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Series Points, a new way of ranking Test players – the 1980s

Series Points, a new way of ranking Test players - the 1980s

Series Points – A New Way of Ranking Test Players
The 1980s

This article is the latest in a series which introduces Series Points, a new ranking method for Test players which directly compares all players together (i.e. batsmen and bowlers as well as fielding ability), whilst also awarding more points to players who performed well against stronger opposition (the original article has a more detailed description of series points for teams and individuals, suffice to say here that we divide up the team series points [TSPs] into individual series points [ISPs] based on their performances with bat, ball and in the field).

I also covered in the original article the Test Player of the Decade for the 1930s, following which we have looked at the 1920s, 1940s, the 19th century, pre-WW1, the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s. At the end of all this, we can look at all Test players, ranked based on everything they did in Tests and based on their strength of opposition, to ultimately proclaim who was the best player ever.

Player of The Decade – the 1980s

The top players are presented using two variations on ISPs, i.e. total ISPs and ISPs per 5-game series (basically points-per-match, but multiplied by five to make the variations easier to see).

Player of the Series – the 1980s

Nowadays a Player of the Series is awarded for Test series’ – by the time of the ’80s Player of the Series awards were being made in some cases, however here I list the top players identified by series ISPs. The decade of the ’80s saw 79 series’ and 266 Tests played, so as we saw with the ’60s and ’70s there are several players who achieved multiple Player of the Series awards. Rather than list all 79 series’ and the top players individually as we did for earlier eras, here is a summary of the multiple award winners:-

5 – RJ Hadlee (NZ), Kapil Dev (Ind), MD Marshall (WI)
4 – IT Botham (Eng), Imran Khan (Pak)
3 – Abdul Qadir (Pak), MA Taylor (Aus), Javed Miandad (Pak)*
2 – GS Chappell (Aus), AJ Lamb (Eng), IVA Richards (WI), RJ Shastri (Ind), B Yardley (Aus)

* – Javed Miandad shared one award.

Of the three players with five series awards, Malcolm Marshall played in the fewest series with 17, followed by Richard Hadlee with 20 then Kapil Dev on 22. Imran Khan scored the highest single-series ISP total, with 184 against India in 1982-83 when he averaged 61.75 with the bat and took an amazing 40 wickets, albeit in a six-Test series (this was the same series in which Javed Miandad, Mudassar Nazar and Zaheer Abbas all averaged more than 118!). Although Malcolm Marshall had the top three scores made in five-Test series (119 vs England 1985-86, 119 vs England 1988, 118 vs Australia 1984-85), these were eclipsed by Abdul Qadir, who scored 132 in only three Tests against England in 1987-88, taking 30 wickets and averaging over 45 with the bat.

Mark Taylor deserves a special mention – he did not make his debut until 1988-89 against West Indies, yet proceeded to take the series award in all three of the multi-Test series in which Australia appeared between his debut and the end of the decade.

Test Player Of The Decade – the 1980s

Turning our attention to individual performance throughout the period, here is a list of the top-ranked players in terms of total ISPs for all of the Tests played in the period 1980-89:-

Total ISPs Player Series Matches
1291 IT Botham (Eng) 20 72
1235 MD Marshall (WI) 17 65
1190 Kapil Dev (Ind) 22 80
1184 RJ Hadlee (NZ) 20 54
1176 IVA Richards (WI) 19 80
1149 AR Border (Aus) 29 95
1051 Imran Khan (Pak) 19 53
980 PJL Dujon (WI) 16 68
957 DL Haynes (WI) 19 81
942 CG Greenidge (WI) 18 75
918 Javed Miandad (Pak) 22 74
912 DI Gower (Eng) 23 86
817 RJ Shastri (Ind) 19 69
792 Abdul Qadir (Pak) 19 57
723 Mudassar Nazar (Pak) 19 57
710 J Garner (WI) 11 45
692 MD Crowe (NZ) 17 48
685 RB Richardson (WI) 13 49
673 GA Gooch (Eng) 15 55
670 JG Wright (NZ) 21 57

Allan Border played in the most games during the period with a total of 95 out of Australia’s total of 97; he also played in the most rubbers, with 29, six ahead of the next highest, David Gower. Desmond Haynes (WI, 81 of 82) and Kapil Dev (Ind, 80 of 81) both appeared in 98.8% of their team’s matches. Once again, England played most Tests during the period with 104, followed by Australia (97), West Indies (82), India (81), Pakistan (80), New Zealand (59) and Sri Lanka (29).

We can see that no player particularly dominated this decade in terms of total ISPs – Botham is top but played in more Tests than Marshall, and Hadlee appeared in fewer still. That great West Indies team supplies seven out of the top 20 players, including Jeffrey Dujon, who is significantly ahead of the next-ranked wicketkeeper (Rodney Marsh, 389).

Botham is the only player to be represented in the total ISP lists for both the 1970s and 1980s.

Levelling the field

Now, let’s look at each player’s points per five-Test series (PP5), i.e. the average number of points the player would have scored in a five-Test series, based on his average points per match multiplied by five (as we did in the previous articles). This gives us a better idea of each player’s level of performance, as is it not based on the number of Tests played – for example, Kapil Dev and Hadlee had almost the same points total, but Kapil Dev played in half as many again.

Below is the revised list based on points per five-Test series (PP5), with a minimum qualifying number of Tests applied which is different for each country based on their total number of Tests played during the period in question:-

PP5 Player Matches
109.6 RJ Hadlee (NZ) 54
103.7 MA Taylor (Aus) 15
99.2 Imran Khan (Pak) 53
95.0 MD Marshall (WI) 65
89.7 IT Botham (Eng) 72
78.9 J Garner (WI) 45
78.7 MA Holding (WI) 41
77.4 B Yardley (Aus) 19
75.3 JF Reid (NZ) 18
74.7 AME Roberts (WI) 15
74.6 Iqbal Qasim (Pak) 27
74.4 Kapil Dev (Ind) 80
74.2 BL Cairns (NZ) 26
73.7 GS Chappell (Aus) 27
73.5 IVA Richards (WI) 80
72.1 MD Crowe (NZ) 48
72.1 PLJ Dujon (WI) 68
69.9 RB Richardson (WI) 49
69.6 RA Harper (WI) 24
69.5 Abdul Qadir (Pak) 57

This list features seven players who also featured in the equivalent list for the 1970s:- Hadlee, Imran, Botham, Garner, Kapil Dev, Chappell and Richards. Again, the shift away from the two traditional powers, England and Australia continued, with 16 of the 20 being from other countries.

Richard Hadlee scored well in the 1970s but just got better and better throughout the ’80s. He enjoyed a particularly purple patch between 1983-84 and 1986, when he achieved five series ISP awards from seven, including a superb 122 points in three Tests against Australia in 1985-86. Indeed, most of New Zealand’s rubbers were of the three-Test variety, and surely Hadlee would have figured better in the total ISP list had they been involved in a few five-Test series. Although classed as an all-rounder, perhaps only Malcolm Marshall was a better bowler during this period. Mark Taylor had his first series ISP award in the 1989 Ashes series, when he made 839 Test runs, but was perhaps even better against Pakistan the following winter, when he scored at least fifty every time he went out to bat, including two centuries. Taylor only just qualified to be included in this list, with 15 appearances.

Imran Khan missed a third of Pakistan’s Tests this decade, and would also have figured more highly in the total ISP list otherwise. His series awards included four in a row, including two against the mighty West Indies. During this period, he averaged over 44 with the bat and took 256 wickets at a shade over 19. Malcolm Marshall was phenomenal during this decade, clearly the best pure bowler, taking 323 wickets to lead all bowlers in the period. He was a thorn in England’s side in particular, two of his five series awards coming against them, including his heroics of 1988 when he took 35 wickets at a paltry 12.65.

Ian Botham scored his highest in the 1981 Ashes (of course!) although he averaged more ISPs per game in the three-Test series against India in 1982, with 109 points. He was also top man in the 1985 Ashes series, but that was his last hurrah of a glorious career. Joel Garner maintained almost exactly the same PP5 average in the ?80s as he had in the ’70s. He took the series award against Australia in 1983-84, but also scored highly against England in 1984 and 1985-86.

Michael Holding‘s Test career was coming to a close by the mid-’80s, but he maintained a high level of consistency until his retirement. The high point was against Australia in the winter of 1981-82, which included his only 10-WI of the decade. Aussie spinner Bruce Yardley is perhaps a surprise here – in fact he took two consecutive series awards in the winter of 1981-82, against Pakistan and West Indies, totaling 36 wickets in the six matches.

John Reid was leading batsman for New Zealand against India in 1980-81, then missed the following four rubbers before again leading the aggregates against Pakistan twice during the winter oh 1984-85. The delightfully-named Anderson Montgomery Everton “Andy” Roberts rounds out the top 10 as the fourth West Indian fast bowler, an unbelievable level of bowling quality. He almost qualifies as an all-rounder in the 1980s, with a batting average of 26.22 being just under his bowling average of 26.66.

So close…

The cut-off for the PP5 list was set at 15 Tests. Indian leg-spinner Nirendra Hirwani burst onto the Test scene in the winter of 1987-88, taking 16 wickets on debut against the mighty West Indies, and had played in 10 Tests by the end of the decade. His PP5 average of 79.0 would have placed him between Botham and Garner.

Next time…

We’ll take a look at the 1990s.


Great stuff, I thought Richards would have done much better, and that the fast bowlers of the WI would have taken many more points off one another.

Comment by archie mac | 12:00am GMT 22 February 2009

Thanks Sean. Richards figured very highly in the aggregate list, #1 of the batsmen, although Haynes and Greenidge also took a lot of batting points. Richie Richardson too, later in the decade.

Comment by Dave Wilson | 12:00am GMT 22 February 2009

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