Test centuries and ended with an average of 33.54. However, Flintoff’s average is just a fraction less at 32.06 but with just five centuries. One area in which Freddie has suffered is while Botham converted 39% of his fifties into centuries, Flintoff has only managed 16% and so he hasn’t posted the eye-catching big innings which his predecessor managed.

Botham: Highest Rating 910 (1980). Highest Ranking 1st (60 matches) Average 687
Flintoff: Highest Rating 810 (2005). Highest Ranking 4th (2005) Average 485

Botham first topped the bowling tree in August 1978 after taking eleven Kiwi wickets in just his eleventh Test. He stayed there for most of the next two years before he was nudged out of the top spot by Joel Garner. Only seven bowlers have ever surpassed his career-best Rating of 911 which he achieved after his thirteen wickets in the Golden Jubilee Test at Mumbai in February 1980. While Flintoff has had his moments, a career-haul of just three five-wicket hauls compares disappointingly with Botham’s then-record of 27. Missing numerous Test Matches due to injury hasn’t helped his cause, but even had he stayed fit for all of those, he still would have struggled to close the gap on the 1980s star.

Botham: Highest Rating 646 (1980). Highest Ranking 1st (120 matches) Average 415
Flintoff: Highest Rating 501 (2005). Highest Ranking 1st (6 matches) Average 259

Botham’s peak Rating of 646 really deserves a second look. With a Batting Rating of 709 and a Bowling Rating of 911 it has only been surpassed by one man in the history of the game – Garry Sobers. There is no denying the fact that at the time, he was the most dynamic cricketer in the world. He was also able to top the all-rounder charts for 120 Tests despite the presence of the other three greats of the time – Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan and Kapil Dev. Flintoff did have his moment in the sun – not surprisingly in his annus mirabilis of 2005, but a certain Jacques Kallis has dominated ever since.

In conclusion, there is no denying the fact that Flintoff has been a very good player for England for the past decade. However when put in context with his predecessor in the England middle-order, it really becomes clear that despite his last eight Tests coming when he was clearly past his peak (averaging 14 with the bat and 48 with the ball) Botham was a truly great player, and that Flintoff comes up some way short – as do most of the other 2,564 players to play Test cricket.