Friday, November 28, 2014

RIP Phillip Hughes: How Good May Have He Been?

Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes sadly passed away yesterday, as the result of an unlikely injury sustained while batting. Hughes was just 25 (his 26th birthday being in a couple of days), meaning that he was expected to have several years of cricket left in him, and many years of life after that. His Test record ended with 26 matches, and 1535 runs at an average of 32.66.

It made me wonder: what could have we expected from Phillip Hughes in the years ahead? Of course, there are many possible outcomes – Hughes may have picked up his performance substantially like Matthew Hayden did in the latter years of his career, or he may never have played another Test (though he looked well in the running for a spot in the upcoming Test series). What we do know though is that he was reaching a point in his career where batsmen are expected to have their best years.

A few years back, Adrian Worton at The Game Is A Foot looked at batting averages by age for players whose careers started after 1990 and played at least 50 Tests. He also restricted his analysis to those with batting averages over 25.00 – what I will call ‘good’ batsmen (not all of them may be specialist batsmen). In the chart below I have compared Hughes’ average for each calendar year of his Test career, against good batsmen of a similar age. Since Hughes was born in November, using his calendar year stats is I think a good enough approximation.   

Phil Hughes had a great year when he was 20, and was far above the average of other good batsmen at that age. In each year since he was a little below average, meaning that overall his record was about average for a good Test batsman of his age.

Hughes though was approaching what is usually a batsman’s best period. Over the next ten years, if Hughes had managed to hold down at least a semi-regular Test spot, and performed at around the average of good Test batsmen it is reasonable to expect that he could have averaged around the mid-forties per dismissal. Hence by the end of his career he may well have had an overall Test batting average of around 40.

Of course to his family and friends the loss of Phil Hughes goes beyond mere figures. To be sure Hughes’ career going forward would have had its bad days; it is unfortunate for cricket fans though that we will not get to enjoy the centuries he may have made as well.

No comments: