There is a lot to the home versus away debate, so before we get to individuals, let’s unpack whether home town advantage is even a thing, which countries are most affected and whether anything has changed since the turn of the century.
Is it easier to bat at home?
The overall batting average for positions one to seven across all countries since Test cricket first began is 36.0. Home average is 37.9 compared to an away average of 34.1.
Using the overall average as a base, the home versus away difference amounts to around 10.6 per cent.
So if a batsman averages 45 at home, he should average just over 40 away. Incidentally, away teams have historically found batting in Asia about two runs per batsman easier than in the rest of the world – 35.5 to 33.6.
Is batting at home getting even easier?
Since the turn of the century the overall batting average has increased by five per cent to 37.8. The home batting average has moved 7.5 per cent up to 40.8, whereas the away average has moved up by only 2.9 per cent to 35.1.
The conclusion from this is that overall, batting has become about five per cent easier since 2000, whether due to pitches, bowling quality, more variations in team quality, who knows.
But this improvement has been significantly more pronounced at home than away. A modern-day batsman with that overall average of 45 would now expect to have an away average of just 38, a difference of 15.1 per cent.
So home town advantage is really a thing, and it’s become more of a thing in the 21st century.
Who are the best home teams?
Australia has always been the best home batting team, with an historical average of 41.4. The three main Asian countries – India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – all have home batting averages over 40. The worst averages, as expected, belong to Bangladesh (29.5) and Zimbabwe (30.5).
In the past 20 years, all teams apart from the West Indies and Zimbabwe have improved their averages when batting at home, in some cases substantially.
Who historically struggles the most away from home?
Bangladesh at an historical batting average of just 25.8 take the title here, but a much more interesting measure is which teams have the greatest difference between their home and away averages.
Pakistan leads the way here with a 7.2 run difference batting away compared to the comforts of home. They are followed by Sri Lanka (6.5) and India (5.1) showing that the Asian teams have historically struggled more away.
The next worst, however, is Australia. That stellar home average of 41.4 becomes a less impressive 36.5 away from the true, bouncy pitches at home. That 4.8 run difference is higher than for New Zealand or Zimbabwe and it is nearly double the difference that England suffers.
The one outlier country is South Africa. They are the only team where their away average of 35.9 is actually better than their home average of 34.9. This may be partly due to spicy home pitches but other factors could also be at play.
For example, South Africa’s early years were truly dreadful and the spent much of that time batting at home, which has dragged that home average down a touch.
You may have noticed something in among all those figures: the Australian away average, which is significantly lower than their performance at home, is nevertheless still higher than those away fighters from South Africa.
That is correct, despite their performances dropping off substantially away compared to home, Australia’s away average is still better than any other team. Historically we have just been better batsmen.
What has changed this century?
Has anything changed since 2000? You bet it has. Pakistan still has the largest difference between home and away averages, but it’s now a massive 14.9 runs. However their modern-day statistics are coloured by the lack of home games actually played.
Of the rest, Australia since 2000 has the scarcely believable home average of 50.44, a 22 per cent increase on their historical mark. In aggregate, every batsman in Australia’s top seven for the past 20 years has reached the traditional benchmark for greatness – an average of 50 – as long as they are batting somewhere in this country.
However the drop in performance when travelling has shot up to 11.2 runs per player. This away mark still represents a 7.4 per cent improvement compared to their overall history, but that rise can mostly be explained by the global lift in batting averages over the past 20 years.
Based on these numbers an Australian top seven can be expected to collectively score about 353 at home but only 275 away.
On raw averages, South Africa are now slightly ahead of Australia as the best away batting team, and the new super power of India is only just behind.
Despite the almost universal increase in batting averages over the past 20 years, each of Australia, England and the West Indies have gone against trend and produced a worse batting average in Asia. To be fair to the West Indies, this drop is across the board for them, reflecting the sad decline of cricket in the region.
England’s drop in performance in Asia in the past 20 years is 4.9 per cent, and Australia’s is 2.2 per cent. In comparison overall batting averages have increased by 5.1 per cent and even away batting averages in Asia across all teams have improved by 3.6 per cent.
Contrast that to India, who have increased their ‘not in Asia’ batting average by 8.4 per cent during this period. India’s ‘not in Asia’ batting average is now better than Australia’s ‘in Asia’ batting average. So it is no wonder that India have suddenly started winning in Australia, while Australia continues to struggle on the sub-continent.
South Africa are still the best away team when compared with their home record. While they no longer bat better away than at home, the differential is still a mere 1.7 per cent or a 1.7 runs per batsman. The Proteas are still a tough bunch away from home.
I should also give a final shout out to our Kiwi cousins, who have improved their overall batting average by an impressive 13.8 per cent in the past 20 years – 18.4 per cent at home and 8.3 per cent away, including a massive 15.6 per cent improvement in Asia. Truly this has been a golden era of NZ batting.
So the conclusions that can be drawn from all of this are that it has been easier to bat in the past 20 years than ever before, especially at home, the Indians have learned to bat away from Asia, and Australian batsmen do not like to travel but they are truly giants at home.
In future articles I will find out just how much some of our batsmen struggle outside of the Great Southern Land and compare it to other notables around the world. I will also answer the question of whether David Warner is the worst away batsman in the history of the universe.