Who Is the Best Batsman in the World Right Now? January 2014

Chris TealeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2014

Who Is the Best Batsman in the World Right Now? January 2014

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    If you asked regular cricket fans who the best batsman in the world is in their opinion, you would probably get a number of different answers affected by a number of factors.

    However, if you were to look beyond simple subjective opinions and use the statistics available, would that produce a more satisfactory answer?

    Using the ICC Player Rankings, that’s what we’re going to attempt here, as we look to find out which player is the best in the world with the bat in his hand.

    Some of you may remember that we've been here before, so it will also be interesting to see how the rankings have changed in the intervening months.

    Let’s first start with our methodology, and how the statistics available to us will be used.

    All stats courtesy of ICC Player Rankings, correct as of 19 January 2014.

Methodology

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    The statistical data we will be relying on for this task is the ICC Player Rankings, which is explained below by the world cricket governing body:

    The Reliance ICC Player Rankings are a sophisticated moving average. Players are rated on a scale of 0 to 1,000 points. If a player’s performance is improving on his past record, his points increase; if his performance is declining his points will go down.

    The value of each player’s performance within a match is calculated using an algorithm, a series of calculations (all pre-programmed) based on various circumstances in the match.

    All of the calculations are carried out using pre-programmed formulae, using the information published in a Test match scorecard. There is no human intervention in this calculation process, and no subjective assessment is made.

    What’s really useful about the ICC Rankings is that they take into account factors like strike-rate, how many runs were scored in each match and who those runs were scored against.

    This means that a player’s ability with the bat in each form of the game can be boiled down to one number for Tests, One-Day Internationals and Twenty20.

    For the purposes of our rankings, we will do something else with those final numbers to try and reflect the difficulty of the different forms of the game.

    Test cricket is generally regarded as the most difficult form of the game, so to try and reflect that, every player’s Test rating will be doubled to give it more weight against the others.

    Further to this, a player’s ODI rating will be multiplied by 1.5, reflecting the specific difficulties that come with playing the 50-over format.

    Finally, a player’s Twenty20 rating will not be adjusted at all, as this form of the game is perhaps not as mentally taxing for batsmen as the other two.

    With all that said, however, there are still limitations to this manipulation of the statistics, as no system will ever be completely perfect.

Limitations

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    This system rewards players who are consistent in all three forms of the game, but does not take into account those who are clearly good batsmen but do not play a certain type of cricket.

    One example of this is West Indian stalwart Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the evergreen left-hander.

    Chanderpaul is the No. 2 batsman in Test cricket, a reflection of his class in the longest form of the game even in his 40th year.

    He is clearly a class act, good enough to average over 50 and still be the lynchpin of his country’s batting line-up.

    However, he has not been selected for an ODI since 2011 and has not played a Twenty20 since 2010, meaning that his overall ranking in our system is dragged right down.

    Chanderpaul is definitely one of the better batsmen in the world game, but unfortunately only in one form of the game, hence he drops right down to No. 37 in our overall list.

    Sadly, despite our best efforts, there is no way around this, although perhaps this is only fair as we are looking for the best player across all three forms of the game.

Previous Findings

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    We've been here once before in October, as we looked to work out who the best batsman in the world was at that time.

    Our system threw up some interesting findings, most notably at the very top as Hashim Amla could only reach No. 4 despite being the best Test and ODI batsman in the world at that time.

    By virtue of his prowess in the shorter forms of the game, Virat Kohli of India found himself above Amla at No. 3, with some feeling that his poor record in Tests meant he should not have been so high.

    South African AB de Villiers was at No. 2, with Kumar Sangakkara coming top of the pile thanks to his continued run-scoring exploits in all three forms of the game.

    Sangakkara was a deserving No. 1 in October, but is he still up there or have things changed?

Notable Omissions

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    In any list such as this, some players will be unfortunate to miss out on the top 20, and this is no different.

    Graeme Smith and Younis Khan are both in the top 10 of the Test rankings, but find themselves outside our overall list due to a lack of matches in the other forms.

    Cheteshwar Pujara of India will also feel similarly hard-done by as his No. 5 Test rank is effectively cancelled out by a lack of ODI and Twenty20 experience. His time will surely come.

    Another rising star of India is Rohit Sharma, who misses out on No. 20 by just four average rating points but is another who will be one to watch in the future.

    England fans will also note that they do not have a single batsman in the top 20, with Jonathan Trott, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell all in the top 30 but not doing enough to sneak above that.

    Let’s move to the upper reaches of our list, starting with those players ranked between No. 20 and No. 11.

Players Ranked 20-11

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    NameTest Rating (x2)ODI Rating (x1.5)Twenty20 RatingAverage RatingOverall Rank
    Misbah-ul-Haq15961102.50899.511
    Chris Gayle1202819674898.3312
    Angelo Mathews1372862.5449894.513
    Faf du Plessis1210790.5652884,1614
    Michael Clarke163410080880.6615
    Shakib Al Hasan1180940.5514878.1616
    Brendan Taylor1212925.5484873.8317
    Tamim Iqbal1176910.5526870.8318
    Marlon Samuels118078364186819
    Gautam Gambhir1066850.5589835.1620

    Into the top 20, with this part of the list started by Gautam Gambhir, who appears not to be hamstrung by having not played a Test or Twenty20 since 2012.

    Above him comes Marlon Samuels, while Bangladesh are well represented by Tamim Iqbal at No. 18 and Shakib Al Hasan at No. 16.

    Michael Clarke has not played a Twenty20 since 2010, but due to his fabulous form in both Tests and ODIs, he reaches No. 15.

    Above him comes Faf du Plessis, who is beginning to become a very important player for South Africa, and newcomer Angelo Mathews at No. 13.

    Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq is still doing a very good job balancing leading his team with his own batting, and he reaches No. 11, although his absence from Twenty20 has counted against him.

    There are some very big names in this part of the list, so let’s see who is above them in our next section—from No. 10 to No. 4.

Players Ranked 10-4

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    NameTest Rating (x2)ODI Rating (x1.5)Twenty20 RatingAverage RatingOverall Rank
    Hashim Amla173612604681154.664
    Ross Taylor174297846610625
    Shane Watson12021041729990.666
    David Warner13668197289717
    Mahela Jayawardene1310915687970.668
    Mahendra Singh Dhoni12041183.5514967.169
    Brendon McCullum115093379796010

    Moving into the top 10, which is opened by two wicketkeepers and captains of their countries in Brendon McCullum at No. 10 and Mahendra Singh Dhoni at No. 9.

    Above them comes the evergreen Mahela Jayawardene, while David Warner’s rapid rise as a batsman across all forms of the game is shown by his spot at No. 7.

    Above him comes fellow Australian Shane Watson, who looks to be living up to his early promise as an international cricketer.

    Ross Taylor of New Zealand is next, while Hashim Amla is still unable to break into the top three.

    Recently deposed as the world’s best Test batsman by countryman AB de Villiers, Amla is still suffering from a poor Twenty20 rating, although it has improved since October.

The Top Three

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    NameTest Rating (x2)ODI Rating (x1.5)Twenty20 RatingAverage RatingOverall Rank
    AB de Villiers182413084691200.331
    Kumar Sangakkara1682122467611942
    Virat Kohli14781288.57491171.833

    Here we are in the top three, and there should be few surprises at the names present in this section of the list.

    At No. 3 is India’s Virat Kohli, who has improved his ranking in Tests while maintaining his form in the other forms of the game.

    Clearly, with Sachin Tendulkar retired, Kohli has taken advantage and stepped up his game as one of India’s senior batsmen.

    Above him comes Kumar Sangakkara, with the Sri Lankan hamstrung a little by a poor Twenty20 record.

    He is virtually peerless in the other two forms of the game, hence his high ranking, but he perhaps has not taken to Twenty20 as well as he would have wanted.

    Finally, our No. 1 is the man who recently displaced Hashim Amla as the world’s best Test batsman—AB de Villiers.

    The South African is incredibly consistent and very talented regardless of the form of cricket he plays, with the ability to score runs virtually anywhere in the world.

    He is a deserving No. 1, albeit with a very narrow gap over Sangakkara by just 6.33 rating points.

    Perhaps Sangakkara will overtake de Villiers again, given the Proteas’ light schedule in 2014.

Risers and Fallers

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    Now we've seen the list in full, let’s have a general look at which players have dropped out of the top 20, which have joined the list and any movements within the 20 itself.

    Gautam Gambhir was at No. 17 in October, but now finds himself only at No. 20, while Brendan Taylor and Tamim Iqbal both move up one place each.

    The recently retired Jacques Kallis drops out of the top 20 altogether having been at No. 11 in October, while fellow Proteas player Faf du Plessis moves from No. 20 to No. 15.

    Joining the top 20 for the first time is Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews, who finds a place at No. 14.

    Going the other way is fellow Sri Lankan Tillakaratne Dilshan, who drops out of the top 20 altogether.

    Above them, there is very little movement between our October and January lists, with Chris Gayle dropping out of the top 10 to be replaced by David Warner, who moves up a staggering eight places to No. 7.

    Finally, the most notable change is in the top three, where de Villiers and Sangakkara swap places at the very top.

Conclusion

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    To conclude, our findings show that Test cricket is the best form of cricket, and if a batsman is consistent in the five-day game they will more often than not be rewarded.

    Our new No. 1—AB de Villiers—reflects the importance of Test cricket. He is the top Test batsman, and that combined with his limited-overs form means he sits atop our list.

    The South African is the man in form, so it is only right that he has displaced Kumar Sangakkara at the top of our tree.

    However, this system is not without its flaws.

    Again, a batsman’s clear prowess is only reflected if he plays well in all three forms of the game, and while this is appropriate for a list such as this it excludes many individuals.

    The case of Shivnarine Chanderpaul is perhaps the most pertinent, as he is the No. 2 Test batsman in the world but does not play limited-overs cricket any more.

    This list is a reflection of the best batsmen across all three forms of the game and rewards consistency regardless of whether they are playing in coloured or white clothing.

    Perhaps, then, it is understandable that specialists are intentionally excluded from our final list, as the ability to adapt as a batsman marks the great ones out from the good ones.