January 8th, 2018 by Rob

I’ve been watching the latest cricket series, “The Ashes“, between Australia and English. Australia won and our captain Steven Smith was awarded player of the series. The series takes place every two years and is one of the longest standing and most watched sporting rivalries of any sport.

Steven Smith had an incredible series. He is now averaging 63.75 runs per game, which is the second highest average of any cricketer who has played enough games to make the statistics meaningful – 20 “innings” for those who know cricket. If you don’t know cricket, ‘runs’ are points like in baseball. This means that Smith scores an average of 63.75 runs for every time he gets out. You can see a comparison of cricket and baseball batting averages on the Wikipedia page on batting averages. The main reason that cricket is so high compared to baseball (without getting into the details) is that cricket players can ‘block’ the ball and they aren’t obliged to run, so they are harder to get out.

Among current players, Smith’s average of 63.75 is 10 above the next highest average, which happens to be his rival, England caption Joe Root. To be so far ahead of the nearest person, and second highest of all time, should be an incredible achievement. But cricket’s top career average makes the case for the having the greatest sports person of all time. Don Bradman’s career average was 99.94. To put Bradman’s 99.94 in perspective, here are the top 66 cricket career averages, spanning from 1890 to 2018:

The Top 66 Cricket Batting Averages from 1890 to 2018

The Top 66 Cricket Batting Averages from 1890 to 2018

From 1928 to 1948, Don Bradman averaged more than 30 points higher than anyone has achieved before or since! By comparison the gap between #2 and #66 is less than 20 points. You don’t have know cricket to appreciate how much better was Bradman’s average is. Famously, he would have averaged over 100 if he scored 4 in his final match, but instead he got out for 0.

There are other great achievements in cricket. Current Australian player Ellyse_Perry isn’t on this list as she hasn’t played many games, but is averaging 61.71 in addition to also being on the Australian football (soccer) team. But even looking across the other stats in cricket, nothing comes close to the gap in batting average.

Do you know of any sport where the most dominant person is so far ahead of everyone else? Even for cricket fans, this graph really drills it home: every cricket player will live in Bradman’s shadow.

Robert Munro
January, 2018

Sources: The stats are from CricInfo at http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/284197.html and http://stats.espncricinfo.com/wi/content/records/282910.html. If you want to look into the numbers or copy up-to-date data, you can see Google Spreadsheet that I used here: https://docs.google.com/sprehttps://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/191Zur0_MmOb_c1BruY1UgISKipVUf1fQRW_OIQCH_x0/edit?usp=sharingadsheets/d/191Zur0_MmOb_c1BruY1UgISKipVUf1fQRW_OIQCH_x0/edit?usp=sharing.

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