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Series Points – A New Way to Rank Test Players

Series Points - A New Way to Rank Test Players

Series Points – A New Way of Ranking Test Players
The 1990s

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] allocated by the ICC Test rating system 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, the 1970s and the 1980s. If you’ve stuck with it so far, congratulations and be assured we’re almost at the end, at which point we’ll have ranked all Test players throughout history, rated according to everything they did in Tests and based on their strength of opposition, to ultimately proclaim who was the best Test player ever.

Cricket in the 1990s

The 1990s saw some significant developments during the decade:- the return of South Africa and introduction of Zimbabwe to the Test cricket arena; neutral and third umpires; the de-throning of West Indies as the champion cricketing nation by a resurgent Australia; allegations of match-fixing involving Salim Malik and Australians Shane Warne and Mark Waugh, and of (unfounded) ball-tampering by Pakistani pacemen Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis; the introduction of the unfathomable Duckworth-Lewis tie-breaking method, and, in Sanath Jayasuriya, the first Wisden Cricketer of the Year not to have appeared during the English season.

On the field, Graham Gooch and Bran Lara were setting new batting records, and Shane Warne, helped by the now-famous Gatting Ball, was resurrecting the art of the wrist-spinner. So, with those feats in mind, let’s take a look at the players of the decade.

Player of The Decade – the 1990s

The top players are presented using two variations on ISPs, namely total ISPs for the decade, which is a measure of longevity at a high level, and ISPs per 5-game series (PP5, basically points-per-match, but multiplied by five to make the variations easier to see), which measures high quality which was not necessarily sustained over the full decade. The very best players will of course score well using both measures.

Note that even though Zimbabwe were fresh minnows at this stage, the rating system takes this into account, as the points allocated by the ICC team rating system is based on the strength of opposition.

Player of the Series – the 1980s

Nowadays a Player of the Series is awarded for Test series – by the time of the ’90s Player of the Series awards were being made in some cases, however here the top players are identified for all series by total series ISPs. The decade of the ’90s saw 122 series and 347 Tests played, so with so many series there are several players who achieved multiple Player of the Series awards. Here is a summary of the multiple award winners (also shown for reference is the player’s total ISPs and PP5 average):-

PoS Player Series Tests ISPs PP5
5 Wasim Akram (Pak) 25 56 1014 90.5
BC Lara (WI) 19 65 987 75.9
SK Warne (Aus) 26 84 1315 78.3
4 BM McMillan (SA) 15 38 590 77.6
AJ Stewart (Eng) 26 91 1195 65.7
SR Waugh (Aus) 27 86 1182 68.7
PA de Silva (SL) 28 62 745 60.1
3 CL Cairns (NZ) 20 46 692 75.2
A Kumble (Ind) 24 59 860 76.9
M Muralitharan (SL) 25 51 798 78.2
SR Tendulkar (Ind) 26 67 825 61.6
ME Waugh (Aus)* 30 103 1455 70.6
WPUJC Vass (SL) 15 35 477 68.1
Waqar Younis (Pak)* 23 55 863 78.5
2 DC Boon (Aus) 15 59 701 59.4
AC Gilchrist (Aus) 3 9 231 128.3
GA Gooch (Eng) 12 43 629 73.1
CL Hooper (WI) 16 61 890 73.0
ST Jayasuriya (SL)* 25 47 534 56.8
JH Kallis (SA) 13 36 574 79.7
CD McMillan (NZ) 9 22 261 59.3
MA Taylor (Aus)* 24 89 1200 67.4

Key:- PoS (Player of the Series), ISPs (Total Individual Series Points), PP5 (Points-Per-5-Tests)

* – shared one award.

Of the 100 series which comprised multiple Tests and thus had an ISP-PoS, 32 did not have an actual Player of the Series awarded. Of the remaining 68, 38 turned out to be top in ISPs also, whereas 25 ISP series awards went to different members of the same team. Five ISP series awards went to members of the opposite team from the actual recipient.

Three players stand clear with five ISP series awards – Wasim Akram, Brian Lara and Shane Warne. Lara’s five is probably most impressive, as they all came in 4 or 5-Test series against either England or Australia, whereas Warne and Akram both had a couple of series awards against New Zealand.

Brian McMillan may have been the most under-rated player of the 1990s – by Series Points, he takes four series awards (giving him the best percentage of those playing in a significant number of series, with four from 15), but his great all-round performances only garnered him one from the Man of the Series voters.

Test Player Of The Decade – the 1990s

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 1990-99:-

Total ISPs Player Series Matches
1455 ME Waugh (Aus) 30 103
1315 SK Warne (Aus) 26 84
1310 IA Healy (Aus) 27 98
1200 MA Taylor (Aus) 24 89
1195 AJ Stewart (Eng) 26 91
1182 SR Waugh (Aus) 27 86
1014 Wasim Akram (Pak) 25 56
987 BC Lara (WI) 19 65
975 MA Atherton (Eng) 24 93
949 CEL Ambrose (WI) 21 73
900 CA Walsh (WI) 23 80
890 CL Hooper (WI) 16 61
867 AA Donald (SA) 24 62
863 Waqar Younis (Pak) 23 55
860 A Kumble (Ind) 24 59
846 GD McGrath (Aus) 22 62
825 SR Tendulkar (Ind) 26 67
798 M Muralitharan (SL) 25 51
788 WJ Cronje (SA) 25 68
752 SM Pollock (SA) 14 42

The dominance of the Australian team of the ’90s can be clearly seen here – the top four, as well as five of the top six, are Aussies. Mark Waugh played in the most games during the period with a total of 103 out of Australia’s total of 104; he also played in the most rubbers, with 30. Sachin Tendulkar was the only player to appear in all of his team’s matches in the period. For the first time, England did not play the most Tests in a particular decade; Australia was the most active with 104, followed by England (101), West Indies (82), Pakistan (76), South Africa (69), India and Sri Lanka (67) and finally Zimbabwe (50).

Mark Waugh is some way ahead of Shane Warne in second, but he appeared in almost 20 more Tests than Warne. Wasim Akram, in seventh place, played in just over half as many Tests as Waugh.

A host of high-profile retirements in the ’80s and early ’90s means that not a single player appears in the total ISP top twenty lists for both the 1980s and 1990s.

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 a cumulative total related to the number of Tests played – for example, Wasim Akram played in significantly fewer Tests than those ranked above him in total ISPs.

Below is the revised list based on points per five-Test series (PP5), with a minimum qualifying period applied:-

PP5 Player Matches
90.5 Wasim Akram (Pak) 56
89.5 SM Pollock (SA) 42
79.7 JH Kallis (SA) 36
78.5 Waqar Younis (Pak) 55
78.3 SK warne (Aus) 84
78.2 M Muralitharan (SL) 51
77.6 BM McMillan (SA) 38
75.9 BC Lara (WI) 65
75.2 CL Cairns (NZ) 46
73.1 GA Gooch (Eng) 43
73.0 Mushtaq Ahmed (Pak) 45
73.0 CL Hooper (WI) 61
72.9 A Kumble (Ind) 59
71.3 DPMD Jayawardene (SL) 15
71.2 Azhar Mahmood (Pak) 17
70.6 ME Waugh (Aus) 103
70.4 MV Boucher (SA) 28
69.9 AA Donald (SA) 62
69.4 PS de Villiers (SA) 18
69.2 DJ Richardson (SA) 42

Again, no players appear on this list who were also featured on the list from the previous decade. Nine players appear on both the total ISP list and the PP5 list – Mark Waugh, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram, Brian Lara, Carl Hooper, Waqar Younis, Anil Kumble, Muttiah Muralitharan and Shaun Pollock.

Wasim Akram was highly consistent throughout the nineties, as his five Player of the Series awards confirms, and was averaging over 100 PP5 right up until 1998. Pakistan played mainly in series of three Tests or fewer so he did not have any particularly high series scores, but his points per game were always high, including 87 in two Tests against Zimbabwe in 1997-98, when he made his highest innings of 257*. In bowling, he took 10 wickets in a match on three occasions, against New Zealand, Zimbabwe and West Indies. Shaun Pollock notched only one series award against Pakistan in 1997-98, but scored consistently well throughout to maintain the second-best PP5 score among qualifiers. He also starred against West Indies in 1998-99, with 29 wickets in five Tests.

Jacques Kallis started slowly in Tests, but soared to new heights against West Indies in 1998-99, with 485 runs and 17 wickets and an ISP score of 161, the highest score of the decade. Waqar Younis, like Wasim Akram, tailed off somewhat towards the end of the ’90s, three of his series awards coming before the summer of 1994.

As mentioned earlier, Shane Warne was voted one of the five Cricketers of the 20th Century, along with Don Bradman, Gary Sobers, Jack Hobbs and Viv Richards (all of whom have been knighted – dare we hope?). Warne was another who was slow out of the gate, but served notice of his genius in the 1993 Ashes. Muttiah Muralitharan has been the centre of controversy over his unorthodox arm action, which continued despite scientific evidence which appeared to clear him. Another slow starter, his last eight series of the decade saw him average an excellent 111.4 PP5.

Bryan McMillan was a firm favourite with teammates and fans alike, and was considered to be the finest all-rounder in the world during the mid-nineties – his four series awards certainly bear that out. Brian Lara was phenomenal at times during the 1990s, with world records for both first-class and Test innings. He also achieved five series awards, and none of these came against minnows – two against Australia and three versus England. He missed out by one point on a sixth, against India in 1996-97.

Chris Cairns scored 88 ISPs in two Tests against West Indies in 1999-00, equivalent to a PP5 score of 220, largely due to 17 wickets at a little under ten apiece. Graham Gooch‘s international career was drawing to a close in the early 1990s, but against India in 1990 he swept all before him with 113 ISPs (PP5 of 188), with 752 runs in only three Tests.

So close…

Adam Gilchrist burst onto the international scene in a blaze of glory, with a PP5 score of 128.3 after his first three series. Brett Lee started in similar vein, with a PP5 score of 108.0 after two series.

Next time…

We’ll take a look at the decade of the 2000s up to the present date, which will conclude the decade-by-decade investigation.


Actually,awards like player of the series etc mostly go the players in the better sides.

In the ’90s Pakistan,Australia and even surprisingly West Indies were pretty good sides.WI had Walsh/Ambrose. Hooper,C’paul,Dujon etc not to mention the great Lara.

India in the ’90s were quite pathetic. It wasn’t until the 2000s that dravid,ganguly,lax etc came into their own.

Infact the 2000s WI team was relatively poor.But then except for Tendulkar ,due to injuries,practically all batsman such as Ponting,Lara,Dravid,Kallis,Sanga etc etc made hay on pure batting tracks with moderate attacks.

So,its is also team strength which counts.For eg. it is impossible to play so called “match winning” knocks when the bowlers cant get the 20 wickets in the first place.

Comment by Ronnie | 12:00am BST 23 April 2009

Also,awards like POS awards are perhaps “peak” awards. What if a player flopped practically at all other times?

Comment by Ronnie | 12:00am BST 23 April 2009

And lastly ,if i may;

Being a die hard Tendulkar fan ,something in support of my hero.
Since you seem to be taking “strength of opposition” into account…Please note the end “result” of the match is more often due to the performance of the entire team.

Considering that the best team in the last 20 years was Australia:
Tendulkar against Australia:
2748 Runs at 56. 10 100’s ,11 50’s.
2730 Runs at 46 .8 100’s ,14 50’s.
Overall by far the best by any player in the modern era.
TEST MATCHES too the best batsman against the best opposition for almost 20 years.
I rest my case.

Comment by Ronnie | 12:00am BST 23 April 2009

Thanks for reading and commenting, Ronnie. The series awards are really shown just for interest, and don’t factor any additional weight in the rankings. Remember also that the system ranks based on all performance, i.e. bat, ball and fielding. Clearly you feel that Tendulkar is the best player of the modern era, and I doubt any argument from me or anyone else will change that, which is of course your prerogative and is based on many factors – all I can say is that the system applies no subjective bias. Finally, if all it does is generate active discussion then it will have been worthwhile!

Comment by Dave Wilson | 12:00am BST 23 April 2009

Dave…Thank you!
It’s all good fun…and anyway that’s the whole idea I guess.

Comment by Ronnie | 12:00am BST 23 April 2009

This discussion about Sachin Tendulkar makes me want to write an article about Tendulkar’s Greatness. Will put it on my list to write. 🙂


Comment by Ganesh | 12:00am BST 24 April 2009

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