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The players who just missed out on Wisden’s ‘When the stats do lie’ XI

by Wisden Staff 6 minute read

In the latest Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, Phil Walker, the Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief, Jo Harman, WCM magazine editor, and Wisden.com managing editor Ben Gardner join host Yas Rana in attempting to pick a ‘when the stats do lie’ XI.

The idea was to pick an all-time XI of batsmen with final career averages of under 40 and bowlers who retired with averages of over 30. But who fell just short and were left out by our ruthless Wisden selectors?

Habibul Bashar

50 Tests, 3,026 runs @ 30.87, 3 100s HS: 113

BG: Without him the start of Bangladesh’s time in Test cricket would’ve been even more horrible than it was. He was another player who never really converted any of his half centuries. But, you’d rather have a guy who’s making 60 regularly and saving you from embarrassment than one who makes a century every once in a while.

Ravi Shastri

80 Tests, 3,830 runs @ 35.79, HS: 121 | 151 wickets @ 40.96, 2 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 5-75

BG: The other one is Ravi Shastri who had to do a lot of roles at a lot of different times. He had a very good record as an opening batsman and when he was a front-line spinner, he also managed to do a good job. But because he was seen as a part-timer at some points and even a tail-ender at some points his averages ended up in the wrong place.

Allan Lamb

79 Tests, 4,656 runs @ 36.09, 14 100s, HS: 142

PW: He averaged 36 which was lower than I was expecting. A feast or famine kind of player, but three Test centuries against the West Indies in the height of their greatness, offset by being unable to play the turning ball in various conditions of course.

Mike Gatting

79 Tests, 4,409 runs @ 35.55, 11 100s, HS: 207

PW: There’s not that many [batsmen] you can really hang your hat on who averaged under 40 for a long period of time. There’s many who should have maybe averaged a little bit more than they did. Mike Gatting is another one. Gatting barely averaged 35, when you think he was an England Ashes-winning captain. But yes, you are moving towards that bracket of barely adequate, average Test cricketers.

Brett Lee

76 Tests, 310 wickets @ 30.81, 10 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 5-30

JH: I think with Lee his average is not really what it’s all about. I think it’s his strike rate as an express strike bowler. That’s the stat you should look to. And there would be no captain in the world who, during his career, wouldn’t have wanted Bret Lee in his side because of what he offered. His strike rate is only just behind Glenn McGrath so he’s right in that bracket in terms of wicket-takers. He’s a good example in terms of stats lying here because we’re potentially looking at the wrong one when judging a bowler of his type.

Mushtaq Ahmed

52 Tests, 185 wickets @ 32.97, 10 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 7-56

PW: It’s a slightly odd career, he took 185 wickets in 50 odd games and he had his days in the sun for Pakistan. But then you look at what he did in England [in county cricket] in supposedly unhelpful conditions, and you can imagine that he would have had a far more lucrative, fruitful career for Pakistan if they just stuck with him through those latter years, when he was into his 30s. There were also issues off the pitch with attitude which Ahmed has acknowledge as well.

Daniel Vettori

113 Tests, 4,531 runs @ 30.00, 4 100s, HS: 140 | 362 wickets @ 34.36, 20 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 7-87

YR: The stats don’t lie with Daniel Vettori. He averaged 34 with the ball and 30 with the bat and that’s the level he was at. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that hugely.

BG: No, I think he had more impact as a Test cricketer than an average of 34 with the ball and 30 with the bat indicates. As the one good player New Zealand had for quite a long time, he just held them together. He also carved himself into a capable Test batsmen from not really having much capability at all at the beginning of his Test career.

Shane Watson

59 Tests, 3,731 runs @ 35.19, 4 100s, HS: 176 | 75 wickets @ 33.68, 3 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 6-51

BG: He definitely under performed as a Test cricketer. As a top order batsman and a player of pace bowling he was really top-class. He was a really key part of that Australian top order but he’s only got four Test hundreds.

He was also a pretty handy bowler too. Remember that crazy game where Vernon Philander made his debut, he got a five-for before Philander bowled Australia out for 47. Watson was messed around throughout the order, he was put down at six which you’d think would suit him as he could hit the ball a long way against quick bowling, but it didn’t work out.

Marvan Atatpattu

90 Tests, 5,502 runs @ 39.02, 16 100s, HS: 249

YR: With Atapattu you kind of have to look at over people’s averages in Sri Lanka over that era. A lot of his teammates would have averaged over 40 comfortably.

Devon Malcolm

40 Tests, 128 wickets @ 37.09, 5 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 9-57

BG: I also considered Devon Malcolm for this team, an average of 37. In his first ever Test match he bowled 44 overs in the first innings, which is more than Stuart Broad has ever bowled in an innings in his Test career.

Nathan Astle

81 Tests, 4,702 runs @ 37.02, 11 100s, HS: 222 | 51 wickets @ 42.01, BBI: 3-27

JH: I thought having Hughes and Hooper was a bit of a flighty middle order player, but actually I think Astle’s average of 37.02 is about perfect for him. He was a player who had really good moments, but he was actually a better one-day opener than he was a Test middle-order batsman.

PW: He did play the best Test innings of all time though.

Jack Russell

54 Tests, 1,897 runs @ 27.10, 2 100s, HS: 128*

JH: I had him written down, but not compared to Healy.

Rod Marsh

96 Tests, 3,633 runs @ 26.51, 3 100s, HS: 132

JH: Played 96 Tests for Australia, a big part of that Australian side.

Prasanna Jayawardene

58 Tests, 2,124 runs @ 29.50, 4 100s, HS: 154*

JH: Four Test hundreds, the same number as Healy in fewer Tests

Sarfraz Nawaz

55 Tests, 177 wickets @ 32.75, 4 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 9-86

BG: He almost deserves inclusion just for that one performance, when he took all those wickets in that one momentous Test win for Pakistan.

Harbhajan Singh

103 Tests, 417 wickets @ 32.46, 25 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 8-84

JH: Their stats are very similar, him and Qadir, in terms of average, and I never found Harbhajan to be a particularly likeable cricketer, which certainly influenced my choice.

Stephen Harmison

63 Tests, 226 wickets @ 31.82, 8 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 7-12

Matthew Hoggard

67 Tests, 248 wickets @ 30.50, 7 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 7-61

PW: I have a soft spot for Harmison.

JH: For me it was Harmison or Hoggard, was the one I was weighing up.

BG: Hoggard’s record against top-order batsmen is as good as any England bowler has had.


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