SERIES POINTS - A NEW WAY OF RANKING TEST PLAYERS

 

The Series Points ranking system was originally explained in a series of articles appearing on CricketWeb from August 2008, with a summary article appearing recently in Spin Cricket magazine - these articles can be accessed below. The articles began with an introduction to the system and a decade ranking for cricketers playing Test cricket in the 1930s, followed by the 1920s and 1940s - so the first three articles neatly encompassed Don Bradman's career. A table of the raw numbers can be found in the Raw Data section above.

The strengths of the system are that it allows us to directly and objectively compare all cricketers regardless of their main discipline, it takes into account strength of opposition because that is built into the ICC ratings system, and it keeps batting and bowling in context with respect to each other. Usually, adjustments for changing times are done on a discipline basis, i.e. batting is compared with batting and bowling with bowling in different eras without regard to the other discipline, whereas this system compares batting with bowling through the different eras.

The process involves calculating the team series points (TSPs) for each team, then dividing these between the individual players based on how well they performed with the bat, ball and in the field, to give us a final series points total which can be directly compared with all of the other players. These can then be totalled and averaged and individual careers compared.

An example will probably help your understanding - let's use the 1938 Ashes series held in England. The series result was 2-2, with the game scheduled for Old Trafford abandonded. Other than the game at Headingley, high scoring was the order of the day, culminating in the final Test at The Oval, scene of Hutton's famous world record 364 as he steered England to the largest ever innings victory (albeit against an Australian side featuring only nine batsmen, with Bradman and Fingleton missing out through injury). To calculate the TSPs, the ICC uses a formula based on the ratings differential betwen the two sides - at that time Australia was rated at 125, England at 98. Essentially, the sum of the two teams ratings points is up for grabs during each game and for the series winner, however as there was no series winner the points total is reduced to four times the team ratings total, or around 900. The actual points allocated is 507 for England and 399 for Australia - the system awards more points to England because a draw for them is a better result than it is for Australia, England being so heavily out-ranked in this case. The ICC ratings system uses these team points on a cumulative basis to calculate an adjusted team rating after the matches are played, but we're more concerned with the series totals at this point.

These TSP totals are then divided between each side of the ball, based on mean performances against similar strength opposition and adjusted for era (for this period, which was particularly runs-heavy, we have to adjust batting down by about 2% and bowling upwards by the same amount). This gives us for England, 273 TSPs for batting and 234 TSPs for bowling/fielding, while for Australia the equivalent numbers are 214 and 185 respectively.

We can now divide those subtotals between the players to give us individual series points (ISPs) depending on how they did with the bat, ball and in the field, to give us a final number for each player which can be used to compare performances regardless of discpline. As an aside, we can also objectively identify a Player of the Series. For this particular series, Australia's Bill Brown scored 512 runs and took three catches, and we score that at 70 ISPs, making him the Player of the Series. However it wasn't by much - Bradman scored 55 while not batting in one game, Hammond's 403 and eight catches, but no wickets while bowling nets him 65, Hutton's 473 runs and a single catch also nets him 65 points, and Bill O'Reilly proves to be the best of the speciailst bowlers with 67 points for his 22 wickets and 60 runs scored.

No single player dominated this particular series, however there are other series where the most valuable player is not in doubt - Bradman's performance in the 1930 Ashes series (974 runs, the best ever for a single Test series) earns him 190 points, with the next best (Clarrie Grimmett's 29 wickets) far behind on 105.

The following series of articles explores (roughly) each decade and highlights the top players in terms of series points and Players of the Series. The individual numbers for each player can be found in the Raw Data section, accessible at the top of the page.

ARTICLES RELATING TO SERIES POINTS

Series Points - A New Way Of Ranking Test Players (revised Jun 2010) - introduction to the system and a decade ranking for the 1930s, as well as idenitfying a Player of the Series award for each series.

Series Points - The 1920s (revised Jun 2010) - a decade ranking for the 1920s plus Player of the Series awards.

Series Points - The 1940s (revised Jun 2010) - a decade ranking for the 1940s plus Player of the Series awards.

Series Points - The 19th Century (revised Jun 2010) - a ranking for the period 1877-1899 plus Player of the Series awards.

Series Points - The Pre-WW1 years (revised Jun 2010) - a decade ranking for the period 1900-14 plus Player of the Series awards.

Series Points - Part 1: 1877-1949 (Apr 2010) - as featured in Spin Cricket magazine, April 2010 issue, summarising the first 70 years, with a discussion of the implications of the rankings up to this point.

Series Points - The 1950s (revised Jul 2010) - a decade ranking for the 1950s plus Player of the Series awards.

Series Points - The 1960s (revised Jul 2010) - a decade ranking for the 1960s.

Series Points - The 1970s (revised Aug 2010) - a decade ranking for the 1970s.

(Articles covering the period 1980-2010 will be posted shortly.)