Who Is the Best All-Round Bowler in the World Right Now? July 2014

Chris Teale@@chris_tealeFeatured ColumnistJuly 22, 2014

Who Is the Best All-Round Bowler in the World Right Now? July 2014

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    With the calendar of international cricket hotting up, what better thing to do than use statistics to find out who the best bowler in the world is right now?

    As we set aside our subjective opinions and focus on cold, hard facts, we should get an idea of which players are the best with the ball across all three forms of the game.

    Some have been in form while others have slid dramatically, then there are those who have held firm and maintained their high standards.

    Read on for an examination of the best bowlers in the world as of July.

    All statistics courtesy of ESPNCricinfo, correct as of July 21 2014.


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    To do this, we will use the statistics provided by the ICC Player Rankings, which the world’s governing body will now explain:

    The Reliance ICC Player Rankings are a sophisticated moving average. Players are rated on a scale of 0 to 1000 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.

    For bowlers, the rankings take into account how many wickets they take and how many runs they concede but also the abilities of the batsmen they dismiss.

    Therefore, if a bowler removes more top-order batsmen they will have more rating points, as opposed to one who only dismisses tailenders.

    For this, the ratings will be manipulated slightly to reflect the belief that Test cricket is harder than One Day and Twenty20 Internationals.

    The rating a bowler has in Test matches will be doubled to reflect this higher standard, while their rating for ODIs will be multiplied by 1.5.

    With their Twenty20 rating left the same, it is a reflection of the difficult nature of Test cricket and rewards bowlers who are consistent in the toughest arena of the game.


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    Alas, this method has its drawbacks.

    Some bowlers are clearly superb at what they do, but they are punished by a lack of playing time across all three formats.

    Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Trent Boult are just three examples of this, as they are great Test bowlers but do not play much limited-overs cricket.

    Then, there is the curious case of Sunil Narine.

    One of the world’s most effective spinners, he only plays in the game’s short forms and is generally regarded as one of the best.

    Unfortunately, he cannot get a game in Tests for West Indies.

Previous Findings

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    We have to go way back to January to see when we last looked at the best bowler in the world.

    At that stage, Steven Finn was at the heady heights of No. 7, just below Stuart Broad at No. 6, Mitchell Johnson and Morne Morkel.

    The top three was unsurprising, as Ravi Ashwin occupied No. 3 behind Saeed Ajmal at No. 2.

    Standing tall was South African seamer Dale Steyn, who had a slender lead of just 36.66 average rating points.

    Will he still be top? Let’s find out.

Notable Omissions

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    In a move that should surprise precisely no one, the aforementioned Finn has dropped like a stone in these rankings due to his lack of playing time in the international arena.

    Zaheer Khan is also excluded from the upper reaches of this list, likewise Nathan Lyon who is ranked at No. 19 in Tests.

    Siddle can only reach No. 31 overall, behind Harris at No. 24 and Boult at No. 23, although the New Zealander will be hoping an improvement is on its way.

    Just missing out on the top 20 are Ishant Sharma at No. 22 and Shane Watson at No. 21, who we also found to be the No. 11 batsman in the world just last week.

Players Ranked 20-11

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    NameTest Rating (x2)ODI Rating (x1.5)Twenty20 RatingAverage RatingOverall Rank
    Ravi Jadeja964999552838.8311
    Junaid Khan1246919.5242802.512
    Kemar Roach1466910.50792.1613
    Ajantha Mendis846835.5600760.514
    Abdur Rehman1410676.5161749.1615
    Tim Bresnan984790.5468747.516
    Mitchell Starc798738689741.6617
    Vernon Philander1674550.50741.518
    Nuwan Kulasekara738823.5655738.8319
    Bhuvneshwar Kumar818880.5469722.520

    There’s plenty of change from last time in this part of the rankings as a number of bowlers come in and a number move out—either up or down.

    New to this section are Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mitchell Starc and Ajantha Mendis, with Darren Sammy and Umar Gul moving downward and James Anderson moving up.

    Tim Bresnan manages to hold onto his spot here, although that will likely be under threat if he continues to be in the international wildnerness.

    Below him, Vernon Philander continues to be hamstrung by a lack of Twenty20 cricket, while Abdur Rehman surges upward from last time.

    Ravindra Jadeja sits at No. 11, just outside the top 10 and surely with a chance to break into those upper places.

Players Ranked 10-4

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    NameTest Rating (x2)ODI Rating (x1.5)Twenty20 RatingAverage RatingOverall Rank
    Mitchell Johnson1688958.53951013.834
    Tim Southee1566910.55241000.1665
    Morne Morkel13749844779456
    Shakib Al Hasan1226916.5659933.837
    Stuart Broad1418805.5566929.838
    Rangana Herath1408934.5405915.839
    James Anderson14701059084310

    Steven Finn leaves this section of the rankings and moves nearer the bottom, replaced by Anderson who slots in at No. 10.

    Just two spinners occupy slots here, with left-armers Rangana Herath and Shakib Al Hasan leading the way as the only two players from the Asian subcontinent.

    Above them, Morne Morkel and Tim Southee are rewarded for their recent good form, while Mitchell Johnson finds himself just outside the top three.

    If he can maintain the performances that have vaulted him up the leaderboard, Johnson will surely go up again very soon.

The Top Three

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    NameTest Rating (x2)ODI Rating (x1.5)Twenty20 RatingAverage RatingOverall Rank
    Dale Steyn18121054.56381168.1661
    Saeed Ajmal15741183.57111156.162
    Ravi Ashwin1458910.57081025.53

    Looking rather precarious at No. 3 comes Ravi Ashwin, the Indian off-spinner who has not yet played a game on his country’s tour of England.

    Above him comes Saeed Ajmal, still a real force in international cricket across all three forms of the game, despite his advancing years.

    Sitting pretty at No. 1 comes Dale Steyn, whose lead over Ajmal is still slim and has been thinned a little since last time.

    The South African continues to be a frightening prospect on any surface and in any form, so it is unsurprising that he remains at the top.


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    Having managed to keep up his great form and stay consistent, Dale Steyn deserves to hold onto his No. 1 ranking.

    There will likely be plenty of changes over the coming months as some bowl more than others and a number will likely not play whatsoever.

    Bowling is a difficult art to maintain on the ceaseless treadmill of international cricket, hence there is a little more movement than on the batting side of things.

    For sure, these players have a fight on their hands over the coming months to keep their positions.