Monday, February 13, 2006

The Bradman of bowlers

No, I'm not going to identify the greatest bowler the world has ever seen - but apparently Richie Benaud is giving it a shot! He's developed the wonderfully named "Richie Rating" in order to properly stratify bowlers.

Now I probably have no right to question Richie Benaud, not least because he has at various times been a great bowler, all rounder, captain, selector and television commentator - and in the case of the lattermost, one of the few to really understand the art of silence. However, I am at a complete loss to comprehend why it is that a batting average (runs per dismissal) is a satisfactory way to measure batting performance, but apparently a bowling average (runs per wicket) is not.

The old argument of course, is that strike rate and other factors should be considered to more accurately gauge the worth of a bowler. Fair enough - but in that case shouldn't we do much the same for a batsman? If taking wickets quickly is to be considered along with taking plenty of them, then we must consider scoring runs quickly alongside scoring plenty of them as well.

In the timeless test scenario, the average is the single statistic that matters. If you play till both teams are all out twice, you need to score more runs per wicket than you concede. In the modern era of the 5-day Test, the speed at which you score those runs or take those wickets makes a difference as well. So it's fair to factor that in, but on both sides of the equation.

The crux of the problem is the quest to find a bowler who has the same relative standing to his peers as Bradman does. The answer which some might be overlooking is the simple one - this bowler simply does not exist. Bradman was an anomaly, in the mould of nature's great anomalies. Why must we meddle with that?

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