Paper giants: Measuring ODI impact – bowlers, all-rounders and a best XI

This article follows up a recent piece setting out a way of measuring and comparing performances in one-day international cricket over the decades. It also listed which batsmen topped the rankings under this method, headed by West Indies legend Viv Richards.

Today’s article looks at the bowling rankings, as well as the top all-rounders, and puts together a possible best-ever team on the basis of these numbers.

To recap briefly, the metrics used here are Batting Impact (BtI) and Bowling Impact (BwI) which are derived by multiplying a player’s career batting average with their scoring rate per 100 balls (for BtI) and taking the geometric mean (square root). For BwI, we use the bowling average and economy rate.

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Please see the previous article for a more detailed explanation. For Bowling Impact, a player averaging 20 per wicket at 4.8 runs/over (80/100 balls) gets the same BwI of 40 as someone averaging 32 at 3 per over (50/100), because 20 x 80 and 32 x 50 both equal 1600 or 40 squared.

I also add an important element to make fairer comparisons: adjusting career figures to take into account different scoring rates in different eras, due mainly to bigger bats, smaller boundaries, etc. The comparison only covers ODI matches between the nine main Test-playing countries, as ODI career figures have been debased by including lots of associate members.

Bowling Impact

Here are the top performing bowlers showing their BwI score alongside their actual career bowling average and economy rate (the lower BwI the the better):

Joel Garner (WI 1977-1987) ______35.3 (Ave 19.9 @ 3.1)

Saeed Ajmal (PAK 2008-2015)_____37.7 (23.0 @ 4.2)

Richard Hadlee (NZ 1973-1990)____38.2 (21.5 @ 3.3)

Shane Bond (NZ 2002-08)_________38.4 (21.4 @4.4)

Michael Holding (WI 1976-87)______38.8 (21.4 @ 3.3)

Jasprit Bumrah (IND 2016- )_______39.0 (25.1 @ 4.7)

Glenn McGrath (AUS 1993-2007)___39.0 (22.8 @ 4.0)

Shaun Pollock (SA 1996-2008)_____39.1. (24.6 @ 3.8)

Andy Roberts (WI 1975-83)________39.3 (20.7 @ 3.4)

Curtly Ambrose (WI 1988-2000_____39.4 (24.7 @ 3.4)

The high rankings of the West Indian fast bowlers stand out, along with the clear gap between Joel Garner and the others, a bit like Viv Richards atop the batting.

No doubt the big surprise is off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, whose 101-match career over eight years was probably largely unnoticed by most of us. The adjustment for the faster scoring rate and higher averages of later eras explains why Bumrah, with a higher average and economy ends up with an almost identical BwI score as McGrath.

Glenn McGrath. (Hamish Blair/ALLSPORT)

The next five in order are Kuldeep Yadav (Ind), Muttiah Muralidaran (SL), Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak), Trent Boult (NZ) and Allan Donald (SA). Among Australian greats, Dennis Lillee comes in at 17th, while Shane Warne is 36th.

As with the batting, the gradations between most rankings are small. They shouldn’t be taken too seriously without further investigation, e.g., of home vs away figures, their peak 7-10 years, and big tournament performances. Garner himself averaged 22 in World Cups (including a match-winning 5/18 in the 1979 final) and a measly 14.4 in 14 tournament finals.

Saeed Ajmal averaged below 20 in the 2011 World Cup and two Champions Trophy campaigns.

Best All-Rounders

A good way to judge all-rounders’ careers is to see who has the biggest positive gap between their Batting and Bowling Impact scores. The highest ranked are as follows (showing the gap):

Viv Richards (WI) 13.3

Andrew Flintoff (Eng) 11.8

Lance Klusener (SA) 10.7

Greg Chappell (Aus) 9.9

Imran Khan (Pak) 7.8

Angelo Matthews (SL) 7.5

Shane Watson (Aus) 7.3

Shaun Pollock (SA) 7.0

Andrew Symonds (Aus) 6.3

Richard Hadlee (NZ) 5.7

Jacques Kallis (SA) 5.0

Kapil Dev (Ind) 4.9

Viv Richards and Greg Chappell feature high on the list because they had such good batting records and were more than useful fifth or sixth bowlers, but they weren’t always regular bowlers bowling full spells. That leaves Flintoff and Klusener as the standout genuine all-rounders.

Best XI

In putting together an all time XI, it’s worth examining the best performers at each position in the batting order, given how specialised these roles can be, as well as making sure we have some high-ranking bowlers who can perform at 7, 8 and 9 in the batting order. Here are the top adjusted BtI career scores at positions 1-8 in the order (minimum 40 innings):

Opening: 1. Rohit Sharma (66) 2. Sachin Tendulkar (64.7) 3. Hashim Amla (SA – 60.4)

No. 3: 1. Viv Richards (79.3) 2. Virat Kohli (69.8) 3. Faf du Plessis (63.4)

No. 4: 1. Viv Richards (74) 2. AB de Villiers (68) 3. Michael Bevan (64.2)

No. 5: 1. AB de Villiers (89) 2. Andrew Flintoff (68.1) 3. Andrew Symonds (65.2)

No. 6: 1. Michael Bevan (69.8) 2. MS Dhoni (58.4) 3. David Miller (SA – 58.3)

No. 7: 1. Abdul Razzaq (Pak – 54.5) 2. Shahid Afridi (Pak – 53.4) 3. Kapil Dev (50.2)

No.8: 1. Lance Klusener (73.6) 2. Shahid Afridi (57.2) 3. Abdul Razzaq (51.2)

Going solely by these career numbers, a best all-time XI might be:

R. Sharma
S. Tendulkar
V. Kohli
V. Richards (c)
AB De Villiers
MS Dhoni (wk)
A. Flintoff
S. Pollock
R. Hadlee
J. Garner
S. Ajmal

Flintoff was 25th in Bowling Impact. Pollock ranked fourth at both 7 and 8 positions in Batting Impact as well as eighth overall in bowling, fractionally behind McGrath and Bumrah. Hadlee was fourth at No.7 as well as third in Bowling Impact. Shahid Afridi or Kapil Dev might deserve a shot at No.7 or 8 as both had very high relative scoring rates. However, they ranked a bit far down on Bowling Impact, roughly 90 and 45th respectively.

An alternative setup might be to pick Klusener at 6 ahead of Dhoni, and open with Quentin de Kock, who ranks fourth as an opener, instead of Tendulkar.

Quinton de Kock. (Photo by Steve Bell – ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Klusener did brilliantly in all positions between 6 and 8, but only qualified with 40-plus innings at 8.

Michael Bevan was a great finisher but relied more on average than strike rate, whereas a higher strike rate is ideal at No.6.

Andrew Symonds would also be worth considering, taking fielding into account. Otherwise, the only truly great fielders in this side would be Richards (three runouts in the 1975 World Cup final) and de Villiers. Dhoni was arguably the best keeper among top batting candidates. Ricky Ponting would grab 12th man honours as possibly the best fielder (he was 27th in batting).

No other Aussies in the side? Well, this is just on paper. Always good to win the actual tournaments as well!

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