Over the years we’ve heard some pretty ridiculous cricket-related things. There was the time that someone reckoned that Danny Briggs would actually amount to something, plus the time a particularly drunk Australian opined that Kevin Pietersen should have played for Australia. And that’s before we even get into our series predictions, which are inevitably completely and utterly wrong in every possible way.
However, none of these are as ridiculous as newspapers talking about Adam Voges as if he were the new Bradman. Just because he happens to average the best part of a hundred after 15 Tests, that doesn’t mean that Dermot Reeve will suddenly be on eBay selling mysteriously acquired merchandise with his signature on. And we’ll be damned if we can’t find some statistics to prove our point.
The obvious starting point is not their respective Test batting averages, but their First Class numbers instead. Bradman’s is a frankly absurd 95.14, sustained over some 234 matches. Adam Voges’ is a rather more prosaic 48.21, not a bad record per se but less than the likes of Graeme Hick, Graham Gooch and Graeme Pollock. Although it is better than both Graeme Swann and Graham Onions. Quite how we came to only rate these things in terms of Grahams (and Graemes) is a bit of a mystery, even to us.
In the Test arena, Bradman finished with a Test average of 99.94, a number that a whole generation of Australian immigrants will have written on their hand at some point. Following the 2-0 series win over New Zealand, Voges’ average is 95.50. In the grand scheme of things, that’s pretty close. But of course, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
When working with a small number of innings, the number of not outs has a disproportionately large impact on the overall batting average. Bradman’s 80 innings included 10 not outs, or 12.5% of the total. Voges has 7 not outs from 21 innings (33%, or roughly three times more often). To reduce this impact, we can simply ignore not outs all together and calculate what we’ll call the batting mean (runs scored/number of innings). In Bradman’s case the batting mean would be 87.5; in Voges’ it would be 63.67.
This methodology may not be perfect (for a start, it punishes Voges for actually winning the match at his last visit to the crease), but then neither is batting average, as we’ve already seen. Batting mean is probably a better measure at the beginning of a career when things are more volatile, while batting average makes more sense over a longer period of time (as the two naturally start to merge anyway). In case there’s any doubt, Voges is very much in that beginning bit, despite already being pretty old.
Another aspect to consider is the rather more prosaic number of runs scored. For something so fundamental, this measure doesn’t actually get trotted out all that often, probably because people find big numbers challenging. Which was certainly our excuse that time we got a summons for not paying Council Tax.
From his 21 innings Voges has 1,337 runs to his name. At the equivalent stage, Bradman had 1,889, the small matter of 552 runs (or 41%) more. That’s a big gap. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to that gap. Purely for the fun of it we looked up Graeme Gooch’s numbers and it turned out that he had 473 runs at 24.89 at the same stage of his career, just 1,146 behind Bradman but largely in line with anyone that he went on to coach at Test level.
Having established that Voges isn’t the new Bradman, the obvious question is what is he? The answer is a statistical anomaly, a modern day Andy Ganteaume, a decent player enjoying a more-than-decent run of form. In Voges’ case, it’s the fact that this run comes at the start of his Test career makes the numbers stand out. Had they come after a year or two of him averaging (say) 40 nobody would be banging out about the Don.
To prove this point we spent a particularly scintillating afternoon in the office compiling the career records of some of the finest batsmen ever to play the game, working out what their best ever average over 21 innings was. This sounds like an awful lot of work and it was. But it was still more fun than watching Here Come The Habibs.
|Batsman||Highest 21 innings average||Date achieved||Final innings score||Final innings opposition|
|Chanderpaul||116.08||19/12/2008||126*||v New Zealand|
|M Yousuf||102.15||19/01/2007||32||v South Africa|
|S Waugh||99.86||26/12/1996||37||v West Indies|
|Voges||95.50||20/02/2016||10*||v New Zealand|
|Hayden||91.65||16/03/2004||54||v Sri Lanka|
|de Villiers||89.13||03/01/2012||160*||v Sri Lanka|
|Jayawardene||87.25||22/03/2008||33||v West Indies|
|Tendulkar||85.72||16/12/2010||111*||v South Africa|
|Gooch||85.45||20/06/1991||37||v West Indies|
|Border||83.07||09/11/1984||15||v West Indies|
|G Chappell||81.57||14/01/1977||28||v Pakistan|
|Laxman||81.27||12/11/2010||74||v New Zealand|
|M Taylor||81.16||03/02/1990||101*||v Pakistan|
|Sehwag||80.05||12/11/2010||54*||v New Zealand|
|Y Khan||78.00||30/10/2014||46||v Australia|
|G Smith||75.22||03/01/2009||30*||v Australia|
|Boycott||73.82||26/07/1973||97||v West Indies|
|G Lloyd||72.17||10/12/1983||161*||v India|
|Kirsten||71.47||02/01/2004||10*||v West Indies|
|Haynes||67.00||20/02/1987||121||v New Zealand|
|M Waugh||66.13||02/01/1999||121||v England|
|Pietersen||62.70||07/06/2007||68||v West Indies|
|Gower||60.60||11/04/1986||21||v West Indies|
|S Fleming||55.28||10/06/2004||117||v England|
Now hopefully you managed to overcome the clunkiness of our table thingy (here’s a clue: try the button marked ‘Next‘) and discovered that Adam Voges doesn’t even sit on the first page of results. In fact he’s even below our former Lord and saviour Ian Bell. If that doesn’t discredit the Voges myth then nothing will.
Seeing Shiv Chanderpaul in second place brought back some fond memories of the series that gave this site its name, plus less fond memories of necking an entire bottle of gin to try and take away the pain of actually watching him bat. And then there’s Devereux in sixth place. Just in case we haven’t made it clear: we love him, even if he has started whining about every single decision ever.
To conclude then, Voges is just enjoying an excellent run of form at the tail end of a reasonable enough career. Now if people want to start comparing Devereux to Bradman, then we’re more than happy to get on board with that particular campaign.