Tony Greig's stump flies out as he's bowled for a duck by Andy Roberts

The West Indies sides with the great quicks played out more draws than the post-2000 Australian team

© PA Photos
40

Stats feature

Pace unlike fire

The great West Indian bowling attacks were ferocious, ruthless, and storied. But were they as incisive and effective as the great Australian attacks?

Kartikeya Date |

From March 10, 1976 to March 30, 1995, West Indies lost two Test series out of 36. They lost in India in 1978-79, when most of their first team was playing for Kerry Packer. They lost in New Zealand in 1979-80 with their first team minus Viv Richards. Since then, as Michael Holding pointed out at the end of Stevan Riley's award-winning documentary Fire In Babylon, the West Indies Test team did not lose a series for 15 years - a record unrivalled by any top sports team. Under Clive Lloyd and Richards, West Indies were one of the greatest teams in history.

The great West Indians captured the popular imagination like few other teams. How often have you heard older fans say: "Those West Indians would have sorted today's batsmen out in 20 minutes. Batsmen wouldn't have planted their front foot against them!" Or the more general, "There are no real fast bowlers these days, batsmen have it too easy." When Mitchell Johnson was terrorising England and South Africa in the 2013-14 season, more than one devotee of Test match cricket brought up the halcyon days of Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Holding and Colin Croft.

The great West Indians stand for more than just cricketing excellence. They have become icons for a specific type of brutal, manly dominance. They were the team from the colony that made the team from the metropole fearful for its physical well-being. They were invincible. They not only defeated opponents, they also made them uncomfortable.

Fire In Babylon embodies the iconology that has built up around that West Indian side. An endless assembly line of fearsome fast men allied with brilliant batsmen and proud captains makes a compelling picture. To some extent, this is even true. I understand the temptation to ignore facts when one is caught up in telling a good story but several premises that underpin Fire In Babylon's core argument are simply wrong.

© Revolver Entertainment

Though the film would have you believe otherwise, West Indies were already a great team in the 1960s. They won more than they lost between the end of World War II and Lloyd becoming captain. For large parts of this period they were better than England and as good as the Australians. They won four out of six series in England, a time when England were far stronger than they were in 1976. The film also ignores the fact that the top players in Lloyd's and Richards' teams were products of two elite cricketing finishing schools - county cricket and, to a lesser extent, World Series Cricket. Many of these players played county cricket before being picked for West Indies.

Nevertheless, judging by the numerous favourable reviews and awards, Fire In Babylon was warmly received by cricket writers and fans, and by film critics. This was largely down to two reasons. First, the film reinforced the popular stereotypes about fast bowling and the great West Indian teams. Second, it was a superbly paced documentary. It was widely reviewed in the United States, and as many critics noted, one did not need to know cricket to understand the story.

For me, the cricketing story is far more interesting. Out of a total of 2139 Tests played as of October 1, 2014, 730 were drawn. That's about one in three. From March 1976 to August 1991 - when West Indies were led first by Lloyd and then by Richards - they won 59 out of 111 Tests and drew 39. The greatest array of fast bowling talent in history appears to have played in draws at a marginally higher rate than the rate in all Test cricket. If we were to take only Tests played until 1991, the great West Indies played in just 4% fewer draws than the average. In contrast, the other great dynasty in modern cricket - Australia under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting - won 89 out of 134 Tests from 1999 to 2010, and drew only 20. That's 19% fewer draws than the average across Test history.

The great West Indians stand for more than just cricketing excellence. They have become icons for a specific type of brutal, manly dominance

Why did the great West Indies draw every third Test despite their relentless pace attack? Why, if opposition batsmen feared for their well-being, were they able to withstand the West Indian attacks far better than they were able to withstand Australian attacks? How could so many batting line-ups resist the West Indian attack in the third or fourth innings of Tests? What follows is an attempt to answer these questions. It is the story of the limits of pace like fire.

Fast bowling is the most difficult art in all of sport. It requires a rare combination of power, endurance, concentration and precision. Pace was a necessary but not sufficient condition for the dominance of bowlers like Holding. Control, accuracy, endurance and support at the other end were essential. Very few specialist batsmen can be scared out at the Test level, even by Holding or Dennis Lillee or Jeff Thomson (not even the 45-year-old Brian Close backed away to leg in 1976). Yes, there is an element of physical danger, but most batsmen have a method to cope. The challenge for the bowler lies in beating the batsman's method.

In a poll featuring one question - Which team had the better bowling attack: West Indies from 1976 to 1991 or Australia from 1999 to 2010? - the majority of respondents would probably vote for the former. Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie were quick and took 569 Test wickets between them. But compare them to Holding, Roberts, Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose or Courtney Walsh. Would any of these bowlers not replace Gillespie or Lee in an Australian XI in most eyes?

From this point, "West Indies" should be taken to mean West Indies under Lloyd or Richards from March 1976. "Australia" should be taken to mean Australia under Ponting or Waugh. I've excluded Lloyd's early years as captain, since the idea of the pace quartet took hold only in 1976. I have included Australia's record until the very end of Ponting's term for the sake of completeness, since all Tests Richards captained in are included as well. Also, I have set aside the six Tests where Adam Gilchrist led Australia, and Tests when West Indies were led by Alvin Kallicharran, Deryck Murray, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes.

Let's look at how these teams performed with the ball innings-wise.

Bowling figures by innings
Team Result type First innings Second innings
WI under Lloyd or Richards (1976-1991) All Avg: 27.19
SR: 55.8
Avg: 25.61
SR: 56.2
Aus under Ponting or Waugh (1999-2010) All Avg: 30.63
SR: 57.4
Avg: 27.46
SR: 53.1
WI under Lloyd or Richards (1976-1991) Draws Avg: 32.86
SR: 66.6
Avg: 37.68
SR: 85.3
Aus under Ponting or Waugh (1999-2010) Draws Avg: 42.41
SR: 74.9
Avg: 43.56
SR: 83.5

The first two rows tell us that West Indies and Australia took wickets at almost the same rate. Why then did West Indies win about half their Tests and Australia two-thirds of theirs? The last two rows give us a glimpse into one possible reason: the average first-innings total conceded by West Indies in draws was 329. Against Australia, teams had to score on average 424 in their first innings to have a chance of a draw.

Inclement weather may explain West Indies' larger share of draws to some extent, though it would be difficult to argue that they were exceptionally affected by rain. The nature of pitches played a part. West Indies drew six out of 14 Tests in Trinidad and five out of six in Guyana. They won 11 out of 12 in Barbados and seven out of ten in Jamaica. They never won at the Sydney Cricket Ground. But they always won in Brisbane and Perth.

It is true that on the whole there were more drawn Tests in the West Indian era than in the Australian era. Between March 1976 and September 1991, 46% of Tests not involving West Indies were drawn. The corresponding figure in the Australian era (excluding Tests involving Bangladesh or Zimbabwe) is 34%. Other factors could have also played a part in the larger number of West Indian draws. Bowlers in their era conceded 2.7 runs per over, compared to 3.1 runs an over in the Australian era. Also, West Indian over rates under Lloyd and Richards were so poor that it prompted administrators to introduce new regulations. (See sidebar)

With these caveats out of the way, let us see how long it took these teams to take 20 wickets in Tests that did not end in a draw. I have included both wins and losses here because at least one team managed to take 20 wickets in these matches. (Note: these numbers include run-outs).

Strike rate in Tests that ended in a win or loss
Team Result type Strike rate
WI under Lloyd or Richards (1976-1991) Win or loss
(72 out of 111 Tests)
49.13
(983 balls for 20 wkts)
Aus under Ponting or Waugh (1999-2010) Win or loss
(114 out of 134 Tests)
52.72
(1054 balls for 20 wkts)

If we take this as a guide, West Indies bowled more than 983 deliveries in 26 drawn Tests (out of 39). If we apply the same standard to Australia, we find that they bowled more than 983 deliveries in 13 drawn Tests (out of 20). West Indies held opponents to first-innings totals of 300 or less 77 times. They won 49 of these Tests, lost five, and were held to a draw 23 times. By comparison, the Australians in the Waugh-Ponting era held the opposition to a first-innings total of 300 or less 76 times. They won 62 Tests, were beaten seven times, and held to a draw seven times.

There is a pattern to many of the West Indian draws. Pakistan made 540 in Georgetown in 1977 after conceding a lead of 254. New Zealand made 386 for 5 in Wellington in 1987 after falling behind by 117. England made 391 for 7 after conceding a lead of 110 at Old Trafford in 1980. India made 469 for 7 after trailing by 219 at the Queen's Park Oval in 1983.

Pakistan batted out 129 overs at the Queen's Park Oval in 1988. England made 301 for 3 after conceding a lead of 203 at Trent Bridge in 1988. England declared at 302 for 6 after falling 157 behind at Sabina Park in 1981. Australia made 299 for 9 in 112 overs after trailing by 213 at the Queen's Park Oval in 1984; they would have lost if there weren't stoppages for rain earlier in the match, but in the end they survived 112.1 overs after being 115 for 5. This was Allan Border's Test. He made 98 not out and 100 not out.

I wonder what the Twitterverse would have made of this West Indian tendency of letting teams bat out overs in the second innings. I imagine there would have been tweets about Richards being a reactive captain with no tactical imagination.

Vicious when ahead: Australia's pace attack was adept at driving home the advantage of a first-innings lead

Vicious when ahead: Australia's pace attack was adept at driving home the advantage of a first-innings lead Hamish Blair / © Getty Images

West Indies were heavily dependent on first-innings leads to win Tests. Of the 82 matches when they had such leads, they won 56, lost three, and drew 23. In the 29 Tests when the opposition led on the first innings, West Indies won three and lost ten. The Australians, too, lost more than they won when they fell behind (won 11 and lost 16 out of 37) but they were perhaps more capable than the West Indians of winning from difficult situations. And they were lethal when they were ahead - in 96 matches where they had a lead, they built a 78-8 record. They drew only ten of those games.

Results based on first-innings totals
Team Wins Losses Draws
WI, Bowling first, Leading after first innings 32 2 13
Aus, Bowling first, Leading after first innings 36 2 3
WI, Bowling first, Trailing after first innings 3 6 9
Aus, Bowling first, Trailing after first innings 5 7 7
WI, Batting first, Leading after first innings 24 1 10
Aus, Batting first, Leading after first innings 42 6 7
WI, Batting first, Trailing after first innings 0 4 7
Aus, Batting first, Trailing after first innings 6 9 3

What did each side prefer to do at the toss? West Indies bowled first in 29 out of 55 Tests when they won the toss. Of the 26 Tests where they chose to bat, they won 11. It is reasonable to say that they decided to bat only in good conditions. Good batting conditions on the first day rarely develop into good fast bowling conditions on subsequent days. This was when they were least successful.

Four-pronged, one-dimensional: West Indies relied on one plan - to dominate early on fresh pitches with their fast men

Four-pronged, one-dimensional: West Indies relied on one plan - to dominate early on fresh pitches with their fast men © Getty Images

In contrast, Australia's success was more evenly spread. When the winner of the toss batted, Australia won 65 and lost 22 out of 102 Tests. In conditions where bowling first was favoured, Australia won 24 and lost three out of 32. When Glenn McGrath played, and Australia were asked to field, their fast bowlers' record was comparable to West Indies' (273 wickets at 27 with a strike rate of 56). In the years after McGrath their fast bowlers struggled, especially on the subcontinent.

Pace bowling figures based on decision at toss
Team, Toss W L D Wkts (Pace) Ave (Pace) SR (Pace)
WI, Won toss, Bat first
(26/111 Tests)
11 4 11 332 23.7 53
Aus, Won Toss, Bat first
(55/134 Tests)
36 14 5 626 27.8 57
WI, Win toss, Field first
(29/111 Tests)
18 2 9 488 23.9 52
Aus, Won toss, Field first
(13/134 Tests)
12 1 0 168 24.2 48
WI, Lost toss, Bat first
(20/111 Tests)
13 1 6 301 22.1 50
Aus, Lost toss, Bat first
(19/134 Tests)
12 2 5 235 24.5 52
WI, Lost toss, Field first
(36/111 Tests)
17 6 13 579 23.7 52
Aus, Lost toss, Field first
(47/134 Tests)
29 8 10 531 31.4 60

Australia showed a marked preference for batting first, doing so 55 times in 68 Tests when they won the toss. When they chose to field, they won 12 out of 13. The one time they lost, they chose to field despite losing McGrath just before the start of play, at Edgbaston in 2005. They lost by two runs.

All of this suggests that Australia could win Tests in different ways, with their fast bowlers, with their spinners in the fourth innings, and with the bat on flatter pitches. West Indies relied heavily on one plan: to dominate early with their fast men.

Crucially, Australia won at about the same rate irrespective of how many overs they had to bowl in a Test. They won 15 out of 32 Tests in which they bowled more than 200 overs. West Indies won seven out of 23.

In the 21 Tests in which West Indies were kept in the field for at least 100 overs in the second innings, they won eight, lost three and drew ten. Australia won 19, lost six and drew three times in 28 such Tests. This comparison, taken together with the fact that West Indies conceded fewer runs in the first innings in draws, suggests that the West Indian pace attack could be resisted, especially once the early assistance for fast bowlers was negated. Unlike the great West Indians, the great Australians could not be played to a standstill. They had to be beaten.

Australia won more also because they were a more versatile team compared to West Indies. Shane Warne was the obvious lynchpin, but their batting helped them recover from a number of sticky situations. They conceded first-innings leads of 91 and 161 to Sri Lanka in 2004 and won both Tests. They conceded 532 against India in Sydney in 2008 and won. They won after England declared at 551 for 6 in Adelaide in 2006. They conceded a lead of 206 to Pakistan in Sydney in 2010 and won. They chased 300 or more successfully three times under Ponting or Waugh.

Why were opposition batsmen able to withstand the West Indian attacks far better than they did the Australians?

Why were opposition batsmen able to withstand the West Indian attacks far better than they did the Australians? © Getty Images

The seven matches that Australia lost after batting first and not trailing in the first innings produced some unforgettable performances from the opposition. There were two 400-plus run chases (from West Indies and South Africa), Brian Lara's match in Barbados in 1999, Rahul Dravid's match in Adelaide in 2003, and a Test in Durban in 2002 where South Africa chased 340. Interestingly, seven of Australia's nine defeats after leading in the first innings, whether batting first or second, came when they were at their peak, between 1999 and 2004.

As Holding tells us, West Indies lost two series out of 36 from 1976 to 1995. But also consider this: McGrath and Warne played together in 37 series from 1993 to 2007. When they were in the XI, Australia lost three series - in Pakistan in 1994, in Sri Lanka in 1999, and in India in 2001. (When they lost the Ashes in 2005, England won the two Tests that McGrath didn't play.)

In their undefeated 15 years, the West Indians won 59 and lost 15 out of 115 Tests. In the Tests that Warne and McGrath played together, the Australians won 71 and lost 16 out of 104 Tests. Warne and McGrath took 1271 wickets at 23.74. Marshall, Garner, Holding, Roberts and Ian Bishop combined for 1247 wickets at 22.68. Gillespie, who won't make many all-time great lists, took 259 wickets at a strike rate of 54.9 and an average of 26.1. That's as many wickets as Garner at Roberts' strike rate and average.

A series between the best of the West Indies and the best of the Australians from the Lloyd-Richards and Waugh-Ponting eras would probably pit the following XIs against each other:

Australia: Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Steve Waugh, Michael Hussey, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Glenn McGrath.

West Indies: Gordon Greenidge, Roy Fredericks, Viv Richards, Richie Richardson, Alvin Kallicharran, Clive Lloyd, Jeffrey Dujon, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts.

The Australians have the deeper batting. Mark Waugh and Michael Clarke miss out. West Indies have more fast bowling options. Ambrose and Croft miss out, but perhaps more significantly, the wily Walsh misses out too.

If I had to choose between the best West Indian pace quartet, and an Australian line-up of Warne, McGrath, Gillespie and Lee at their peak, I would pick the latter without hesitation. They would be a threat in a wider range of conditions, for longer periods of time, with the new ball and old. Lee and Gillespie at their peak would provide Australia's attack with serious pace. And I suspect McGrath's accuracy and deceptive pace, and Warne's guile would outlast pace like fire.

*Australia's figures in the box item titled "Result percentages based on number of overs bowled" were corrected shortly after publication, on December 3, 2014

Kartikeya Date writes at A Cricketing View and tweets here

 

RELATED ARTICLES

 

LOGIN TO POST YOUR COMMENTS

  • POSTED BY Clinton on | December 31, 2014, 9:51 GMT

    Great work of statistics, raw facts and analysis. An analysis on the opposing teams would make interesting reading also. I believe while the WI did possessed the better bowling, the balance and a more tactical approach of the Australian made their success rate higher. In terms of batting, the WI teams faced teams with more comparable batting than did the Australian who in my opinion had a stronger batting relatively speaking. The analysis on such vast statistics would take a life time to dissect. I commend the work.

  • POSTED BY Hitesh on | December 24, 2014, 4:21 GMT

    The batting of the Australian team was a bugger difference. hayden, Langer, Ponting, Waugh, Gilchrist hardly failed in the same match. So, any comparison between win/loss/draw ratio of the teams has to consider the strong batting line-up that Australia had

  • POSTED BY Gordon on | December 24, 2014, 2:11 GMT

    People should really check the facts before blathering out comments. A couple of contributors have attempted to diminish Australia's record by citing games against weak opposition like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Australia has played a grand total of 7 tests against those countries - 4 and 3 respectively - wining them all. It's actually the Indians and certain batsmen who have inflated and/or distorted their results by playing more games against these teams. The Indians have played a total of 18 tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe - 7 and 11 respectively. Significantly more than Australia. And didn't manage to win them all - had 2 draws against Zimbabwe and actually lost a test match against them. The article was very interesting and thought provoking. Well reasoned cases could be made for the superiority of either team. But if you're going to argue then start by getting your facts right.

  • POSTED BY Steve on | December 22, 2014, 23:59 GMT

    Analysis by figures alone never tell a true story. West Indies drew a lot of test matches in series that they won e.g. 1-0 in England in 1980 (five tests), 1-0 in Pakistan 1908-81 (four tests) and 3-0 in India 1983-84 (six tests) all three series were not only won, but they were never in danger of losing. That was an era when drawn tests were part of test match culture. Across all test cricket there are less draws now. Can we conclude from that standards have improved? West Indies only produced a great team because of the finishing school of county cricket? Wasn't it the case that Pakistan had a lot of county cricketers too? Over their period of greatness West Indies had far more success on the sub continent than Australia despite the lack of spin options. As pointed out Aus lost three series without Warne and McGrath and all were on the subcontinent!!! Gillespie as good as Garner or Roberts? Seriously? An article over reliant on stats that don't make up for a lack of knowledge!

  • POSTED BY Jose on | December 21, 2014, 18:12 GMT

    Major flaw in this analysis is the qualitiy of oppositions the Australian team under Ponting and Waugh had to face. Rubbish Zimbawe and Bangladesh alognside a mediocre West Indian team (Barring Lara the team was a joke, Shiv Chanderpaul has a poor record against top teams). I do acknowldege that Warne and Gilchrist were the difference between the teams but other than that the West Indians were superior and all the test playing nations during those times had some quality(even NZealnd ).I would have liked to see the author add an extra parameter regarding the quality of teams during the different periods.

  • POSTED BY BillyBlue on | December 21, 2014, 8:10 GMT

    This entire article has a MAJOR FLAW that it completely overlooks. The teams other than WI from 76 till 95 were WAY STRONGER than the teams Aus team EVER had to face. NZ, PAK, ENG all had a pace attack that was no joke & had batters that were TRULY skilled. Even India drew a lot more than they lost in that era. Waqar & Wasim were in decline by 2000 & the pak team a joke starting 2002. NZ was never a factor. Eng was a joke until 2005. SL was highly inconsistent. Bang & Zimbabwe were a joke. The number DONT ALWAYS SHOW the ENTIRE picture. What would have been fairer if the author would have taken into account the strength of the teams faced. inparticular the top 5 & what the numbers looked like there. BUt even there, The Top 5 of the late 70s thru 95 would run circles around the top 5 of the Auz era.

  • POSTED BY Kartikeya on | December 20, 2014, 1:10 GMT

    Its one of the tragedies for West Indies that Gibbs and the pacemen did not overlap more than they did.

  • POSTED BY Blythesville on | December 19, 2014, 19:28 GMT

    There is always the discussion about what was the greatest team of all time. This is purely an academic exercise. The author chooses Australia over West Indies. The approach from a data science perspective is thorough. But does the data always deliver the real story? I will contend no. What drove the Windies during most of this era was a political statement. And the Australians invested heavily in high performance centres inspired by a need to avenge the humiliation delivered by the Windies. Would Ponting and Waugh's tactics of mental disintegration work on this Windies team? I doubt it. The intangibles are unquantifiable.

  • POSTED BY Hari K. Nagarajan on | December 19, 2014, 10:03 GMT

    Perhaps the biggest contributor to Australia was Warne. When the Lance Gibbs was playing only Roberts was there (Boyce, Holder and Julian were lesser bowlers). It will fascinatin to simulate the presence of Gibbs along with Holding, Marshall and Garner. But a wonderfull analysis nevertheless.

  • POSTED BY Bhim on | December 18, 2014, 9:59 GMT

    That's where Sunil Gavaskar must be rated very high. He made tons of runs against the most fearsome bowling attack of his time and that too without Helmet and he used to open the inning - the most difficult position to bat in a test match!

  • POSTED BY James on | December 18, 2014, 0:26 GMT

    Like all of the other teams, no Australian or any other team would have had a chance against this West indies team, in a five-match series. Not with replays and None-Australian umpires,even if the games were played in Australia . The only problem the West indies would have had is who were going to use the new ball. During the said period, the West Indies used their bowling to destroy other team not their batting. Please do not forget that Gary Sobers could have been rehabilitated, if and only if, it were necessary. Remember the west indies dropped him to pick Viv, even though he was far from over.

  • POSTED BY Amrith on | December 17, 2014, 19:57 GMT

    For current conditions the Aussie attack may be more balanced however if the same conditions where the west Indies played applied today sorry to say Aus won't win. No bouncer restrictions and limited helmet options will dent folks like hayden, langer and martyn plonking their front foot forward and driving. It may be worthwhile to remember that Hayden and Martyn did not have glorious debuts in the 90's.

    The best examination of their ability to play quality fast bowlers was against Eng in 2005 and in SA in 1992-93 and against WI in 1992. All of them were tight contests but the WI pace attack was superior to each one of these especially when you consider Ambrose, Walsh, bishop, Croft, Patterson, Tony gray, Wayne daniel and sylvester clarke were potentially available as substitutes. Purely in terms of fast bowling substitutes alone WI would have had a superior bowling squad. In a series I believe better fast bowling makes all the difference in a 5 test series

  • POSTED BY ramey p on | December 17, 2014, 19:24 GMT

    Statistically this is as comprehensive as you can get. However, there are intangibles that may have played a role, that cannot be accounted for. Some examples - the pace of test cricket was different in the Australian era, which would help account for the lesser draws against the Aussies. Better TV analysis and computer simulations would have been better used by Australia against their opposition due to its availability, than when the Windies were at their peak. Other things come to mind, but this is a little something to consider.

  • POSTED BY Kumaran Vedagiri on | December 17, 2014, 11:31 GMT

    The same Waugh's eleven couldnt win a test series in India (They won in 2004 under Gilchrist where they were saved by rain god in Chennai Test). Reason, warne couldnt make an impact. That says the entire reason behind Aussie quicks. They had the world best spinner who helped them to take wickets. It would be interesting to add the stats on taking wickets of the top order.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | December 16, 2014, 14:00 GMT

    Good article Kartikeya - well researched. However, suffers from cross-era comparisons. As @KEDAR-1969 points out, Windies batsmen faced a time of incomparable matchwinning all rounders in every series - Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran, Hadlee - who on their day could single handedly win a Test match. Players of that calibre were notably absent from sides that Australia faced. Secondly, I can't help thinking about the effect that a decade of productive ODI training and increasing protective clothing had on batsmen's ability and incentive to be aggressive and take risks to score more runs. That brand of cricket worked so well in Australia that in the 90's they had to field TWO Australia teams. Thirdly, one could argue that the incentive to win (over just drawing) was greater in the Aussie era, with central contracts and lucrative sponsorship money on offer to those who showed themselves to be consistently winning cricketers. Still, a good read!

  • POSTED BY anandarup on | December 15, 2014, 23:43 GMT

    "They conceded 532 against India in Sydney in 2008 and won." The best bowling figures came from Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson. Any Australian bowling performance is incomplete without the huge contribution from the 2 Men in whites who used to operate from both the ends without any qualms of conscience.

  • POSTED BY Douglas on | December 15, 2014, 20:05 GMT

    "Why were opposition batsmen able to withstand the West Indian attacks far better than they did the Australians?" Simple. They had much better batsmen then. Those guys used to bat without helmets in the earlier period. They just had a willow ( no pun intended) to protect themselves. Roy Federicks for example would smack any ball near his head to the boundary.

  • POSTED BY sports_freakz on | December 15, 2014, 13:09 GMT

    Kedar: Regarding the other point on the bowlers the Aussies did face bowlers of the quality of Donald pollock Kumble, harbhajan, murali, akram, waqar, akthar, saqlain, mushtaq, bond, Steyn, Ntini etc. Also the windies were the ones facing teams in decline. The Aussies were awful in the 80s. The English were even worse. India were serviceable hardly the force they were (at home) in the 90s and 2000s. The only real rival the windies had were pak against whom they had a couple of close series. If the South African team of pollock, Richards, proctor et all had not been banned they would probably have given Lloyds team a run for their money. Lastly, and this is completely subjective, I felt the WIs bowling attack of 4 men repeatedly bouncing the batsman at 12 overs an hour to be boring and repetitive. Was like watching a coconut shy. They would bowl 70 overs a day. The Aussies with their variety (the wizadry of Warne) not to mention the aggressive 4 rpo batting were a lot more entertaining.

  • POSTED BY sports_freakz on | December 15, 2014, 12:58 GMT

    @kedar-1969: stating that Gilly feasted on weak bowling is absurd. The number of times he has rescued Australia from trouble is staggering. Off the top of my head: his first hundred- the matchwinning 149* against Pakistan to take Aus to 369 from 140/5. That's gotta be one of the greatest 4th inning matcheinning innings. His second 100 was against India on a Mumbai minefield where he came in at 99/5 and hit a 100 off 84 balls. His 4th 100 was against NZ on a seaming wicket with Aus at 260/6. Then the series against SA where he single handedly kept them in the game which they eventually won. I recall him adding over 100 with the tail in back to back matches. He was a match winner on his own accord which elevated him over Dijon and any other wk batsman.

  • POSTED BY Cameron on | December 15, 2014, 6:46 GMT

    Big call to select Damian Martyn ahead of M.Waugh and M. Clarke but he was a fine player at his best. That would be the most contentious selection in your team. @Kedar - what a load of bollocks. The Australians came up against a pretty strong range of bowlers in that era including Ambrose, Walsh, Akram, Younis, Ahktar, Saqlain, Allan Donald, Pollock, Kumble etc etc. Gilly pretty much scored runs against all comers including his brilliant first century in his 2nd test on a pace friendly Hobart test against Akram and Waqar. He is so far ahead of Dujon in both keeping and batting that he could be one key difference. Also Warne would have loved to bowl against the WI right handers who struggled against the left arm spin of Alan Border. Aus could rely on more runs from the tail than WI I think. What a game it would be two watch though!

  • POSTED BY Vikram on | December 13, 2014, 17:57 GMT

    The proliferation of ODIs definitely played a major part in the Aussies playing out less draws. The Windies played in an era where batsmen world over grew up learning to bat for days. I don't think that is true in the case of the Aussies' era.

  • POSTED BY Sam Vellasamy on | December 13, 2014, 8:52 GMT

    After random browsing I came to a similar conclusion but I feel people often club Lloyd's WI and Richards' WI together. I feel Lloyd's WI were a much superior side. They won tougher series in a variety of conditions than Richards' WI. Even though Richards had a better W/L ratio (27/8) than Lloyd (36/12) it is bloated by 2 series of 5-0 & 4-0 against England. Richards also did not win a single series in the subcontinent as captain (2 1-1 draws vs Pak and 1-1 draw vs Ind) and ended with a drawn 2-2 series away in Eng. Lloyd's worst defeat as captain was that famous 5-1 series down under. Now this was a series where WI were still inexperienced. It was Richards'/Greenidge's/Roberts' 1st tour in Aus and only their 3rd full series. Holding made his debut during the series and Lance Gibbs was really on his way out. contd...

  • POSTED BY Kedar on | December 12, 2014, 19:36 GMT

    @Sportz-Freak On: Gilly was a great batsman and a keeper, however he filled his boots mostly against mediocre attacks and was never consistently tested. The one time he confronted a really good attack in 2005, he failed miserably. That tells me that in the 70's against far superior attacks the world over, he would have been severely challenged. As for the apparent supremacy of the Aussie batting over the Calypso kings, please!! The Windies boys scored against Lillie and Thommo+Pasco, Willis+Beefy in their prie, Immy+Kaps , Hadlee, Spinners like Bedi+Pras+Chandra (whom IVA Richards rated as the best bowler he ever faced!) and so on. Who did the Aussie "Greats" face?? Indian pie chuckers? Zim and Bangladeshi trundlers?? Matty Hayden couldn't buy a run against Walsh and Ambrose, funny then, the minute Windies cupboards were bare, Aussie flat tracks bullies filled their boots! 2005, 2009 and 2013 in England, 3 consecutive drubbings!! Of which 2005 included the so called greats.

  • POSTED BY sports_freakz on | December 12, 2014, 16:53 GMT

    I agree that the Aus lineup being superior due to the variety of the lineup - Mcgrath was not and out and out pacer. His control was legendary. He is, if anything, underrated. Warne needs no further praise. He was a genius. Lee was the enforcer and Gillespie could wipe out sides as well. It was very difficult to prepare any pitch to counter them which is why most of their defeats in that era occurred due to legendary performances such as Lara/Laxman/Dravid etc. Their batting was also vastly superior to the windies as the WI's lacked a true #6 and the upgrade the Aussies got from Gilchrist over Dujon. Dujon, while good for his time is no match for the greatest keeper batsman ever. And most of Gilchrist's hundreds have come in times of need - Mumbai 99, the ones in SL and India, the 200 against SA etc. Also, he point about batsman not being able to bat out entire days in untrue, infact most of the longest rearguards have happened within the last decadethe most famous being faf of cours

  • POSTED BY Kedar on | December 12, 2014, 16:11 GMT

    For starters, you appear to have forgotten the following: 1. Test match batsmanship: The impact of ODIs throughout the 80's and the increasing frequency has all but rendered the classic "cat and mouse" type of batsmanship otiose. The days of an opener occupying the crease all day long after being asked to open and returning not out on 108 at the end of the first day's play or getting out post tea on day-2 on 160 or 170 are long gone. The likes of SMG, Boycs or to a much lesser extent, Mike Athereton in the 90's will never be seen again. Instead, glorified sloggers, steeped in the traditions of T-20's are here to stay feasting on mediocre attacks. The same applies to the middle order batsmanship. I can count numerous examples of batsmen the world over in the 70's playing out 1.5 days and drawing the tests. E.g. Lord's 1979, Oval 1979, Faisalabad 1984, Madras 1984 to name but a few.

  • POSTED BY Kedar on | December 12, 2014, 16:10 GMT

    A most thought provoking article indeed Mr Date. Certainly on the face of it, you provide quite a few compelling arguments and have substantiated the same with a plethora of statistics to boot. However upon closer scrutiny of the lot, quite a few things don't stack up when appraised logically. You are comparing two different eras, that is clear. However the qualitative aspects, the ensuing passage of time and the impact thereof on the sporting culture and cricket in general, the seismic changes in test match approaches, batting and bowling not to mention the level of fielding and impact of athleticism in general, all these factors seem to have been lost on you and rather unsurprisingly you appear to have reached an utterly skewed conclusion viewed from a myopic vision. The problem with statistics is that it shows more than what it hides, just like a bikini, which shows tantalising glimpses of a glorious potential but hides the crucial bits!

  • POSTED BY Kartikeya on | December 12, 2014, 1:51 GMT

    @GiridharanR6: Those innings (except Edgbaston 1997) are present in the analysis. The strength of the reserves is also accounted for. The numbers do not exclude specific players or matches beyond the ones that I have specifically stated.

    @syed arbab: Interesting, but I disagree. Draws were more frequent in the West Indian era than they were in the Aussie era. This doesn't suggest that other teams didn't have good batsmen.

    @espnuser: I think there is an element of nostalgia in your point. Waugh's team was popular in India and England. The West Indies were considered intimidatory at the time. It is only now, with the benefit of hindsight and nostalgia, that their legend has become what is has.

    @chris_howard: I agree about Warne. I think Dujon and Gilchrist were closer than people imagine. Gilchrist was also surplus to requirements for the most part. His most attacking innings were played from position of great strength. In these instances, his runs were not strictly required by Aus.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | December 11, 2014, 15:48 GMT

    Australian attack in 2001 was taken to the cleaners,nearly 700 at Kolkata and 500 plus at Chennai. The Kiwis toyed with them at Perth in 2001 as did England at Edbagston in 1997.While analysing the attacks the writer has overlooked the quality of reserves. Ambrose, Walsh and Croft are anyday far better than Kasprowitz , Bichel and Mcgill.

  • POSTED BY Syed Arbab on | December 10, 2014, 6:41 GMT

    You need to have good fielding as well to take wickets, writer does not included this most valuable aspect and in era of WI other teams also had legendary batsmen unlike in the era of Aussies, where other teams not had the same class

  • POSTED BY sheldon on | December 9, 2014, 16:59 GMT

    One thing yhat is not being mentioned is that the Australians at there peak were very unpopular because of how they choose to win. The WI was always popular win or lose.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | December 5, 2014, 5:21 GMT

    Very interesting analysis. Thanks! I would also pick the Aus attack to be bigger threat in a wide range of conditions.

  • POSTED BY Chris on | December 5, 2014, 5:18 GMT

    I'd say Warne is the reason. Having one of the best spinners of all time on day 5 is always going to make it hard for any team to bat out the game for a draw. Remember Adelaide 2006?

    The game played by Waugh and Ponting also involved a lot more mind games - "mental disintegration" as Waugh called it. Waugh also played to win at almost any cost, something that wasn't common in cricket before. And bowlers are much handier with the willow nowadays. Not to mention Healy and Gilchrist as genuine wicketkeeper batsmen.

    I'd still rate the WI fearsome foursome equal with that Aussie foursome, but it's only because of Warne the Aussies can be considered equal.

  • POSTED BY Kartikeya on | December 5, 2014, 2:31 GMT

    Part of the reason for looking at numbers is that they provide a way of comparing teams without considering the reputations of individual stars and the inevitable nostalgia for the past over the present. There is nothing inherently in a given era that lies beyond what the players actually did on the field. Eras are defined by the performances. Performances are only defined by the era in so far as they are measured according to the normal in a given era.

    I've used periodization and the made choices about the teams for comparison so as to deliberately skewed against the Australian side here. Strictly speaking, The Lloyd-Richards era could be seen to have ended with the retirement of Richards and Marshall in England in 1991. After this, the West Indies never had a quartet without at least one bowler who was not as good the rest. At best, they could play Ambrose, Walsh, Bishop and some 4th bowler.

  • POSTED BY Julien on | December 4, 2014, 17:03 GMT

    Interesting article Kartikeya; But I think the relative strength of the other teams has to be considered. Australia dominated when the talent in the other teams did not match the previous era. Botham , Boycott, Hardlee, Crowe, Javid, Imran Khan, sunil etc had retired.

  • POSTED BY Lindsay Went on | December 4, 2014, 12:23 GMT

    I think the periods chosen are too arbitrary. The Australian era of dominance began under Mark Taylor in 1995. Similarly, the WI era continued until that series. Also, while it may have made it easier to take out the games where the regular captains weren't there, I feel that it doesn't make sense, we're talking about teams, not captains. Gilchrist captained Australia to that long awaited victory in India, it was a huge moment.

    Also, including all of the Ponting era means part of the time Australia were no longer the dominant side is included, which has to impact the stats discussed. I agree that the India Australia series in 2008 was the last wag of that dog for the Australians.

    I found the article to be very absorbing but feel the criteria chosen impacted the aim. I don't think you can a manage a good comparison of the 2 eras when significant chunks of those eras aren't included and a little extra that wasn't part of the era is included.

  • POSTED BY Sohail on | December 4, 2014, 8:20 GMT

    Another point that could be a factor is that the Australians were, and still are, a brilliant fielding side, with tough catches being taken to run-outs contributing as well.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | December 4, 2014, 4:49 GMT

    There is another reason which is difficult to verify- that is, the West Indians were far less ruthless than the Aussies- cricket was a game to be enjoyed, not necessarily to be won all the time.

  • POSTED BY Harold Shockness on | December 3, 2014, 23:26 GMT

    Maybe you can also explain the lack of potency of any Australian attack on the sub continent .here Roberts and Marshall and to a lesser extent Sylvester Clarke were so successful. Cricket statistics can be so easily manipulated to extrapolate the desired objective..

  • POSTED BY Pavan on | December 3, 2014, 22:23 GMT

    Excellent Article Karthikeya. The tables for Aus in Result percentages based on number of overs bowled for have numbers incorrect. they show that Aus P 11 W 4 L 11 and D 332 where overs bowled are greater than >200. The comparision i think would have been better if it was stopped after Ind vs Aus in 2008 after which Lee became an ordinary bowler rather than the high impact bowler which he sshowed during late 2007-08 and Aus had more losses after that.

    In the WI teams i think i would go for Ambrose over Garner or Walsh.

  • POSTED BY Sean on | December 3, 2014, 21:39 GMT

    Interesting article Kartikeya; very well-researched and definitely a lot to chew over! Comparisons between eras are always difficult, let alone comparisons between, within AND across eras as you've done here. As always, these are great fodder for discussions amongst fans; I'm surprised at the absence of Haynes from your proposed WI team, and for me I'd swap out Fredericks and Garner for Haynes & Ambrose. For the Aussies, I'd have Mark Waugh in ahead of Martyn.