Dave Wilson | 7:23pm gmt 15 Mar 2010
BOWLER ODI WON-LOSS RECORDS
An ODI match between Australia and India at the MCG
Having resided in the States for over ten years, doing my best to see as much cricket as possible in that time (not an easy task), I've been bombarded with the American love of winning. Every time a team wins (and lets face it, that's every time there's a game - they hate draws, or rather ties), the "win" is assigned to someone, be it the starting pitcher in baseball or the goalie in ice hockey. And of course, in true egalitarian spirit, someone must also shoulder the blame for the "loss". Americans love winning so much they came up with a new word to measure the most successful in that regard, "winningest". Well, the less said about that the better, however the general idea is not totally devoid of merit, so I thought it might be fun to apply the same principles to cricket.
PURISTS, LOOK AWAY NOW
The obvious candidate in cricket for which we can identify a single player as a winner is ODIs, and specifically bowlers. We can't use oprning bowlers as "starting" bowlers in the same way as there are starting pitchers in baseball, as typically the quicks start the bowling and we wouldn't have any spinners included, so a different method for identifying the winner is called for. I decided to hand the "win" to a bowler if he took three or more wickets in a match which his team won. Why three wickets and not four or more? If we used four wickets, then this would identify winners in less than 30% of ODIs, whereas a threshold of three raises that figure to around 75%. Additionally, using three wickets shows the value of consistency and the cream tends to rise to the top.
EVERYONE LOVES A WINNER
Looking at won-loss percentage, it turns out there are twelve players who have compiled a "perfect" record, the best being Australia's Peter taylor with a 9-0 record. However, Taylor also had seven games which would have qualified for a loss, had Australia actually lost those games. The top of the list also contains many players who would not be considered bowlers per se, such as Allan Border (8-0) and Virender Sehwag (5-0), mainly players whose bowling talents are only used when conditions particularly suit them. Looking at total wins, Wasim Akram has most career wins, his record being 54-23 (0.701).
LABOURING IN OBSCURITY
Another factor is performing well when your team is not always successful, e.g. Heath Streak of Zimbabwe compiled a 13-15 (0.464) win-loss record while playing for a Zimbabwe side that wen 51-128 (0.285), while Abdul Qadir went 13-12 (0.520) on a Pakistani team which won 53 and lost 49 (0.520) - clearly Streak was more important to his side, as Qadir's won-loss percentage was exactly the same as his team's, whereas Streak's was significantly better. The best in this regard was New Zealand's Chris Pringle, whose 8-3 record (0.727) on a team which was 21-39 (0.350) is probably equivalent to going unbeaten on a team which was able to split wins and losses.
Importance to your team can also be assessed by how many of the team's wins the player can be deemed responsible for (i.e. using the criteria outlined above); among players with a large number of career ODIs Saqlain Mushtaq has been very successful in this regard; his 34 wins came from a team total of 93 wins, or 36.6%. Number one overall in this category is Ajantha Mendis, with twelve of Sri Lanka's 21 wins during his short career (57.1%).
A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
There are two aspects to a win or loss, that is the player's performance and the rest of his teammates, both while batting and while in the field, with some players being luckier than others as regards support. Fifteen bowlers have had all of their potentially winning performances turned into actual wins, and the most fortunate of these are Shaoib Malik and Lance Klusener, both of whom had all seventeen of their 3fers turned into team wins; similarly, players who were fortunate to have their teammates turn their potentially losing performances into wins include Andy Bichel (seven 0fers) and Peter Taylor (six 0fers), who both ended up with zero losses. On the other side of the coin, there are the bowlers whose 3fers were not turned into wins by their colleagues; England's Andy Caddick had seven 3fers but only two wins, Guy Whittall of Zimbabwe had ten 3fers and only three wins, Kapil Dev had nineteen 3fers and only nine wins and the aforementioned Heath Streak had 27 3fers and only thirteen wins; similarly there are the bowlers whose 0fers were made in losing efforts - Steve Harmison had seven zero-wicket returns and all seven were lost by England, while Bangladesh's Abdur Razzak lost all but two of his fifteen 0fers.
PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES
Some bowlers we know can be relied on to perform consistently well, whilst others are more mercurial, brilliant one day and mediocre the next. Players with the best percentage of 3fers include the aforementined Ajantha Mendis with fourteen in 38 outings (36.8%) and Len Pascoe with nine in 28 ODIs (32.1%); highly ranked players with a more substantial number of ODIs under their belts include Saqlain Mushtaq (48 in 165 ODIs, 29.1%) and Allan Donald (42 in 162 ODIs, 25.9%). Those front line bowlers who also had a low percentage of qualifying 0fers (i.e. minimum nine or ten overs) include Waqar Younis (21 in 258 ODIs, 8.1%) and Chaminda Vaas (29 in 320 ODIs, 9.1%).
VIEW FROM THE TOP
For comparison, here's a look at how some of the most notable bowlers in ODI history have performed in each category, ranked by most number of wins:-
|Player||ODI Inns||W-L Rec||Win%||Tm Rec||Tm Rec Win%||%TmWins||3fers||%3fers||0fers||%0fers|
|Wasim Akram (Pak)||351||54-23||0.701||199-145||0.578||27.1%||76||21.7%||47||13.4%|
|Muttiah Muralitharan (SL)||326||49-25||0.662||190-124||0.605||25.8%||66||20.2%||46||14.1%|
|Shaun Pollock (SA)||297||39-21||0.650||190-90||0.679||20.5%||48||16.2%||44||14.8%|
|Brett Lee (Aus)||182||38-6||0.864||133-41||0.764||28.6%||47||25.8%||18||9.9%|
|Glenn McGrath (Aus)||248||38-17||0.691||170-71||0.705||22.4%||45||18.1%||27||10.9%|
|Waqar Younis (Pak)||258||37-12||0.755||149-105||0.587||24.8%||53||20.5%||21||8.1%|
|Allan Donald (SA)||162||34-8||0.810||108-51||0.679||31.5%||42||25.9%||16||9.9%|
|Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak)||165||34-16||0.680||93-73||0.560||36.6%||48||29.1%||19||11.5%|
|Shane Warne (Aus)||191||32-20||0.615||123-65||0.654||26.0%||38||19.9%||32||16.8%|
|Makhaya Ntini (SA)||171||30-4||0.882||104-59||0.638||28.8%||37||21.6%||12||7.0%|
|Ajay Agarkar (Ind)||188||29-7||0.806||100-82||0.549||29.0%||38||20.2%||11||5.9%|
|Shahid Afridi (Pak)||269||28-20||0.583||165-117||0.585||17.0%||29||10.8%||38||14.1%|
|Chaminda Vaas (SL)||320||25-16||0.610||168-139||0.547||14.9%||43||13.4%||29||9.1%|
|Anil Kumble (Ind)||265||22-26||0.458||127-128||0.498||17.3%||29||10.9%||47||17.7%|
|Joel Garner (WI)||98||17-4||0.810||72-24||0.750||23.6%||22||22.4%||14||14.3%|
|Harbhajan Singh (Ind)||200||16-25||0.390||109-83||0.568||14.7%||23||11.5%||43||21.5%|
|Curtley Ambrose (WI)||175||15-16||0.484||93-78||0.544||16.1%||24||13.7%||30||17.1%|
|Shane Bond (NZ)||75||15-3||0.833||41-33||0.554||36.6%||21||28.0%||6||8.0%|
|Courtney Walsh (WI)||204||15-22||0.405||112-86||0.566||13.4%||19||9.3%||41||20.1%|
|Richard Hadlee (NZ)||112||14-8||0.636||51-57||0.472||27.5%||18||16.1%||18||16.1%|
|Malcolm Marshall (WI)||134||13-12||0.520||83-46||0.643||15.7%||16||11.9%||22||16.4%|
|Heath Streak (Zim)||185||13-15||0.464||51-128||0.285||25.5%||27||14.6%||20||10.8%|
|Michael Holding (WI)||102||11-3||0.786||77-23||0.770||14.3%||14||13.7%||10||9.8%|
|Andy Roberts (WI)||56||11-1||0.917||43-13||0.768||25.6%||13||23.2%||8||14.3%|
|Ian Botham (Eng)||115||10-6||0.625||66-47||0.584||15.2%||14||12.2%||18||15.7%|
|Imran Khan (Pak)||153||10-7||0.588||93-77||0.547||10.8%||18||11.8%||13||8.5%|
|Ian Bishop (WI)||83||9-1||0.900||43-38||0.531||20.9%||13||15.7%||8||9.6%|
|Kapil Dev (Ind)||221||9-13||0.409||103-113||0.477||8.7%||19||8.6%||27||12.2%|
|Dennis Lillee (Aus)||63||9-6||0.600||30-32||0.484||30.0%||15||23.8%||11||17.5%|
|Ewen Chatfield (NZ)||135||8-12||0.400||48-62||0.436||16.7%||12||10.7%||17||15.2%|
|Bob Willis (Eng)||64||3-5||0.375||36-28||0.563||8.3%||4||6.3%||10||15.6%|
|Jeff Thomson (Aus)||50||1-5||0.167||18-31||0.367||5.6%||4||8.0%||7||14.0%|
Each bowler's potential won-less record can be determined from the %3fers column (i.e. potential wins) and the %0fers (potential losses), so e.g. Wasim Akram could have potentially gone 76-47. Only two players had all of their 3fers turned into wins and none of their 0fers turned into losses, those being both Australians, Allan Border (8-0 from eight 3fers and two 0fers) and Mike Whitney (4-0 from four 3fers and four 0fers). Looking at the above table, Andy Roberts has the best won-loss percentage (0.917) of the top West Indian bowlers, but Joel Garner probably has the best record (17-4). Makhaya Ntini and Brett Lee also have very good won-loss records with a high number of wins. Ian Bishop has an excellent record (9-1) for a West Indian team starting its decline (43-38), also Heath Streak's record for Zimbabwe is exemplary, as highlighted earlier. Shane Bond (15 from 41) and Saqlain Mushtaq (34 from 93) have the highest percentage of team wins in the above list (36.6%). Saqlain was unlucky not to have an even better record, having only 34 of his 48 3fers turned into wins, as against all but three of his 19 0fers resulting in losses. Saqlain also has one of the best 3fer percentages (29.1%), just shading Bond at 28.0%. Ajay Agarkar's 5.9% 0fers is very low for a front line bowler, considering that Waqar Younis is next best in this list with 8.1%.
All things considered, I think I would have to choose Brett Lee, with his great won-loss record, high percentage of 3fers and team wins, coupled with a very low percentage of 0fers, as the top ODI bowler by this measure (though you may of course have your own opinions on this).
Okay, purists can open their eyes again. But only for a minute - next time I'm going to do the same for Test match bowlers.