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Series Points – A New Way of Ranking Test Players – the 1970s

Series Points - A New Way of Ranking Test Players - the 1970s

Series Points – A New Way of Ranking Test Players
The 1970s

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, 1900-14, the 1950s and the 1960s.

World Series Cricket

When considering cricket in the 1970s, we must take into account the defections to World Series Cricket, as the level of opposition was severely degraded to such an extent that this cannot be ignored. For example, the Australian team was particularly decimated; of the eleven top Australian players from the 1977 Ashes, only Jeff Thomson played in the following series against India (Thomson had initially signed with Packer, but an obligation to a radio station rendered the contract invalid). Accordingly, TSPs (and by extension ISPs) have been adjusted for each of the affected series’.

Player of The Decade – the 1970s

The top players of the ’70s 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 1970s

Nowadays a Player of the Series is awarded for Test series’ – the decade of the ’70s saw 55 series and 205 Tests played, so as we saw with the ’60s there are several players who achieved multiple Player of the Series awards (as assessed by ISPs). Rather than list all 55 series’ and the top players individually, here is a summary of the multiple award winners:-

5 – IT Botham (Eng)
3 – DK Lillee (Aus), GS Chappell (Aus), IVA Richards (WI)
2 – AW Greig (Eng), BE Congdon (NZ), DL Underwood (Eng), Kapil Dev (Ind), Mushtaq Mohammad (Pak), RJ Hadlee (NZ), RW Marsh (Aus), SM Gavaskar (Ind), Zaheer Abbas (Pak)

Ian Botham was significantly ahead of everyone else, taking five series awards (including four in a row) from only eight series appearances following his debut during the 1977 Ashes. His performance in the three-Test series against Pakistan in 1978 was worth 112 ISPs, which extrapolates to a healthy 187 over a five-Test series.

There’s no doubt however that this list would have been significantly different if not for the WSC defections – one would suspect that Lillee, Chappell, Richards, Greig, Underwood, Mushtaq, Marsh and Zaheer Abbas (and other notables who signed with Packer) would likely have achieved additional Player of the Series awards between them if they had played Test cricket between 1977-79. Viv Richards, for example, took consecutive series awards for his two series appearances in 1976, before signing with WSC.

Test Player Of The Decade – the 1970s

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 1970-79:-

Total ISPs Player Series Matches
940 AW Greig (Eng) 15 58
939 GS Chappell (Aus) 16 60
850 SM Gavaskar (Ind) 16 63
833 RW Marsh (Aus) 16 61
831 APE Knott (Eng) 19 71
702 DL underwood (Eng) 21 62
677 DK Lillee (Aus) 13 41
659 GR Viswanath (Ind) 16 65
623 AI Kalicharan (WI) 14 57
620 IM Chappell (Aus) 11 44
613 IT Botham (Eng) 8 25
607 G Boycott (Eng) 16 47
596 RC Fredericks (WI) 11 49
595 BS Bedi (Ind) 13 481
573 CH Lloyd (WI) 14 52
571 RGD Willis (Eng) 18 53
551 Majid Khan (Pak) 14 43
516 Mushtaq Mohammad (Pak) 12 35
511 DL Murray (WI) 12 47
510 BS Chandrasekhar (Ind) 12 42

Tony Greig and Greg Chappell are very close at the top in total ISPs and lead the field despite losing Test appearances at the end of the decade as WSC players. Both of Sunil Gavaskar’s series awards came against the West Indies at the beginning and end of the decade – he appeared in all of India?s Test series’ in the 1970s.

No wicket-keeper has appeared in the top five total ISP lists in any previous period so far examined, so it is interesting that two of the very best to ever play the game, Allan Knott and Rodney Marsh, are at the very top here. Geoff Boycott is the only player to be represented in the total ISP lists for both the 1960s and 1970s.

Knott played in the most games during the period with a total of 71 out of England’s total of 97. Gundappa Viswanath featured in the highest percentage of team games, appearing in 65 of India’s 67 Tests (97%). Once again, England played most Tests during the period, followed by Australia (84), West Indies and India (67), Pakistan (58) and New Zealand (44).

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 it is not based on the number of Tests played – for example, Botham and Lillee finished highly in the total ISP list despite playing in significantly fewer games than those above them, and New Zealand with Richard Hadlee played less than half of England’s total.

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
122.6 IT Botham (Eng) 25
86.3 Kapil Dev (Ind) 26
82.6 DK Lillee (Aus) 41
81.2 RJ Hadlee (NZ) 29
81.0 AW Greig (Eng) 58
78.9 IVA Richards (WI) 31
79.6 J Garner (WI) 13
78.3 GS Chappell (Aus) 60
76.0 GJ Gilmour (Aus) 15
74.4 GS Sobers (WI) 17
74.1 Imran Khan (Pak) 29
73.7 Mushtaq Mohammad (Pak) 35
73.5 Javed Miandad (Pak) 30
72.7 CEH Croft (WI) 13
71.9 JA Snow (Eng) 24
70.5 IM Chappell (Aus) 44
70.3 FM Engineer (Ind) 16
68.4 JR Thomson (Aus) 34
68.3 RW Marsh (Aus) 61
68.1 Intikhab Alam (Pak) 21

More countries other than England and Australia are represented in this list than ever before (ten players, or half of the total).

Ian Botham came to the fore at a time when Test cricket had temporarily lost some of its finest players, and this may account for some of his huge lead over the rest. Nonetheless, as this list is based on average points in games played, he was clearly a significant force, even before his heroics in 1981. Brian Johnston, in his book It’s Been A Piece Of Cake, asserts Botham to have been one of three players whom he described as being not just great, but as being a colossus (no prizes for guessing the identity of the other two). Another all-rounder, India’s Kapil Dev, takes second place. Like Botham, he made his debut towards the end of the decade but quickly established himself as India?s leading player, scoring 150 ISPs (238 runs, 32 wickets) to take the series award against Pakistan in 1979-80.

Injury and WSC cricket held fast bowler Dennis Lillee to third place, although he managed three series awards and scored consistently highly – he was undoubtedly the best pure bowler during the period in question. His best series in terms of ISPs was the 1979-80 Ashes series, when he took 23 wickets at a shade under 17. Richard Hadlee started quite slowly, but by the late ’70s was playing at a very high level, closing the decade with an excellent performance against an almost full-strength West Indies side to earn him 116 ISPs (worth an exceptional 193 over five Tests).

Tony Grieg preceded Botham as England’s all-rounder, and in fact they only played in one Test series together, the 1977 Ashes. His series award came against West Indies in 1973-74, with a performance so good (430 runs, seven catches and 24 wickets) that he scored almost twice as many ISPs as any other player. Viv Richards made his debut against India in 1974-75, averaging over 50 with the bat. He was phenomenal against India and England in 1976, scoring 829 runs in the latter series at an average of 118.42. Although his form dipped just before signing to WSC, he was back to his brilliant best against a full-strength Australia in 1979-80, averaging 96.5.

Joel Garner burst onto the scene in 1976-77 when he and fellow debutant Colin Croft took 58 Pakistani wickets between them. Greg Chappell seemed to save his best for Ashes Tests, as two of his series awards came against England. For his third series award, against West Indies in 1975-76, he scored 702 runs at 117.

Although coming to the end of his Test career, Gary Sobers still maintained a high ISP average and actually took a series award against England in 1973, when he averaged 76 with the bat. Gary Gilmour‘s best series was against West Indies in 1975-76, when he scored 185 runs and took 20 wickets, however he was not to maintain this form and did not play test cricket again after 1977.

So close…

Pakistani wicketkeeper Taslim Arif only played in four Tests at the end of the decade, but his PP5 average was 136.3, based partly on a sparkling 210 not out against a full-strength Australian attack. Unfortunately, his lack of prowess with the gloves meant he would only play six Tests in his career.

Next time…

We’ll take a look at the 1980s.

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