Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stats across eras 2 - Best batsmen by decade

The eight part Statistics series by the author was published in Cricketcountry in April to May 2012 

In the previous episode of this series we dealt with the facts and fables regarding the difficulty of run making across generations. Now, let us turn our attention to some of the best performers across eras.

Batting average is the most commonly accepted metric used to evaluate the merit of a batsman in cricket. However, there are sceptics who underplay its importance as an indicator of quality. While some quote ‘lies, damned lies, statistics’, or the corporate cliché ‘analysis paralysis’,  the more knowledgeable argue that certain confirmed greats of the stature of WG Grace and Victor Trumper ended up with remarkably ordinary figures when compared to current standards. Hence, it does not make sense to attach too much importance to respective records.

Granted, with the evolution of the game, comparison of raw figures of batsmen separated by a hundred or so years may not make sense. However, what happens if we restrict our assessment and analysis to batsmen with their contemporaries?

According to this simple analysis, batting average actually turns out to be an excellent indicator. During their eras, both WG Grace and Trumper, the two players cited most often as counter examples, end up right at the top when measured against their rivals.

It is actually quite intuitive that better batsmen will be more consistent and prolific and will hence end up with better figures.  But, let us not leave it to discussions and debates and move straight the figures.

In the table that follows, the top three batsmen have been identified for each decade (1877-1890 considered the first decade, and every calendar decade from then on). All the usual suspects are there, the ones most would expect to end up on top. From Grace to Jack Hobbs, Trumper to Don Bradman, Gary Sobers to Viv Richards, Sachin Tendulkar to Jacques Kallis.

Considered within an era, average definitely makes a lot of sense.

Of particular interest are two very relevant facts.

1. In the last part, we saw that the wickets started becoming standardised and run making easier and consistent starting from the 1910s and reached a very stable state by the 1920s. Accordingly, we find Victor Trumper’s average tending to figures very comparable with the modern greats in the 1910s.

2. From the 1950s, after Bradman was done playing havoc with reason and ratio, the top averages of every ten years are strikingly similar. Another confirmation of the consistency of run making.

Top averages by decades:

Decade Leading Batsman 1 Leading Batsman 2Leading Batsman 3
1877-1890Allan Steel (Eng)WG Grace (Eng)Billy Murdoch (Aus)
60035.29 63335.16 89632 
1891-1900KS. Ranjitsinhji (Eng)Tom Hayward (Eng)R. Abel (Eng)
97053.88 97644.36 67141.9 
1901 - 1910Aubrey Faulkner (SA)Clem Hill (Aus)Victor Trumper (Aus)
110844.32 216040.75 217336.2 
1911-1920Jack Hobbs (Eng)Victor Trumper (Aus)J.W. Zulch (SA)
174264.51 71054.61 54045 
1921-1930Don Bradman (Aus)CG McCartney (Aus)Herbert Sutcliffe (Eng)
144696.4 116472.75 339666.6 
1931-1940BradmanLen Hutton (Eng)George Headley (WI)
364798.56 134567.25 142164.6 
1941-1950BradmanFrank Worrell (WI)Neil Harvey (Aus)
1903105.7 833104.1 111886 
1951-1960Gary Sobers (WI)Clyde Walcott (WI)Len Hutton
307761.54 298460.89 272855.7 
1961-1970Ken Barrington (Eng)Greame Pollock (SA)Gary Sobers (WI)
575062.5 225660.97 369956.9 
1971-1980Viv Richards (WI)Javed Miandad (Pak)SM Gavaskar (Ind)
362960.48 266357.89 597456.4 
1981-1990Clive Lloyd (WI)Zaheer Abbas (Pak)Allan Border (Aus)
234261.63 234354.48 694053.8 
1991-2000Sachin Tendulkar (Ind)Steve Waugh (Aus)Rahul Dravid (Ind)
582860.08 657856.22 332253.6 
2001-2010JH Kallis (SA)KC Sangakkara (SL)Brian Lara (WI)
904861.97 807058.9 588358.2 
2011-2012Younis Khan (Pak)KallisIan Bell (Eng)
95868.42 70263.81 108463.8 


Minimum runs criteria –

# 500 runs till 1900, 1911-1920 and 2011-2012

#1000 runs from 1901-1910, 1921-1940

#800 for 1941-1950

#2000 elsewhere.

This distinction is required for the varying number of Tests played in the early days and during the decades disrupted due to World Wars.


Other than the top averages given above, the following table lists the top run-getters of each decade along with the other notable scorers who just missed out featuring among the top 3 averages in the above table.

Decade Top run getter, tally & avge Other Notables
1877-1890Arthur Shrewsbury sr (Eng)  993, 31.00P.S.  McDonnell
W Bates
1891-1900Joe Darling (Aus) 1139, 35.59FS Jackson
1901 -1910Victor Trumper (Aus) 2173, 36.20RA Duff
JT Tyldesley
1911-1920Jack Hobbs (Eng) 1742, 64.50Warwick Armstrong
William Bardsley
1921-1930Herbert Sutcliffe (Eng)  3396, 66.60Wally Hammond
Patsy Hendren
1931-1940Wally Hammond (Eng)  4776, 62.80Bill Ponsford
Eddie Paynter
1941-1950Len Hutton (Eng)  2898, 53.70Denis Compton
Everton Weekes
1951-1960Peter May (Eng)   4265, 47.40Neil Harvey
Hanif Mohammad
1961-1970Ken Barrington (Eng) 5750, 62.50Doug Walters
Ted Dexter
1971-1980SM Gavaskar (Ind)  5974, 56.40Geoff Boycott
Greg Chappell
1981 - 1990Allan Border (Aus) 6940, 53.80Javed Miandad
Mohd. Azharuddin
1991-2000Mark Waugh (Aus)  6907, 42.40Brian Lara
Andy Flower
2001-2010Ricky Ponting (Aus)   9953, 55.60Mohammad Yousuf
Sachin Tendulkar
2011-2012Michael Clarke (Aus)  1336, 60.70Early days yet …

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