x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Resorting to statistics to measure cricketing greatness futile

Satyam Mukherjee's study, which claims to reveal Australia's Steve Waugh as the greatest Test captain of all time, will have its fair share of critics.

Steve Waugh, right, whose Australia won the 50-over World Cup in 1999, is considered the greatest cricket captain of all time, according to a study. Tony Feder / AllSport
Steve Waugh, right, whose Australia won the 50-over World Cup in 1999, is considered the greatest cricket captain of all time, according to a study. Tony Feder / AllSport

Want to get a sport lover's goat? Then start a discussion about the GOATs – the Greatest Of All Time. Through decades, reams of newsprint have been dedicated to these never-ending debates; many evenings have turned to nights at the mere mention of this topic.

It has all been futile though. There have never been any definite conclusions. What scales can measure greatness in definitive terms? Yet, this vain exercise continues.

Satyam Mukherjee, a scientist at Northwestern University of Illinois, has just presented a study which claims reveal the greatest Test captain of all time.

Using Google's Page Rank algorithm to compare the results of captains between 1877 and 2010, he has come to the conclusion that Steve Waugh is the best captain cricket ever had.

Many cricket pundits would accept this, while many others will present their case for Clive Lloyd of the West Indies, England's Mike Brearley or Richie Benaud of Australia. But only Benaud is in the top-five of Mukherjee's list. Lloyd is at No 6 while Brearley is not in the top 20.

Graeme Smith is the only non-Australian in the top five, with Mukherjee placing the South African at No 2, ahead of Ricky Ponting (three), Greg Chappell (four) and Benaud. Nasser Hussain is the top-ranked England captain at No 10.

Even Australia's Kim Hughes and New Zealand's Geoff Howarth are in the top 20.

Try telling a cricket enthusiast those two were better Test captains than Brearley. To use Benjamin Disraeli's words, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

arizvi@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE