Tell you which two players have scored most runs for Australia over the last ten or fifteen years: Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. Stick with us on this.
‘He averages 40 plus’
We have this belief that Australian Test batting averages have been deceptive for a good few years now. We’re not big on gauging a player solely by his average at the best of times. Some people do and those people think that Matthew Hayden is one of the all-time great Test batsmen.
Matthew Hayden is not one of the all-time great Test batsmen.
He’s a good one – we’re not so irreparably prejudiced that we can’t admit that – but his Test average of 52.43 flatters him. Michael Clarke averages 45, Ricky Ponting 58, Andrew Symonds 44, Mike Hussey 67 and all their predecessors in the top six all average comfortably over 40 as well.
Do Australia produce more top quality batsmen than other nations? Yes, they probably do, but are they all THAT good?
Bowlers decide Test matches
Australia’s batsmen have had it easy for years. They knew that in Warne and McGrath they had the bowlers to defend any total and this affected their approach. They were relaxed in the first innings and in the second innings they tended to have a lead. They batted for declarations with the field spread and even when things didn’t go according to plan, they could convince themselves that a lead of 150 might be enough.
But it’s not like that now. Witness Australia’s collective failure at Mohali. India make 469 and Australia reply with 268. At this point, without any magic bowlers, Australia have to watch as India calmly set them a target.
Australia have to chase 500-and-odd and batting seems harder than it did for India. That’s because it is.
India were setting a target. It didn’t take long before Australia were effectively complicit in that. India were batting with a 200 run lead and if they’d been bowled out for 100, it would have still been a stiff target. Once they’d got a good start it was pretty much plain sailing.
In contrast, for Australia’s innings, India’s bowlers were fired up. Australia’s batsmen won’t admit it, but they will have been feeling a bit pessimistic. It’s a different situation and while runs are harder to score, they only contribute to the batsmen’s averages the same amount.
So how many runs do you have to subtract?
It really is a team game and you can’t just go off the numbers. Australia had two of the best bowlers of all time and they created situations where batsmen could cash in.
It’s impossible to quantify something like this as there are so many factors involved. However, at a conservative estimate, it makes Matthew Hayden a worse batsman than Alan Mullally.
You can use that as a rule of thumb.