Kallis: Most valuable ever?
Jacques Kallis (Gallo Images)
Paarl - With the retiring of Ricky Ponting we had a view of how great a player he was and many commentators rightly ranked him as one of the greatest ever, comparing him with other greats such as Tendulkar, Dravid and Lara. What caught my attention was that Kallis was not mentioned amongst them. And considering that Kallis will probably move into the all-time number two batting spot for tests in 2013 and adding his bowling and fielding record, then it is obvious that his value is not realized.
This got me to ponder whether there is a way to calculate a cricketer’s value in order to rank and evaluate him. I started looking at Cricinfo’s “All-Round” list but unfortunately it doesn’t provide a single value which can be used to rank a player. I’ve therefore set off to see if I can improve the list by taking the top 1,000 records for batting, bowling and fielding into account and produce a number to indicate the cricketer’s value. And for the lack of a better word, let us just call this value the player’s merits.
Working with Cricinfo’s test batting, bowling and fielding rankings of the 4th of December 2012, I first asked a number of my colleagues the question:
“In a test, where there’s only one hundred scored and only one five wicket haul (by a different player), who should be awarded ‘man-of-the-match’?”
The general feeling is that in such a case a “ton” is so close to a” fiver” in value that it can go either way. A guestimate then suggests that 1 wicket may roughly equate 20 runs. Let us then start by awarding 1 run as 1 merit and 1 wicket as 20 merits.
Is this credible? Well, if we take the top bowler’s wickets (800 wickets) and calculate 800 x 20 = 16,000 merits. Then add his 1,261 runs to give 17,261 merits. Now compare the top batsman’s runs (15,562) with this then it seems to be a reasonable fit.
Expanding this concept one step further, applying it to fielding dismissals and likewise equating 1 catch or stumping to 20 runs (or merits) will give the top fielder 11,100 merits. Then add his 5,515 runs to give a total of 16,615 merits. Not too bad a fit either.
And by the way, this top batsman will add another 900 merits for wickets taken to his total of 15,562, bringing him to 16,462 merits as well as another 2,280 merits for catches to give him a total of 18,742 merits.
Another very interesting spin-off is that “merit averages” of all players can then be calculated per game. If taking into account batting, bowling and fielding numbers as well as their respective innings’ which were involved, then the following two tables can be derived:
Discussing these lists with my colleagues drew confirmation that there may be something to it. For example, if we look at the “Average merits per match” ranking then it is filled with cricketers who are proven match winners. Also, cricketers who excelled in batting, bowling and fielding feature well on these rankings and unlike other rankings it is a good mix.
The surprise of the exercise was the margin between Jacques Kallis and the rest of the cricketers. In the top 10 of most merits scored, it is only Tendulkar who still stands a chance of reaching his total merits. And in the list of Average merits per match it is only Shakib Al Hasan (ranked 15) who is a current player.
Finally, a last comment: many will find 20 merits per wicket or dismissal a little rough, but if it is not acceptable, then another more reasonable number can be calculated. Point is the current list of “All-Round” greats does not clearly show the value of a player.
Perhaps a new all-round ranking can be introduced?