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)

    • Columnist

      November 13th 2017 @ 12:54pm
      Glenn Mitchell said | November 13th 2017 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

      “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.”

      Ryan, where did you obtain the stats for how many balls each player fielded?

      And when you factor in the involvement of a wicket-keeper and how many times he takes the ball in a match, are you able to quantify the impact he has on the game with respect to his dollar value given it is his primary role in the team?

    • November 13th 2017 @ 1:10pm
      John said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

      Copeland again showing how fast isn’t always better! He rarely lets his team down…and 1 per over, go you good thing, even if you are “medium”. Shame he didn’t get a better run and would have been ideal in SA and UK, but “fast” is the only currency for the past 5 years sadly.

      • November 13th 2017 @ 4:02pm
        George said | November 13th 2017 @ 4:02pm | ! Report

        Good ol’ Boof of the long contract.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 1:25pm
      George said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

      Matthew Wade: #5 batsman.

      • November 13th 2017 @ 1:27pm
        matth said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

        That’s got to be it now for Wade surely. I mean, he got out to Siddle!

        • November 13th 2017 @ 1:32pm
          George said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

          Smithy can’t cope without Wade alongside him.

        • November 13th 2017 @ 1:32pm
          Jameswm said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

          Yep – if as rumoured they pick the team tomorrow, Wade could be gone. Last chance saloon, today.

          Nevill might get a bat before then, with Qld 4 down in the 1st session.

          Carey v Bancroft in the other, you’d want to bat first and score big.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 1:28pm
      matth said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

      I think Khawaja and Bailey should get together for a few drinks and argue about who’s shoulders are more tired. One men bands at the moment.

      • Roar Guru

        November 13th 2017 @ 1:35pm
        Rellum said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

        Imagine how QLD is going to do once Uzzi is with the Test team.

        • November 13th 2017 @ 1:39pm
          matth said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

          Its a horrifying thought. The loss of Chris Lynn is massive.

          I wonder when Heazlett will be fit again? I wonder if there is anyone tearing it up in clubland at the moment? Are we going to go back to Peter Forrest? Would Ed Cowan like a holiday?

          • Roar Guru

            November 13th 2017 @ 2:06pm
            Rellum said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

            In theory a batting line up of


            is a decent FC batting line up that should be getting enough runs for us to bowl to, but form and bad collapses are killing us, well they will based on the last few years when Harts and Hopes were saving our bacon.

            Hemphrey and McSweeney just got hundreds in the futures league so they would be next cabs of the rank along with Max Bryant.

            • Roar Guru

              November 13th 2017 @ 2:17pm
              The Bush said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

              If that outfit was actually able to play a season, it’d be one of the better line ups around (not NSW or WA good, but still pretty decent).

              • Roar Guru

                November 13th 2017 @ 2:37pm
                Rellum said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

                Obviously Lynn is out, probably for good, but there is every chance the rest will be available for 8 of the 10 games this year. Depends how Uzzi goes with one day selection.

              • November 13th 2017 @ 2:58pm
                Doctor Rotcod said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

                Bancroft and Cartwright ticking along, S.Marsh gone for 17 to Mennie.

                Qld aren’t doing a lot against the second string NSW attack. Sorry, Nathan.
                But come on,Dougie’s got two,and now a third.

                Khawaja is the highest scorer so far this season, with Bancroft catching up fast but if Qld crash here CB will pass him.
                Bailey’s on 75

                Usman gives more value for his coin

              • Roar Guru

                November 13th 2017 @ 3:00pm
                The Bush said | November 13th 2017 @ 3:00pm | ! Report


                I know Lynn’s shoulder is pretty bad, but do you really think he won’t return to FC cricket?

              • Roar Guru

                November 13th 2017 @ 3:16pm
                Rellum said | November 13th 2017 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

                He is talking about not play FC cricket anymore I think. Focusing on white ball stuff in the future. But who knows, he might back feeling great and suit up again.

              • November 13th 2017 @ 3:36pm
                Jameswm said | November 13th 2017 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

                Wow – SMarsh now next to no chance.

                Cartwright and Bancroft shoring things up batting 1 and 3 for WA. Could be batting 6 and 7 for Australia in 10 days.

                if they pick the team tomorrow afternoon as rumoured, I reckon SMarsh and Wade gone. Now between Carey, Nevill and Bancroft for keeper, and Cartwright, Maxwell and Lehmann for no.6.

                One timely knock at the right time could be all it takes.

          • Roar Rookie

            November 13th 2017 @ 2:07pm
            Matthew Pearce said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

            I think Heazlett was meant to be out for a month? I think he should be back by the next Shield round. Can’t find anything about it though.

            To be fair, we haven’t exactly played in the most batsmen-friendly conditions so far, only one 300 run innings out of 9 (don’t think we’ll get there today). Just goes to show Khawaja’s class.

        • November 13th 2017 @ 5:02pm
          Larry1950 said | November 13th 2017 @ 5:02pm | ! Report

          Maybe these younger Qld kids need Uzzi to be out of the team to take some responsibility, about time they aimed up. Not sure how they’ve managed 2 outrights so far, look to have no strike bowler and out of form batsmen, Uzzi excluded. I’m a dyed in the wool maroon but Bancroft must be a show to oust Renshaw, although the big fella must have some credit in the bank from the last home series. Prefer Bancroft to recalling Marsh, at least it’s a step forward.

          Fair dinkum, are there any batsmen in line for the test in form outside of Uzzi & maybe Smith? Renshaw, Wade, Maxwell, Hanscombe, Cartwright & to a lesser extent Burns & Paine. Warner & Smith will be hoping the ABO pitch settles down for them, Hughes will also hope to score runs so he can take that baggy green he got when picked for NSW out of the cellophane.

          • Roar Rookie

            November 13th 2017 @ 5:13pm
            Matthew Pearce said | November 13th 2017 @ 5:13pm | ! Report

            No strike bowlers but we’ve done well enough in that regard, only conceded 200 one innings so far. Having that national-level bowler to boost us would be good though.

            Think we’re just too inconsistent. Burns, Marnus, Truloff and co. have had good innings but when we don’t pull it off it tends to happen badly. Good thing that ol’ “pressure” doesn’t bother Khawaja now. Love Ussie but he could stand to get a bit of a better attitude there.

            Renshaw has to be under pressure, Neser’s just snapped up Maddinson for 8, if we can get either of Warner or Smith quickly we should run through them.

      • November 14th 2017 @ 6:35pm
        John Erichsen said | November 14th 2017 @ 6:35pm | ! Report

        Would have to be Khawaja. Doolan has scored runs for Tassie. Only 18 shy of Bailey at the time I write this. Khawaja has scored 220 more than Burns, who is the next highest QLD run scorer. Usman lays awake at night dreaming of being the one man band Bailey is. Bailey…. the lucky, lucky b*astard.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 1:38pm
      Jameswm said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

      This Shield season now Wade, batting at 5 for Tassie, has scored 1, 6, 9, 17 and 5.

      Out caught behind, caught behind, bowled, caught, and bowled. 5 innings, twice bowled, twice caught at the wicket.

      Pretty horrid numbers. If we pick him, he’s a walking wicket for the Ashes.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 13th 2017 @ 1:54pm
        Matthew Pearce said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

        A real competitor, that one. Just what we need.

        • November 13th 2017 @ 2:04pm
          Steve said | November 13th 2017 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

          He’s a team man, he’s built good and there’s none better for that role

      • November 13th 2017 @ 4:18pm
        George said | November 13th 2017 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

        Stark contrast to Nevill being dropped and then scoring three tons for NSW.

    • November 13th 2017 @ 1:39pm
      bazz said | November 13th 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

      The Dorff hasn’t made the lineup for WA again.

      Anyone got any mail on that one, last I heard he was fit but not “four day match”.

      Strange he has missed another shield game.

      • November 13th 2017 @ 4:48pm
        Mattyb said | November 13th 2017 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

        Bazz,I heard on the radio this morning he was selected but pulled himself out of the game this morning with minor back soreness.

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