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Monday, August 16, 2010

Bradman best: ‘scientific’ study’ [Dravid 10]

A‘scientific’ analysis of batting achievements in Test cricket has found what most people already know — that Don Bradman was the greatest batsman in the game. A paper, written by two economists, analysed factors such as consistency of scoring, value of a batsman’s runs to the team and home-away record, and found that the Australian great was leagues ahead of the rest on all counts.
That’s hardly a sur
prise. But the paper has some far more interesting conclusions. While just five Indians qualify in the top 50 on the basis of their career averages, in none of the parameters does Sachin Tendulkar, the highest run scorer in Tests, emerge on top even among Indian batsmen.
For instance, in terms of value of runs scored to the team, Virender Sehwag is India’s top batsman (overall rank 6), followed by Rahul Dravid and Tendulkar.
On consistency of scoring, Dravid (rank 4) pips Sachin (5), followed by Sunil Gavaskar (11), Sehwag (12) and Vinod Kambli (13).
In another ranking based on career contribution to the team score, Dravid and Gavaskar (both ranked 5) emerge as India’s top batsmen. Then come Tendulkar
and Sehwag (both 6) and Kambli (8). ‘Sehwag best among Indians’
Don Bradman has been proved to be the top batsman scientifically, according to a research paper.
The 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 was published in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports.
The rankings of contem
porary batsmen, however, may be misleading as the paper uses batting averages up to 2006. For instance, in 2006, Dravid was No.4 in the alltime batting averages list with an average of 58. At present, his average is down to around 53.
The paper works on the premise that the method of calculating batting averages glosses over many aspects of good batsmanship. “It does not take into account consistency of scores across innings: a batsman might have a high career average but with low scores interspersed
with high ones; another might have a lower average but with much less variation in his scores,’’ it notes.
Secondly, the paper argues, batting averages do not reflect the value of the player’s runs to the team. “Arguably, a century, when the total score is 600, has less value compared to a half-century in an innings total of 200.’’
The authors use several equations from economics to suggest new ways of computing batting that could complement the existing method and “present a more complete picture of batsmens’ performance.’’ Based on these “new’’ averages, the paper offers several revised rankings of the world’s top 50 batsmen.
For measuring consistency of performance, the authors use the Gini coefficient, a popular method for computing inequality in the distribution of outcomes. After applying the coefficient to the top 50 batsmen, while Bradman remains No.1, South African batting great R G Pollock (ranked 2 on averages) falls three places to rank 5 and West Indian George Headley — also known as the “Black Bradman’’ — falls five places, from No.2 to No.7. Among Indians, Dravid and Gavaskar hold their ranks but Sehwag falls four places and Tendulkar two places.

Other coefficients and parameters analysed by the authors — such as value of a batsman’s scores to the team — are accompanied by their own rankings based on the weightage the authors have given to these factors.
The authors claim that their methods are a vast improvement over the current system of averages. “For example, in the paper we talk about (Adam) Gilchrist, who was a great batsman but often came in at No.7, either having to get quick runs or survive. You’d expect that his average suffered in some way. We believe our method corrects for some of those problems,’’ Mangan told the Sydney Morning Herald.




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