The most successful cricketers over the last five years

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Stats. Stats! #Stats

But not weird, complicated stats. Big, bold, lumpen stats. They probably won’t change your thinking, but they’ll allow you to put a value to your opinions so that you can make them sound more credible and scientific.

This article stems from a series of predictions we made five years ago. We’ve already looked at how those went (mixed), but we thought it would also be interesting to see which players really did have most success in that period.

To Statsguru!


Let’s not get too fancy with this. Highest averages from a minimum of 20 Tests. For reference, the time period is from when we wrote our original article, so it’s not five years exactly.

  1. Kumar Sangakkara – 65.87
  2. Hashim Amla – 64.13
  3. Shivnarine Chanderpaul – 62.72
  4. AB de Villiers – 62.27
  5. Younus Khan – 60.13

So we basically got one right – De Villiers.

It’s interesting to note the age of these players: 37, 31, 40, 30 and 37. While three of these players are clearly towards the ends of their careers, Amla and De Villiers can legitimately expect to remain near the top of the pile in the next five-year period as well. Don’t listen next time someone tells you that a 32-year-old batsman’s on the slide.


Not quite sure how to balance this. Let’s do wicketkeepers first because that’s a bit simpler. Criteria: at least 20 Tests with the gloves. Sounds a lot, but we’re talking about a five-year period here so we can afford to be strict.

  1. AB de Villiers – 60.77
  2. BJ Watling – 44.00
  3. Mushfiqur Rahim – 39.82
  4. Matt Prior – 38.51
  5. MS Dhoni – 36.48

Good on BJ Watling and Mushfiqur Rahim, but it’s hard not to comment on De Villiers cropping up again. His average is different to the one given above because he only kept wicket in 21 Tests. For what it’s worth, our two selections – Prior and Dhoni – were the top two run-scorers out of that lot.

As for batting-bowling all-rounders, let’s say at least 20 matches, at least 30 wickets. Given those criteria, these guys are the only ones whose batting average exceeds their bowling average.

  1. Jacques Kallis – 57.92 and 44.52
  2. Shakib al Hasan – 43.19 and 33.10
  3. Mohammad Hafeez – 39.26 and 30.66
  4. Shane Watson – 37.93 and 32.05
  5. R Ashwin – 35.96 and 30.67
  6. Vernon Philander – 26.80 and 21.95

We got Shakib out of those. It’s hard to compare them properly though. For example, it’s worth noting that Ashwin and Philander both have over a hundred wickets to their name during this period, wheras Kallis took just 34 in 35 matches.


Pretty strict again, but best averages with a minimum of 100 wickets.

  1. Dale Steyn – 21.69
  2. Vernon Philander – 21.95
  3. Ryan Harris – 23.52
  4. James Anderson – 26.71
  5. Rangana Herath – 26.95

We got Steyn. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t get Herath. He comfortably meets the criteria as well. He’s actually taken more wickets (191) than both Philander (121) and Harris (113).


Damn straight.


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  1. Rashwin, Watson and Hafeez struggling to hold onto a consistent role in the team despite being in the top 5, while Kallis’ recent record is really as a batsman who bowls relief overs, suggests that the allrounder as a concept may well be heading out of fashion. Or at least it has in the last 5 years.

    It makes sense to think that the modernisation of sport gradually leads to specialisation. You’ve written about players being physically suited to specific formats for example.

    In rugby union 35 years ago, players from different positions looked more or less the same. Nowadays players have to cast themselves into a particular body shape from a very young age and very rarely change position. American football is much further down the road to modern professionalism and it has players that can go their entire careers without being involved in attacking play, because they have bodies built to defend.

    Cricket will always follow rather than lead on this because it’s occasionally a sport that allows the more ‘generously physiqued’ to make it on skill alone. So if you have enough skill to succeed in multiple areas, you don’t yet necessarily need to be anatomically ideal for them. But it’s only heading one way.

    1. I’m not so sure. The increase in the role of the wicketkeeper batsman likely means that bowlers are valued less for their runs while batsmen who can chip in occasionally with a few overs take up the “5th bowler’s” role.

      Hopefully the emergence of Moeen Ali will embolden selectors to look at players who can do a bit of both (also, please Ben Stokes start scoring 1st class runs again; you could be great in the test top 6 again if you do).

  2. I always thought that batting wise around 32 is when most players seem to hit their purple patch. They are old enough to have seen it all and not too old that their reflexes and eyesight are rubbish.

  3. Strange Sangakkara stat:-

    Batting averages:

    Batting at 2 = 12.00
    Batting at 3 = 67 or so
    Batting at 4 = 10.66

    I would bat him at 3

  4. You have to feel for Morne Morkel. With Steyn and Philander hogging all the wickets his average is always going to suffer and doesn’t really reflect the quality of his bowling.

  5. jesus, i barey recognise cricinfo any more. everything is all over the place – this is some web designer’s idea of an improvement?

    1. Totally agree, cent. It’s like they don’t want you to visit or (if you do) to stay long. Their advertisers must be thrilled.

    2. yeaahhh… which is interesting, cos it is now (apparently) possible to create websites which represent differently on different devices and OS etc etc… maybe they had to recruit their design team on a tight budget this quarter 😉

  6. Forgive me for saying so, KC, but these are very ordinary stats going into your predictions verses actuals. Artisanal stats.

    I was hoping for predictions and stats such as:

    * predicted change of waist measurement over five years compared with actual change of waist measurement, for an array of girth-rich cricketers;

    * predicted level of cat indifference to specific cricket stars compared with actual levels of cat indifference to those stars;

    * predicted change in beard/bald ratio over five years compared with actual change in beard/bald ratio for the more interestingly hirsute cricketers.

    Otherwise you might as well be Cricinfo.

  7. Out of interest KC, who has taken over from Rob Key for you in terms of current cricketers you randomly follow and support?!

    1. Don’t know. Thing is, it never seems random to us so others would perhaps be better placed to judge.

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