LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: India batsman Sachin Tendulkar picks up some runs during day three of the 1st npower test match between England and India at Lords on July 23, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The Greatest of All Time Debate: What’s In A Batting Average?

In sports it is always hard to make accurate comparisons with current players and their former counterparts. This is no different in the ever-changing climate of international cricket. A key indicator, which is commonly used to make comparisons, is a batsman’s average. However, without looking at context its easy to jump to erroneous conclusions. This article looks at the critical factors which we must take into consideration when looking at a batsman’s average. In this case, I will be focusing on Test and ODI batsmen, excluding T20 cricket altogether. For the purposes of this conversation, I will limit the candidates to players in my lifetime (1988- 2018) where the game has been somewhat similar. Comparing much earlier than this will require a different approach all together.

Factor #1: Batting Average

To give us a baseline, we can begin with a batsman’s overall average. After some analysis, I narrowed down batsmen who have averaged over 40 in ODI cricket and over 50 in Test cricket. As a standard, this is considered to be exceptional especially for an extended playing period. This would be the first level of differentiation where if players do not meet both criteria they cannot be in the conversation and cannot be considered to be amongst the best batsmen in the modern game. A sample size of 50 Test matches and 100 ODI’s has also been established as a requirement to show a minimum level of longevity. The list is narrowed down to just fourteen names:

No Player Mat Test Avg ODI Avg
1 SPD Smith (AUS) 64 61 42
2 KC Sangakkara (Asia/ICC/SL) 134 57 42
3 JH Kallis (Afr/ICC/SA) 166 55 44
4 SR Tendulkar (INDIA) 200 54 45
5 V Kohli (INDIA) 66 53 58
6 BC Lara (ICC/WI) 131 53 40
7 JE Root (ENG) 69 52 50
8 RT Ponting (AUS/ICC) 168 52 42
9 MEK Hussey (AUS) 79 52 48
10 S Chanderpaul (WI) 164 51 42
11 ML Hayden (AUS/ICC) 103 51 44
12 AB de Villiers (Afr/SA) 114 51 54
13 KS Williamson (NZ) 65 50 47
14 Inzamam-ul-Haq (Asia/PAK) 120 50 40

 

To dig a little deeper into these averages, I first looked at how the batsmen listed performed against different oppositions throughout their careers.

Factor #2: Averages against opposition

It is important to review how the greatest batsmen fared against the best teams in their playing time. This is particularly difficult to study as teams performances and bowling attacks have varied across the years drastically. For instance, averaging 50 against the 2018 Australian bowling attack is vastly different to averaging 50 against the golden generation of Australian bowlers between 1990-2005.In an attempt to understand the trends I split the list of players into three generations grouping the players as follows:

Group 1 Period Test Avg. ODI Avg.
SR Tendulkar (INDIA) 1989-2012 54 45
BC Lara (ICC/WI) 1990-2007 53 40
Inzamam-ul-Haq (Asia/PAK) 1991-2007 50 40
S Chanderpaul (WI) 1994-2011 51 42
ML Hayden (AUS/ICC) 1993-2008 51 44
JH Kallis (Afr/ICC/SA) 1996-2014 55 44
RT Ponting (AUS/ICC) 1995-2015 52 42

 

Group 2 Period Test Avg. ODI Avg.
KC Sangakkara (Asia/ICC/SL) 2000-2015 57 42
MEK Hussey (AUS) 2004-2012 52 48

 

Group 3 Period Test Avg. ODI Avg.
AB de Villiers (Afr/SA) 2005-2018 51 54
SPD Smith (AUS) 2010-2018 61 42
KS Williamson (NZ) 2010-2018 50 47
V Kohli (INDIA) 2008-2018 53 58
JE Root (ENG) 2013-2018 52 50

The first group represents players who have been retired for some time now and were considered some of the best batsmen of the 1990s and early 2000s. The second group are batsmen with exceptional records between the current crop of batsmen and the past generation. The third group represents the top 5 batsmen of the current generation based on their test and ODI averages.

Group 1

For the first group of players, the most formidable teams in Tests and ODI cricket during this time period (1990 – 2012) were identified as Australia and South Africa followed by India, Pakistan, England and Sri Lanka. It should be noted that there was a substantial drop off after Australia and South Africa. A statistical review of how each team fared during this time period is as follows:

Team Test Record (1990 – 2012) Test Win-Loss Diff ODI Record (1990 – 2012) ODI Win-Loss Diff
Australia 37W – 7D – 7L 30W 65W – 11D – 32L 33W
South Africa 44W – 14D – 15L 29W 54W – 5D – 41L 13W
India 36W – 17D – 24L 12W 59W – 8D – 80L -21L
Pakistan 32W – 16D – 26L 6W 66W – 5D – 75L -9W
England 35W – 13D – 29L 6W 40W – 8D – 52L -12L
Sri Lanka 31W – 17D – 32L -1L 53W – 8D – 74L -21L
West Indies 24W – 11D – 33L -9L 37W – 6D – 69L -32L
New Zealand 21W – 20D – 41L -20L 33W – 10D – 69L -36L
Zimbabwe 6W – 7D – 34L -28L 16W – 3D – 83L -67L
Bangladesh 2W – 0D – 37L -35L 15W – 2D – 62L -47L

The next step here would be to compare the averages of the players in Group 1 against the top and lower ranked teams. Based on wins to losses, the teams were grouped based on their overall Test and ODI records. Four groups were formed with Australia and South Africa forming the top tier.

As the Australian and South African batsmen contained some of the greatest bowlers of all time, I have decided to compare them against each other for their averages in the top tier section. Whilst this might reduce the sample size, it makes for a more equal comparison between the list of players.

Comparing the players in Group 1.

* Numbers in brackets indicate games played.

* Number after the vertical line is the difference between overall average and the average against the tier.

Group 1 Test Avg. Test Avg. vs. AUS, SA Test Avg. vs.

SL, ENG, PAK, IND

Test Avg. vs.

NZ, WI

Test Avg. vs.

BAN, ZIM

SR Tendulkar (INDIA) 54 50 (64) | -4 52 (75) | -2 50 (64) | -4 97 (16) | +43
BC Lara (ICC/WI) 53 50 (49) | -3 56 (67) | +3 41 (11) | -12 66 (4) | +13
Inzamam-ul-Haq (Asia/PAK) 50 32 (27) | -18 56 (49) | +6 59 (27) | 9 51 (17) | +1
S Chanderpaul (WI) 51 48 (43) | -3 51 (82) | 0 45 (21) | -6 75 (8) | +24
ML Hayden (AUS/ICC) 51 44 (19) | -7 51 (51) | 0 45 (26) | -6 95 (6) | +44
JH Kallis (Afr/ICC/SA) 55 41 (29) | -14 50 (83) | -5 68 (42) | +13 125 (12) | +70
RT Ponting (AUS/ICC) 52 47 (47) | -5 51 (93) | -1 53 (41) | +1 79 (7) | +27

 

Group 1 ODI Avg. ODI Avg. vs. AUS, SA ODI Avg. vs.

SL, ENG, PAK, IND

ODI Avg. vs.

NZ, WI

ODI Avg. vs.

The rest

SR Tendulkar (INDIA) 45 41 (128) | -4 42 (190) | -3 49 (81) | +4 57 (64) | +12
BC Lara (ICC/WI) 40 38 (88) | -2 39 (144) | -1 51 (28) | +11 48 (28) | +8
Inzamam-ul-Haq (Asia/PAK) 40 31 (71) | -9 44 (158) | +4 36 (93) | -4 46 (53) | +6
S Chanderpaul (WI) 42 42 (64) | 0 40 (124) | -2 29 (30) | -13 59 (49) | +17
ML Hayden (AUS/ICC) 44 31 (15) | -13 43 (82) | -1 48 (39) | +4 52 (24) | +8
JH Kallis (Afr/ICC/SA) 44 34 (50) | -10 44 (153) | 0 45 (85) | +1 65 (38) | +21
RT Ponting (AUS/ICC) 42 40 (48) | -2 42 (179) | 0 41 (96) | -1 45 (48) | +3

There were some key findings here. If we look at the cases of three specific players, Inzamam-ul-Haq, JH Kallis and ML Hayden, it is evident that the three batsmen struggled more against higher levels of competition and excelled against lower ranked teams. Haq with an average of 32 in 27 Test matches cricket against Australia and South Africa demonstrates this explicitly. Kallis with an incredible record of 55 in Test cricket and has a surreal average of 125 in 12 matches against the lowest ranked opponents and 68 against New Zealand and West Indies in an era where neither team could win more than 25 Test matches. Kallis gained more than any other batsmen through his domination over lower ranked opponents.

A similar trend is noticeable in the record with Hayden. Despite an average of above 50 in Test cricket, his average against South Africa drops to 41 in 19 Test matches and is boosted significantly by his average of 95 in 6 matches against the lowest ranked teams. A similar trend is found in each of the three players ODI records. Whilst this trend is common amongst all the listed players, Haq, Kallis and Hayden seem to exemplify this to the greatest extent.
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It is also striking to see the similarities between Tendulkar and Lara. Both have an almost identical overall average and almost an identical average against the powerhouses of Australia and South Africa. Whilst Tendulkar’s’ average is boosted more than Lara’s against the lowest ranked opponents in both Tests and ODI cricket (97 in 16 matches in Test cricket and 57 in 64 matches in ODI cricket), Tendulkar’s longevity with an average of 50 in 64 matches against Australia and South Africa is quite remarkable.

Another observation in a similar vein is the averages of Ponting and Chanderpaul. Both players have very similar averages in both formats of game and there is very little to separate the two. One argument which could be made in Chanderpaul’s favour is the fact he averaged 48 in Tests against both the golden generation of both Australian and South African bowlers, whereas playing for Australia Ponting was only facing the bowlers from South Africa. Chanderpaul also did not get a boost in his average playing against the West Indian bowlers whereas Ponting did. The advantage was not that great however, as Ponting did not have an exceptional average against third tier oppositions and remained consistent throughout.

Group 2

Like the previous group, I performed an analysis to review which teams had fared the best in regards to overall record during this period. This would give a better idea about which teams had the most formidable bowlers during this time period. To try and make this as accurate as possible, the time period I have included is between: 2000-2015 to accommodate both players in Group 2.

Team Test Record (2000 – 2015) Test Win-Loss Diff ODI Record (2000 – 2015) ODI Win-Loss Diff
Australia 42W – 6D – 16L 26W 56W – 5D – 24L 32W
South Africa 33W – 11D – 13L 20W 49W – 3D – 29L 20W
India 29W – 11D – 16L 13W 44W – 4D – 51L -7L
Pakistan 21W – 14D – 17L 4W 43W – 2D – 56L -13L
England 32W – 11D – 16L 16W 33W – 4D – 43L -10L
Sri Lanka 24W – 12D – 23L 1W 42W – 5D – 50L -8L
West Indies 13W – 6D – 35L -22L 23W – 3D – 52L -29L
New Zealand 18W – 16D – 23L -5L 35W – 5D – 44L -9L
Zimbabwe 4W – 4D – 22L -18L 14W – 2D – 65L -51L
Bangladesh 3W – 4D – 40L -37L 21W – 2D – 57L -36L

Australia and South Africa were again the most successful teams during this time-period, however the gap between them and the second-tier teams from the previous group is significantly less. India and England have made up enough of the gap to be considered in the first-tier with Australia and South Africa in Test cricket. Pakistan, and Sri Lanka with less than 25 Test wins would move into the same tier as New Zealand. West Indies with only 13 Test wins move into the lowest group with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

In regards to ODI cricket, Australia and South Africa were clearly ahead of the other teams. The records for India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and England were relatively close. West Indies joined the lowest tier with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe again.

Comparing the players in Group 2.

* Numbers in brackets indicate games played.

* Number after the vertical line is the difference between overall average and the average against the tier.

Group 2 Test Avg. Test Avg. vs.

AUS, SA, IND, ENG

Test Avg. vs.

PAK, SL, NZ

Test Avg. vs.

BAN, ZIM, WI

KC Sangakkara (Asia/ICC/SL) 57 46 (67) | -9 66 (35) | +9 78 (32) | +21
MEK Hussey (AUS) 52 48 (46) |-4 62 (19) | +10 44 (20) | -8

 

Group 2 ODI Avg. ODI Avg. vs.

AUS, SA,

ODI Avg. vs.

IND, PAK, SL, NZ, ENG

ODI Avg. vs.

the rest

KC Sangakkara (Asia/ICC/SL) 42 44 (90) | +2 40 (223) | -2 44 (91) | +4
MEK Hussey (AUS) 48 45 (24) |-3 48 (118) | 0 50 (43) | +2

 

Both Sangakkara and Hussey present interesting cases. During this period, the level of competition between teams reduced quite significantly with teams such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies slipping in their standards. The gap between the first test tier and the second is significant. In addition, Australia were not as dominant as they were during the previous generation.

Sangakkara clearly benefited from runs scored against lower ranked teams in Test cricket. This is reflected through his healthy average of 66 against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand and 78 against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and the West Indies. The argument which may go against him is the period in which he played in where there was a regression in the Australian, Pakistani and West Indian attacks (in comparison to the last group). His ODI record is strong, with an average of 44 against strong Australian and South African attacks.

Hussey remained more consistent against oppositions throughout his career. An overall average of 48 and 45 against a strong South African bowling attack puts him in elite company. However, there is a bit of a concern over the sample size from Hussey’s record. With a relatively short career, this somewhat takes away from his impressive overall record and average.

Group 3

The third group of players represent the current best batsmen in the international game. Like previous groups, I assessed how each Test team performed during this period to get an idea about the strength of each opposition the listed batsmen played against. As you can imagine, the current trend is completely different to that of the first group.

Team Test Record (2005 – 2018) Test Win-Loss Diff ODI Record (2005 – 2018) ODI Win-Loss Diff
Australia 31W – 4D – 15L 16W 47W – 4D – 23L 24W
South Africa 31W – 8D – 10L 21W 42W – 2D – 22L 20W
India 31W – 7D – 13L 18W 48W – 3D – 35L 13W
Pakistan 16W – 14D – 14L 2W 35W – 2D – 39L -4L
England 25W – 10D – 15L 10W 38W – 2D – 34L -4L
Sri Lanka 21W – 12D – 19L 2W 30W – 6D – 44L -14L
West Indies 8W – 7D – 29L -21L 15W – 3D – 47L -32L
New Zealand 19W – 9D – 22L -3L 32W – 5D – 34L -2L
Zimbabwe 1W – 2D – 15L -14L 9W – 3D – 50L -41L
Bangladesh 3W – 7D – 30L -27L 22W – 3D – 45L -23L

 

Between 2005 and the present 2018, the performances of teams have changed drastically. Australia, South Africa and India now have a similar overall record across both formats. However, the distinction between these three teams and the rest of is bigger than it has been in previous generations. Where Australia, South Africa and India have double the number of wins to losses in both formats, the other teams have struggled. This is a prime example of how and why it is difficult to compare players across generations (even as close as these generations are).

Group 3 Test Avg. Test Avg. vs.

IND, SA, AUS

Test Avg. vs.

PAK, ENG, SL, NZ

Test Avg. vs.

BAN, WI, ZIM

AB de Villiers (Afr/SA) 51 46 (44) | -5 50 (49) | -1 68 (21) | +17
SPD Smith (AUS) 61 64 (19) | +3 58 (38) | -3 88 (7) | + 28
KS Williamson (NZ) 50 44 (26) | -6 51 (22) | +1 61 (17) | +11
V Kohli (INDIA) 53 50 (24) | -3 59 (30) | +6 47 (12) | -6
JE Root (ENG) 52 52 (27) | 0 49 (23) | -3 60 (8) | +8

 

Group 3 ODI Avg. ODI Avg. vs.

IND, SA, AUS

ODI Avg. vs.

PAK, ENG, SL, NZ

ODI Avg. vs.

the rest

AB de Villiers (Afr/SA) 54 53 (58) | -1 52 (109) | -2 59 (56) | +5
SPD Smith (AUS) 42 47 (31) | +5 39 (59) | -3 44 (18) | +2
KS Williamson (NZ) 47 41 (46) | -6 50 (63) | +3 48 (30) | +1
V Kohli (INDIA) 58 58 (54) | 0 56 (106) | -2 64 (48) | +6
JE Root (ENG) 50 42 (49) | -8 56 (48) | +6 64 (19) | +14

 

The most interesting takeaway from this group was the consistency batsmen had across different opponents. The current generation of players show very little difference in this sense. Kane Williamson is the only player with a large disparity, where he averages 6 runs less in both Tests and ODIs against the top oppositions. Joe Root also averages 8 runs less against the top teams in ODI cricket, but this is not the case in Test cricket.

Another factor which heavily influences the record of current batsmen in this generation, however, is T20 cricket. Without getting into T20 and franchise cricket averages, the style in which the game is played in today allows for batsmen to average more due to the fact that scores are higher in today’s game. This in turn will allow batsmen to chase down larger totals and score more due to the style of cricket played. This is reflected in the ODI averages with Kohli, Smith and de Villiers being the only players in the entire study to average well over 45 against the top ranked teams in any era. With the way cricket is shifting with shorter faster cricket, there is a real possibility that more batsmen end with even higher averages.
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Amongst the batsmen listed, Virat Kohli presents an interesting case for a whole other matter. Due to the relationship between Indian and Pakistan cricket, Kohli does not play any Test cricket against Pakistan at the moment. He has also played very little ODI cricket (he has played 12 games to be exact) against Pakistan. Whilst not playing against Pakistan in Test cricket might be seen as an disadvantage here (Pakistan’s record with 16 wins is worse than the others in the tier), Pakistan’s ODI record is better than Sri Lanka’s and on par with that of New Zealand’s (with 3 more series wins although 5 more losses). This could work to Kohli’s advantage in raising his average compared to the likes of Smith, Williamson and Root. The volume at which Kohli plays cricket against this group is also highlighted here, with 106 games in comparison to 59 (Smith), 63 (Williamson) and 48 (Root). 46 (20% of his overall ODIs) of these games are played against Sri Lanka, a weaker ODI team in comparison to Pakistan. This could have an impact on his overall average and how there might be some bias due to this.

 

Factor #3: Averages Home and Away

The last statistic to be reviewed here is how each batsmen fared both in home and away conditions. From the previous list the following players have been omitted:

  • Inzamam-ul-Haq (Asia/PAK), ML Hayden (AUS/ICC) and JH Kallis (Afr/ICC/SA)

Each player from Group One had a significantly lower average against the top teams and a significantly higher average against lower ranked teams. They also had the lowest average against top oppositions in both Tests and ODI cricket in their group.

  • KS Williamson (NZ) and JE Root (ENG)

Williamson’s Test and ODI average against the top teams is the lowest in group 3. Whilst Root’s Test average of 50 against the top ranked teams is very impressive, his average of 42 is only one run more than Williamson’s which is a fair way from the next highest average at 47.

The breakdown of the remaining players averages based on playing conditions is as follows:

Player Test Avg. Home Avg. Asia Avg. (away) Outside Asia (away)
SR Tendulkar (INDIA) 54 53 (94) | -1 70 (29) | +16 50 (77) | -4
BC Lara (ICC/WI) 53 59 (65) | +6 59 (14) | +6 45 (52) | -12
S Chanderpaul (WI) 51 58 (81) | +7 49 (27) | -2 44 (56) | -7
RT Ponting (AUS/ICC) 52 57 (92) | +5 42 (28) | -10 48 (43) | -4
KC Sangakkara (Asia/ICC/SL) 57 60 (75) | +3 66 (17) | +9 48 (36) | -9
MEK Hussey (AUS) 52 61 (45) | +9 63 (11) | +11 31 (21) | -21
AB de Villiers (Afr/SA) 51 47 (66) | -4 55 (21) | +4 57 (26) | +6
SPD Smith (AUS) 61 77 (29) | +16 48 (13) | -13 48 (20) | -13
V Kohli (INDIA) 53 64 (32) | +11 41 (7) | -12 46 (27) | -7

 

In regards to ODI cricket, I have decided to collect batsmen’s scores outside official playing countries in a separate column (Other*). This is due to the nature of these pitches not being comparable to either Asia or outside Asia. For instance, games played in countries such as Malaysia, Canada and United States of America etc. This adds little value to the assessment as the sample sizes are low.

 

Player ODI Avg. Home Avg. Asia Avg. (away) Outside Asia (away) Other*
SR Tendulkar (INDIA) 45 48 (164) | +3 45 (115) | 0 41 (163) | -4 46 (21) | +1
BC Lara (ICC/WI) 40 44 (91) | +4 39 (77) | -1 40 (116) | 0 34 (15) | -6
S Chanderpaul (WI) 42 42 (88) | 0 47 (39) | +5 44 (95) | +2 22 (15) | -20
RT Ponting (AUS/ICC) 42 39 (153) | -3 41 (83) | -1 47 (134) | +5 21 (4) | -21
KC Sangakkara (Asia/ICC/SL) 42 41 (142) | -1 44 (91) | +2 42 (166) | 0 35 (5) | -7
MEK Hussey (AUS) 48 47 (74) | -1 51 (31) | +3 46 (77) | -2 152 (3) | +104
AB de Villiers (Afr/SA) 54 53 (95) | -1 58 (47) | +4 53 (84) | -1 NA
SPD Smith (AUS) 42 54 (46) | 11 33 (23) | -9 33 (39) | -9 NA
V Kohli (INDIA) 58 58 (79) | 0 60 (39) | +2 57 (93) | -1 NA

 

Away average is often considered a sign of a player’s ability to adapt to foreign conditions. Therefore away average should be considered greatly when assessing overall average. Looking over the averages for players both home and away, a number of insights can be made.

The most significant drops in average are from MEK Hussey and SPD Smith. Hussey has an incredible record averaging over 60 in both home and Asian conditions. His average outside home and not in Asian conditions however drops off drastically, falling to a sub-par 31. A similar trend is found for Smith’s ODI record. Where he has a very respectable average of 53 at home, his average in away conditions drops to below 35. Neither player can be considered the greatest batsmen in both formats with such low averages in unfamiliar environments.

On the other end of the spectrum, the player with the highest upsides in regards to his performance away from home is AB De Villiers in Test cricket. Although Hussey also has an incredible average of 63 in Asian conditions, the sample size of 11 games is less than ideal. This speaks to Hussey’s shorter career which ultimately hurts his case for having the best average. De Villiers however averages better in away conditions then he does at home. From the list of players he is the only player to achieve this accomplishment in both formats. However, surprisingly his average at home is lowest on the list of all players.

Player summaries

After a deep statistical insight into batsmen averages, the following summaries can be made:

  • SPD Smith (AUS): Although his overall Test average stands at the top of the list of the shortlisted players, his ODI average of 33 in both Asian and away conditions doesn’t look great on his overall record. However, he still has many years to improve his performance away from home.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): Unlikely

  • KC Sangakkara (Asia/ICC/SL): His average of 57 in Test cricket takes a hit with his average dropping to 46 against the best teams in his generation. An ODI average of 42 is also on the lower side of the shortlisted players.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): Debateable  

  • JH Kallis (Afr/ICC/SA): Whilst an overall Test average of 55 puts has him as the third highest in the Test rankings on the shortlist, his average of 41 against the top ranked team (Australia in his generation) makes it hard to consider him one of the greatest batsmen on the list. A similar trend is found in his ODI record, this time even lower at 34. This makes it clear he struggled against the highest level of competition.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): No chance

  • SR Tendulkar (INDIA): Amongst all the accolades, an average of 50 in 64 Test matches against the best oppositions on this list, speaks volumes to how great Tendulkar was. He is the only batsmen to average over 50 against each tier of opponents in Test cricket. He has the highest overall average in both the Test and the ODI format during his generation and doesn’t have any major setbacks in his away Test and ODI record. Based on an in-depth look at his batting average, you could make a very strong argument as to why Tendulkar is considered the best batsmen in the modern game.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): Strong case                         

  • V Kohli (INDIA): A complicated case due to this context in which Kohli plays cricket. With essentially no cricket against Pakistan, and a substantial amount of cricket against Sri Lanka, it makes looking at his overall record a little harder to compare. However with an incredible ODI record and no major flaws in his home or away average in either format, Kohli can make a case for being having one of the best averages. However, Kohli will need to keep up his form to match the longevity shown by some of the others on the list.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): Debateable

  • BC Lara (ICC/WI): Aside from Tendulkar, the only batsmen to average 50 against the golden generation of Australian and South African bowlers in Test cricket. To add to that, no major flaws in his away record playing in Asia or in other foreign conditions. However, his overall average of 40 and 38 against Australia and South Africa in ODI cricket make his average amongst the lowest in the list.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): Difficult Argument

  • JE Root (ENG): Having only debuted five years ago, it is harder to make a declarative statement about Root than anyone else on this list. However, at the moment, despite an overall average of 50 in ODI cricket, it drops down to 42 against the top teams in the current game. At this point he will need to increase his ODI average against the top teams to be in consideration for the batsmen with the best batting average.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): No (but too early to tell at this stage)

  • RT Ponting (AUS/ICC): One of the most consistent batsmen across formats and oppositions faced, Ponting has few flaws on his overall batting average. However, a major setback is his Test average of 42 in Asia (10 less than his overall average). This ranks amongst the lowest in comparison to especially those in his group for averages in Asia. In addition, his overall average of 42 in ODI cricket features amongst the lowest in the group.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): Difficult Argument

  • MEK Hussey (AUS): An incredible record, but with real struggles in with his Test performances outside home and Asian conditions. This is a peculiar case where he found it difficult to score runs in South Africa, England, New Zealand and West Indies. An incredible ODI average with no real blemishes. However his relatively short career also works against him.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): Difficult Argument

  • S Chanderpaul (WI): An incredibly under rated player who rarely comes up in the conversation about the greatest batsmen of his generation. With a Test average of 48 against the strongest opponents, Australia and South Africa during 1990 – 2012, and a test average of 49 in Asian conditions, Chanderpaul does make a case to be the greatest batsmen in the modern game. The only real set back would be his overall ODI average of 42. However even in ODI cricket, his average of 47 in Asia puts him amongst the top of his generation for batsmen playing in the most foreign conditions.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): Strong Case 

  • ML Hayden (AUS/ICC): Although his average of 51 in Test cricket and 44 in ODI cricket features amongst elite company, his struggles against South Africa in both formats of the game are an indication that he struggled against top levels of competition during his career. His average drops down to 44 in Test cricket against South Africa and 31 in ODIs.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): No chance

  • AB de Villiers (Afr/SA): One of the most dynamic and innovative batsmen of the current generation has very few blemishes on his overall average and record. With a Test average of 55 in Asia, he is second only to Brian Lara for the highest average in Asia for a non-Asian batsman. His average of 57 outside home and Asia is also a testament to how well he adapted to foreign conditions. In addition, his overall average of 54 in ODI cricket is second only to Virat Kohli and has very little variance against oppositions and whether he plays home or away.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): Strong case

  • KS Williamson (NZ): Currently very much still in his prime, it’s hard to rule out that Williamson can someday be on the top of this list due to his phenomenal potential. However, at this moment his averages against the top ranked teams features lower than the others in his group. At the moment it is hard to consider him in the same conversation as some of the others listed here.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): No (but too early to tell at this stage)

  • Inzamam-ul-Haq (Asia/PAK): With an average of 32 in Test cricket and 31 in ODI’s against the top teams, there is no way he can be considered close to the greatest batsmen in the modern game.

Greatest Test and ODI average (1988-2018): No chance

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