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A new calculation for rating all-rounders

Jacques Kallis grinds his way to the number one position. Alexander Joe (AFP)
Roar Rookie
12th March, 2016
60
1155 Reads

How do you rate all-rounders? For a start, there are different views on what an all-rounder is. If there isn’t agreement there, it’s hard to agree on the weight to be given to the different contributions an all-rounder makes.

Is it better to make runs or take wickets? Given they’re recorded in different units, how do you compare returns in each discipline?

It always helps when you’re rating anything to try to reduce the comparison to a single figure. A common one used for all-rounders is calculating the difference between their batting and bowling averages.

That’s fine so far as it goes, but does favour the batsman who bowls a bit, without giving enough weight to the amount of bowling the player contributes. It tends to downgrade the all-rounder who is a better bowler than he is batsman.

I therefore started by trying to come up with a way of expressing a player’s total contribution as a batsman and as a bowler in one figure, in a way where there was equal weight given to batting and bowling.

How to equalise batting and bowling? The concept I started with was that if you look at the number of runs a batsman who is regarded as ‘good’ will score per game, and at the number of wickets a bowler who is regarded as ‘good’ will take per game as benchmarks, you can calculate that a number of runs is equivalent in ‘goodness’ to a number of wickets.

You can then come up with an adjustment figure so runs and wickets are recorded in the same units.

That no doubt makes little sense. Explaining with the figures may be clearer. If you look through the list of high run scorers in Tests, a return of around 70 per Test marks out players who are on the cusp between good and very good.

That figure is inevitably a bit of a fudge because it depends on my concept of what is good, and runs per Test is affected by various factors, especially where in the order you bat. Nevertheless 70 per Test would roughly work out to an average between 40 and 45 for most players. For bowlers, four wickets per Test and you’re at the high end of good.

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So does four wickets equal 70 runs? I’d actually say four wickets per Test is a little better than 70 runs per Test although it will be reasonably close, but remembering we’ll be taking runs scored into account, I think you need to adjust it a little further because while most specialist batsmen don’t or hardly ever bowl, specialist bowlers get to bat.

To adjust for the runs a specialist bowler will score I chose an arbitrary figure of ten runs per Test the bowler will probably score on average (which I don’t think would be too far wrong). So, a ‘good’ batsman will contribute 70 runs per Test and a ‘good’ bowler will contribute four wickets and ten runs.

For the purposes of measuring quality of contribution you can think of 70 runs as being equivalent to four wickets and 10 runs – and thus 60 runs equals four wickets or one wicket equals 15 runs.

From that, you can arrive at a way of assessing total contribution for all-rounders (be they ‘true’ all-rounders, batting all-rounders, bowling all-rounders or the much maligned bits and pieces all-rounder) – runs per Test plus (wickets per Test x 15). That gives you a single ‘contribution’ figure to allow a ranking to be made – and the arguing to start.

I acknowledge that there are numerous possible disputes regarding this method – including that runs per Test somewhat favours top order batsmen over middle order players, because they will get more batting opportunities than middle or lower order players (against that, you can argue it can be harder to make runs against the new ball and a fresh attack).

Measures such as averages and strikerates are not considered. Fielding is ignored. Subjective measures of the circumstances in which runs are made (where in the batting order, against what bowling, pitches) or wickets taken (quality of opposition, higher or lower order batsmen, pitches, competition for wickets, support from the other end) are ignored.

The calculation is also made over the whole of a player’s career – and players change what they do especially over a long career. Whole career figures also are prone to distortion if a player starts young and/or slowly, or keeps going when still good enough but past their best.

Most of the players mentioned in a recent Roar article on this subject which used the method of subtracting bowling average from batting average have been rated using my method in a table below.

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I’ve included a lot of Australian players, particularly from the 70s on, because this is an Australian site and I’m more familiar with those players. I’ve made no effort to include non-Australians not mentioned in Dutski’s article and I’d be surprised if there aren’t a number who would rate highly.

For the purposes of setting some sort of qualification to get a rating, I’d say you need to have played 20 Tests, made 30 runs per Test and taken 0.8 wickets per Test. The 30 run requirement disqualifies Mitchell Johnson and Ray Lindwall (although they’re still in the table below) – that seems reasonable to me in that to me they were bowlers who could bat rather than bowling all-rounders.

I’d have said one wicket per Test should be the minimum qualification, but Stan McCabe and Andrew Symonds didn’t quite achieve that and one of them was clearly picked as an all-rounder, while the other was picked to bat and also to open the bowling more than once. If you’re picked as an all-rounder or expected to open the bowling, you should get a rating in my view.

Name Tests Runs total Wkts total Runs/ Test Wkts/ Test x 15 “Contrib-ution” Comment
Sobers 93 8032 235 86.37 37.90 124.27 No great surprise
Hadlee R 86 3124 431 36.33 75.17 111.50 Slight surprise?
Botham 102 5200 383 50.98 56.32 107.30 Ditto
Kallis 165 13206 291 80.04 26.45 106.49 Maybe a fraction lower than many would think
Cairns C 62 3320 218 53.55 52.74 106.29 Big surprise to me
Imran 88 3807 362 43.26 61.70 103.96 Lower than many think based on his batting av
Gregory J 24 1146 85 47.75 53.13 100.88 Will surprise many
Miller 55 2958 170 53.78 46.36 100.14 Slips a bit despite his bowling av
Stokes 23 1383 57 60.13 37.17 97.30 Producing a batsman’s runs. Early days
Simpson 62 4869 71 78.53 17.18 95.71 Some surprise – better bowler than is thought
Benaud 63 2201 248 34.94 59.05 93.99 This method puts him higher than others
Davidson 44 1328 186 30.18 63.41 93.59 30 runs per test makes him an all-rounder?
Pollock S 108 3781 421 35.01 58.47 93.48 Underrated player
Johnson 73 2065 313 28.29 64.32 92.61 Doesn’t qualify (just)
Flintoff 79 3845 226 48.67 42.91 91.58 Underrated for mine
Noble 42 1997 121 47.55 43.21 90.76 Good player for a long time (runs harder to get then)
Chappell G 87 7110 47 81.72 8.1 89.82 Doesn’t qualify
Giffen 31 1238 103 39.94 49.84 89.78 Same comment as Noble
Dev 131 5248 434 40.06 49.69 89.75 This will be a big surprise
Gilmou 15 483 54 32.20 54.00 86.20 Doesn’t qualify. Included as the 70s’ biggest coodabeen
McCabe 39 2748 36 70.46 13.85 84.31 Qualifies as he opened the bowling a few times
Armstrong 50 2863 87 57.26 26.10 83.36 Maybe suffers from the length of his career
Moeen 23 949 64 41.26 41.74 83.00 Epitome (to me) of the bits/pieces all-rounder
Walters 74 5357 49 72.39 9.93 82.32 Batsmen who bowls a bit as was common in the 70s
Watson 59 3731 75 63.24 19.07 82.31 Possibly where you’d expect him to be
Lindwall 61 1502 228 24.62 56.07 80.79 Long career affects figures. Not enough runs
Macartney 35 2131 45 60.89 19.29 80.18 Started as a bowler who could bat, finished as a batsman who could bowl
Border 156 11174 39 71.63 3.75 75.38 Too few wickets. Validates the methodology ;)?
Waugh S 168 10927 92 65.04 8.21 73.25 Ditto
Symonds 26 1462 24 56.23 13.85 70.08 A bit worse than I would have thought
Waugh M 128 8029 59 62.73 6.91 69.64 Same comment as Steve