Sri Lanka is the youngest Test playing nation to win a World Cup. Ever since debuting in ODIs in the 1975 World Cup, Sri Lanka has played 782 matches, winning 368 of them and losing 374. Throughout their existence in ODI cricket, Sri Lanka has produced some of the most exhilarating stroke makers in world cricket. Let it be the pomposity of Duleep Mendis or the conflation stoic doggedness and steely combativeness of Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka has never been short of match winners.
So this automatically leads one to ask the question who the greatest match winner for Sri Lanka in ODIs is. Is it the hero of the 1996 World Cup final, the hawk-eyed Aravinda de Silva? Or the Black Prince- Duleep Mendis? Could it be the silkiest stroker, Mahela? Or is it the marauder, Sanath Jayasuriya? Let’s find out.
Who is a match winner?
Before trying to find the answer to our question, it’s imperative that we define who a match winner is. The definition of a match winner could vary from people to people and hence so would the eventual answer to our problem. The average of a batsman in wins alone cannot be considered a parameter to judge his match winning ability. If a batsman is going to score well both in wins and defeats, then that makes him a consistent batsman- whose performance doesn’t affect the result of a match much.
In my opinion, a match winner is a player who performs well during wins and not so well during defeats, for good performances from a player in wins and a lack thereof in defeats suggest that his team’s fortunes have hung on his performances.
How to find the greatest match winner?
So, a simple way to find the greatest match winner is to find the difference between a batsman’s average in wins and defeats. Even though we could get the list of batsmen who have had a telling impact on wins using this method, batsmen who fed off other batsmen’s performance would also find a way into this list. For instance, if a batsman is going to score well when everyone around him scores well and is going to falter when everyone else fails, he is going to feature in this list.
A simple way to eliminate this problem is to find the average difference between the runs he scored and the average runs scored by his teammates in both wins and defeats and find the difference between both the values. So if a batsman is going to score more when everyone in his team scores more, the difference between his score and the average score would either be small or negative whereas the difference will be high if he is going to score high when everyone else fails.
Strike rates, too, play a key role in ODIs and it will not be ideal to judge a batsman’s performance by the number of runs he scored alone. So, the number of runs a batsman scored in an innings could be multiplied by the runs per ball he scored. If a batsman is going to score more than run a ball, the value obtained would be more than the runs he scored and vice versa if the strike rate is going to be less than run a ball.
So instead of finding the average difference between the runs he scored and the average runs scored by his teammates in both wins and defeats and finding the difference between both the values, we shall find the average difference between the product of the runs a batsman scored and the strike rate per ball of his and the average product of his teammates’ runs and their strike rate per ball in both wins and defeats and the difference between both the values. So the batsman with the highest positive difference could be considered as the greatest match winner.
- The innings by innings list for individual batsmen in wins for Sri Lanka was obtained. (The list includes each batsman’s innings in a particular match).
- Then the total runs scored by the rest of the team in a match was found. Extra runs were excluded since they don’t necessarily reflect the overall batting performance of the team.
- The total runs scored by the rest of the team was divided by the number of batsmen dismissed excluding the batman of interest and the average was found.
- The strike rate of the rest of the team per ball in a match was found.
- The runs scored by each batsman was multiplied by the strike rate of him per ball. This was named Player Index for ease of reference.
- The average runs scored by the rest of the team was multiplied by the strike rate of the rest of the team in a match and was named Team Index.
- The difference between the Player Index and the Team Index was found for each batsman in a match and was named Impact in Wins.
- The average Impact in Wins was found for each batsman (The sum of the Impact of Wins for a batsman in the matches won was divided by the number of completed innings).
- The above steps were repeated for batsmen in defeats and the average Impact in Defeats was obtained for each batsman.
- The difference between the average Impact in Wins and the average Impact in Defeats was found for each batsman and named Match Winning Index.
- The batsman with the highest positive Match Winning Index was deemed the greatest match winner.
*When no batsman was dismissed in an innings, the runs scored by the other batsman times his strike rate per ball was considered the Team Index.
When the only batsman dismissed in the innings was the batsman of interest, the product of the average runs scored by the rest of the batsman and their strike rate per ball was considered the Team Index.