Are Australia’s current batsmen the greatest ever?

sheek Roar Guru

By sheek, sheek is a Roar Guru

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39 Have your say

    We are presently watching the greatest batting talent in Australian cricket history.

    Adam Voges is the second-best batsman ever after Don Bradman, averaging 95.50. Steve Smith is a better batsman than the great Greg Chappell, averaging 60.29 to 53.86.

    David Warner is among the top four best-ever openers, after Bob Simpson, Bill Ponsford, Bill Woodfull (by only 0.01) and just ahead of Matthew Hayden.

    Indeed, the current top five batsmen – Voges, Smith, Warner, Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns – are among the top 13 averages ever for Australian cricket. In 14th place is the recently retired Michael Clarke.

    Why is all this so? Because the stats tell us it is so. But more importantly, do you believe this?

    I certainly don’t. Perhaps if your cricket knowledge extends back only 10 years, or perhaps only to the new millennium, you might believe this.

    But if your first-hand cricketing knowledge extends back 50 years, as mine does, and if you have an appreciation of Test cricket history dating back to 1877, as I have, then you won’t believe these figures for a nano-second.

    Don’t get me wrong, Voges is a great bloke and an excellent batsman, but he is over-valued. I love Voges’ grit and gutsiness and the fact he has struck a blow for the ‘old timers’ and ‘late bloomers’. But second-best ever? No way.

    Also, should we believe Smith is better than Chappell? Smith is a fine batsman and developing into a very good captain, once he gets rid of the ‘sooks’. But having seen both live, Chappell is much better.

    Chappell, who played 87 Tests, had to face some outstanding bowlers in his time – Derek Underwood (24 Tests), Bob Willis (23), Tony Greig (21), John Snow (14), Richard Hadlee and Sarfraz Nawaz (both 13), Lance Gibbs, Mike Holding, Ian Botham and Imran Khan (each 11) and Andy Roberts and Ray Illingworth (both 10).

    Most of these players would make their country’s best XI for the past 50 years. Indeed, Greig, Botham, Snow, Underwood and Willis would comprise my best England bowling attack of the past 50 years.

    It’s instructive that the so called ‘top five’ have all averaged better than 55 against New Zealand in all Tests, while Khawaja and Smith have all averaged in excess of 100 against the Windies, with Voges almost 70.

    Yet none of them have averaged 50 against England in all Tests, although Burns is yet to face the ‘old enemy’. But surprisingly, Smith is the only one to cash in heavily against India, with Warner and Burns the only other two to face India.

    England’s current fifth Test ranking makes a mockery of their recent good form. I believe they have the second-best Test bowling attack after Australia.

    Many people will argue that most of the advantages lie with the modern batsman. While the ball technology has changed little in 140 years, the bat has undergone significant changes.

    Bats are today both lighter yet stronger, with a much greater sweet spot. An errant nick will quickly run away to the boundary.

    Pitches are much better prepared and outfields beautifully manicured. Boundaries have been shortened and protective equipment has removed the fear factor.

    Governing authorities also demand pitches that last the full five days, thus maximising revenue form attending patrons and TV programming.

    Another advantage is the proliferation of two-Test series and the massive reduction in five- and four-Test series. This makes it more difficult for bowlers to work out a batsman’s technique in just a couple of Tests.

    Perhaps the only factor in favour of the bowler is that today’s batsmen are losing the art of patience and concentration to build an innings. If frustrated and they can’t hit their way out of trouble, the batsman will throw his wicket away.

    We might have to consider any truly successful bowler of the past 10-15 years, when the advantages to the batsman have been at their strongest, is better than any batsman who has achieved an average of 50 or more.

    With this in mind, the South African Dale Steyn may well and truly be the greatest bowler of all-time, of any type.

    Anyway, enjoy this ‘bubble’ while it lasts. What goes up must come down, and if past history is any guide, then all these guys will come back to the field, Voges and Smith more so than the others.

    But if this doesn’t happen, then we have to seriously question what is the relevance of today’s stats compared to the past.

    A former rugby lock, cricket no.11 bat and no.10 bowler, and surfboat rower. A fan of the major team sports in Australia.

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    The Crowd Says (39)

    • February 27th 2016 @ 2:41am
      Chris Moore said | February 27th 2016 @ 2:41am | ! Report

      I don’t think anyone in their right mind would claim it’s the best batting lineup ever right now, primarily due to small sample size. Australia’s top 5 have an average of 26.4 Tests to their name, but I think if they were all able to carry on their current achievements the argument could be made. Give it a few years once we’ve played all the top nations in their own backyard, and if Adam Voges is somehow still soldiering on / we fill his spot with a capable replacement, the argument could be made for one of the best batting lineups we’ve seen. Huge if though…

    • February 27th 2016 @ 9:12am
      East Bound & Down said | February 27th 2016 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      I doubt very much the Voges would have that average if he had been through body line or had faced the rampaging West Indian sides with Big Bird and co going through them like a dose of salts , and the same could be said for the rest of the team , but you can only paint with the brush you’ve got so in 2016 they are kings of the heap.

      • March 1st 2016 @ 1:36am
        Don Freo said | March 1st 2016 @ 1:36am | ! Report

        The Bodyline bowlers were not very good. Neither was the spirit of cricket. Neither were the rules of cricket.

        Everything has improved…including the batsmen.

    • February 27th 2016 @ 9:47am
      Bearfax said | February 27th 2016 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      Far too early to be judging this side. Some fine cattle there but its been primarily at home and against some fairly low grade sides. New Zealand should have done better and there’s some talent there that will raise their stakes. West Indies came over with their reserve grade side, with so many of their best unavailable and yet even if they were available they are still not top shelf.

      Australia has an excellent bowling brigade especially in the fast bowling area with Mitch Marsh adding that extra layer, to the likes of Starc, Hazlewood, Pattinson, Siddle and Bird with a few others to come. In the batting area we seem to have just about solved our weak spots in the team. For a while there it was the Smith and Warner show, but Voges , Khawaja and Burns have slotted in well, with Mitch Marsh yet to fire. Suggestions that Voges is second best to Bradman is just silly paper talk. And we have a competent wicketkeeper.

      But look out for the next overseas games. We’ll be brought back to Earth. How far we fall will show us how good this side really is.

    • February 27th 2016 @ 9:54am
      Andrew Pengelly said | February 27th 2016 @ 9:54am | ! Report

      There seems to be a current obsession with comparing batting averages of contemporary players with those of bygone eras. However this is a false comparison in as much as the comparison is always made with the earlier players final average upon retirement. I’m sure the Don’s average was above 100 for much of his career, however this point seems to have been disregarded by all commentators at the time when Vogue’s current average was threatening 100. Similarly players such as Gilcrest and Michael Hussey had averages higher than Smith’s at similar stages of their careers, but as with most great players they tended to come back closer to the pack following some leaner performances nearing the end of their careers. So I say lets enjoy the current players and their high achievements, knowing full well their golden run of battering averages won’t last forever.

      • Roar Guru

        February 27th 2016 @ 10:11am
        The Bush said | February 27th 2016 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        I know, it’s insane.

        Smith is 26. He’s got about 10 years of test cricket. Let’s talk about his batting average at that point.

        There is simply no point comparing batting averages of players playing to those that aren’t anymore. Ponting is a great example of a player who at his peak had a batting average close to the top 5 or 10 of all time. Instead he retired with a much more “normal” batting average of just above 50.

        Smith may well go on to be one of our best bats ever, but I, like most sane people, accept that his average is going to drop by at least 5 and probably closer to 10 runs over the next decade. Khawaja, Warner and Burns will all be the same. Remember despite the fact that a guy like Warner has played 51 tests, he’s only toured India once and has never toured Sri Lanka.

        The only player in that list whose average could well remain above his actual talent level is Voges. However he’ll simply be a statistical anomaly.

    • February 27th 2016 @ 10:30am
      Aransan said | February 27th 2016 @ 10:30am | ! Report

      The impression I get is that Warner and Smith are generally unconcerned with their batting averages and they are both clearly outstanding batsman. It was a pity that Burns was sacrificed in his last innings in the chase for quick runs, after his important innings he deserved to be not out and I think his average will always be important to him. Usman Khawaja reminds me of Neil Harvey and hopefully he will be as good.

    • February 27th 2016 @ 11:13am
      bigbaz said | February 27th 2016 @ 11:13am | ! Report

      Bill Johnston once toured the UK in the 50s and ended with an average of 100+. Averages! blah. Even the love of your life Chappelli ended with an average of only 43 , a number I think represents him correctly but one I’m sure you will disagree with.
      I’m unaware of anyone who thinks Vogues is the worlds 2nd best batsman. Ask an Indian and they will tell you that spot belongs to Bradman!

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