The most valuable players in the Australian cricket team

Ryan Buckland Columnist

By , Ryan Buckland is a Roar Expert

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    Australia's Usman Khawaja has been in an out of the Aussie team but he's provided value for money. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

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    There has been a big focus on how much Australian cricket consumers are paying for their players in the past six months.

    Australian cricketers and Cricket Australia went to industrial relations war earlier this year, as the bosses tried to pull out a decades-old revenue share agreement from under the players with minimal information and little rationale as to why.

    For a brief moment in July, there were technically no Australian cricketers.

    But everyone is happy again now – at least at face value. There is an Ashes series just around the corner after all.

    Notwithstanding, there is a focus on the dollars and cents in Australian cricket like there hasn’t been in recent years.

    Is there a way we can look at which of Australia’s 20 centrally contracted players are giving the best value for money?

    And similarly, who needs to pick up the pace ahead of a busy 12 months of cricket?

    The data for assessing a cricketer’s output is limited, and almost certainly doesn’t consider the context of situation and opportunity.

    For a sport so obsessed with statistics, there is little by way of proper analysis or the means to do it out there. Fortunately, Cricinfo’s StatsGuru is life.

    Australian bowler Mitchell Starc with the pink ball

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    We are going to use a player’s output from Test matches played between October 2015 and October 2017.

    The main indicator will be balls batted, bowled and fielded – with balls fielded divided by ten to ensure we’re not giving players too much credit for standing at fine leg.

    We’ll also look at some specifics, like wickets, runs, catches and runouts.

    Second, we don’t have precise numbers for what Australia’s centrally contracted players are paid as a retainer. We have match fees, which were published in The Cricket Monthly recently, but the retainer is where most of the money is made.

    To get around this, we will assume three levels of retainer: Steve Smith ($1.1 million), the top tier ($800,000) and the rest ($500,000).

    Match payments are $13,000 for home Tests, and $19,000 for away Tests.

    Finally, there is the Cricket Australia central contract list for the 2017-18 season – with players allocated to tiers based on nothing but my opinion.

    To make this all work, we are going to assume a player’s past has been constant over the past two years. That is, they would have been paid their current retainer twice, and been paid the match figures above for the games they have played. This is all quite abstract, and honestly is for a bit of fun

    15 of the current 20 centrally contracted players have played in the Australian Test team over the past two years. They are the unfortunate souls who will be judged in this series.

    So, with that in mind, which player has (hypothetically) delivered the most value for money in Australian cricket over the past two years?


    (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

    It’s ‘the GOAT’, Nathan Lyon, who has been paid $171 per ball over the past two years.

    Most of this has come from his output with the ball, with Lyon delivering 5,886 legal deliveries since October 2015 – the most of anyone in the team.

    His total involvement in the Test team stretched the full 23 Tests Australia has played in that time (along with Steve Smith and David Warner), but just 1.8 per cent of the balls he was involved in were with the bat in hand (406 of 22,686).

    Coming in second is Matt Renshaw, a relative newcomer to the team, who has been paid $272 per ball he has been involved with in his fledgling 10 Test career. Renshaw’s output has been mostly with the bat, facing an average of 79 balls per innings – second only to captain Steve Smith (95 balls per innings).

    The third best value for money player on the current contract list is a similarly new face: Peter Handscomb.

    Like Renshaw, Handscomb has been a value pick on account of his ability to bat for long lengths of time, earning $274 per ball.

    Australian batsman Peter Handscomb

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    Our first fast bowler makes it to the value for money list in fourth place, with Josh Hazelwood’s Glenn McGrath impression leading to a pay day of $286 per ball. Hazelwood has bowled 4,792 legal deliveries over the past two years, and spent more than 16,000 in the field when not bowling.

    He delivers a little more value on a per- ball than his fellow fast bowling cartel member Mitchell Starc, who has bowled around one third less than Hazelwood.

    Rounding out the top five is Usman Khawaja, who has been paid $326 per ball over the past two years. Khawaja’s value was driven by the assumption regarding him being in the regular tier of contract retainer – if he is in the top tier his value drops outside of the top ten.

    The next tier of five players are mostly the guys that sit in the very top tier of the pay scale.

    Mitch Marsh is in sixth place, unable to really break through with either bat or ball but doing enough with both to be paid $381 per ball.

    Mitchell Starc is next on $391 per ball, on account of his more moderate usage rate in terms of volume of balls bowled – but we’ll deal with that in the next piece this series.

    Despite being paid over $2.5 million in this modelled version of reality, Steve Smith still delivers in terms of volume of work on the field.

    Steve Smith celebrates a run out

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    His payment rate of $408 per ball is a little above the overall average of the 15 contracted player who’ve played in the past two years, but belies how important he has been in term of scoring runs. He’s also faced 3,902 balls over the period, 1,500 more than the second placed David Warner.

    Rounding out the top ten are Matthew Wade ($411 per ball) and Warner ($414 per ball). These two deliver value in other ways, which we’ll get to in the next piece.

    The top five most valuable Aussie Test cricketers (based on workload)

    Player Output
    Nathan Lyon $171 per ball
    Matt Renshaw $272 per ball
    Peter Handscomb $274 per ball
    Josh Hazlewood $286 per ball
    Usman Khawaja $326 per ball

    That leaves five centrally contracted players, who, in this excerise are the most overpaid players.

    Who are they?

    We’ll reveal all in the next piece in this series, and have some fun looking at the number of value of runs and wickets generated by all players.

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