Stars of the Southern Cross

Presenting part 3 of the ongoing series: Australia's greatest Impact makers in ODIs.

Dean Jones is perhaps the most underrated ODI player in history.

Continuing in our series of pieces on each country’s ODI history, we move towards Australia. From 1971 to 2012 (before the current series in England), Australia played 793 matches and won 490 with a win loss ratio of 1.82 – making them easily the most successful country in ODI cricket history. Their highest score is 434, lowest 70. They won the World Cup four times, in 1987, 1999, 2003 and 2007 and finished as runners-up in 1975 and 1996.

We present three lists – of players, batsmen and bowlers. The minimum qualification to be on these lists is to have played 75 matches. A match is considered in this system only when there is a result, and if the player has bowled or batted, as the case may be.

Here are the highest impact ODI players in Australia’s history.

So, there are 8 specialist bowlers, 5 specialist batsmen and 7 all-rounders amidst the highest impact 20 players in Australian ODI cricket history. An example of why great bowlers and (especially) all-rounders have an advantage over batsmen on a career level, because the failure rate of batsmen is always the highest for obvious reasons.

14 of these 20 players are also from the Waugh-Ponting generation – the period of Australia’s greatest dominance. The Border and Taylor generations are represented too (with both of them also present here personally). 4 of these players are in the current ODI side – which is indicative of both - their relative decline but also their promise.

Brett Lee as the highest impact Australian ODI player would surprise many – they would only be looking at his bowling performances on a match level then. No mean achiever on a match level, Lee also has 8 SDs (Series/Tournament-defining performances) to his credit – the joint-highest with 3 others. In one of those, he actually contributed with the bat as well; even though his Batting IMPACT is not that high on a career level, his ability to perform in crunch situations cumulatively gives him the highest impact as a player.

Shane Watson’s
impact as an all-rounder should hardly be surprising as should the presence of Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath at the top of the list. McGrath and Lee are the highest impact pace bowlers, Warne the highest impact spinner and Gilchrist the highest impact wicketkeeper-batsman in all of ODI cricket history – an apt reminder of what made Australia the force it has been in recent years.

Dean Jones is perhaps the most underrated player in ODI cricket history – his impact as a batsman second to only Viv Richards’ – only those who saw his dominance first-hand in the 1980s will probably recognize this. For the rest, the scorecards of the matches he played in have to be invoked and his dominance measured (which is exactly what Impact Index does); more about that with the batting list.

Andrew Symonds’ conventional numbers do not seem quite as stratospheric; it is his 8 SDs that give him such a high impact eventually, which means that he was one of the biggest big match players in Australian ODI cricket history – something not quite attributed to him.

Ricky Ponting’s greatness as an ODI player is bared graphically here. He is Australia’s highest impact captain, highest impact fielder and third-highest impact batsman. His Bowling IMPACT of 0.75 does not affect his Career IMPACT because he bowled only in 5 matches (and took 3 wickets; maybe he should have bowled a bit more). He too has 8 SDs – making him as much of a big match player as any other.

Michael Clarke’s presence here is reassuring – besides carrying on the tradition of fine Aussie captains, his impact as a batsman is second to none in the current Australian ODI team – on top of that, he is pretty much an all-rounder (just 0.01 away from an IMPACT of 1 as a bowler, though he has bowled in less than half the matches he has played in). They should not look beyond him till the 2015 World Cup unless he significantly declines as a player.

When it comes to batsmen, Michael Clarke is the only all-time great in the current side.

Dean Jones tops this list with almost as big a gap as Viv Richards tops the list of highest impact West Indian batsmen. In the 1980s, Jones revolutionised ODI cricket by attacking from the start and lofting balls over the infield - new concepts at that time. There are several reasons why he is Australia’s highest impact batsman – his Runs Tally IMPACT the highest by a distance (showing that he scored the highest proportion of runs in matches in his entire career), his failure rates joint-lowest in Australian ODI cricket history (suggesting remarkable consistency), his ability to absorb pressure third only to Bevan  and Ponting and most interestingly, his Strike Rate IMPACT the highest after Gilchrist’s (his conventional strike-rate of 73 would not reveal that, but when you compare it with the standards of his era, which Strike Rate IMPACT does, he goes right up). His tally of 6 SDs in just 162 completed matches makes him a veritable legend – in fact, the second-highest impact ODI batsman of all time after Viv Richards.

Ricky Ponting’s tally of 8 SDs is the second-highest in ODI cricket history by a batsman (after only Sachin Tendulkar). Interestingly, he came under pressure the most number of times in Australian ODI cricket history (160 times) which he successfully absorbed a remarkable 53% of the time – an important indicator that the world’s best side overcame enough setbacks during its successful campaigns too.

But it is Michael Bevan who absorbed the most pressure in Australian ODI cricket (in fact, the third-highest in ODI cricket history after New Zealanders Twose and Coney) and combined with his 6 SDs – his impact reflects his true place in ODI cricket history, which conventional statistics have never been able to do.

Australia’s dominance in the world cricket can also be judged from the fact that 6 of their batsmen from this list are also amongst the 10 highest impact batsmen in ODI cricket history.

NOTE: If the cut-off is redefined as a minimum of 50 ODIs (from 75), Greg Chappell becomes the third highest impact ODI batsman for Australia. His Batting IMPACT of 2.46 (in 74 matches) with 2 SDs also places him as the 7th highest impact batsman in ODI cricket history then. In fact, if his all-round performances are also considered (Bowling IMPACT 1.44), his Career IMPACT of 3.88 becomes the second best in the history of ODI cricket (after Viv Richards).

The stories that unfold on various batting parameters are revealing.

When it comes to Runs Tally IMPACT (proportion of match runs made through career), the highest impact batsmen are Dean Jones, Geoff Marsh and Matthew Hayden.
The highest Strike Rate IMPACT batsmen (highest strike rates relative to all the matches in their careers) are Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Michael Hussey.

The best Pressure IMPACT batsmen (those who absorbed the most pressure that came about due to fall of wickets) are Michael Bevan, Ricky Ponting and Dean Jones.

The batsmen with the highest Partnership Building IMPACT (who built the most partnerships in the middle) are Geoff Marsh, Dean Jones and Michael Clarke.

The best Chasing IMPACT batsmen (who registered the highest impact while chasing a target) are Shane Watson, Michael Clarke  and Ricky Ponting. This would suggest the current Australian ODI side clearly has chasing as a palpable strength.

The batsmen with the lowest failure rates (a failure is seen in this system as an inability to register an IMPACT of even 1 in a match) are Dean Jones, Geoff Marsh and Matthew Hayden.

The Highest Impact Batting Performances in Australia’s ODI history

1. DM Jones – 102 not out off 91 v New Zealand, Auckland, 1990 – Batting IMPACT 12.83

Chasing a modest 164 against New Zealand under tough conditions (though improved from when the Kiwis had lost 5 wickets for 33 runs), Australia lost David Boon very early to Danny Morrison. The initial hostile spells of Morrison and Richard Hadlee meant that the match was very much open for both the sides. However, Dean Jones came in and in his unabashed manner took the attack to the New Zealanders. His dominating innings turned what could have been a tricky chase into an easy one. Dean Jones’ superiority can be judged by the fact that the other three Australian batsmen together scored only 52 runs out off 152 balls. Without Jones, the match would have been an even contest.

2. SR Watson – 105 not out off 129 v New Zealand, Centurion, 2009 – Batting IMPACT 9.65

In reply to New Zealand’s fighting total of 200, Australia started on the worst note possible. They lost Paine and Ponting in the first two overs, with the Australian score at 6. Shane Bond, along with Kyle Mills,  dominated the proceedings so much that Australia faced 73 dot balls in the first 15 overs. Watson, though, bid his time (he was 7 off 28 at one stage); as soon as the comparatively ‘weaker’ bowlers came on, he started off in his characteristic bludgeoning manner and made a mockery of the Kiwi bowling. By the time he finished, Australia had won the match along with the ICC Champions Trophy for the second consecutive time.

3. AR Border – 127 not out off 140 v West Indies, Sydney, 1985 – Batting IMPACT 8.72

Against a bowling attack comprising the likes of Garner, Holding, Marshall and Davis, Australia collapsed to 7-2, batting first in the Benson & Hedges World Series Final. Allan Border stepping in at number four stopped the slide from one end even as wickets continued to fall around him. At 64-4 off 18 overs, Border needed a partner and he got one in Wayne Phillips. Together, they forged a partnership of 105 runs which saw Australia reach a competitive total; Border capitalised in the end to change it into a match-winning one. His opposition captain, Clive Lloyd rated this as one of the best innings ever in ODI history.

The above performances are all within the series/tournament context. Even when it comes to match context, the above mentioned innings of Dean Jones is still the highest. Michael Bevan’s unbeaten 78 off 88 v West Indies (Sydney, 1996) and Shane Watson’s 105 not out off 129 v New Zealand (Centurion, 2009) are the second and the third highest impact innings within a match context, respectively (the last is on both series and match lists – that’s how high impact it was).

And these are the bowlers who made Australia’s fortunes sparkle in ODI cricket.

Given that (lower-order) batting plays no part on this list, Glenn McGrath edges out Brett Lee as the highest impact bowler in ODIs for Australia (and in world cricket). His remarkable Economy IMPACT (4th highest in world cricket, after Joel Garner, Shaun Pollock and Curtly Ambrose), 8 SDs (the joint-highest by a specialist bowler in ODI history, with Wasim Akram) and a 24% failure rate (the second-lowest amongst specialist bowlers, after Joel Garner) puts him right on top here.

Brett Lee has the second-highest Wickets IMPACT in ODI history (after Shane Bond) and his 7 SDs to combine with this takes him straight up. After McGrath, he is the second-highest impact bowler in ODI history as well.

Shane Warne is the only spinner on this list – his 4 SDs make him the highest impact spinner in ODI world cricket history as well. Damien Fleming’s high Wickets IMPACT with a low failure rate and Geoff Lawson’s Economy IMPACT with reasonably low failure rate puts them on this list. 

Nathan Bracken and Paul Reiffel find their place on this list primarily because of their 3 SDs (Bracken also showed remarkable consistency – as evidenced through his low failure rate – which also made him the 7th highest impact bowler in ODI history – a remarkable place in cricket history for a somewhat unheralded bowler).

Mitchell Johnson’s high Wickets IMPACT and low failure rate suggests he should always be picked – that SD column should fill up shortly too, which should send him going up these charts too.
As was the story with the batting chart, 4 of the Australian bowlers from this list are also amongst the ten highest impact bowlers in ODI cricket history. Australia’s dominance can again be judged from the fact that at one point of time, three of these bowlers (McGrath, Lee and Warne - amongst the 5 highest impact bowlers in history) constituted their bowling attack – a wet dream for any side.

NOTE: If the cut-off is lowered to 50 matches (from 75), Dennis Lillee becomes the highest impact bowler for Australia in their history of ODI cricket. His Bowling IMPACT of 3.47 (in 63 matches) with 3 SDs would then also make him the highest impact bowler in the history of ODI cricket, amongst all countries.  Not many would be too surprised.

The highest impact players in all bowling parameters are quite revealing.

When it comes to Top/Middle-order Wickets Tally IMPACT (wickets taken from nos. 1-7 in most cases), the highest impact bowlers are Brett Lee, Shane Warne and Mitchell Johnson.

Lower-order Wickets Tally IMPACT (batsmen nos. 8-11) – highest impact bowlers are Nathan Bracken, Brad Hogg and Glenn McGrath.

The highest Economy IMPACT bowlers (lowest economy rates relative to all the matches in their careers) are Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Geoff Lawson.

The highest impact Partnership-breaking bowlers are Shane Warne, Brad Hogg and Simon O’Donnell.

The bowlers with the highest Pressure Building IMPACT (taking quick wickets to put opposition under pressure) are Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath and Mitchell Johnson.

The bowlers with the lowest failure rate (a failure is seen in this system as an inability to register an IMPACT of even 1 in a match) are Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee.

The Highest Impact Bowling Performances in Australia’s ODI history

1. TM Alderman – 5 for 17 in 10 overs v New Zealand, Wellington, 1982 – Bowling IMPACT 8.79

After being put into bat by the Australians, the New Zealanders were soon left short of answers as Lillee and Alderman ripped through their batting line-up. If Lillee was fast and furious, Alderman was accurate and nagging - he kept pitching the ball up and getting wickets. The combined 20 overs from both of them saw New Zealand lose 8 wickets for 31 runs. Even though the pitch was tailor-made for the seamers, the Australians had no trouble in chasing down the required 75 runs to win the Rothmans Cup.

2. GJ Gilmour (Only Big Match, no SD) – 6 for 14 in 12 overs v England, Leeds, 1975 – Bowling IMPACT 10.31

The brilliance of this performance can be gauged from the fact that this is the second-highest match impact performance ever in the history of ODI cricket. In this 1975 World Cup semi-final, England were put into bat on a green Headingley track by the Australians. The heavy cloud cover meant seam and swing movement for the bowlers and no one used it better than Gary Gilmour. He bowled his entire quota of 12 overs in a single spell and by the time he had finished, England were all but gone. Out of the top7 batsmen, Gilmour accounted for 6. The story was not finished though. Chasing 94, Australia were themselves struggling at 39-6, when Gilmour stepped in, this time with the bat. He scored an unbeaten 28 off 28 and completed an astonishing feat. 

3. SK Warne – 4 for 29 in 10 overs v South Africa, Birmingham, 1999 – Bowling IMPACT 6.10

Often, it happens in a cricket match that people get too absorbed in the romance and the result of the match but fail to recognise the individual behind it. This is one such instance. Chasing 214 to win in this classic World Cup semi-final, South Africa were 48-0 after 12 overs. It took a moment of brilliance from Warne, a delivery reminiscent of the Gatting dismissal to get rid of Gibbs. Shane Warne again had started a collapse. In a span of 8 balls he took 3 wickets, his victims being Gibbs, Kirsten and Cronje. When he came back for his last spell, South Africa needed 39 runs to win off 5 overs. Promptly, he got rid of Jacques Kallis and provided another twist in the tale; it was not going to be the last one. Fortunately for him, the match ended in their favour and Australia found their way to the World Cup finals, which they eventually won.

The above performances are all within the series/tournament context. When it comes to a match context, Gary Gilmour’s 6-14 v England (Leeds, 1975) registers above Alderman’s 5-17 v New Zealand (Wellington, 1982) as the highest impact bowling performance. Andy Bichel’s 7-20 v England (Port Elizabeth, 2003) and Alderman’s above mentioned performance are the second and the third highest impact bowling performance in a match context, respectively.

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More In The Series:

1) West Indies' highest Impact ODI players

2) Pakistan's highest Impact ODI players

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