Brian Lara: The second-highest impact left-handed batsman in Test history

It has always been an intriguing question. Who is better between left-handers and right-handers? Who has been more effective and contributed more to their team’s performance – left-handed batsmen (LHB) or right-handed batsmen (RHB)?

The conventional way of looking at batting averages is flawed as it does not take into account the context of the match and series.

We, at Impact Index try and do an analysis to find out who – LHB or RHB, had a higher impact with the bat.
Do LHB absorb pressure better?
Do RHB have a higher Runs Tally Impact (proportion of runs scored in a match)?
Who is more consistent?

We do a country-wise overview of Test cricket history and break down individual batting parameters and go deeper with our analysis.

Before we begin, a little key to support the piece:

·  Period Considered: 15th March, 1877 to 21st July, 2015
·  Minimum Test Matches played for consideration: 40
·  Minimum Batting Impact = 1 (When a batsman has a Batting Impact of less than 1 it is deemed as a failure)
·  Series-Defining Performance ( SD ): The most important measure in this system – a high impact performance in a match that enables the player’s team to win or draw level the series or (less often) change the momentum in a series. Also awarded to other series where a player dominates more emphatically in 2 matches or more against an A-grade team. This is the true legacy of a player, in Impact Index

WHO HAS A HIGHER IMPACT?

We have considered all batsmen who have played a minimum of 40 Test matches and registered a Batting Impact of at least 1.
There are a total of 170 RHB and 62 LHB making up this list of 232 batsmen, ie approximately for every LHB there are three RHB.

But here is the startling part.
The combined Batting Impact (based on the number of matches played by each batsman and their corresponding Batting impact ) of LHB is 1.85 while of RHB is 1.77.
This means that the 62 LHB have a 4.5% higher Batting Impact than the 170 RHB.

COUNTRY WISE BREAKUP

Country LHB RHB RHB/LHB Ratio
India 3 21 7.00
England 9 41 4.56
Pakistan 6 22 3.67
New Zealand 5 14 2.80
Australia 13 28 2.15
West Indies 10 18 1.80
South Africa 8 14 1.75
Sri Lanka 6 8 1.33
Minimum Tests:40
Only Tests with two completed innings included.
RHB- Right-handed batsmen with a Batting Impact of more than 1.
LHB- Left-handed batsmen with a Batting Impact of more than 1.

The country-wise segregation throws up some interesting facts. There are just three LHB from India – the least for any country – namely, Sourav Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh. India has also the worst proportion of LHB amongst all countries.

The only team that has had a balanced proportion of LHB to RHB is Sri Lanka.

England, the oldest and the most experienced country (in terms of years and number of matches), has the second-lowest proportion of LHB to RHB. Was a certain convention being followed? Does this show a type of orthodoxy?

INDIVIDUAL BATTING PARAMETERS

Country Batting Impact
(RHB/LHB)
SDs Matches/ SD Ratio Runs Tally Impact Pressure Impact Partnership-Building Impact Failure Rate (in %)
Australia 1.96/1.95 33/12 60/84 1.49/1.53 0.17/0.17 0.1/0.1 44/43
Pakistan 1.86/1.90 37/6 40/47 1.31/1.34 0.18/0.13 0.09/0.08 49/51
West Indies 1.86/2.04 21/18 60/49 1.39/1.43 0.15/0.21 0.09/0.09 48/44
South Africa 1.84/1.83 22/12 47/42 1.33/1.31 0.17/0.13 0.09/0.09 48.5/48
England 1.75/1.85 50/13 61/58 1.3/1.38 0.16/0.16 0.08/0.09 48/46
Sri Lanka 1.65/1.81 11/11 58/45 1.21/1.31 0.16/0.16 0.08/0.08 50/53
India 1.64/1.36 30/2 60/105 1.19/1.06 0.16/0.09 0.08/0.07 50/53
New Zealand 1.46/1.50 11/2 79/163.5 1.09/1.21 0.16/0.19 0.06/0.08 53/46
Overall (RHB/LHB) 1.77/1.85 215/76 58/74 1.31/1.38 0.16/0.17 0.08/0.09 48/47
Minimum Tests:40
Only Tests with two completed innings included.
RHB- Right-handed batsmen with a Batting Impact of more than 1.
LHB- Left-handed batsmen with a Batting Impact of more than 1.
All Impact numbers between 0 and 5.
SDs- Series-defining performances

It is not surprising to see Australia’s batsmen on top in Batting Impact for RHB. They have the maximum Runs Tally Impact and are the most consistent too.

They dominated world cricket, first, under the captaincy of Don Bradman (Bradman himself as a batsman and Lindsay Hassett) and his Invincibles of 1948 and then from the late 1990s to the early 2000s under the leadership of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting (the Waugh brothers as batsmen along with Ponting, Damien Martyn, Michael Slater, Michael Clarke).

Don Bradman: The highest impact batsman of all-time.
Don Bradman: The highest impact batsman of all-time.

Their LHB also are only second to their West Indian counterparts in Batting Impact – the likes of Clem Hill, Neil Harvey, Arthur Morris and Matthew Hayden to name a few.

The ten West Indian LHB have the maximum combined Batting Impact from both the LHB and RHB categories of all the countries. This list is led by Brian Lara – the highest impact West Indian batsman in Test cricket history. He is followed by Garry Sobers, Jimmy Adams, Larry Gomes and Clive Lloyd.

What is even more surprising is that they have collectively displayed the best ability to absorb pressure (of falling wickets) too. This is primarily due to the weak West Indies team post mid 1990s of which Lara and Adams were a part. They are the fifth and seventh-highest Pressure Impact batsmen in the history of Test cricket (minimum of 40 Tests).

Contrast this with their RHB counterparts. They have the worst ability to absorb pressure amongst all nations. Again, this list is dominated by the likes of Desmond Haynes, Vivian Richards, Richie Richardson and Gordon Greenidge who were part of a world beating West Indian side of the late 1970s to 1995 and as such were seldom under pressure from opposition bowling attacks.

Pakistani RHB, led by Inzamam-ul-Haq (7 SDs), have displayed the best big-match temperament. They have the lowest Matches/ SD ratio from amongst both the categories.
With respect to southpaws, it is the South African LHB, primarily owing to Graeme Smith (6 SDs in 116 matches), who have the best Matches/ SD ratio.

They have also displayed the best ability to absorb pressure (of falling wickets) amongst all RHB, with Azhar Ali and Younis Khan being the best for Pakistan in this parameter.

England has traditionally produced far more RHB than LHB but it is interesting that the Batting Impact of their 9 LHB (Alastair Cook, David Gower, Graham Thorpe, Andrew Strauss, Mark Butcher, Marcus Trescothick, Maurice Leyland, Frank Woolley and John Edrich) is 6% higher than the Batting Impact of their 41 RHB.

The Australian batsmen have been the most consistent with the lowest failure rates in both the LHB and RHB category.

LHB ABSORB PRESSURE BETTER, ARE MORE CONSISTENT

Overall, the LHB have a higher Batting Impact than the RHB. Although, only one-third of the RHB in number, LHB fare better in almost all the individual parameters as well. They have a higher Runs Tally Impact , absorb pressure better, build more partnerships and are more consistent.

RHB, though, are more reliable when the big occasion comes.

RHB ARE BETTER BIG-MATCH PLAYERS

RHB have a better big-match temperament as can be seen from not only the number of SDs they have produced but also the Matches/ SD ratio, which is better than their LHB counterparts.

There are 291 SDs in total by batsmen who have at least played 40 Test matches and have a Batting Impact of greater than 1.

215 of these are by RHB and only 76 by LHB.

But since RHB have played far more number of matches than LHB, a more accurate ratio would be the Matches/ SD ratio.

Collectively, RHB have played 12305 matches, which means they give an SD every 57 matches.

LHB, on the other hand have played a total of 4588 matches, which means they produce an SD every 60 matches.

This means that overall, RHB have a slightly better big-match ability than LHB.

THE TOP 5 RHB

Rank Batsman Country Matches Batting Impact
1 DG Bradman Australia 52 4.92
2 PBH May England 67 3.15
3 AL Hassett Australia 43 2.91
4 JB Hobbs England 61 2.81
5 Azhar Ali Pakistan 43 2.75
Minimum Tests:40
Only Tests with two completed innings included.
All Impact numbers between 0 and 5.

Don Bradman was in a league of his own as can be seen from the difference in the impact between him and the second-highest impact batsman – Peter May.

Peter May was the highest impact batsman in the world by some margin when England were the best Test team in the world (1951-1958). No English batsman in Test history has absorbed more pressure (of falling wickets) than May.

Lindsay Hassett, with an average of 47 in 43 Tests, is the second-highest impact Australian batsman if we go below 50 Tests.

Jack Hobbs has the second-highest Runs Tally Impact after Bradman in the history of Test cricket.

Azhar Ali, the surprising name on this list has an average of just 44 but with three SDs from just 43 matches, which effectively means he has the best Matches/ SD ratio after Bradman, he merits a place in the top 5. Interestingly, he is the only batsman on the list who has made his international debut in the new millennium. Of course, his is an ongoing career and will no doubt go through many changes.

THE TOP 5 LHB

Rank Batsman Country Matches Batting Impact
1 C Hill Australia 48 2.75
2 BC Lara West Indies 130 2.68
3 RN Harvey Australia 79 2.59
4 GS Sobers West Indies 93 2.57
5 KC Sangakkara Sri Lanka 129 2.56
Minimum Tests:40
Only Tests with two completed innings included.
All Impact numbers between 0 and 5.

Clem Hill is the highest impact LHB. His ability to bat under pressure along with his consistency were his twin assets for Australia.

The lynchpin of the West Indian batting through the late 1990s and early 2000s, Brian Lara is the highest impact West Indian batsman ever.

Neil Harvey was the highest impact Australian batsman during his career (1948-1963).

Garry Sobers is the highest impact all-rounder to have played the game (minimum of 50 Tests) but it was his batting which was more dominant with a 67% higher impact than his bowling.

Kumar Sangakkara has been the biggest series-winner (6 SDs in 129 Tests) for Sri Lanka with the bat in Test cricket.

LHB have traditionally been labelled as more stylish, flamboyant and elegant (Ganguly, Gower, Lloyd, Lara to name a few) as opposed to RHB who have been classified as more ‘complete’ and in that sense overall better than LHB.

But when seen through the Impact Index sieve, giving each match and performance a context and its due value, we see that the 62 LHB have had a slightly higher Batting Impact than the 170 RHB.

At least somewhere the minority have a say.

 

 

Nikhil Narain
Caricatures- Vasim Maner