Can’t You Hear Me Knocking? Gaining Entry (or not) to the ICC Hall of FameDave Wilson |
Made in America
Sporting Halls of Fame are essentially an American invention. What is considered to be organised baseball began in 1876 at around the same time as the first Test cricket was being played, yet the Baseball Hall of Fame has been around since 1935. With a 70-plus years head start on the ICC Hall of Fame, there are currently 310 baseball enshrinees, including 250 former players. After such a long time, though it took many years to catch up in terms of electing deserving members, the baseball HoF is somewhat settled by now, though some of my American friends still moan about who got in and who missed out.
The ICC originally named 55 players as inaugural inductees in 2009 which were carried across from the FICA Hall of Fame, to which a further 18 have been added up to and including the most recent vote of 2015 (excluding female players). The selection process involves a voting committee comprising former players, inductees, adminsitrators etc. considering a list of nominees, the committee being empowered to elect a minimum of one player from the period prior to 1960 and one from the period since 1960, though typically more than two players are honoured at each vote.
Standards of excellence
For the modern players, a list of performance criteria has been drawn up, from which list prospective members should have achieved at least one of them. The critieria include:-
– 8,000 Test and/or ODI runs
– average of 50 in Tests and/or ODI
– 20 Test and/or ODI centuries
– 200 Test and/or ODI wickets
– SR of 50 in Tests and/or 30 in ODIs
– 200 dismissals in Tests and/or ODIs
– 25 Tests and/or 100 ODIs
Are those standards equitable? Possibly not, as there are 63 players who meet the criteria of 200 Test wickets, but only 13 who can boast 20 ODI hundreds, and although ODIs have only been around for the last 45 years or so, most of the players meeting the standards for Test cricket are what would be considered modern players.
The original ICC selection of 55 players was dominated by England players, who made up 40% of the numbers, and as might be imagined this resulted in some comment. Since then, however, there have been ten Australians added (two female) as compared with just four more England players (two female), along with four West Indians, two each from Pakistan and New Zealand (one female) and one from India. The international mix (excluding female inductees) now looks like this:-
24 England (645)
19 Australia (412)
17 West Indies (283)
5 Pakistan (197)
4 India (261)
2 New Zealand (244)
2 South Africa (305)
The numbers in parentheses are the numbers of Test cricketers so far produced by each country. There are no players from Sri Lanka (128), Zimbabwe (95) or Bangladesh (76) as yet, though players must have been retired from international cricket for at least five years before they can be considered. It’s worth noting that, if a player from either of those countries was elected, that nation would immediately be more highly represented than both South Africa and New Zealand from a percentage point of view – to be fair, as South Africa was only reinstated in 1992, not too many players of note have been retired long enough to be eligible for consideration, though I for one would vote for Allan Donald without hesitation.
Again from a percentage point of view, with the recent inductees Australia is by now actually better represented than England, though the Aussies have traditionally been more successful so would reasonably be expected to have had more players worthy of selection.
The above criteria are applied to modern players, and there is a caveat which allows for the selection of those who have “had a fundamental effect on the history of the game” – note that it doesn’t stipulate “positive effect”, but I don’t see Hansie Cronje, who qualifies on more than one front, getting in any time soon. The latter stipulation is intended to catch “a great of the game [who] does not fit into any of the above criteria”. It would be nice to think that the vote for historical players would be used to elect players like Bart King, Eddie Gilbert, Frank Roro or even Johnny Mullagh, but this seems unlikely.
Back to the qualifying levels, and the implication is certainly that if you don’t exceed the listed standards you’re not getting in, at least for modern players. The impact of having a published set of standards is that we have a fairly significant group of players who already qualify when measured against one or more of the above criteria, but who as yet remain waiting in the wings, while they watch more and more cricketers join them on the list of non-elected qualifiers each year.
Looking more closely at the given criteria, as at 2009 there were 225 eligible player-performances, by which I mean that there were 225 qualifying performances, though some cricketers qualify against more than one criteria, so that wouldn’t mean there are 225 players – I suppose I could count them, but the exact number of players is less important than showing the impact over time on the list of qualifiers. If we assume 75% of that 225 are individual players, that gives us around 170 eligible players to choose from. With 55 members selected as at 2009 (though many of the earlier players selected did not meet the qualifying standards), this leaves a deficit of at least 115. By 2015, there were by now 300 eligible player-performances, giving us say 225 players, and with 73 members now enshrined we have a deficit of 152.
Since the inaugural list in 2009 the voting committee has elected on average two players from the post-1960 era at each vote. This would mean that, assuming a similar pattern is maintained, by 2027 there would be an additional 24 modern players elected, however by then the number of eligible player/performances would be around 450, representing maybe around 340 players, for a deficit of more than 240 – more than twice the number than was the case in 2009.
Waiting in the wings
As we can see, the number of players who meet one or more of the qualifying criteria is increasing every year. Players who are eligible and who may or may not be deserving of election (depending on your point of view) are essentially those who debuted post-1960 and have now retired – these include:-
Aravinda de Silva
Each of the players listed above has met at least one of the modern qualifying criteria – I appreciate that not all of the above would be considered greats, but the point is that the list continues to grow and a significant number of additional retirees were undoubtedly great players. One assumes that Tony Greig would not likely be put forward because of his involvement in the Packer affair, though I would say that his performances on the field merit consideration. Note that not all of the above have been retired for more than five years – Mohammad Asif also qualifies, though to be fair he didn’t retire as such and no doubt won’t be elected. Also, I’m ignoring pre-modern players in this review as the criteria is not strictly applied to their performances.
With two modern players being typically elected at each ballot, we can look forward and attempt to predict which first-time eligible players would be a virtual certainty to be elected in forthcoming years, and see if there would be any space for players who have previously been passed up. It’s not easy to predict exactly how voters will treat recent retirees, as they certainly seem to have favoured the pre-modern period between the end of the second world war and the end of the 1970s, with more than 5% of all debutants during that period making the Hall. However, Steve Waugh was elected as soon as he was eligible, as were Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist, though perhaps that is to be expected, given the quality of that Aussie side – Anil Kumble was also elected when first eligible. Brian Lara and Shane Warne were elected within two years of eligibility, while Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose and Waqar Younis have been added in recent years, suggesting a possibly favourable view of the voting committee towards fast bowlers.
The above list of players certainly shows us what to expect as to the calibre that early-eligibile inductees would have to demonstrate. So, looking forward here is what might be expected in terms of early-eligibility elections (I’m assuming elections will take place each year, though that hasn’t always been the case).
In 2016, Muttiah Muralitharan and Makhaya Ntini will be eligible, and of the two Murali will probably get in first time. So the voting committee could potentially pick one of the so far overlooked modern players listed above, though they may also use that selection on a pre-1960s player, which they also are permitted to do. As mentioned above, pre-1960s players don’t have to meet the performance criteria, so they could pick anyone who they feel is deserving not already inducted, such as Hedley Verity or George Lohmann (clearly we need more England players in there).
In 2017 Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid are eligible and, although Andrew Strauss, Mark Boucher, VVS Laxman and Brett Lee also gain eligibility, my money’s on Ponting and Dravid joining the august ranks as first-timers. In any case, I don’t see any previously passed over players going through courtesy of the 2017 vote.
Sachin Tendulkar will be eligible in 2018, along with Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Michael Hussey and Graeme Swann. If only Sachin of this group gets in first time, that might leave another vote for those hoping for a call.
2019 will see Mahela Jayawardene, Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis vying for the attention of the voting committee, of which trio I would guess two could be elected first time. It would seem there would be no spare vote that year.
So in the next four years (and assuming there is a vote each year) there may be as few as two selections plucked from the players listed above who weren’t elected when first eligible. That’s two of the almost 60 qualifiers listed above. We also have those undoubtedly great names who are qualified but haven’t retired yet, such as Hashim Amla, Shriv Chaderpaul, Michael Clarke, Alastair Cook, AB de Villiers, MS Dhoni, Brendon McCullum, Vernon Philander, Kumar Sagakkara and Dale Steyn. Oh, and let’s not forget KP – how could we, though he may have buggered it up.
What this is all saying is, there will be a lot of very, very good players who have no chance of making the ICC Hall of Fame, some of whom can certainly be classed as great. Most people will look at the above lists of players and immediately discount many of them as not worthy of the Hall of Fame, but I’d wager anyone could pick significantly more than two whom they would consider Hall of Fame material right now.
And this ignores all of the players who don’t make the selection criteria but may be worthy of selection as “game-changers”, though in modern times these are more likely to be involved in coaching, officials and adminstrators. It also assumes the rate of increase at which new players achieve the qualification remains constant, rather than increasing as is more likely. For example, just 15 players had made the qualification of 20 Test centuries by the year 2000, but that had increased to 30 by 2009 and is currently sitting at 40.
Raising the bar
To combat the ever-increasing numbers of qualifying players who have no chance of being elected, the ICC may consider modifying the qualifying criteria, raising the bar so to speak, to offset the fact that there will be qualifying and eligible players who don’t merely meet the standards, but significantly exceed them.
Take the 8,000 Test runs criteria, for example. If we consider that Tendulkar, Ponting, Kallis, Dravid and Sangakkara will be first-time entrants, we would still be left with batsmen with less obvious Hall of Fame credentials but who exceed the 8,000 runs cut-off, including Chanderpaul, Jayawardene, Inzamam, Laxman, Hayden, Sehwag, Alec Stewart and Mark Waugh. If the bar was raised to 10,000 runs, then only Chanderpaul and Jayawardene would qualify at this point, though other players who would then miss out may qualify under other criteria, like Graeme Smith, who in addition meets the standard for Test tons, as well as Tests and ODIs as captain.
While I appreciate a Hall of Fame should be exclusive, I’ll wager everyone reading this could also pick players from the list above or their own particular suggestions whom they would consider as more deserving than current incumbents. But it looks increasingly likely that, if you don’t make it when first eligible, forget it, which probably means hard luck to the likes of Zaheer, Bond, Snow, Vaas, Taylor, Donald, Flower, Inzamam, Jayasuriya, Fleming and Shaun Pollock.
Meanwhile the list of those knocking on the door grows ever longer.