Keeping Averages

For a long time, batting and bowling averages have been used to decide who is greater on a cricket arena.

Every cricket fan knows that Sir Donald Bradman has a batting average of 99.94, the highest in the world.

Knowledgable, stats-minded ones would be able to name the bowler with the best average. (George Lohmann (England), 112 wickets at 10.75 in 18 matches.)

However, wicketkeepers don’t have much to compare.

There are only two major stats wicketkeepers are reported on.

They are recorded on batting average (best: Andy Flower). This is, however, unfair, because it says nothing about their ability as a wicketkeeper.

They can also be recorded on the total number of dismissals taken (best: Adam Boucher, 555), but, as former Australian keeper Ian Healy said in his autobiography, it’s unfair as well, because it’s inherently biased towards those who’ve played more matches.

It seems like there’s no hope.

But…I’ve created a formula to solve this, taking into account batting average and dismissals. We do, however, need to set an average value on a dismissal.

So far in the 2010s, there have been 237 Test matches played, with 256,560 runs scored and 7,502 wickets falling (source: Cricinfo Statsguru). That’s a lot. We can use it to calculate there’s an average of 34.2 runs per wicket. It’s ballpark, but it’ll do for now.

So, the formula for this is now: [batting average]+([dismssals per innings]*34.2). More complicated than the batting and bowling figures, but oh well.

Since 1990, there have been 15 cricketers to play 50 matches as a wicketkeeper, including Boucher, Healy, Adam Gilchrist, Andy Flower, Brendon McCullum, and MS Dhoni. Out of those keepers, only Flower, Gilchrist, and Matt Prior have an average of 40 or more. The lowest average is that of Denesh Ramdin, with just 26.1.

The next thing to count is dismissals per inning. Only three of them, Gilchrist, Brad Haddin, and Kamran Akmal average 2+. Moin Khan is the lowest, 1.245 per innings.

These numbers are plugged into the formula, and out comes the result:

Player Batting Average Dismissals/Inning KEEPING AVERAGE
AC Gilchrist (AUS) 47.6 2.178 122.0876
A Flower (ZIM) 53.7 1.572 107.4624
BJ Haddin (AUS) 32.98 2.109 105.1078
Kamran Akmal (PAK) 30.79 2.08 101.926
MJ Prior (ENG) 40.18 1.753 100.1326
MS Dhoni (IND) 38.09 1.771 98.6582
BB McCullum (NZL) 34.18 1.873 98.2366
MV Boucher (RSA) 30.3 1.975 97.845
AJ Stewart (ENG) 34.92 1.709 93.3678
IA Healy (AUS) 28.61 1.834 91.3328
RD Jacobs (WI) 28.31 1.795 89.699
AC Parore (NZL) 26.94 1.661 83.7462
D Ramdin (WI) 26.1 1.648 82.4616
HAPW Jayawardene (SL) 29.5 1.529 81.7918
Moin Khan (PAK) 28.67 1.245 71.249

Gilchrist is the clear winner, which never really seemed to be in much doubt. This is the man who once made a Test match century in 57 balls, the man who became the first keeper to double-ton, the man who made six dismissals and 81 on debut, the man who broke his nose in his first time keeping and was told Rod Marsh had the same thing happen.

Looking at the rest, Andy Flower has a deserved second, and Haddin’s third will surprise many people, as will Matt Prior’s fifth. It seems pretty safe to say here that a score of 100 will put you in the elite category.

So, there we have it, keeping averages cement Gilchrist as the greatest since 1990. Maybe, over time, keeping averages could become the stat used to help rank keepers everywhere. Test selectors will look over the Shield keepers and observe their averages, statisticians in commentary boxes will send a printout over to the anouncers, kids will get into wicketkeeping by seeing the averages and marvelling, “I could do that”.

I doubt it, though.

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