A 'scientific' analysis of batting achievements in Test cricket has found what most people already know - that Don Bradman was the greatest batsman in the game. A paper, written by two economists, analysed factors such as consistency of scoring, value of a batsman's runs to the team and home-away record, and found the Australian great leagues ahead of the rest on all counts.
That's hardly a surprise. But the paper has some far more interesting conclusions.
While just five Indians qualify in the top 50 on the basis of career averages, in none of the parameters does Sachin Tendulkar, the highest run scorer in Tests, emerge on top even among Indian batsmen.
For instance, in terms of value of runs scored to the team, Virender Sehwag is India's top batsman (overall rank 6), followed by Rahul Dravid and Tendulkar.
On consistency of scoring, Dravid (rank 4) pips Sachin (5), followed by Sunil Gavaskar (11), Sehwag (12) and Vinod Kambli (13).
In another ranking based on career contribution to the team score, Dravid and Gavaskar (both ranked 5) emerge as India's top batsmen. Then come Tendulkar and Sehwag (both 6) and Kambli (8).
The paper - The 'Bradman Class': An Exploration of Some Issues in the Evaluation of Batsmen for Test Matches, 1877-2006 - ranks 50 batsmen from all eras. Written by economists Vani K Borooah, University of Ulster and John E Mangan of University of Queensland, it was published in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports.
Some rankings, however, may be misleading as the paper uses batting averages only up to 2006. For instance, in 2006, Dravid was No. 4 in the all-time list with an average of 58. At present, his average is down to around 53.
A 'scientific' study in Australia of Test batsmen down the years has put Don Bradman ahead of all others in every parameter it uses to define batting class.
The paper works on the premise that the method of calculating batting averages glosses over many aspects of good batsmanship. "It does not take into account 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," it notes. Secondly, the paper argues, batting averages do not reflect the value of the player's runs to the team.
The authors use several equations from economics to suggest new ways of computing batting that could complement the existing method and "present a more complete picture of batsmens' performance." Based on these "new" averages, the paper offers several revised rankings of the world's top 50 batsmen.
For measuring consistency, the authors use the Gini coefficient, a popular method for computing inequality in the distribution of outcomes. After applying the coefficient to the top 50, while Bradman remains No.1, South Africa's RG Pollock (ranked 2 on averages) falls three places to rank 5 and West Indian George Headley falls to 7 from No.2. Among Indians, Dravid and Gavaskar hold their ranks but Sehwag falls four places and Tendulkar two places.