The most valuable players in the Australian cricket team

Ryan Buckland Columnist

By Ryan Buckland, Ryan Buckland is a Roar Expert

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    Australia's Usman Khawaja is under pressure to perform. (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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    The Crowd Says (92)

    • November 13th 2017 @ 8:19am
      Curious George said | November 13th 2017 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      matt wade -$230 per ball/dropped catch/cheap dismissal while batting

      maxwell -$120 per big swing and caught in outfield/dopey look on face

    • November 13th 2017 @ 9:15am
      paul said | November 13th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      These numbers are meaningless unless there is a benchmark or some indicators which say, “if you’re below this level, you’re providing good value and if you’re above this number, you’re not”. Without those, these figures are about as subjective as a personal opinion.
      I hope the next article looks at intangibles like contributions to a win or loss, runs saved in the field, etc.

      • November 13th 2017 @ 9:34am
        Don Freo said | November 13th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        Good luck challenging Ryan with method, Paul. This is his schtick.

        This article is the product of a slow day at work and a tongue that has found its way to his cheek.

        Anyway…how can it be erroneous if Mitch Marsh places top 6?

      • Columnist

        November 13th 2017 @ 1:15pm
        Ryan Buckland said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

        It’s a challenging one Paul. In a lot of ways this was an impossible task because the numbers we have available for cricket are so high level and context-less. Determining “value” by ways of runs and wickets by simply dividing them by dollars paid is misleading at best and plain wrong at worst. Nonetheless I have done it in the second part of this series.

        So, I was left with determining a way of standardising the unit of output. Using “balls involved” is not perfect, but it is standard, and if a spot in the test team is the ultimate measure of a player’s skill then comparing how many test-level balls a player has been involved in to how much they have been paid tells at least part of the story.

        Everything is subjective – even numbers.

        • November 13th 2017 @ 5:07pm
          John Erichsen said | November 13th 2017 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

          I hope when using “balls involved” you have realised the value of batting partnerships and not fallen into the trap of only including balls faced by the batsman on strike. I am sure one like yourself, with an eye for the numbers, wouldn’t have made that rookie mistake.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 10:59am
      Pope Paul VII said | November 13th 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

      NSW vs QLD starting today will have Ryan mindboggled with value possibilities.

      Top of the table clash..




      and a battery of underrated fast medium Qld bowlers.

      Should go off.

      • Roar Guru

        November 13th 2017 @ 11:05am
        Rellum said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        Unfortunately no Starc, Cummins or Hazelwood.

        • November 13th 2017 @ 11:14am
          Pope Paul VII said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

          Yeah thanks Rell just saw. Dammit. And cricinfo, having originally put Lyon as bowling the second over, have changed it Copeland.

          • Roar Guru

            November 13th 2017 @ 11:20am
            Rellum said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

            Copland is looking dangerous, getting it to nip around all over the place. Joey Burns is struggling to get bat on ball.

            Starc and the others are no doubt flat out with doing every thing but not bowl across the road from this game.

            • November 13th 2017 @ 11:53am
              Jameswm said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

              They’ll be bowling, but controlled amounts.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 11:11am
      Pope Paul VII said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:11am | ! Report

      Ah scratch that. Starc and Cummins not playing. Disappointed! Although Smithy spicing things up by the going for smarty pants of the year award opening bowling with Nathan Lyon.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 11:53am
      Jameswm said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

      Burns gone.

      Happy for Renners and Ussie to make solid half centuries, then we rip through them. NSW batting incredibly deep, Abbott and Copeland at 8 and 9. Bit of an average bowling lineup though. Carn Gazza.

      Tassie batting and one down. Massive chance for Wade, batting at 5 (Paine 4, playing as a specialist batsman).

      Sorry – Renners gone now.

      • Roar Guru

        November 13th 2017 @ 11:58am
        Rellum said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report

        Renners is gone as well for 16.

        • Roar Guru

          November 13th 2017 @ 12:02pm
          The Bush said | November 13th 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

          Shame too, he was scoring a bit more freely than he has in other innings. He didn’t look to happy with the decision either (stood his ground from what I saw).

          • Roar Guru

            November 13th 2017 @ 12:48pm
            Rellum said | November 13th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

            QLD are in big trouble. 4-68 now with Truloff gone.

          • November 13th 2017 @ 12:49pm
            Jameswm said | November 13th 2017 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

            Wade now batting for his life. 5no off 32. Paine failed, to Tremain.

            Qld struggling too, 4 for 68. Except of course Ussie, who is 29no.

            Copeland 12 overs 2 for 12. Doug the Rug has the other 2.

            Lyon expensive 7 overs 0 for 31, hit around by Ussie by the looks of it. You know, the guy who can’t play spin.

            • November 13th 2017 @ 1:10pm
              Pope Paul VII said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

              And they say Smithy can’t captain. Lyon to Khawaja. Cunning.

            • Roar Guru

              November 13th 2017 @ 2:15pm
              The Bush said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

              Wade is gone and gone in a shocking fashion to boot.

          • November 13th 2017 @ 12:52pm
            matth said | November 13th 2017 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

            Yep, that didn’t look out, or at least as best you can say on the feed. Renshaw gave none of the usual batsman guilt indicators (i.e. snapping his around, take a couple of backward steps away from the wicket, etc).

            • Roar Guru

              November 13th 2017 @ 2:15pm
              The Bush said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

              Being at work watching the stream without sound, it’s hard to make any kind of judgement. Certainly didn’t see the ball move at all and as you say, Renshaw did none of the guilty movements you see a lot of the time.

              The ump didn’t exactly shoot his finger up, but maybe that reflected that he assumed Renshaw knew he was out…

    • Roar Rookie

      November 13th 2017 @ 11:58am
      Dogs Boddy said | November 13th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report


      Bowling lots of balls and facing lots of deliveries is not a true indicator of value.
      Taking wickets and making runs is a far better benchmark don’t you think.

      Somehow I think both Lyon and Renshaw will drop a bit in the rankings if you take that into account.

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