Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Warnie vs Murali - Round 2

Former Sri Lankan captain, Arjuna Ranatunga has weighed into the Warnie v Murali debate with this argument:

"If you take the record, Murali has played fewer matches and Warne never had to bowl at the top-order batsmen... He always had McGrath and Gillespie to take wickets at the start. Warne would come in sometimes and clear the tail. If you look at Murali, he has to come on and take top-order wickets from the start."

OK, Ranatunga is obviously stretching the point to say that Warne never bowled at the top order, but what about his more general point that a higher percentage of Murali's wickets are specialist batsmen? Courtesy of Howstat, we see that 25.7 per cent of Murali's wickets have been top-order batsmen (1-3) and 42.6 per cent have been middle-order batsmen (4-7), compared to 23.0 per cent and 39.8 per cent for Warne.

Shane Warne's wickets by batting order

Muttiah Muralidaran's wickets by batting order

So, Ranatunga is right, but is that necessarily a good thing for Murali? The point I made in my last post on this subject was that Warnie's figures may have actually been harmed by bowling with McGrath and Gillespie, because it reduced his chances of picking up quick and easy wickets when they were there to be had. Warnie actually took a higher percentage of his wickets in the top order than, say, Stuart MacGill, who has also had to deal with the Australian fast bowlers grabbing quick wickets. Meanwhile, someone like Anil Kumble, whose bowling partners have not been as great, has figures that are more similar to Murali's.

Stuart MacGill's wickets by batting order

Anil Kumble's wickets by batting order

In other words, Murali's haul of top-order wickets may not be worth as much as Warnie's top-order wickets, because Warnie mainly took top-order wickets when they were hard to get. As I've said before, I doubt that this accounts for the whole difference between Warne's and Murali's records, but it's an argument that I think should be considered more closely.

Searching For The Boom Recruit

I was asked the other night to write something on the AFL National Draft. Since others have already looked at the average number of games that each number draft pick can be expected to play, I thought I would look at the immediate impact that each of the top 10 draft picks can be expected to have. Here is a summary of what the top 10 draft picks over the past decade have done in the season after they were drafted:


Average Games

Median Games





Brett Deledio/ Bryce Gibbs - 22




Paul Hasleby - 21




Chris Judd - 22




Matthew Pavlich - 18




Leigh Brown - 21




Steven Salopek - 9




Joel Selwood - 21




James Bartel/ Chris Tarrant - 11




Caydn Beetham/ Mark McVeigh - 9




Chris Egan - 13

Judging from these stats, Matthew Kreuzer (Carlton, No.1) and Trent Cotchin (Richmond, No.2) would be expected to be solid contributors next season. (Also, it's probably fair to say that the higher you are drafted, the lower the quality of competition there is at your club for senior places.) Picks 3 to 5 would be expected to be useful contributors, while picks 6 to 10 will probably only play a handful of games. As for the rest, while I imagine there will be your Alwyn Daveys and so forth, you can probably draw a line through most of them in 2008. But one can always hope that your team has the bolter.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Finger Points Outwards - No.6

I've written another article for the Avengers Forever website, called: Whatever Happened to the '90s Generation? You know, back in the early 1990s, Marvel's characters were actally used to sell comic books rather than movies. Yep, it's hard to believe.

Here's a couple of interesting articles from The Economist about the U.S. of A:

First, the great experiment of New York's public schools.

Second, what you can learn about America from Dollywood.

And finally, a review from the Economist on Pierre Bayard's book about 'how to talk about books you haven't read'.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Warnie vs Murali

Over the coming Australian summer, Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralidaran is expected to overtake Australian spinner Shane Warne as the highest wicket-taker in the history of test cricket. But who has been the better bowler? Let’s take a look at their respective records:

Warne – 145 tests, 708 wickets at 25.42 runs per wicket, 57.49 balls per wicket, 2.65 runs per over, 37 times taken five wickets in an innings, 10 times taken ten wickets in a match.
Muralidaran – 114 tests, 702 wickets at 21.36 runs per wicket, 53.45 balls per wicket, 2.40 runs per over, 60 times taken five wickets in an innings, 20 times taken ten wickets in a match.

On the face of it, Murali’s figures are more impressive. However, a common charge against Murali’s record is that, unlike Warne, he has taken a lot of his wickets against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, both of whom are relatively easy pickings for a half-decent trundler. Muralidaran has taken 163 wickets in 23 matches against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, while Warnie has taken 17 wickets in a paltry 3 matches against the minnows. Hence, the argument goes, Warne’s career figures are more impressive than they first appear.

But are they? To answer this, let’s adjust Murali’s figures so that he has played the same amount of Tests against each nation as Warnie has. For example, Murali’s career wickets would be the sum over all opponents of the number of wickets Murali has taken against that opponent times the ratio of the number of tests Warne has played against that opponent to the number of tests Murali has played against that opponent. Murali’s adjusted figures are as follows:

Muralidaran adjusted – 144 tests*, 903 wickets at 21.86 runs per wicket, 55.50 balls per wicket, 2.36 runs per over, 75 times taken five wickets in an innings, 29 times taken ten wickets in a match.

*Warne played 1 test against the ICC World XI.

So Murali still appears to come out ahead; the only difference now being that Warne has bowled to the Sri Lankan batting line-up, while Murali has faced the mighty Australian batting line-up (which makes Murali’s figures more impressive). While Murali’s figures have been helped by playing more often against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, he has also performed well against the nations that Warne played a lot of cricket against, including England, South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies.

So what hope is left for Warnie-boosters? Well, leaving aside any arguments about the legality of Murali’s bowling action, the main argument would seem to be that Warne’s figures were adversely affected by being surrounded by better bowlers than Murali. It could be that when there were easy wickets to be had, Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie gobbled up most of them before Warne could get a go, but when the going got tough, it was left to Warne to be belted around the park before getting the breakthrough. My guess is that will not make the difference, but I’m ready to be proven otherwise. At least Warne can always say that he won more matches.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Finger Points Outwards - No.5

Think you know Superman? Think again.

Think you've got it made when you win the lottery? Think again.

Think video games make people more violent? Well, maybe.