Rediff Logo
Home > Cricket > Columns > Subodh S Chitre
April 29, 2002

 -  News
 -  Diary
 -  Specials
 -  Schedule
 -  Interviews
 -  Columns
 -  Gallery
 -  Statistics
 -  Earlier tours
 -  Archives
 -  Search Rediff

 Search the Internet
 West Indies

E-Mail this report to a friend
Print this page Best Printed on  HP Laserjets

'Runs' of runs

Subodh S. Chitre

One of the most frightening prospects for any batsman of repute is getting into "poor form", where he fails to score up to his potential in a consecutive series of innings. This can be termed as a "run" of poor scores, a term delightfully confusing with its cricketing meaning. The true worth of a good batsman can be measured by -- among other parameters such as average etc. -- the propensity for him to get into a poor form, or a series of poor scores.

A batsman who is less likely to get into a poor form very often is of obvious value to his team as any slippage in batting performance will be immediately rectified through a better performance.

Below, I present a fairly exhaustive analysis of the propensity to get into a poor form for some of the world's leading batsmen. From the analysis are identified the best performers on this parameter.

Finally, the two parameters - batting average and this propensity of poor batting form - will be juxtaposed to evaluate the composite value of these batsmen.

For the purpose of this analysis, I chose the top 20 run-getters in the history of Test cricket. A minor deviation made was that number 21- Brian Lara - was included since he is too prominent in today's cricket to be ignored from this kind of analysis while Walter Hammond was excluded since he played in a time far removed from the other 20.

To begin with, I chose the following two metrics to measure "poor form":

- number of times the batsman has had five consecutive scores below 20

- number of times the batsman has, over 10 consecutive innings, scores less than 20 on 7 or more than 7 occasions

Obviously the first metric is a little too rare to occur and hence can provide a distorted relative picture, if taken by itself. The second precludes the possibility of not measuring "poor form" if a batsman accidentally scores one or two scores above 20 in an otherwise poor "run". The results of this analysis are as follows:

Batsman number of times, 5 consecutive scores below 20 number of times, where out of 10 consecutive innings, there have been 7 scores below 20
Gary Sobers 0 2
Clive Lloyd 0 3
Javed Miandad 2 5
Sachin Tendulkar 0 6
Brian Lara 1 6
Colin Cowdrey 2 6
Gordon Greenidge 1 8
Alec Stewart 0 9
Allan Border 0 10
Geoffrey Boycott 2 10
David Gower 2 10
Sunil Gavaskar 6 10
Mark Waugh 3 11
Steve Waugh 3 11
Viv Richards 5 11
Desmond Haynes 6 12
Graham Gooch 4 13
David Boon 3 18
Mark Taylor 9 22
Mike Atherton 3 23

There are several players, notably Tendulkar, Sobers, Lloyd who have never suffered from this ignominy. Quite surprisingly, Gavaskar has had 6 such "runs" while Taylor tops the list with 9. One must emphasize here that a poor "run" of say 7 consecutive scores below 20 will be recorded as 3 such instances of five consecutive scores below 20. Thus, this measurement does accentuate very poor form and one might attribute Gavaskar's unlikely high tally to be due to that factor. In any case, it is quite clear that the first metric is not "discriminating" enough, meaning it does not separate the "men from the boys".

The second metric is really meant to "correct" (if required) the picture painted by the first metric due to its intrinsic limitation. Some corrections are that players such as Border, Boon, Atherton, Greenidge, the Waugh twins, Gooch and Stewart have had poor forms that weren't captured by the first metric. For verification, please look up the above table for players with low numbers in the first metric that are lower down in the table sorted in the ascending order of the second metric.

But such players - if I can submit - are not expected to score more than just 20 runs. These are leading run-getters and hence have at most times been significant mainstays of their team's batting line-ups. Thus, I chose to repeat the analysis with two similar metrics with only 20 replaced by 40. Thus the two new metrics are:

- number of times the batsman has had five consecutive scores below 40

- number of times the batsman has, over 10 consecutive innings, scores less than 40 on 7 or more than 7 occasions

The results are as follows:

Batsman number of times, 5 consecutive scores below 40 number of times, where out of 10 consecutive innings, there have been 7 scores below 40
Sachin Tendulkar 3 20
Brian Lara 4 28
Gary Sobers 4 29
Javed Miandad 9 33
Sunil Gavaskar 12 42
Clive Lloyd 8 45
Viv Richards 15 45
Mark Waugh 9 48
Colin Cowdrey 10 50
Geoffrey Boycott 6 55
Steve Waugh 9 58
Mark Taylor 23 59
Allan Border 16 62
Gordon Greenidge 27 63
Graham Gooch 26 64
David Boon 15 56
Mike Atherton 19 68
Alec Stewart 28 73
Desmond Haynes 14 79
David Gower 17 81

Once again, the metric on the left does provide a glimpse, but the true picture comes from the second metric. Tendulkar comes out a clear winner with far fewer occasions that anyone else in history. He is also significantly better than the next best - Lara and Sobers. Gavaskar does much better on this count which perhaps means that other than the few very poor "runs" that he has had, Gavaskar has managed to score 40 or more runs on a more or less predictable basis. Border, the highest run-getter in Test history surprises with numerous such instances.

If one combines two measures of performance - batting average and this propensity to run into poor form - one can differentiate these 20 great batsmen into the value they have brought to their teams. Let me submit here, that I recognize that there are many other features of a batsman that are critical to establish his value - such as the number of times he has played "winning" knocks, ability to handle pressure situations etc. What I present below is a composite measure of only two such metrics.

Batting average Very High Sachin Tendulkar
Gary Sobers
High Brian Lara
Javed Miandad
Sunil Gavaskar
Clive Lloyd
Viv Richards
Geoffrey Boycott
Steve Waugh
Allan Border
Medium   Colin Cowdrey
Mark Taylor
Mark Waugh
David Boon
Graham Gooch
Alec Stewart
David Gower
Mike Atherton
Desmond Hayens
Gordon Greenidge
  Low Medium High
Propensity of poor form

I have used the following classification for making this matrix:

- Batting average - Medium: < 45 - High: 45-55 - Very High: > 55

- Propensity of poor form: Metric used was "number of times the batsman has, over 10 consecutive innings, scores less than 40 on 7 or more than 7 occasions" - Low: Less than 35 instances - Medium: 35-60 instances - High: Greater than 60 instances

Clearly, Tendulkar and Sobers are two batsmen who have not only scored at a high average but have also had very few poor "runs" - an unbeatable combination. The "diagonal" boxes are the conformists, so to say: batsmen whose form has been in line with their batting averages. Border is one anomaly who has a high batting average but also a high propensity to get into a poor form. Cowdrey, Taylor and Mark Waugh are three more such who have had better form than their companions in the same batting average bracket. And finally, Lara and Miandad, who have had exceptionally fewer poor "runs" compared to similar average players in the middle block.

I started this analysis since I tried to recall poor "runs" that Tendulkar has had. I could not think of any and wondered if he is the very best ever as far as maintaining good form is concerned. The hypothesis was right.

Steve Waugh once said, "take away Bradman, and Tendulkar is the best". Like he has been on many other occasions, this "winningest" captain seems to be right.

Editor's note: Rediff believes that like its own editorial staffers, readers too have points of view on the many issues relating to cricket as it is played.

Therefore, Rediff provides in its editorial section space for readers to write in, with their views. The views expressed by the readers are carried as written, in order to preserve the original voice.

However, it needs mentioning that guest columns are opinion pieces, and reflect only the feelings of the individual concerned -- the fact that they are published on Rediff's cricket site does not amount to an endorsement by the editorial staff of the opinions expressed in these columns.

Mail Subodh S. Chitre