Page content

Cricket Legend Bradman Stands Test of Time

6 August 2010

The late Sir Donald Bradman has had his cricketing prowess put to the test by academics at the University of Queensland and the University of Ulster.

And following a highly sophisticated mathematical analysis of the batting record of Sir Donald, Brian Lara, Douglas Jardine, Vinod Kambla and others, the experts found that Bradman retains his crown as the greatest batsman in history.

Professor Vani Borooah of the School of Economics and the Social Policy Research Institute and his co-author, Professor John Mangan from the Department of Economics, University of Queensland, devised new methods to evaluate the Australian batting legend’s Test Match performances.

Bradman retired in 1948 and, although, since then, many of his records have been surpassed, he is still regarded as the greatest of them all.

“Up until now the assessment of batsmen in cricket is largely based upon their average score - a Test average of 50 or over provides a rule-of-thumb for distinguishing great players from the merely good – Donald Bradman with the highest Test average ever achieved (99.94) is universally regarded as the greatest of all batsmen even though many of his other achievements have been eclipsed,” explained Professor Borooah.

“However, a ranking based on simple averages suffers from two defects. First, it does not take into account the consistency of scores across innings – a batsman might have a high career average but with low scores interspersed with high ones, another might have a lower average but with much less variation in his scores.

“Second, it pays no attention to the ‘value’ of the player’s runs to the team – arguably, a century, when the total score is 600, has less value compared to a half-century in an innings total of, say, 200.

“The purpose of this research is to suggest new ways of computing batting averages which, by addressing these deficiencies, complement the existing method and present a more complete picture of batsmen’s performance. Based on these ‘new’ averages, the paper offers a revised ranking of the top 50 batsmen in history of Test cricket.”

The paper entitled, The ‘Bradman Class’: An Exploration of Some Issues in the Evaluation of Batsmen for Test Matches between 1877-2006 has recently been published in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports.

The new methods of measurement in this research took into account consistency by adjusting the average scores of the batsmen for the variation in their scores across their innings. This leads to the concept of a ‘consistency-adjusted average’ (CAA).

The CAA represents the ‘certainty score’ of a batsman - a ‘Bradman machine’ would produce 53 runs (CAA=53) before stopping whereas, say, a less efficient ‘Hutton machine’ would produce 31 runs (CAA=31).It took into account the ‘value to a team’ by computing, for every innings played by the batsmen, their proportionate contribution to their teams' total for that innings. The conventional averages the batsmen were then adjusted to incorporate this ‘value-to-team’ factor.

“Applying these new methods for evaluating batting performance results led to several changes to the ranking of the top 50 batsmen in Test cricket based on conventional batting averages,” said Professor Borooah.

“For example, based on their CAAs, Douglas Jardine rose from joint 14th to joint 5th while Vinod Kambli fell from joint 8th to joint 13th. Based on his value-to-team adjusted average, Brian Lara was joint 4th while, in the absence of this adjustment, he was joint 9th.

“It is important to stress that these new ways of assessing batting performance are grounded within the conceptual framework of the ‘batting average’, the ‘extensions’ proposed complement the existing method and, thereby, present a more complete picture of a batsman’s performance.

“In any heavenly judgment of batsmen, consistency, value-to-team, and many more criteria will all be used to arrive at a final ranking of batsmen. But, till then, this paper offers a modest proposal for refining rankings based on batting averages. In so doing, one awe-inspiring facts stands out – whatever, the criterion used for ranking batsmen, Sir Donald Bradman remains il capo dei capi.”

A full version of the report can be viewed at the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports website via this link