Friday, June 29, 2012

A Brief History Of Test Cricket Through Ratings

In this post, I present a brief history of Test Cricket, based on a Ratings system that I have devised. The charts that accompany this history, include ratings that account at any point for a team's 20 most recent Test Matches. The charts are divided into the following eras:

1946-1959; 1960-1969; 1970-1977; 1978-1983; 1984-1989; 1990-1994; 1995-1999; 2000-2003; 2004-2007; 2008-2012.

An explanation of the ratings method follows:

1. A runs/wicket score is determined for each match. This is given by (total runs scored in the match)/(total wickets taken in the match). This provides the cost of a wicket for the match.

2. A point score is generated for each team based on this conversion rate. For example:

Team A: 200/10 and 200/10
Team B: 250/10 and 50/5

The cost of a wicket is 700/35 = 20 runs/wicket.

Team A points = 400 (total runs scored) + 15*20 = 700
Team B points = 300 + 20*20 = 700

3. Batting Strength and Bowling Strength for each team:

At the start of each match, the cumulative batting strength and the cumulative bowling strength for each team is determined. The cumulative batting strength is give by total career runs scored by all XI players divided by total career test dismissals for all XI players. Similarly cumulative bowling strength is total career runs conceded by all XI players divided by total career wickets taken by all XI players.

The Strength of a team is given by (Batting Strength)/(Bowling Strength). 

4. In a match ends in a draw, the final points for each team are as determined by (2).

5. If a match ends in a win, then

(a) A win bonus is awarded to the winning team. This win bonus is the average of the points scored by each team.

(b) The final base points tally for the winning team is given by weighting the Team's points (as in (2)) by the opposition's (losing side's) Strength.

(c) The final base points tally for the losing team is as in (2).

6. A team's rating for each match is given by Team's Final Points / Opposition's Final Points. Final Points are points including win bonus (if any) and Strength adjustment, if any.

No Strength adjustment is done in case of a Loss or a Tie. It is only done in case of a win.

An interesting point about the Strength figure is that in a Test Match, the team with a higher Strength figure wins 50% of the time, and loses only 16% of the time.

7. A team's Rating at any given point in time (as it appears in the graph's below) is the average of its Rating for its previous 20 Tests. In this way, each Test match contributes to 5% of a Team's Rating, while each 3 match series contributes to 15% of a team's Rating.

This method provides the following charts, which I have worked out from 1946 to 2012.

The current rating (my data is current until April 3) is as follows:

1. 2.013 England
2. 1.666 South Africa
3. 1.526 Australia
4. 1.203 Pakistan
5. 1.057 India
6. 1.047 Sri Lanka
7. 1.037 New Zealand
8. 0.864 West Indies
9. 0.761 Zimbabwe
10. 0.741 Bangladesh


The period immediately after World War II was an era of Australia dominance. Bradman's "invincibles" completed a tour of England, the next best team in the World at the time in the summer of 1948 and came away without a single defeat. England struggled to find bowlers in the years immediately after the War and despite Len Hutton and Dennis Compton batting as well as anybody at anytime in Test history, struggled to competed. The West Indies completed tours of India in the late 1940s and then beat England in England in 1950, and for a while were a distant second to the dominant Australians. South Africa were beginning to be competitive in the early 1950s, while New Zealand and Pakistan, along with India, were still in their Test Match infancy.

In the early 1950s, England found new fast bowlers and spinners - Statham, Trueman, Laker, Tyson, Wardle, and at least two new world class batsmen - Peter May and Colin Cowdrey, and won three consecutive Ashes series in 1953, 1954-55 and 1956. The team Len Hutton built in the early 1950s went on the beat West Indies convincingly at home in 1957, and in 1958-59, toured Australia with a fearsome reputation. They lost convincingly against Richie Benaud's Aussies in an acrimonious series riddled with chucking allegations.

The West Indies had found their own geniuses in the 1950s. The 3 Ws and Ramadhin were joined by Gary Sobers and Rohan Kanhai, and a new crop of fierce fast men - Wes Hall, Roy Gilchrist and Charlie Griffith. They took a while to recover from Cowdrey and May's demolition of Ramadhin in 1957 with some expert use of the pads (and their feet!), but by the end of the 1950s, they were ready to take on the world again.

The South Africans stayed competitive with Heine and Adcock. The Pollock's were about the emerge too.

Pakistan won some exciting victories thanks to Fazal Mehmood, but their marquee series against India were riddled with cautious draws, to the detriment of both teams.


The 1960s began with Benaud's Australians leading the Test Match world, having just beaten England convincingly in the 1958-59 Ashes, and then beating India in India in the 1959-60 season. India lost all 5 Tests in England in 1959 and began the 1960s as wooden spooners.

But the 1960s really began with Worrell's West Indians touring Australia. West Indies lost that series, but they were competitive and exciting. The Tied Test at Brisbane ended with a direct hit by Joe Solomon from cover point, and demonstrated West Indies all round brilliance. From 1960 to 1967, the West Indies beat all opposition and were the undisputed Number 1 Team in Test Match cricket. Both Australia and England on the other hand, failed to find able replacement for a brilliant crop of bowlers - Trueman and Statham in England's case, and Benaud, Davidson, Lindwall and Miller (from the late 1950s) in Australia's.

The 1960s saw a high percentage of Draws in all Tests series, except when West Indies were playing. From 1960 to 1967, West Indies won 16 out of 33 Tests, with only 6 Draws. They also won 6 out of 7 series. Ironically, when they lost the series against England in West Indies in 1968, it was because of a sporting declaration by Gary Sobers to try and end a stalemate.

With the decline of Wes Hall, the West Indies and the stars from Worrell's team, West Indies came to rely heavily on Sobers and Lance Gibbs. The late 1960s marked the beginning of a decline which would last until the mid-1970s.

England, under Colin Cowdrey, ably supported by Ray Illingworth and Geoff Boycott, improved steadily. They found a great bowler in John Snow. Snow would lead them, albeit briefly, to the top of the Test Match world in the early 1970s.

The South Africans improved throughout the 1960s as well. By 1965, they had a team that could beat England in England (only for the 2nd time in their history, and 30 years after their first series win in England) and then hammer the Australians in South Africa in 1966-67. This hammering would be mild compared to the one the Springboks would hand out to the Australians in 1970.

The limits of South Africa's cricket were already apparent in the 1960s, when they did not play the best team of the era - West Indies, even once.

India, Pakistan and New Zealand, all showed flashes of brilliance, but did not manage to produce the breakthrough series win overseas. That was to come in the 1970s. New Zealand ended the decade promisingly - they beat Pakistan in Pakistan, and then squared a series in India in the 1969-70 season.



Packer's offer to produce a series of SuperTests and limited overs games featuring the World's best players attracted the cream of West Indian, Australian, Pakistani and to a lesser extent England and Indian talent. In Test Cricket, this meant that India and mainly England, benefited greatly. England won an Ashes series 5-1 in Australia in 1978-79, after winning them 3-0 in England in 1977.

Ironically, the Packer years saw more Test cricket (27 Test were played in 1978 and 28 in 1979) than the years immediately preceding, or the years immediately following that rebellion.

When the Packer stars returned to Test Cricket, it was West Indies, and later Pakistan who came to dominate Cricket. Australia beat England 3-0, in a series that wasn't played for the Ashes, but their stars were ageing. The Lillee era was about to give way to the Allan Border era. Despite Botham, England were unable to compete with full West Indies side.

Pakistan produced its first era of genuine dominance in the early 1980s. They had beaten India for the first time in Pakistan in 1978-79. In 1982-83, they were to beat Australia 3-0 in a short series, and then beat India 3-0 in a 6 match series.

After the decline of the spinners in the late 1970s, despite the advent of Kapil Dev, India struggled in the early 1980s.

New Zealand, powered by Richard Hadlee and a host of competent batsmen, beat a star studded West Indies at home in 1979-80 and were generally competitive throughout the early 80s. Their best years were ahead of them, when the brilliance of Richard Hadlee, combined with generally modest English and Australian side would see them win series in Australia and England in the mid-1980s.


The year 1984 began with the West Indies and Pakistan as the two best teams in the world. Pakistan had discovered a great batsman in Javed Miandad in the preceding years, and now, found Wasim Akram, who was to become, arguably the greatest left arm pace bowler in the history of cricket.

But the West Indians dominance in the mid-1980s was of a different order altogether. Especially when it came to their traditional rivals - England and Australia, they were merciless. England were hammered into submission in two consecutive series - Home and Away, to such an extent that they went on to lose in the subsequent season to both India and New Zealand in England.

Pakistan competed better against the great West Indian side of the mid-1980s than any other team in the World. In Pakistan, they were undefeated between 1981 and 1995. Between 1985 and 1987, they beat India in India, England in England, and squared a series in the West Indies. Sadly for Pakistan, at the height of their powers, they did not play a single Away series between 1988 and 1992.

Towards the end of the 1980s, the Australians seemed to have overcome their worst slump since World Was II. They won the Ashes convincingly in 1989. Even though they didn't have any major series wins other than this one, they were competitive in the every single series they played, especially away from home.

At the end of the 1980s, with the emergence of Curtly Ambrose, it seemed that the West Indian dominance would last for ever.


The early 1990s were a volatile period in Test Cricket. Australia and West Indies were top dogs. Australia had begun what was to be a 16 year stranglehold on the Ashes, spanning 43 Ashes Tests and 8 consecutive Ashes series. They became nearly impossible to beat in Australia, and were competitive in every other part of the world.

The West Indies showed some signs of decline. They had to fight very hard to beat Australia in West Indies for the 1990-91 Frank Worrell Trophy, and also had similar difficulties in winning the next series in Australia in 1992-93. These were the years of Curtly Ambrose's dominance. By the end of 1994, West Indies had yet to suffer a major series defeat, but as their tour of India that year showed, they were not quite the dominant force that they used to be.

South Africa made a competitive return to Test Cricket in the early 1990s and stayed near the top of the table in those early years.

England promised to be a strong side in the early 1990s. They did well against West Indies Home and Away in 1990 and 1991, but then fell away with defeats in England against Pakistan and Australia and Away in West Indies in 1994.  In between they also lost 3-0 in India, and 1-0 in Sri Lanka.

The big change of guard was to come when West Indies hosted Australia in 1995.


Fresh from their convincing Ashes series win the 1994-95 season, Mark Taylor's Australians toured West Indies and beat them in series there. This was West Indies first series defeat since 1980 and has proved to be a blow from which they have yet to recover. While Ambrose and Walsh were playing, West Indies have been competitive, especially at Home, but they have alternated between being woodenspooners and solidly mid table in this time.

The late 1990s was a period of Australian and South African dominance. Pakistan produced some good performances, as did England. Sri Lanka became a force to reckon with, especially at home towards the end of the decade. India, with Kumble in their ranks were hard to beat in India, but struggled to compete overseas. They would end the decade with a 3-0 thrashing in Australia.

New Zealand defeated England in England in 1999, but this was seen more as a measure of England's weakness than of New Zealand's strength. This was unfair to New Zealand, for in this period, New Zealand were a tenacious side, which was difficult to beat Home or Away.

Australia continued their dominance in the Ashes, but could not repeat their triumph in West Indies from 1995. Brian Lara stood in their way, along with the bowling of Ambrose and Walsh. The Australians, despite having Shane Warne in their ranks, were defeated by India in India as well. In Australia, however, they were ruthless, and more or less unbeatable. From 1995 to 1999-00, they defeated every single Test playing team in Australia.

The South Africans stayed near the top in a different way. They rarely dominated teams. With the exception of India in 1997 (2-0) and West Indies in 1998 (5-0), they never beat any side by a margin of more than one Test, and struggled overseas marginally more the Australia. Under Cronje, they were a combative side and their performance rarely fluctuated. But they lacked the flashes of brilliance which separated the Australians from the rest.

The world was about the see just how brilliant that generation of Australian cricketers were.


The period from 2000 to 2003 was the first era of Australian dominance. Under the leadership of Steve Waugh, Australia set a record for winning 16 consecutive Test Matches, and until McGrath and Warne were both sidelined in the 2003-04 season, Australia were invincible. Stephen Fleming's New Zealand, aided by rain at Brisbane and one outstanding batting effort on a flat Perth wicket, held Australia to a score less draw in 2002. This was seen as a triumph against the all conquering Australians. The South African challenge had been dismissed by Waugh's men over 6 Tests - 3 in Australia and 3 in South Africa, of which Australia won the first 5. The Ashes were won in England in 2001 in less than a dozen days of cricket.

India, having been defeated roundly by the Australians in Australia in 1999-00, had their revenge when the Australians visited India in 2001. This was the only series that Australia lost when Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were both available to them through out a series.

Riding on Muralitharan's brilliant off spin bowling and a number of exciting young batsmen, Sri Lanka were nearly unbeatable in Sri Lanka in the early 2000s.

The shock of Hansie Cronje's revelations and the retirement of Allan Donald hurt South Africa and they fell back into the pack, away from the heights Australia had attained.

Despite possessing tremendous talent, Pakistan's best result in this period was a 2-0 series win against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in 2000. The attacks of September 11 meant that Pakistan could only play in the UAE for a while. Here they were beaten by an innings within two days by the Australians. A period of instability in terms of personnel and the captaincy did not help.

After their defeat against New Zealand in the 1999 season, England had embarked on a long rebuilding plan with Nasser Hussein as captain, and Duncan Fletcher as coach. Under Fletcher, Buchanan (in Australia's case) and Wright (in India's case) the role of the full time coach came to the fore in Test Cricket during this period. England lost the Ashes in 2001, but beat both Sri Lanka and Pakistan Away in the 2000-01 season. They shared series with India and South Africa in England in 2002 and 2003 respectively. But in these years, they had selected, and persisted with a group of batsmen and developed a set of bowlers who would soon yield serious rewards.

India took advantage of the absence of Warne and McGrath and held Australia to a 1-1 draw in Australia, and then toured Pakistan, where they won a Test series for the first time. It was felt at the time these these results would mark a period of sustained victories for Ganguly's team.

This was not to be.


The decline of Shaun Pollock and a brief period of modest fast bowling resources saw South Africa lapse  into the mid table around 2005. They lost 5 out of 6 Test matches against the Australians yet again in 2005-06. The Australians, after Steve Waugh's retirement, renewed their dominance under the leadership of Ricky Ponting. They beat Sri Lanka 3-0 in Sri Lanka despite Muthiah Muralitharan, and then beat India in India as well - a result which effectively ended Sourav Ganguly's captaincy.

Nasser Hussein retired before the first home series of 2004 could be completed. Michael Vaughan had taken over the England captaincy after the Edgbaston Test of 2003. Michael Vaughan, fortified by his incandescent batting in Australia during the 2002-03 Ashes, had taken over the England captaincy in the Lord's Test. From the 2003-04 season, England began a period of dominance that rivalled Australia's. They beat West Indies in West Indies 3-0 that winter, and then won all 7 Tests against New Zealand and West Indies in the summer of 2004. They followed this up by defeating South Africa in South Africa in the 2004-05 season, and then, in what was Vaughan's crowning achievement, they beat the great Australian side 2-1 in the 2005 Ashes in England.

After that series, it was difficult to say which the best team in the world was. Yes, Australia at full strength were probably better (McGrath had missed crucial games in the Ashes because of an injury sustained in the nets), but if so, not by much.

England were promptly defeated by a resurgent Pakistan in Pakistan in 2005-06. The leadership of Inzamam Ul Haq and the phenomenal batsmanship of Mohammad Yousuf, allied with their naturally gifted bowling, had made Pakistan a force again in Test Cricket. Michael Vaughan had to vacate the captaincy due to injury after this Pakistan tour, and England failed to reproduce the same brilliance under his successor. Injuries to key bowlers also hurt England. They would lose the 2006-07 Ashes 5-0 against a determined Australian side.

India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan all improved their overseas performances during these years. India won in the West Indies, and won a Test in South Africa for the first time ever, before beating England in England in 2007. Sri Lanka also won a Test Match in England and split the series there.

But the remarkable aspect of this period was Australia's sustained dominance even after their superstars from the Waugh era retired after the 2006-07 Ashes. They would win 16 consecutive games again, before failing to win the 17th against their nemesis - India in early 2008.

That Test defeat would mark the beginning of Australia's decline, and the end of their long period of dominance.

The period from 2008 to the present has been a turbulent one for Test Cricket. The year 2008 saw Australia decline , losing convincingly in India, and then at home to South Africa. Australia would promptly defeat South Africa in South Africa by the same margin, but their results of their previous four series was not repeated. South Africa followed their win in Australia with a series win in England in 2008. The arrival of Dale Steyn as a fast bowler in the class of Allan Donald or Malcolm Marshall meant the South Africa could win Test Matches anywhere.

India clawed their way to the top of the table through a series of fine performances Home and Away.

England, after losing the Wisden Trophy to West Indies in 2008-09, recovered to win the Ashes in England in 2009, and then shared a series in South Africa in 2009-10. This series of performances led to an Ashes triumph in Australia in 2010-11, at the end of which, it was clear that the two best teams in the world were India and England.

The South Africans, despite having a brilliant team, failed to dominate a Test series against top opposition. They followed their win in Australia with a defeat to Australia at home. They beat England in England, but then failed to beat them at home. Sri Lanka won a Test Match against them in South Africa in the 2011-12 season.

Pakistan faced a turbulent period, due to troubles with their cricket board, and troubles with spot-fixing. They seem to have recovered now and beat England 3-0 in the UAE in the first part of 2012.

India toured England in 2011, in what was to be a top table clash. However, after 2 consecutive defeats, India find themselves closer to the bottom of the table than the top.

Australia seem to have arrested their slide with a 4-0 win against India at home, and some sublime fast bowling under the able leadership of bowling coach Craig McDermott.

England are currently the best Test team in the world, followed by South Africa and Pakistan. Australia are a close 4th, after which there is a long gap to India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tony Greig Demolishes The Spirit Of Cricket

The Spirit of Cricket was crushed by Tony Greig in his Cowdrey lecture at Lord's this week.

Greig managed to say the phrase "Spirit of Cricket" 25 times in his talk. This must be a record in "Spirit of Cricket" history. Cowdrey himself was mentioned thrice. It was one of those rare talks in which Nelson Mandela, Captain James Cook the 18th century explorer who reached Australia and New Zealand, Yehudi Menuhin, Gandhi and God, all make an appearance. He refers to India 57 times, and the uninitiated, intelligent reader might be forgiven for believing, based on Greig's speech, that the "spirit of cricket" is simply "things India refuses to do".

Friday, June 22, 2012

Andrew Flintoff Is Wrong About Atherton And Cook: A Statistical Analysis

Andrew Flintoff is in the news for offering the opinion that Alistair Cook is a far better opening batsman compared to Michael Atherton. Flintoff did so in far more colorful language that, but the merits are worth exploring. I will do so based on my earlier work on batting average inflation. But first, Flintoff's claim in his own words:
‘How can he talk about a player like Alastair Cook who is 10 times the player he ever was?’ said Flintoff. ‘He has a much bigger average and will go on and on. Atherton averaged in the 30s for England yet he feels he can judge others.’
A summary of their respective careers (Records upto April 3, 2012):

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"I can't say for sure that you are wrong, but I can say with reasonable certainty, that you shouldn't be sure that you are right"

In his first ODI match for West Indies since the 2011 World Cup Quarter Final, Chris Gayle was given Out LBW off Graeme Swann. It was a decision which highlights problems with the ICC's Decision Review System. The specific problem is one which I have identified before on this blog, and it relates to the definition of the marginal decision.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On The BCCI Technical Committee's Ranji Recommendations

There are several good recommendations. Here are some salient points.

1. The Plate and Elite leagues are to be replaced by a three tier league - A, B and C, with relegation and promotion.
2. Three bottom three teams from Group A get relegated, while the top three teams from Group B get promotion in the next season as well as quarter final slots.
3. The bottom two teams from Group B get relegated, while the top three teams from Group B get promotion in the next season, as well as quarter final slots.
4. The number of points for a win on the first innings have been reduced to 50% of the number of points for an outright win. It used to be 3 points for a win on first innings and 5 for an outright win. An outright win is now worth 6 points, while an innings win, or a win by 10 wickets is worth an extra point (total 7).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Top 101 Centuries In Test History

Players with multiple centuries in the top 101
Measuring the quality of an innings is not easy. There are multiple, reasonable ways of doing this, and there is very little agreement as to what constitutes a good century. Some observers like to take into account the result of a game when measuring the quality of a century. I disagree with this approach. I think that the quality of batting has little or nothing to do with the outcome of a game. The difficulty of scoring a century in a given set of conditions against a given opposition exists independently of the team's fortunes. 43 out of the top 101 centuries in this list have come in defeats, 33 have come in wins, while 25 have come in draws. The adjoining table lists the players who have featured in the top 101 century innings multiple times.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bowling Average Inflation

Recently, I've been trying to look at how batting and bowling averages of Test players compare across eras. My method has been to build an "inflation" measure along with an "adjusted average" measure. For batsmen, this shows interesting things. Averages for certain teams (the contemporary South Africa and England batsmen for example) are shown to be consistently inflated. See the records for Jacques Kallis, Alistair Cook, Hashim Amla, A B de Villiers, Ian Bell in this post. In the case of English batsmen of the 1990s, their actual bowling averages are consistently deflated. See Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart in that post. In other instances, records are inflated for some batsmen in a particular team, but not others - see Damien Martyn as opposed to Justin Langer, Mathew Hayden and Ricky Ponting.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Batsmen As Match Winners

I maintain that batsmen do not win Test matches, but bowlers do. This obviously does not mean that batsmen have no impact on the outcome of Tests. What it means is that given the rules of Test Cricket, there is no situation in which a batsman's actions alone can produce a result without unnecessary concessions from the opposing team (such as a quixotic declaration), while it is possible for a bowler to win a Test Match through his own actions without unnecessary concessions from the opposing team. A batsman scoring two double hundreds in a Test does not guarantee a result, while a bowler taking 20 wickets in a Test does. In fact batsmen producing large scores are as likely to be in draws as they are in wins, where the more wickets a bowler takes, the more the likelihood of a win or a loss.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Batting Average Adjustment: An Explanation And An Update

Over the past few days, I have posted a number of charts showing batsmanship measured by quality of bowling and then by a combination of quality of bowling and venue. After this, I posted charts showing the inflation of batting averages due to varying quality of bowling. In this post, I will do two things. First, I discuss the motivation and limitations of these measures. Second, I post updated measures which take into account both quality of bowling and venues.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Batting Average And Aggregate Inflation

Some players batted in eras with more difficult batting conditions than others. In this post I show adjusted batting averages of all batsmen (qualification 50 innings) with averages of 35 over better. The field to the extreme right in each table "INFL" refers to inflation. This shows the inflation of the batsman's actual average over what it might have been had he faced a bowling attack of average strength.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Sunil Narine Back In West Indies Squad

Sunil Narine has been called up to replaced the injured Kemar Roach for West Indies' final Test against England at Edgbaston on June 7. The West Indies are currently playing a tour game at Leicester. Narine has not even arrived in England yet, and is obviously not playing in the tour match.

The Indian Big Five By Venue And Quality Of Bowling

They occupy five of the first six slots in the run list of Indian batsmen. Each has made at least 7000 Test runs. Between them, they have made over 50,000 Test runs, and nearly 150 centuries. They have played nearly 700 Tests. These 5 batsmen constitute one in every seven Test innings played by for India in Test Cricket, and 1 in 4 Test runs scored for India in Test Cricket.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Test Batting By Venue And Quality Of Bowling

Yesterday I posted a somewhat complicated table of the records of batsmen against two different types of opposition - bowling attacks with a cumulative bowling average under 30, and bowling attacks with a cumulative bowling average of 30 or more. That table contains a lot of information and will take some focused attention on the part of the reader. In this post I have organized bowling attacks by venue. I have divided venues into two groups: