Who is the greatest ODI batsman India has ever produced? A debate that has raged many a time across India, from water coolers to drawing rooms to canteens to social media, and is unlikely to have a conclusive or decisive end.

There are many reasons why this debate is often inconclusive, not least being the completely different and arbitrary set of criteria used by people to back the player they rate supreme. “Greatest” as a term is open to many interpretations and, having been witness to and often been a part of many such debates, I figured this needed an objective approach.

Being a data scientist (I believe this is the term currently in fashion), I thought of using a purely statistical approach to answer this question.

And like any statistical research, step one involved clearly defining the research objective.

**Restating the Objective**

Given that “greatest” is a term used in many contexts, the first task was to restate the question under argument to be one which would provide conclusive objective answers. I came up with:

*“Which batsman has had the most impact on India’s win-rate through the runs they have scored in ODIs?”*

The restatement of the problem immediately narrows the discussion to batting performances only and their impact on wins. To some it’s a cruel elimination of factors like the elegance of a particular cover drive or ability to pace an innings. To the data scientist, it is moving the argument to a turf where the conversation stops moving round and round and instead lurches towards facts that should shape opinions.

**Sachin, Sourav, Rahul**

Remember, this is still a discussion on who is the greatest of them all? India has produced a number of ODI cricketers (in fact many think that far too many have worn the cap without merit) but the discussions for greatest need to be limited to a select few.

The first elimination criterion used was the total number of career runs scored. For further analysis, I zeroed in on the top 3.

Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid are India’s all time highest ODI run getters. Sachin at 17742 runs is still going strong while Saurav and Rahul have both retired.

**Statistics Sachin Sourav Dravid**

Innings 431 292 307

Runs 17,742 11,255 10,536

Of course, for each I found plenty of backers willing to back their case:

*“I think dada is the best because of the way he ripped apart the bowlers before they started to bowl short at him”*

*“I think Dravid is the best because he is such a joy to watch. Every innings of his is pure class”*

*“Sachin has scored 49 ODI centuries and was the first player ever to hit a double hundred in ODI. Of course he is the best. No question about it.”*

There are others who have quoted the names of Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and even the name Virat Kohli has already started creeping in, but none are near 10,000 ODI runs in overall contribution and that is the first statistic that eliminated them from this research.

**Whose Every Run is more Valuable**

**Our model tells us that for every run scored, Ganguly has the maximum positive impact on India’s chances of winning.**

**We can also say that if Sachin, Saurav and Rahul all score 30 each in a game, Ganguly’s 30 will have the most positive effect on India’s chances of winning.**

**Putting it another way, if India were in the world cup finals and you had to pray for one batsman’s success (out of these 3), you should be praying for a high score from Ganguly as that will improve India’s chances of winning more than if Sachin or Rahul were to hit that same high score.**

*Methodology***To come to the above conclusion we used a technique called**

**logistic regression**. We use just 2 variables to build the regression model. Runs scored by the batsman and the result (win or loss). The regression model lets us measure the impact of each run scored by a batsman on the probability of the team winning that match.

**Whose Contribution is Higher?****Again, Ganguly has the highest average contribution per innings. The runs scored by him improved India’s chances of winning by 13% on an average. In comparison, Rahul’s average contribution is 11% and Sachin’s is 10%.**

**Sachin scores his runs at an average of 45 per innings, Ganguly scored at 41 and Dravid at 39. Even though Ganguly’s runs are more valuable, Sachin has scored more in each innings on average. Could his contribution be more than Ganguly?**

**As an example, Rahul Dravid scored 69 runs in his last innings. As per our model, his innings improved India’s chances of winning from 35% to 57% - an improvement of 22%.Thus Rahul’s contribution through that innings was 22%. If we repeat this process for all his innings and calculate the average contribution per innings, this would represent Rahul’s average contribution to India’s victories over his entire career.**

*Methodology***To find out each player’s average contribution, we looked at their contribution for each of the innings played.**

**Summary****Thus, as per our statistical analysis, Ganguly is the player who had the highest average contribution per innings.**

**From a purely statistical point of view, Ganguly has come out to be the most important contributor and is therefore, the best ODI player for India amongst the3 highest run getters.**

**Let the arguments begin!**

## 1 comments:

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