Comparing Indian Test Player Averages Relative to Other Players in the Same Matches
Average is seemingly the most used statistic in player comparison between cricketers. Often, it is the starting metric when debating the merits between Player A and Player B. The debates thereafter typically evolve into comparisons of situational averages, ie: Player A has a superior average in Australia while Player B has a superior average in England, or Player A has a greater 1st innings average while player B has a greater average in the 4th innings.
However, a more interesting comparison I was interested in was how do players’ averages compare to other players in the same matches/series. After all, a player achieving a series average of 60+ is a different, arguably greater, feat in a series where the average batsman averages 20 vs one in which they average 40.
In this article, I compare the averages of the key players from India’s greatest test side( the side from 2016 onwards), relative to the average performances in those matches. The differences between the averages are presented by the country where the matches took place.
The value calculated will be termed the average-difference.
The formula was simple:
|(Avg all players) – (Player avg)| = average-difference
*Using the absolute value, the order of the two variables is inconsequential
A higher(more positive) value for average-difference is better.
The average for fast bowlers, spinners, and batsmen are all calculated separately from each other. For example, when the table says Avg All Bowlers for a fast bowler, it only includes the calculated averages for all fast bowlers and no spinners. The reverse is true for spinners.
Under the fast bowlers section, the main fast bowlers India has played over the time period have been included: Shami, Bumrah, Umesh, Ishant, and B. Kumar. Md Siraj was also included in the list, as he seems to be the preferred new, younger bowler in the side. The non-Indian fast bowlers chosen for the comparison were Rabada, Southee, Jimmy Anderson, and Cummins.
Ishant’s average was further broken down to see his pre and post-2018 performance in comparison to his overall performance. The 2018 season marked Ishant’s first international season after completing a county stint for Sussex. India fans have noted how he came back a much-improved bowler after that county stint, so the breakdown is hopefully informative of any improvement which had occurred.
|Avg All Bowlers||28.8||23.99||31.41||32.98||27.26||26.14||35.96|
Shami looks like a match-winner in Asian conditions, with well above average performances in both India and SL. His performances outside of Asia are more of a mixed bag. He seems to have performed at about average levels in SA, AUS, and WI. However his poor performances in ENG and NZ have left a lot to be desired.
|Avg All Bowlers||27.88||21.23||27.45||27.55||21.58||20.14|
Bumrah seems similar, but better than Shami. He has excellent performances at home in India. He has average to elite performances outside of Asia, except in NZ. What is surprising is that his matches in NZ were on pitches where the pace bowling average was 21.5, so it should have been relatively easy to bowl there.
|Avg All Bowlers||27.78||28.93||34.92||31.72||35.66||25.05||40.67|
|Avg All Bowlers||30.56||33.16||38.12||34.43||38.43||27.22|
|Ishant 1.0||Player Avg||40.84||54.16||34.71||62.15||30.91||20.93|
|Avg All Bowlers||25.5||21.56||25.36||23.91||22.53||20.14|
|Ishant 2.0||Player Avg||26.15||18.75||21.41||23.81||15.2||12.27|
Overall for Ishant’s career looks like he performed overseas against lower-ranked sides, was about average at home, and terribly underperformed in India’s two final frontiers for test series victories: SA and AUS. He also has a noticeably poor performance in England.
Pre-2018 Ishant’s numbers are more exaggerated versions of his overall career numbers. -21 and -27 in SA and AUS being eyesores for India-fans.
Post-2018 Ishant’s record is good all around. Although there is no single area where he has a +10 average, he has erased his pervious poor record in AUS/SA completely.
One thing to note on Ishant’s record throughout his career is that he was about/slightly above average at home. The conventional view was that he didn’t perform well at home. He certainly wasn’t some matchwinner there, but he wasn’t a liability either.
|Avg All Bowlers||27.11||21.43||34.06||30.25||20.76||46.42||30.5|
|Avg All Bowlers||32.61||18.61||34.27||44.85||22.37|
Umesh and BK were the backup bowlers of the side. Therefore, they have relatively fewer innings bowled in certain countries in comparison to the main fast bowlers. Thus, it is more difficult to draw too many conclusions from their statistics. However, if one takes into account the number of innings each player bowled for proper context, it could still be useful.
|Avg All Bowlers||27.9||22.27||31.42||32.39|
As Siraj is a newer bowler, it is also difficult to draw any conclusions for him as well. However his home statistics are in line with other Indian fast bowlers and show he can be a match-winner in India. His overseas statistics show that he needs much improvement before anyone declares him a superstar.
Premier Non-Indian Fast Bowlers
Below are some of the best non-Indian fast bowlers of the era. One can compare the earlier data of Indian fast bowlers with these to make their own conclusions.
|Avg All Bowlers||25.82||26.85||38.95||28||36.9|
|Avg All Bowlers||31.32||26.24||37.93||28.68||32.16||26.04||25.4|
|Avg All Bowlers||25.53||24.87||32.3||25.6||30.13||18.34||34.66|
|Avg All Bowlers||30||31.47||34.34||30.96||30.88||34.24||37.44|
India has primarily used two spinners over this time period: Ashwin and Jadeja.
|Avg All Bowlers||26.02||61.56||29.33||44.63||41.33||35.17||32.02|
Despite the general view that Ashwin has a poor out of Asia record, he performed right around average in England/Australia. He significantly outperformed the overall average in NZ, WI, and SA as well.
|Avg All Bowlers||36.37||33.9||31.19||39.66||95.8||38.92||49.61|
Jadeja seems to have absurd statistics. He significantly outperformed other spinners in all countries except for England. In no single country has Jadeja played in test matches where the spinner average was below 30, yet Jadeja averaged below 30 in 5 separate countries. England seems to be the only consistent blemish on Jadeja’s record.
Taking both Jadeja and Ashwin’s data together, there are some interesting conclusions and questions one can think of:
1) India is not particularly spin-friendly. Taking all the duo’s matches together, spinners average around 30 in test matches in India. That average doesn’t imply India is producing too many dust bowls.
2)Without the over-rate rules, some teams probably wouldn’t play any spinner at all. Most countries, at least when India tours, don’t produce pitches conducive to spin-bowling. Looking again at the Jadeja table, no country has spin-averages below 30.
It would be interesting to see how a change in over-rate rule to 12 overs/hr would change team-compositions outside the subcontinent.
3) Some countries it can be argued to be graveyards for spinners, note: NZ, SA, and AUS.
Premier Non-Indian Spinners
Once again, here are 3 of the other prolific spinners to compare the Indian spin-duo to.
|Avg All Bowlers||44.51||38.1||46.44||41.63||51.86||41.12||30.3|
|Avg All Bowlers||37.07||38.07||26.41||45.83||31.07||30.38||27.36|
|Avg All Bowlers||40.16||32.55||36.72||61.26||47.35||26.1|
A comparison of the 4 main batsmen India used as openers during this time period.
|Avg All Batsmen||26.25||22.46||31.34||35.73||28.35||27.31|
|Avg All Batsmen||27.95||24.6||32.61||35.75||35.46||26.74||42.2|
|Avg All Batsmen||30.27||29.24||25.87||40.43||35.46||32.15||32.97|
|Avg All Batsmen||27.76||28.2||28.5||35.64||35.46||23.07||26.19|
Comparing the 4 different openers India has focused on, it is hard to pick a single of the 4 openers who is superior to the other 3. Each opener has their own countries where they have a particularly strong or weak record.
The revolving door of India’s opening positions has been a consistent story of this era, and it’s clear why. No one seized the initiative and solidified themselves and made the position their own.
Statistics for India’s middle order.
|Avg All Batsmen||28.46||25.1||30.2||31.82||28.95||30.57||33.12|
Pujara performed average to above average in all the major countries except for NZ and WI. The latter two countries, his record shows he strongly underperformed.
Pujara had elite performances in IND, SL, and AUS. Interesting to note is that Pujara’s record in SL was as an opener.
|Avg All Batsmen||27.94||24.83||30.25||33.19||28.95||27.02||30.72|
The number to note for Kohli is that he averaged above average in all countries. However, a mid-30s average in ENG, NZ, and WI should still be considered a drastic underperformance. ENG and NZ were two of India’s key rivals in this period.
|Avg All Batsmen||27.38||26.07||28.66||33.2||28.95||28.81||30.72|
The most controversial member of the middle order, Rahane average-difference is consistently high. Outside of England, his second lowest was +7 in India. However, Rahane doesn’t have a dominant performance anywhere except WI. These statistics show him as consistently above average/good but never really great player. Interestingly on the India statistic, Rahane is considered by fans to be a poor performer in India, yet these statistics show that it is overblown.
A comparison of Pant, India’s current and likely long-term wicket-keeper, with the previous two Indian keepers.
|Avg All Batsmen||27.93||23.09||24.98||29.91||21.61||24.61|
|Avg All Batsmen||32.88||29.48||35.14||33.84||35.57||29.3||48.33|
|Avg All Batsmen||18.42||30||38||32.05||32.07|
Compared to the previous two wicket-keepers for India. Pant has shown rare match-winning ability in both India and Australia. Of-course Saha was never rated as much of a batsmen, so it is maybe an unfair comparison.
Here are charts of some of best batsmen.
|Avg All Batsmen||28.61||29.39||27.04||33.5||38.07||24.73||24.96|
|Avg All Batsmen||36||28.98||28.78||38.15||33.56||39.24||35.05|
|Avg All Batsmen||28.7||29.88||31.48||30.69||35.79||29.72||28.7|
|Avg All Batsmen||28.81||26.18||34.2||30.35||32.62||31.25||27.06|
At the end phase of Dhoni’s captaincy and progressing into Kohli’s captaincy, India changed its team composition from the conservative, draw-prone: 6 bat + 1wk + 4 bowler combo into the more result oriented: 5 bat + 1wk + 5 bowler combo, with at least 1 of the 5 bowlers being an allrounder.
Infamously, this phase started with Stuart Binny who could at best be described as a popgun bowler. However, during this era India tried a number of players in this role: Ashwin, Jadeja, B. Kumar, H. Pandya, and Thakur. Thakur doesn’t have much data, so only the data for the previous 4 were included.
|Avg All Bowlers||26.02||61.56||29.33||44.63||41.33||35.17||32.02||37.71|
|Avg All Batsmen||23.34||24.75||30.11||33.29||23.3||32.05||30.72|
Looking at Ashwin’s bowling and batting statistics, it’s apparent that aside from being a strong bowler, Ashwin showed good ability to at least contribute with the bat. However there were very few places where he was the equivalent of an extra batsmen.
|Avg All Bowlers||36.37||33.9||31.19||39.66||95.8||38.92||49.61|
|Avg All Batsmen||29.91||35.8||30.82||32.53||30.58||24||42.44|
The quality of Jadeja’s bowling performance was elucidated earlier. The one black-spot on his batting record is his SA performance, but, putting it in context( he batted in 1 match/2 innings only), it is not as bad as it seems. His batting statistics show a consistent ability to provide India with an extra batsman, in many cases providing similar performances to India’s #5 Rahane with less experienced batting partners.
|Avg All Batsmen||30.63||18.13||30.64||50.06||23.07|
|Avg All Bowlers||32.61||18.61||34.27||44.85||22.37|
As mentioned earlier, B Kumar was mostly a backup, so he didn’t play too many matches. His bowling figures show that he was a strong contributor with the ball(outside of Australia). His batting record would appear be surprisingly strong for people who haven’t watched India matches over a long period of time.
It could be one of the bigger what-ifs in recent Indian cricket history. If BK had gotten more chances overseas in SA/ENG/NZ in the place of a specialist fast bowler with relatively poor bowling records in those countries (Shami or Ishant), would India have been better off, or are his good batting averages a fluke of a low number of innings?
|Avg All Batsmen||24.01||20.56||22.16||36.73|
|Avg All Bowlers||24||20.49||21.53||35.96|
Pandya barely had much more data than Thakur, so there isn’t much to take away from his performances. What little one can conclude from his data is that he would be better off as a batting allrounder rather than a bowling one. Regardless, his injury-prone career thus far suggest that he may never establish himself in the longest format.