Partnership stats: who would you most like to bat with?
Cricket has long been obsessed with personal milestones and stats. But coaches now preach ‘partnerships’ as the best way to build innings’ and win games. So wouldn't it be illuminating to know of a player's average partnership score rather than just their individual score?
Everyone with any interest in cricket knows Bradman’s average. Mostly to the accuracy of two decimal places.
Nearly everyone knows how many international hundreds The Little Master has notched up to date.
And nearly every commentator reckons that an average of over 50 is what makes a Test batsman a great Test batsman.
In the past twenty years, the stats geeks have added the strike rate to batters records, and economy rates to bowlers records, in order to provide more qualified information about performance.
But in an era when the team (or ‘the group’ as coaching staff increasingly refer to their teams) is defined by its reliance on teamwork as a tool to win matches rather than individual stats, shouldn’t the statisticians add one more column to analyse a player’s contribution to the game.
Graham Dilley’s untimely death this past week highlighted the value of great partnerships. Dilley was a fine swing bowler of genuine pace, with nearly 200 international wickets. He was also iconic with a flowing blonde mullet, monster, curving run-up and a delivery slide with a drag of which Botham would have been proud
And yet, for a batter with a humble average of 13, his epitaths have been as much about his batting as his bowling. All because of that epic, Ashes winning stand he shared with Botham at Headingley in 81. Had Picca not revved Beefy on with a dashing fifty, and outcome of that match would almost certainly have been very different. So too the resultant lionization of Sir Ian.
Recording the average partnerships of each player could tell us about his temperament, team ethic and his support for those around him. And not a little about his running between the wickets. Would Boycott’s individual average be miles greater than his partnership average, for instance? Or Nasser Hussain’s, come to think of famous yes-no-yes-no-sorry callers.
Jonathan Trott, ICC World Player of the Year, manufactures a bubble of concentration and invincibility at the crease: methodical, OCD scratches of the pitch; repetitive pacing out to square leg; taking fresh guard after fresh guard. He’s got the mannerisms of an emotionally disturbed bear at London Zoo. But can he be much fun to bat with? Is there a sense of brotherly love when batting with him (beyond the obligatory glove punching, that is).
Was a player like Bradman an inspiration to bat with because of his discipline and speed of scoring? The number of record partnerships in which he was involved suggest he was. Was the deflation of ego and self-confidence suffered by bowlers the moment Sir Viv swaggered out to the wicket, as helpful to his batting partners as well as to the great man?
Wasn’t it the case that McGrath’s unstinting, metronomic line and length from one end was as responsible for as many of Warne’s wickets as the flippers and sliders at the other? If Thommo don’t get you, then Lillee will?
Catches don’t really win matches. Partnerships do. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see badge kissing, looking-up-to-the-Gods, helmet-off celebrations by both batsmen when partnerships reach a hundred rather than when chalking up individual tons?
Sure, it will add an additional burden to scorers and statisticians. But they love nothing more than being able to add one more coloured pen to their armory. It would also add more ammo to armchair selectors, if they were to know statistically who is most likely to be the man to dig your side out of a hole at the back of an innings, those with a tendency to put sides in match-winning positions at the top of an innings, or even those most likely to bring the best out of fellow team members.
Few things would give coaches more joy than to see a pair of batsmen point their bats like syncronised swimmers towards their team’s balcony.
And any excuse for the bat companies to see their branding raised to the TV cameras on one more occasion wouldn’t do any harm, either.