Features Icon 1 FEATURES

Career Impact – the First 1,000

Wally Hammond, the first to achieve a career impact of 1,000%.

In this article, I outlined my proposal to measure the real impact of test cricketers based on the changes in their team’s win probability as a result of certain match events. Traditionally, players are ranked by averages and/or aggregates, however in this regard a run is a run and a wicket is a wicket; a century made in a tepid draw counts the same as one which leads to a successful run chase, while a wicket taken at the end of the same draw counts the same as one which results in a victory by a single run. Additional benefits of an impact-measurement system are that it is a) era-blind and b) discipline-blind; the impact of taking a wicket at a particular point in a match has to a large degree remained the same throughout Test cricket history, and the impact in terms of the change in win probability is relevant to batsmen, the fielders and bowlers alike. The basic principle, as stated in the previous article, is repeated below for convenience – if you already know this from my previous musings on this subject, you can skip ahead to the Career Impact discussion.

The Method

When a batsman comes in, he and his partner will make a number of runs until (usually) one of them is out. Prior to the dismissal, the win probability for his team will usually have increased, depending on the state of the match at the start and end, in terms of runs behind or ahead and wickets left to give. Let’s say the win probability when the new batsman joins his partner is 0.349, and after scoring 100 runs together the win probability has risen to 0.491, an increase of 0.142. On his dismissal, the win probability then reduces to 0.437. Under the old method, that would represent an overall change in win probability of 0.088 (i.e. 0.437 – 0.349). However with the new method, we have an increase in win probability during the partnership of 0.142, and what’s more, we also have the change in win probability due to the dismissal which we can account for, i.e. 0.054 (0.491 – 0.437).

This latter fact means we can now bring the fielding side into the awarding of win probability changes. This negative change in win probability (for the batting team) is split three ways, with a third going to the batsman as a negative impact, while the remaining two-thirds is split between the bowler and fielder (if any were involved), as a positive change (given that the dismissal typically improves their chances of winning). So, if in the example given above both batsman scored 45 runs with 10 going to extras, each would receive a positive win probability change of (0.142 * 45/100) = 0.0639 (switching to percent for readability, that’s 6.39%). The dismissed batsman would also be credited with a negative change of (0.054/3) = 0.018 or 1.80%, so his contribution for that partnership would be 6.39% – 1.80% = 4.59%. This contribution would be added to his other contributions from previous partnerships, if any, to give an overall win probability impact for his innings. The not out batsman has the same 6.39% added to his impact aggregate, but with no deduction as he remains not out at this point.

All impact figures from each event can thus be totalled for batting, fielding and bowling for each player, and these match figures totalled to give career figures. There is another advantage of this method of assessing an innings, which is that it considers only the impact throughout the innings and nothing which occurs after the innings in question, so a more reasonable measure of a performance in a losing cause is also possible.

Career Impact

I’m in the process of refining the database to complete the career figures for all Test cricketers, however I’ve completed the review for the first 1000 Test players (as referenced by CricketArchive’s player number), which seemed like a good point to post an interim review. This takes us up to and including Colin Cowdrey, but predates for example Ken Barrington. Nonetheless, we have a great deal of all-time greats to look at in this feature, including Hobbs, Hutton, the three Ws, Mankad, Lindwall, Harvey, Sobers and, of course, the great Don Bradman. I’ll review the most significant players in terms of career impact (CI%) chronologically, as we don’t at this stage know the final rankings.

303.7 FR Spofforth (Aus) 18
327.7 G Ulyett (Eng) 25
344.8 CTB Turner (Aus) 17
360.3 GA Lohmann (Eng) 18
409.9 G Giffen (Aus) 31
361.6 R Peel (Eng) 20
311.7 J Briggs (Eng) 33
500.3 H Trumble (Aus) 32

“The Demon” was the first to pass the 300% mark in terms of career impact – for illustration, this represents the equivalent of single-handedly turning around three matches from total defeat (0% win probability) to victory (100% win probability). The early impact players are made up of players from England and Australia in about equal measure, South Africa being decidedly minnows at this stage of test cricket history. Australian all-rounder George Giffen was the first to top 400% career impact and spinner Hughie Trumble the first to scale the 500% barrier – from this point on I’ll use that 500% milestone as the cut-off for the purposes of this review. The sharper-eyed amongst you will have noticed that most of the above are bowlers, and I’ll come onto the reasons for that after the main review.

642.9 MA Noble (Aus) 42
790.3 WW Armstrong (Aus) 50
544.5 GA Faulkner (SA) 25
500.6 AW Nourse (SA) 45

More Australian all-round strength on display here, as first Monty Noble becomes the first to top 600% and the “Big Ship” goes over 700%, in fact just failing to register 800% for his career. Noble went past Trumble’s previous best of 500 in his 32nd Test, exactly the same number as Trumble, while Armstrong only needed 40 Tests to overhaul Noble, who needed two Tests more for his 643. We also see here the first of the great South Africans, with Aubrey Faulkner, who we will discuss in more detail later, and Dave Nourse making an appearance.

613.2 W Rhodes (Eng) 58
728.4 JB Hobbs (Eng) 61
638.4 FE Woolley (Eng) 64
671.7 H Sutcliffe (Eng) 54
591.6 MW Tate (Eng) 39

Clearly this was a fruitful period for England, as the next five to exceed 500% in career impact all represented that country, however that was about to change. It can be seen that Hobbs, whose proficiency was mainly his batting, did not have the same degree of impact as for example the all-rounder Armstrong had.

1374.2 WR Hammond (Eng) 85
1075.8 DG Bradman (Aus) 52
649.0 B Mitchell (SA) 42
1044.2 L Hutton (Eng) 79

Three absolute all-time greats in the next group, with a new high mark in career impact being posted by Hammond, who became the first to pass 1,000% and overtook Armstrong’s previous mark during his 42nd Test, as against 50 matches for his predecessor. No sooner had Hammond achieved a 1000% career impact mark than Bradman followed suit soon after, though Bradman required 12 fewer Tests to achieve it, passing the mark in his 47th match as opposed to Hammond’s 59 Tests. Hutton, by comparison, reached 1,000% in his 75th Test. Bradman of course played in fewer Tests than either of the two Englishmen, though by now far more Test matches were being played than for example during Faulkner’s day, and we’ll address that issue later.

731.9 AV Bedser (Eng) 51
741.5 KR Miller (Aus) 55
782.9 DCS Compton (Eng) 78
600.0 ED Weekes (WI) 48
654.4 MH Mankad (Ind) 44

Two of the most charasmatic players ever to strap on pads feature in this next group, Keith Miller and Dennis Compton, and we also have the first representatives of both West Indies and India. The first of the three Ws to reach the milestone of 500% was Everton Weekes, and Vinoo Mankad, while creating slightly more impact with the ball than with his bat, also tops 600%.

564.0 JC Laker (Eng) 46
627.2 TE Bailey (Eng) 61
623.9 TG Evans (Eng) 91
828.2 RR Lindwall (Aus) 61
562.4 CL walcott (WI) 44
621.6 H Tayfield (SA) 37
628.2 PBH May (Eng) 66

England during the 1950s had one of its finest ever teams, and several of them are represented in this next group, including Trevor Bailey – there are some who may be surprised at Bailey’s appearance here, as he often portrayed as nothing but a dour defensive batsman, but you don’t play over 60 Tests for the best team in the world without having something valuable to offer – Bailey deserves his place in this list. South African Hugh Tayfield is by no means the poor relation, as his impact per Test is higher than the rest of this group.

603.1 PR Umrigar (Ind) 59
1002.3 RN Harvey (Aus) 79
793.7 AK Davidson (Aus) 44
714.3 FM Worrell (WI) 51
930.2 R Benaud (Aus) 63
550.9 JHB Waite (SA) 50

Is it any wonder that the Australians thrashed a strong England side in 1959, with players of the quality of Harvey, Davidson and Benaud at their disposal? Benaud almost passed 1000% while Harvey became only the fourth player ever to do so, in his 79th and final Test. India has its second representative in the personage of Polly Umrigar, and we also see the last of the three Ws, Frank Worrell; how fitting that the two captains of that great series in 1960-61, including the first Tied Test, should have had such significant impact over their careers. Not counting Clyde Walcott, who kept only for part of his career, South Africa’s John Waite becomes only the second wicketkeeper to top 500% alongside Godfrey Evans.

967.5 FS Trueman (Eng) 67
747.8 JR Reid (NZ) 58
813.3 JB Statham (Eng) 70
555.8 AR Lock (Eng) 49
677.6 TW Graveney (Eng) 79
692.8 Hanif Mohammad (Pak) 55
1756.8 GS SObers (WI) 93
1327.6 MC Cowdrey (Eng) 114

Our final group from the first 1,000 players features two of England’s finest ever fast bowlers, Fred Trueman and Brian Statham, as well as one her most overlooked spinners, Tony Lock – Trueman almost reached the rarified 1,000% milestone. Due partly to playing a low number of Tests, we have the first representatives of New Zealand and Pakistan, namely John Reid and Hanif Mohammad. Colin Cowdrey politely accumulated more career impact than anyone before with the exception of Walter Hammond, as he and Sobers became the fifth and sixth players to top 1,000% in total career impact. But pride of place here must go to the incomparable Garfield Sobers, accumulator of a massive 1757% of career impact, equivalent to turning around almost eighteen matches single-handed. Sobers passed 1,000% in his 58th Test and overhauled Hammond’s previous highest career impact total in his 69th Test, whereas Hammond played in 85 matches.

Impact Per Test

How do Sobers and Bradman compare? Sobers scored nearly twice as many impact points as Bradman, but he also played in almost twice as many games. On a per-Test basis, Bradman created 20.7% of match impact, against 18.9% by Sobers. Others with a very high per-Test impact include Hammond (16.2%), Tayfield (16.8%) and Davidson (18.0%).

One player I said I’d come back to was Aubrey Faulkner. Faulkner’s numbers are incredible – he accumulated 544.5% in just 25 Tests for a per-Test mark of 21.8%, higher even than Bradman. Perhaps even more remarkably, his numbers are exactly evenly divided between bat and ball; he scored 252% with the bat and 252% with the ball!

19th Century Bowlers

The last thing I promised to revisit was the issue of the early list being dominated by bowlers who played most of their cricket in the 19th century. I touched on the reasons for this when I re-hashed Series Points, however the reason for this is I think due partly to changes in dismissal types, but mainly to inequities in opportunity. First, over the years we have seen a variation in dismissal types, such that if we plot the percentage of wickets which are unassisted (i.e. bowled, lbw, no fielder involved) we see a steady decline from the late 19th century through the 1950s, after which there is a dramatic decline until the 1970s, since when levels have remained constant. So there are many more assisted wickets now than in Lohmann’s day, with the result that bowlers in those days were more often solely responsible for the impact of a wicket.

More significant I feel is the division of labour and the resultant changing opportunities. Prior to WW1 the percentage of the bowling favoured the opening pair to a much higher degree, as often there would be three and sometimes even just two bowlers used for a complete innings. In the 19th century opening bowlers were responsible for 60% of the bowling, whereas since WW1 the average is around 40%. If we adjust to allow for this, the per-Test figures for those bowlers are modified as follows:-

Pre-Adj Post-Adj Player
20.3 13.6 Turner
20.0 13.8 Lohmann
18.1 12.5 Peel
18.2 11.9 Ferris
19.4 13.3 Richardson

Of course, if we adjust these bowlers we need to adjust all those who bowled during this period, which includes the aforementioned Aubrey Faulkner. After the necessary adjustments have been made, Faulkner’s per-Test figure reduces to 20.1, which should see Bradman restored to top spot on a per-Test basis.

The Greatest

So our review of the first 1,000 players has revealed 40 players who achieved 500% of career impact, and just six players who achieved the milestone of 1,000% – Walter Hammond, Don Bradman, Len Hutton, Neil Harvey, Garry Sobers and Colin Cowdrey.

Cowdrey is the only player in the list with more than 100 Tests played, and with so many Tests being played by players since then there will no doubt be several more in the next review – perhaps a different cut-off point will have to be set?

Either that or you’ll have to put up with me prattling on for even longer.


thanks for all the hard work mate

Comment by smalishah84 | 12:00am GMT 14 January 2014

Cheers, appreciate the comment smalishah84!

Comment by Dave Wilson | 12:00am GMT 15 January 2014

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Dave Wilson