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Eighty And Out (Slight Return)

michael_hussey
Eighty And Out (Slight Return)

When Michael Hussey shot out of the blocks to register the astounding average of 84.80 in his first 33 innings, this feat was described as “Bradmanesque”, yet another word to add to our ever-expanding sporting lexicon. This was admittedly based mainly on comparison of Hussey’s average to the famous 99.94 compiled by Bradman over his Test career, but Bradman’s test career covered 21 years, whereas Hussey had been playing for only two and a half years at that point. It’s much more impressive to maintain such a high average over such a lengthy Test career than for a relatively short period, however I did wonder just how comparable Hussey’s performances were to those of the great man, and I decided the only way to compare them was as directly as is possible, that is over the first 33 innings of Bradman’s career.

Here are the main figures compiled by both batsmen:-

Bradman Hussey
Runs 3020 2120
Innings 33 33
Not Out 3 8
Average 100.67 84.80
50s 17 14

Bradman scored almost half as many runs again as did Hussey, but it’s when we look at the big scores each man compiled that the gap between them is most apparent – of the 17 scores over fifty made by Bradman, he converted an amazing 76% of them into centuries, and, even more amazing, six of his thirteen hundreds were doubles or better. Hussey, on the other hand, had almost as many scores over fifty, however only four were centuries (28% conversion rate) and none were doubles. It would appear that Hussey, with his higher number of incomplete innings, was more the beneficiary of the method by which averages are calculated – looking solely at per-innings averages, Bradman comes out at 91.51 to Hussey’s 64.24. So the only thing “Bradmanesque” about Hussey’s performance was his high average.

However, I’m not here to pick on Michael Hussey, but I did wonder if anyone else, in their early days, has approached the Don’s level of greatness. I decided to look at all batsmen through the years to see who has scored the most runs over their first 80 innings (limited to 80 as Bradman played 80 innings over his test career) – here are the top twenty:

Player Runs Average
Bradman (Aus) 6996 99.94
Weekes (WI) 4446 59.28
Sutcliffe (Eng) 4425 61.46
Richards (WI) 4411 58.04
Hobbs (Eng) 4384 60.05
Hutton (Eng) 4191 58.21
Hayden (Aus) 4185 57.33
Sobers (WI) 4178 58.85
Hammond (Eng) 4096 57.69
Sehwag (Ind) 4062 52.75
Lara (WI) 4060 52.05
Harvey (Aus) 4006 54.14
Gavaskar (Ind) 3951 53.39
Pietersen (Eng) 3890 50.52
Dravid (Ind) 3871 54.52
Worrell (WI) 3792 53.41
Smith GC (SA) 3728 49.71
Chappell GS (Aus) 3724 55.58
Barrington (Eng) 3708 51.50
Kanhai (WI) 3696 47.38

Everton Weekes came closest, however even he was more than 2,500 runs off the Don’s pace. Given the amount of cricket played nowadays, batsmen today reach 80 innings in a much shorter time period than players of the 1930s and 1940s, and are therefore much younger and possibly not at their peak, so let’s expand the search a little bit by taking the best consecutive 80 innings for each batsman:

Player Runs Average
Bradman (Aus) 6996 99.94
Ponting (Aus) 5052 74.29
Lara (WI) 4972 63.74
Sobers (WI) 4969 73.07
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) 4884 66.90
Tendulkar (Ind) 4767 66.21
Hobbs (Eng) 4753 63.37
Hayden (Aus) 4743 65.88
Richards (WI) 4741 60.78
Kallis (SA) 4711 71.38
Dravid (Ind) 4652 68.41
Hutton (Eng) 4635 67.17
Javed Miandad (Pak) 4578 61.04
Barrington (Eng) 4547 64.04
Gavaskar (Ind) 4528 59.58
Sangakkara (SL) 4509 60.12
Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak) 4487 61.47
Jayawardene (SL) 4456 59.41
Weekes (WI) 4446 59.41
Hammond (Eng) 4439 63.41

The cream really is rising to the top now, with Ponting, Lara and Sobers in the top four – Ricky Ponting turns out to be the nearest to his countryman and with the next best average too. Still, there’s the issue of era-specifics – batsmen are scoring at a higher rate then ever these days, so the next section takes into account the average number of runs a top order batsman would have scored in each decade, and shows each player’s aggregate runs above that. For example, in the period during which Bradman played, an average top-order batsman would have scored 2712 runs in 80 innings, so Bradman was 4284 runs above era. Here is the list of the highest above-era scores:

Player Runs Above Avg
Bradman (Aus) 4284
Sobers (WI) 2328
Ponting (Aus) 2231
Lara (WI) 2151
Hobbs (Eng) 2111
Tendulkar (Ind) 2078
Richards (WI) 2070
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) 2063
Hutton (Eng) 2030
Weekes (WI) 1939
Hayden (Aus) 1922
Kallis (SA) 1890
Javed Miandad (Pak) 1863
Barrington (Eng) 1856
Dravid (Ind) 1831
Gavaskar (Ind) 1813
Hammond (Eng) 1782
Sutcliffe (Eng) 1708
Sangakkara (SL) 1688
Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak) 1666

So Garry Sobers now shows as the next best, moving ahead of Ponting and Lara. Still, Bradman is a mile ahead of everyone else. But there’s still one thing we’re not taking into account, which is those batsmen who, for various reasons, didn’t have the opportunity to amass 80 innings. Players such as Graeme Pollock, prevented by politics, George Headley, prevented by lack of tours and wartime, and the great players of the Golden Era, when much less Test cricket was played. To do that, we need to calculate the runs above average as a percentage; as an example, Bradman’s 4284 runs equates to 159.7% above era-average. This percentage is based only on the games in which Bradman played, with Bradman’s own performances excluded – in this way, each player is compared with his peers on an almost equal footing.

So here is our final top 25, showing the best batsmen’s percentage runs above the era average:-

Player % Above Avg
Bradman (Aus) 159.7
Abel (Eng) 99.7
Richards (WI) 89.0
Hobbs (Eng) 88.5
Headley (WI) 85.4
Sobers (WI) 83.8
May (Eng) 82.6
Hutton (Eng) 82.6
Lara (WI) 76.3
Ponting (Aus) 75.9
Harvey (Aus) 75.5
Steel (Eng) 75.1
Javed Miandad (Pak) 74.4
Gavaskar (Ind) 73.8
Tendulkar (Ind) 73.7
Sangakkara (SL) 68.2
Barrington (Eng) 66.4
Jayawardene (SL) 66.3
Hammond (Eng) 66.0
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) 65.9
Jackson, FS (Eng) 65.2
Hayden (Aus) 63.7
Tyldesley, GE (Eng) 63.3
Sutcliffe (Eng) 62.2
Gooch (Eng) 62.2

Once again, Bradman is head and shoulders above the rest. Bobby Abel’s inclusion at number two is very interesting – in the games in which Abel played, he scored twice as many runs as anyone else, although it should be noted he only played 22 innings in total. Viv Richards is the king of the modern era, followed by Jack Hobbs, George Headley, Sobers and Peter May. As with Abel, Allan Steel’s number 13 showing is a surprise, though again this was achieved with only 18 total innings. As for other notables who didn’t make the top 25, Geoff Boycott was ranked 29th, Everton Weekes is at 32, Graeme Pollock at 36, Border at 38, Compton at 40, Dexter at 44, Clem Hill at 46, with Gordon Greenidge rounding out the top 50.

Whichever way you slice it, Bradman was significantly ahead of all-comers in terms of run-production. He is both the source of the term and, surely the only batsman who can lay claim to the adjective “Bradmanesque”.

Comments

Interesting analysis.

Comment by andyc | 12:00am GMT 3 September 2009

pretty cool, it just goes to show how far Bradman is ahead. also pity that not one NZ batsmen featured anywhere on those list, we really do have I work cut out for us all the best Jesse Ryder.

Comment by slugger | 12:00am GMT 3 September 2009

wow… very interesting… can you give links to these tables you have created? will be interesting to study them.

Comment by Bagapath | 12:00am GMT 4 September 2009

Thanks guys for the positive feedback..

Slugger, Crowe was the top New Zealander, at number 43, then a couple of guys who didn\’t play much, Dempster at 53 and Donnelly at 86.

Bagapath, let me see what I can do.

Comment by Dave Wilson | 12:00am GMT 4 September 2009

Great analysis there mate, was an interesting read.

Comment by Amitpal_00 | 12:00am GMT 4 September 2009

>> Still, there’s the issue of era-specifics – batsmen are scoring at a higher rate then ever these days, so the next section takes into account the average number of runs a top order batsman would have scored in each decade, and shows each player\’s aggregate runs above that.

Can you expand on this ? Why decade, and how do you handle it when players’ career span two decades ?

Wouldn’t it have been more accurate to take the average of top order players over all the matches played during their time ? For eg, if Bradman’s debut was in the Test match no.181 and his last match was no.320, take the averages of all top-6 (or is it top-7 ?) batsmen from all teams in those 140 matches. (I assume that you have access to some kind of a database. Even otherwise, it is doable using statsguru in a couple of hours.)

Comment by Tapioca | 12:00am GMT 4 September 2009

Terrific piece. Nice work.

Comment by zaremba | 12:00am GMT 4 September 2009

Top class, mate! Thanks for the great analysis!

Comment by Cricket Tragic | 12:00am GMT 4 September 2009

very good work… and very insightful.. its amazing how statistical analysis can reveal so much…

Comment by cricfan | 12:00am GMT 4 September 2009

Thanks for the comments guys.

Tapioca, I realised after your comment that I could improve on this – each player’s analysis in the era-specific section at the end now only takes into account those games in which he actually appeared, with his own performances excluded. In this way, we can compare hin to his peers on an almost equal footing. There are some surprises – would be interested in your opinions.

Comment by Dave Wilson | 12:00am GMT 5 September 2009

Would like to see what happens to the last table if you set a min criteria of 40 completed innings. Must be the only way to remove those in the list who had very short careers.

Comment by Bagapath | 12:00am GMT 5 September 2009

Hi bagapath – we’d lose Abel, Steel, Jackson and Tyldesley from the list, and Greg Chappell, Boycott, Kanhai and Inzamam would come in at the bottom of the 25. I don’t think a minimum number of innings is fair though – 40 innings covers about two or three years these days, whereas during the fifteen years covering Abel’s Test career only six players even reached 40 innings (Syd Gregory, Joe Darling, Hugh Trumble, Archie Mac, Clem Hill and Harry Trott).

Comment by Dave Wilson | 12:00am GMT 5 September 2009

Great work Dave. I too am very interested in getting the link to the tables you’ve worked out!

Comment by KingKallis | 12:00am GMT 5 September 2009

Fine work. Forgot to put that comment in the original post.

Comment by Tapioca | 12:00am GMT 8 September 2009

Can i please have the info you used for this.
I am doing a high school project on bradman

Comment by Clarke | 12:00am GMT 22 September 2009

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