“High Impact” batsmen – a study

Is having a healthy batting average alone a measure of “impact” that a batsman is creating on the game? Is having a 100+ strike rate alone enough to create an impact? Batting Average or Strike Rate of a batsman alone doesn’t tell the complete story about the impact he creates, which is why Cricket Statisticians came up with a hybrid metric called “Impact Factor”.

Impact Factor = Batting Average x Strike Rate / 100

I understand your concern. Can’t we just add Avg and Strike Rate? Why multiply?

Let me explain the difference with an example. Look at Batting Averages and Strike Rates of three players who were completely different in the way they approached batting – Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Bevan and Shahid Afridi.

Afridi

Now, if you just add Avg and Strike Rate, you’ll end up concluding Shahid Afridi’s batting in general creates much more impact than Bevan or Sachin, which is foolish and wrong. I am sure even Afridi will not agree. The moment you multiply Average and Strike Rate, you arrive at a hybrid metric which is more meaningful and easily comparable across batsmen.

Enough Theory. Let’s get to the numbers.

Over the last 48 years of ODI history, there’s been a gradual but steady evolution in the game, decade over decade. Grounds becoming smaller, rules of the game being changed, Power plays, Field restrictions, bat sizes, etc. The game has without doubt become more batsmen friendly with every passing decade and with T20 cricket coming into the mix in the last decade, the way batsmen in general approach batting too has changed.

This is very evident when we compare Batting Averages and Strike Rates (and Impact Factor) for Top 50 run scorers in each era (decade).

Have a look.

Summary

In this context, it’s unfair to compare Impact Factor of a batsman in 2019 vs a batsmen in 1975, I understand. Nevertheless, I’ve compiled the list of Top 50 run scorers in ODI history, ranked by their Impact factor. What do you notice?

ODI history

Among the Top 5 Ranked Impactful Players of all time, there’s an obvious bias towards batsmen from the recent 2 decades, but one man stands out. Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards. He is the only pre-2000 batsmen to make it to the Top 5 list. Woah! It’s difficult to imagine or guess what his numbers would look like had he played his cricket in the modern day. Hats off Sir!

I’ve also compiled the Top 5 and Bottom 5 ranked players by Impact Factor, decade by decade. While you can review the stats in tables published below, here are a few of my observations.

Note: Stats only for Top 50 run scorers in respective eras

  • 1970s and 1980s – There’s no one even close to Sir Viv on Impact Factor @ the quantum of runs he’s scored – 6k+ runs; his strike rate of 90+ in the 1980s was phenomenal

1971-1990

  • 1990s – Despite an average strike rate, Bevan tops the list due to his supreme batting average; he averaged 56 in 1990s when the mean was 35. Sachin Tendulkar is # 2 in the list, followed by Lara, Ganguly and Saeed Anwar. No surprises there

1991-2000

  • 2000s – Sachin sustains his place in the Top 5, a list topped by Michael Hussey and MS Dhoni; emergence of AB de Villiers

2001-2010

  • 2010s – The ABD & Virat Kohli Era; both of them average ~62 post 2010; with ABD striking at 111, his impact factor of 69 is the highest ever for any batsman in any decade. Let it digest. AB de Villiers has scored 5500 runs at an average of 62 striking at 111.

2011-2019

Do you think there’s any other way of measure a batsman’s impact on a game, apart from Impact Factor? Do you have any other observations from the Stats? Feel free to share them in comments.

 

 

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