Who is the greatest cricketer of them all?

Written by: Radha Radhakrishnan

Don Bradman
This is a question that keeps popping up every now and then. In cricket crazy nation like India this question has immense significance and ends up being intensely debated.

But none of these debates and arguments had a scientific analysis of batting achievements as was done by two economists recently. Hitherto the claims and counter claims were at best statistically supported.

The recent paper The 'Bradman Class": An Exploration of Some Issues in the Evaluation of Batsmen for Test Matches, 1877-2006 — uses a list of 50 batsmen from all eras who had the highest career averages for their analysis. Written by economists Vani K Borooah, University of Ulster (UK), and John E Mangan of University of Queensland, Australia the paper throws some interesting insights.

First briefly about the study. It seems to hinge on two main pillars:

  1. Consistency and batting performance
  2. Measuring the value of a batsman to his team. Within this, aspects like the Relation between individual and the "Rest of Team" scores, 1st and 2nd Innings certainty scores for the top fifty batsmen and home and away certainty scores were studied using various scientific methods.

While this scientific methodology too has come back with the analysis that Don Bradman was the greatest cricket ever, it has provided Indian fans one more fodder to chew on… Some thing many cricket fans may not savour much.

Here are some data from the report:

  1. There are only 5 cricketers out of 50 on basis of career averages who qualified
  2. These five are Dravid (rank 4) pips Sachin (5), followed by Sunil Gavaskar (11), Sehwag (12) and Vinod Kambli (13)
  3. In none of the parameters Sachin Tendulkar the greatest run machine of all times has emerged on top, not even among Indian batsmen…. Sehwag is ahead when it comes to value of run scored to the team and Dravid tops the consistency of scoring and career contribution to the team score

While this comes as a refreshing news to all those die hard Dravid fans who may not be currently happy to see their idol struggle with farm and scoring, this study needs to be viewed little realistically, particularly with respect to contemporary batsmen. The paper uses batting averages up to 2006 and specifically in David"s case his batting average has dropped from 58 to 53 from 2006 and now.

Unfortunately it is embedded in every one"s psyche – be it a fan or a critic - to look for individual brilliance, individual stars in a team sport. Seldom has a team won on individual performance alone. Even when those have happened they are not consistent and sustainable. A good case in point is the recent World Cup Football in which individual brilliance could not ensure a team"s entry into the final.

To download the The 'Bradman Class" report click here.

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*The views expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oneindia.in or of Greynium Information Technologies Pvt Ltd. *

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