England v Pakistan at Abu Dhabi, 3rd T20I

Today’s topic: Jacques Kallis and The Theory of the All-Rounder.

First of all: Is he the best all-rounder of all time?

Let’s start from the batting side.

Here are the top ten test batsmen of all time, based on average runs scored, 100 innings minimum:

And here are the top test bowlers of all time, based on economy rate, 100 innings minimum

Kallis does not appear on both lists. Only Gary Sobers does, in fact, the man who most cricketing pundits considered the greatest all arounder of all time, before Kallis came along.

(One quick note on fielding statistics, I am going to ignore them for the most part, except in cases where a tie-breaker of sorts is needed. For the record however: Kallis has 180 test dismissals and counting, while Sobers retired with only 109…for whatever that’s worth).

Of course, Sobers retired from International cricket in 1974, and only played in one ODI, and no T20s. So once the short formats become part of the discussion, everything changes.

As such, I am hesitant to see what the numbers gives us, as I feel it might punish those that played in the pre-one-day era.

But for argument’s sake:

Top ten ODI batsmen, based on average, 100 innings minimum:

And the top ten ODI bowlers, based on economy rate, 100 innings minimum:

Not one player makes both lists. In fact, no one really comes close.

And I ran the numbers for wickets taken, strike rate, and average, and still no one came close.

One Day Internationals are just a different beast, it seems, for the all rounders.

Of course, Kallis still has a lot of cricket left in him (he has fantasies of playing all the way through the 2015 World Cup), but for now, Sir Gary Sobers is still the best all rounder cricket has ever seen.

But is he the best best cricketer ever?

Using the above information: yes, surely. He is top ten in batting and in bowling. He played for 20 years, and therefore his quality was proven over many years, on many grounds, against many teams.

And his team was, well, all right during his tenure, as well. Between 1954 and 1974, the West Indies played 23 test series, winning nine of them and drawing four.

In fact, they won five series in a row at one point. Against India at home, in England, against Australia at home, in England (again), and in India.

So: greatest cricketer ever?

Nope.

Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest cricketer ever. And he will retain that seat for the next 1,000 years.

He transcends Statsguru.

Until next time.

Namibia v Boland at Windhoek. CSA Provincial One-Day Challenge

Today: Arsenal scored five unanswered goals, and defeated the Scum 5-2 at the Emirates.  (So many jokes: but simply put: the worst Arsenal team in a generation put five past the best Tottenham team like ever…hilarious).

The fourth goal was scored by Theo Walcott. A lovely dink after a poor first touch.

But what struck me was his reaction. He simply ran to the corner flag, stopped, clenched his fists, and screamed.  In the London Sunshine. In front of 60,000 adoring fans.

It was his first goal at the Emirates in who knows how long, and quite possibly the biggest goal of his career.

It was visceral reaction. It was not showy, he did not lift his shirt to praise Jesus or whatever. He didn’t samba, or cradle an imaginary baby, or point to the sky.

He had simply been liberated by the goal. The shackles thrown off. And all he could do was stand and vent years’ worth of frustration. Frustration with himself, frustration with his team, the English press.

Watch it here.

It has been a terrible year for Arsenal. For Walcott. But that moment erased all of it, for everyone.

His reaction was everything I love about sport.

*

Two of my favorite things on the Internet right now are Bon Iver’s performance of Holocene on Saturday night live:

And this article entitled “All Ten” from the incomparable Old Batsman.

They go really well together, I would suggest you listen to the song as you read the article, even if you have experienced them on their own already.

My attempt at a mash-up, with a thousand apologies to the artists:

“It had taken maybe an hour and a half. They’d only made 60-odd and we knocked them off quickly, on the ground surrounded by trees, underneath the perfect sky.

And I can see for miles and miles…”

*

There is a great deal of quality cricket happening, too. The CB series is reaching its climax, the third and decisive T20 between Pakistan and England is tomorrow, and the 2nd ODI in South Africa’s tour of New Zealand is on the 29th (my birthday).

In the first ODI of that series, Jacques Kallis took two wickets and then later added a disappointing 13 with the bat.

The announcers called him the greatest all-rounder ever. And it is hard to argue with the numbers: in 150 test matches, he has scored 12,260 runs at an average of 57.02; whilst simultaneously taking 74 wickets at an economy rate of 2.84: including seven four-fers and five five-fers.

In ODIs, his all-round numbers are equally as impressive: 11,494 runs, 269 wickets.

And those are just the 30,000ft stats.

And if he really is the greatest all-rounder ever, does that make him the best cricketer ever?

That questions begs another question: who are the most valuable cricketers? The all rounder, the bowler, the wicketkeeper, the batsman, the captain?

A subject I plan to explore in my post tomorrow.

Until then.

Cape Cobras v Impi at Paarl, MiWAY T20 Challenge

I have a lot of free time all of a sudden. I am winding down at the old job, waiting to start the new one – and on top of that school is out for two weeks.

And so I thought for sure I would be able to write a great deal for the blog, but I have been coming up empty.

A very real case of writer’s block.

This morning I was reading about the World T20 qualifiers over in Dubai next month, and then I read Test Match Sofa’s latest post and was reminded that England won the last incarnation of the tournament (2010) and that Kevin Pietersen was Player of the Tournament.

And so, I need to eat my words from yesterday: as that makes two global competitions where KP was magnificent: the 2007 World Cup and the 2010 World Twenty20.

Consider those words eaten.

And now I have World T20s on the brain.  And I find myself looking forward just a little to the 2012 version this year in Sri Lanka.

And then I thought: why not just do a post similar to yesterday’s, but only for the World Twenty20s instead.

Bingo!

First: a little history: the first Twenty20 World Cup was in 2007. The tournament was held in South Africa, and won by India.

The second tournament was in 2009: England hosted, Pakistan won.

The most recent was in 2010 (moved up a year, I am guessing, to make room for the 50-over cup). The West Indies were the hosts, and as mentioned, England won.

Cricinfo, as usual, has some great photos of England’s big day.

Over those three tournaments, the players with the best scoring averages (minimum 10 innings) are as follows:

Player Country Innings Avg
RG Sharma India 10 60.6
MEK Hussey Australia 11 47
JH Kallis South Africa 10 45.44
KP Pietersen England 15 79
CH Gayle West Indies 11 44.2
DPMD Jayawardene Sri Lanka 18 41
Shoaib Malik Pakistan 14 33.9
TM Dilshan Sri Lanka 17 32.35
AD Mathews Sri Lanka 11 32.33
Misbah-ul-Haq Pakistan 17 30.66

And the top ten batsmen in ALL International T20s are as follows (minimum 20 innings):

Player Country Innings Avg
Misbah-ul-Haq Pakistan 31 37.94
KP Pietersen England 33 36.68
MJ Guptill New Zealand 27 35.81
MEK Hussey Australia 20 35.15
BB McCullum New Zealand 47 34.66
CH Gayle West Indies 20 32.47
TM Dilshan Sri Lanka 34 31.92
DPMD Jayawardene Sri Lanka 35 31.76
JP Duminy South Africa 33 31.76
GC Smith South Africa 33 31.67

Six players made both lists this time: Hussey, KP, Gayle, Jayawardene, Dilshan, and Mishbah.

Sri Lanka, interestingly enough, had two players make both lists, and had a third make the World Cup list only, but has only advanced to a final once in the three tournaments.

This bodes well for their chances this year, at home, however.

Now, none of the players that appear on both lists above also appeared on two lists in yesterday’s post on the ODIs.

But that is probably because those posts were based on the full history of ODIs – from 1971 until the present day.  While Twenty20s of course have only been around since 2005.

And so I pulled similar numbers for ODIs between 2005 and 2012.

The top ten batsmen for ODIs in the two World Cups (10 innings minimum)

Player Country Innings Avg
MJ Clarke Australia 15 83.62
ML Hayden Australia 10 73.22
Yuvraj Singh India 11 71.14
SR Watson Australia 12 62.14
DPMD Jayawardene Sri Lanka 18 56.8
JH Kallis South Africa 16 54.61
KC Sangakkara Sri Lanka 19 54.33
SB Styris New Zealand 15 53.41
RT Ponting Australia 15 53.21
AB de Villiers South Africa 15 51.78

The top ten batsmen overall, between 2005 and 2012, 50 innings minimum:

Player Country Innings Avg
HM Amla South Africa 53 56.35
MS Dhoni India 177 52.1
ML Hayden Australia 51 51.91
S Chanderpaul West Indies 96 50.43
MEK Hussey Australia 141 50.35
AB de Villiers South Africa 116 49.03
V Kohli India 77 45.95
JH Kallis South Africa 104 45.82
MJ Clarke Australia 151 45.15
SR Tendulkar India 114 44.8

Four players made both lists: Hayden, Clarke, Kallis, and de Villiers.

And still no one player stands out.  Not one was brilliant both in the long term and in the short term, in the two one-day formats, from 2005 through 2012.

The conclusion: there are a lot of world class one-day cricketers actively playing right now – and we are blessed to all be around to see them.

And maybe that’s why Twenty20 is so popular, because there are so many cricketers worth watching.

And maybe that’s why we have so many domestic t20 tournaments that feature international players: because there are enough players to go around.

And maybe that’s why we have seen a resurgence in ODIs as of late.

And maybe that’s why Test cricket has been sliding.

Or maybe not.

I am just free associating here.

Until next time.

Singapore v Bahrain at Singapore, ICC World Cricket League Division Five

Today, Kevin Pietersen hit a marvelous century for England to successfully lead their chase against Pakistan in Dubai.

It was his second ODI century in as many matches.

Over on Twitter, I opined that maybe, just maybe, KP was not a big game player. That in ODIs specifically, he didn’t come through when England needed him most: In the World Cup.

This is similar to the knock that most people had on Alex Rodriguez until 2010.

Great all season, but crap in October.

I have always thought it was a bit unfair to criticize players based on such small samples sizes, but I thought it might make for an interesting blog post.

KP’s career ODI average is 41.84 in 116 innings.  In World Cups, his average is 47.91 in 13 innings.

Again, a small sample size, but it looks as if my tweet might have been off base a bit.

However, I was referring more to the 2011 World Cup and its relation to the UAE One Day Interationals. In the former, he averaged just 32.75 in four innings; while in the latter he averaged 70.25 in the same number of innings.

So while my tweet was not incorrect, per se, it was off base, as KP had himself a monster World Cup in 2007.

And so I decided to look at more players in a similar manner.

The top ten World Cup batsmen based on average runs scored (minimum 10 innings) are as follows:

Player Innings Average
L Klusener 11 124
A Symonds 13 103
MJ Clarke 15 83.62
IVA Richards 21 63.31
SR Watson 12 62.14
R Dravid 21 61.42
GM Turner 14 61.2
SR Tendulkar 44 56.95
HH Gibbs 23 56.15
SC Ganguly 21 55.88

In all One Day Internationals, here are the best batsmen based on average (minimum 40 innings):

Player Innings Average
HM Amla 53 56.35
MG Bevan 196 53.58
MS Dhoni 180 51.44
MEK Hussey 142 50.52
IJL Trott 42 48.31
Zaheer Abbas 60 47.62
AB de Villiers 120 47.56
IVA Richards 167 47
GM Turner 40 47
V Kohli 77 45.95

Only one player shows up on both lists: the incomparable Sir Viv Richards, widely considered the best ODI batsman in history.

I then expanded it to a 100 innings minimum:

Player Innings Average
MG Bevan 196 56.58
MS Dhoni 180 51.44
AB de Villiers 120 47.56
IVA Richards 167 47
JH Kallis 305 45.55
MJ Clarke 191 45.14
CG Greenridge 127 45.03
SR Tendulkar 447 44.83
DM Jones 161 44.61
ML Hayden 155 43.8

Now three players appear on both lists: Michael Clarke, Viv Richards, and Sachin Tendulkar.

It is a bit of a stretch, and a bit meaningless, but those are three batsmen who best exemplify “clutch” batting as well as long term brilliance.

But I bet you could have told me that without spending 45 minutes with Statsguru.

Until next time.

Punjab (Pakistan) v Sind at Lahore, Faysal Bank Pentangular Cup

Pakistan’s history can be divided into three distinct segments.

1947 – 1972: Not actively seeking nuclear weapons

1972 – 1998: Actively seeking nuclear weapons

1998 – Present: Nuclear

On the cricket field, between 1952, the year they gained full test status, and January the 19th, 1927 (the day of the Multan meeting), they played in 62 test matches.

They won 10, lost 18, drew 34. A winning percentage of around 16%.

Between the Multan meeting and May 28th, 1998 (the date of their first successful weapon’s test), they played in 189 test matches: winning 61 of them. A winning percentage of around 33%.

And finally, as a nuclear power, Pakistan played in 119 test matches. They won 44 of them, a winning percentage of nearly 37%.

Non-nuclear: 16%

Pursuing nuclear: 33%

Nuclear: 37%

I don’t think there is any correlation to the above, not in the slightest.

All it tells us is that Pakistani cricket has been improving over the last half century.

I think Pakistan is a fascinating topic. Both on the cricket field and in more global issues such as nuclear power.

I look forward to continuing to post on their two sources of national pride.

*

Other posts upcoming next week: inspired by Levi’s magnificent innings down in New Zealand yesterday: the quickest international hundreds in test matches.

Kenya v Ireland at Mombasa, ICC World Cricket League Championship

On April the 23rd, 1998, Pakistan played South Africa in a One Day International cricket match in Cape Town, as part of the Standard Bank International One-Day Series (Sri Lanka also participated in the series).

South Africa won by a decisive nine wickets with 134 balls remaining.

Pakistan lost the toss and batted first. Only four batsman got out of the single digits, and the highest score was a measly 30 from opener Saeed Anwar.

They went from 84-3 to all out for 114.

It was Lance Klusener’s day, taking five Pakistani wickets for only 25 runs in seven overs.

In the chase, Gary Kirsten hit a not-out 52 to lead his team to victory, needing only 27 overs and change to do so.

It also happened to be the final of the tri-series.

Pakistan did not play an international cricket match for five months. It was not until the September the 12th, when they played an ODI against India in Toronto, Canada.

India won by six wickets.

In a similar match, Pakistan collapsed at the crease after India won the toss and chose to field.

Pakistan finished at 189 not out, a total that India chased down with six wickets and 38 balls to spare.

Sourav Ganguly hit a half century to lead his countrymen.

*

Between those two matches, Pakistan went Nuclear.

On May the 28th, deep in the Chagi Hills, they detonated five nuclear devices, becoming the seventh nation to officially have nuclear weapons.

According to the articles I have read, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is a source of great national pride for the nation’s citizens. The leader of the nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, for example, is respectively known as Moshin-e-Pakistan – literally: the Savior of Pakistan.

And as I mentioned in a previous post, their national cricket stadium in Lahore is named after Muammar Gaddafi, all because he gave a speech in 1974 that supported Pakistan’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons program.

Now, I am not here to editorialize.  I do not claim to understand the region, or what is like to be a citizen of Pakistan.

My point actually is that there are two major sources of national pride in Pakistan: their cricket team, and their nuclear program.

The former is a pastoral bat and ball sport, the latter is the most dangerous creation ever envisioned by man.

And considering the dichotomy of the two sources of pride, maybe one explains the other, and vice versa.

Or maybe not.

But I find it fascinating.

And I think I might explore the link between the two in more detail going forward.

I would love to hear folks’ comments on the correlation.

Pakistan are back on the pitch tomorrow morning, looking for pride in the ODI series against England.  I hope to tune in for large portions of the match.

Until next time.

Obit.

Gary Carter died today.

He was only 57 years old.

I know this is a cricket blog, but I love baseball, too. In fact I think the things I love about baseball ultimately led to me to cricket. It is rich in tradition, and history. It inspires fantastic writing.

Watching our former heroes age, grow weak, fade away – it’s one of the toughest parts of growing older. And it is even tougher when it is someone like Carter.

I grew up on baseball, and he was my first favorite player – and therefore more than likely my first favorite athlete ever.

My favorite baseball card growing up was Carter’s 1984 Topps:

For whatever reason, I loved the catchers. My favorites were Johnny Bench, and Carlton Fisk, and Gary Carter.

I moved around a lot growing up. I was never in one place long enough to have a team to cheer for, and so I developed affinitites for certain players instead.

I followed Carter from Montreal to New York, without missing a beat.

He was one of those players that your dad would tell you to emulate: he worked hard, he was always smiling, he ran out every ball.  I remember reading a biography of him in like fourth grade, and while I remember nothing else from it, I do recall him talking about how much he simply loved playing baseball, and that he felt so blessed that he was able to do it for he living.

In 1986, he won the World Series with the New York Mets, and even though years later I wrote a song about Bill Buckner, I cheered for Carter and the Mets that night.

The video is of course nowhere to be found on YouTube, but I remember as if it was yesterday: Carter running up and jumping into the arms of Jesse Orosco:

He was always smiling.

His nickname was the “kid”.

Over his 19 season career, he played in almost 2,300 games – along the way collecting over 2,000 hits and over 1,200 runs batted in. Phenomenal offensive numbers for a catcher.

Behind the plate, he led the team. Catchers are the field generals in baseball, and he commanded his field and his pitcher like no one else in the game – before or since.

In 1992, he retired from baseball. He was inducted into MLB’s Hall of Fame in 2003.

Last spring he went to the doctor complaining of headaches. Less than a year later he was dead.

His former teammate, Bob Ojeda, put it best: “He is gone too soon for us to understand.”

Rest in peace.