Matches (29)
Legends WC (1)
ENG v NZ (W) (1)
LPL (3)
ZIM v IND (2)
TNPL (4)
MLC (3)
T20 Blast (8)
GAK One Day (1)
T20 World Cup Sub Regional Europe QLF B (2)
KEN vs NGA (1)
RHF Trophy (3)
Stats Analysis

Is Kane Williamson's high home average due to easier batting conditions in New Zealand?

A look at batting averages in each country over the years, and batters who have done much better, or worse, at home than others in that period

Kane Williamson hooks for six, New Zealand vs Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Wellington, 2nd day, March 18, 2023

Kane Williamson's home average is stupendous, but his away average is also above par, indication he's no home-track bully  •  Getty Images

Recently there was a somewhat long thread in the Talking Cricket group, an email group I run for die-hard cricket enthusiasts. The topic was Kane Williamson's quantum jump in batting average from 51 to 55 in the last four years. His high home average also came into the discussion and was portrayed as the main reason for his rather high career average. I felt that this was rather unfair, on two counts. One was that he had a very healthy 45-plus away average. The other was that New Zealand was/is not exactly a batting paradise although the recent pitches have moved away from the earlier bowling-centric ones. It was clear that Williamson's 66-plus home average needed to be looked at contextually. So I set about learning everything about batting in each country and the result is this fascinating article. I am sure you will derive many interesting insights from it.
I wanted to cover everything there is to know about batting in each country - by all the batters, including the visiting ones. A similar article on bowling is on the anvil. In view of the extent and depth of coverage, two distinct articles are needed. The areas I have covered are outlined below.
  • How batting in each country has varied across periods.
  • How individual batters have fared with respect to other batters while playing on their home grounds. It is important to customise this to each batter's exact career span.
  • How batters have fared at home in comparison with their away figures.
  • How batters have fared at home in comparison with their career figures.
Let us first look at how tough or easy batting in the specific countries was, by period. I will be covering only the top eight countries: Australia England, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies.
Let me first define the criteria for this analysis. So as not to dilute the numbers, I will consider only the top seven batters in an XI. If there has been a nightwatcher batting in the positions 1-7, I will include him as a batter only if he scores 30 runs or more. Then he has done what a proper batter would have done. If he is out on a low score, I will instead include the No. 8 batter, who would have normally batted at No. 7.
On an average, the data set includes around 24 innings per match (out of a maximum of 28) and around 22 wickets per match (due to not-outs). Also, 35 of the 38 UAE Tests are treated as home Tests for Pakistan players - other than the last three Tests, which involved Afghanistan playing against Ireland and Zimbabwe. If Afghanistan and Ireland play a Test in India, the batters of both teams will be included for the country-wise numbers.
Let us first look at how teams have scored while playing in England and Australia. Do not forget that these refer only to the Nos. 1-7 batters.
In the first period, with its uncovered pitches and in its batting infancy, the batting average in Australia was only just over 32 despite the presence of Don Bradman during the last decade of that period. In the next block, the average in Australia improved significantly to around 38, with many of the pitches being quite benign. The '70s saw the average drop somewhat, possibly due to the uncertainty caused by the Kerry Packer influence. In the period leading to the millennium, it improved slightly. Then the average took off to around 41 in the first decade of the millennium, with Australia becoming quite a strong team. Finally in the last period the average dropped to around 38.
The graph for averages in England looks somewhat like Australia's, but a couple of runs lower. The second period was at only just above 34, despite the emergence of top-quality batters like Peter May, Ken Barrington, Denis Compton, etc. The first decade of the millennium did not see the high of Australia. The average also dropped quite strongly to around 34 in the last period. The overall averages reflect these variations.
That South Africa has always been a difficult country to bat is brought out by the numbers. The first period saw an average of around 30, which then stay in the mid-30s with a high value of only around 36. The 1970s period was virtually a no-show. The overall average reaches only around 33. Also, there is not much variation across the periods.
The averages in West Indies saw a high value of more than 42 in the post-war era, no doubt due to the presence of modern greats like the three Ws, Garry Sobers and Rohan Kanhai. It stayed above 40 in the next period. Then there was a huge drop to around 33 in the 1980s, no doubt caused by the proliferation of world-class pace bowlers. The recent period has seen a low of around 31, most probably caused by the decline of West Indies as a Test-playing nation.
New Zealand, in the 1950s, was a batters' graveyard. The top batters averaged only around 28, the lowest of all countries. This figure kept improving over the next few periods. It reached a middling value of around 36 in the first decade of the millennium but picked up a lot recently. Their all-time average is around 35.
The averages in India have been steady, with a value of around 37 in the 50 years after WW2. In the first decade of the millennium, the value was very high at around 43. For this, one does not need to look beyond that famed batting line-up. However, there was a steep drop of over seven runs in the last decade. It could easily be attributed to the effectiveness of the Indian spinners, led by the two Ravis - Ashwin and Jadeja. It is not easy to score even 300 in India nowadays.
Pakistan's post-war period was comparable to that of New Zealand, no doubt due to the matting wickets and the fearsome swing bowlers, led by Fazal Mahmood. The average went up by nearly ten runs in the 1970s, dropped to around 34 in the next period, largely due to the pace-bowling attack led by Imran Khan. In the last 20 years, the average has stayed north of 40 - an amazing metric indeed. The recent period average of 42.6 is the highest of all values featured.
Finally, the average in Sri Lanka, which is the epitome of consistency. Look how flat the graph is. The three periods see values between 37 and 38, culminating in an average of 37.3. They have always had top quality spinners, led by Muthiah Muralidaran, and this is brought out in the numbers.
Most of the averages, across all Tests for the countries, are around the 37 mark. England and New Zealand are a little lower at around 35, and South Africa is a lot lower at 33.1. Just for information, the corresponding figures for Zimbabwe is 36.5 (65 Tests), Bangladesh 37.3 (78 Tests), and Ireland 24.9 (one Test).
Finally, a chart on how the batting averages have moved across all the countries across periods.
The shape of the graph follows the familiar pattern. Starting with a low average of nearly 32 during the initial 70 years, steadily increasing during each period, and culminating at an all-time high of nearly 39 in the first millennium years. Then a clear drop during the most recent dozen years. An overall average of 36.1 is an indication of only middling team scores.
Now we move on to the most important table in this article. The one in which I compare the batter's career home average with the batting average of the Nos. 1-7 batters who played in the country in the exact span of Tests between the batter's first and last Tests, irrespective of where the batter played these two Tests. What is important is the span of Tests. Needless to say, the batter himself is excluded when calculating the average for others. Here also I have applied the same nightwatcher tweak that I have already explained.
On an average, around 22 innings per match (28 minus the batter's two innings minus not-outs) and around 19 wickets per match are considered to determine the other batters' averages. The criterion for selection is that the batter should have scored 2000-plus home runs. One-hundred-and-fifty-four batters qualify.
Readers might justifiably ask me why I have got all the batters, the home and visiting ones, in one basket, when calculating the average for others. Wouldn't it have been better to separate the home and visiting batters? Let me answer it this way. There have been times when the home team has been weaker - New Zealand in the 1950s, India in the 1980s, etc. There have been times when the home team has been stronger - Australia around 2010, India recently, etc.
Putting all the batters together allows me to take care of all such situations. Also, I do not want to make statements like "XYZ was better in comparison to his fellow batters, but was weak when compared to the visiting batters". It does not convey much. The bottom line is: How does his home batting average compare with all the batters who batted in that country from his first Test to his last Test? And that question has been answered effectively.
This table is ordered on the ratio between a batter's home average and the average of the other qualifying batters.
Who else but Bradman is at the top. His home average is over 2.7 times that of the other 1-7 batters, both Australian and visiting, during the 35 Tests played in Australia in his career span. Just imagine the significance of this statement, not forgetting that I have considered only the top-order batters. May was terrific at home - he achieved a factor of over 1.9. One significant factor would have been the strength of English bowling, led by Jim Laker and Fred Trueman. Marnus Labuschagne also has a factor above 1.9. All of us are very familiar with his exploits at home. However, it must be noted that both May and Labuschagne had lower base averages to contend with.
Then comes Williamson, with a ratio of just over 1.8. But let us not forget that the other batters have averaged over 36 on New Zealand pitches. The top five is rounded off by Rohit Sharma, the king at home. Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, and Joe Root all have ratios greater than 1.6.
As a cherry on top, I will provide here some interesting information on the batters playing in home Tests.
  • Ian Healy (59 Tests), Adam Gilchrist (55 Tests), and Brendon McCullum (49 Tests) are among 12 batters who did not miss a single home Test.
  • Allan Border (86 Tests), Mark Waugh (61 Tests), and Kapil Dev (65 Tests) are among ten batters who missed just one home Test.
  • Mike Gatting missed 57 out of 96 Tests, Damien Martyn, 51 out of 84, and Colin Cowdrey, 46 out of 101.
  • Bradman missed two out of 35 Tests; Sachin Tendulkar missed five out of 99; Brian Lara missed 11 out of 76.
This table is also ordered on the ratio between batter's home average and the average of the other qualifying batters. The difference is that it features batters at the other end of the table - those who performed at a level lower than the other batters. Most of these batters belong to the categories of allrounders, wicketkeepers, and the bowlers who could bat. The specialist batters will be of interest to many - Stephen Fleming, Tamim Iqbal, Gautam Gambhir, Grant Flower, Mohammad Hafeez, Allan Lamb, Nasser Hussain. These seven recognised batters' home batting averages were lower than those of all other batters.
Now to compare the batter's away average with his home average. The qualifying bar is set at 1500 home runs and 1500 away runs. One hundred and seventy batters qualify. This table is ordered on the ratio between the batter's away and home averages.
A few surprises here. Four of the top five batters are from England. This clearly indicates that the English batters found batting on their home grounds quite tough. Alan Knott averaged only 26.7 at home, while on the road he was very good, averaging 42.2. This gives him a ratio of 1.58. Barrington found the Asian pitches to his liking and this is shown by his ratio of 1.36. As did Tony Greig. Wally Hammond rounds off the English quartet. The odd man out is Stephen Fleming, with a ratio of around 1.36. We have already seen Fleming's position in the previous table.
At the other end of the table, Mudassar Nazar was a lion at home and a rabbit outside. He is the only batter to have a ratio below 0.5. Rohit, among the modern batters, comes closest to this mark. As does David Warner. And the other batters featured are all proper batters, including Dilip Vengsarkar and Desmond Haynes, unlike his partner, Gordon Greenidge, who did well outside. Williamson's away average is a very respectable 45.41. However, his ratio is quite low - around 0.68, because his home average is well above 65.
Just an interesting sidebar. Bradman averaged around 98.2 at home and 99.94 in his career. His is a rare case of a top batter whose career and away averages are higher than his home average. Hashim Amla comes closest to being equally good, home and away. His averages are separated only in the second decimals.
Finally, a comparison between the batter's home average and his own career average. The cut-off is that the batter should have scored 2000-plus home runs. The table is ordered by the batter's home averages so that we can get an idea of which batters performed best at home.
Bradman averaged "only" around 98 at home. However, that is so high that he tops this table quite comfortably. That is quite close to his career average. Clyde Walcott and Everton Weekes were devastating at home with averages exceeding 69. Then comes Williamson, clocking at 66.9. He separates the West Indians since Gary Sobers follows next.
Smith, Labuschagne, Michael Clarke, Rohit and Kohli all have home averages exceeding 60.0. The modern batters make sure that they use the home advantage very well.
Coming back to the original question, it is clear that Williamson fully deserves his high average. His home performance is outstanding, whether in absolute terms or relative terms when compared to all other batters. His away performance is well above par. Let us give credit where it is due. At this point in time, Williamson is the best among the four modern great batters. And let me close this with a special hats-off moment to Bradman for his away average of 102.85.
The quirky stats section
In each article, I present a numerical/anecdotal outlier relating to Test and/or ODI cricket. This time the query is: Which ODI batters have scored at speeds which would have been totally unacceptable, even in Test matches? The answers are given below, upto and including the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka match in Chattogram in March this year.
The slowest innings in ODIs (two or more overs per run)
Pakistan lead this table with three dawdler innings, of which Shoaib Mohammad has two identical ones. Incidentally, in the latter match, his opening partner, Shahid Saeed, scored 5 off 28. That is a grand total of eight runs off the first ten overs. One's sympathies rest with the Cuttack crowd.
Talking Cricket Group
Any reader who wishes to join my general-purpose cricket-ideas-exchange group of this name can email me a request for inclusion, providing their name, place of residence, and what they do.
Email me your comments and I will respond. This email id is to be used only for sending in comments. Please note that readers whose emails are derogatory to the author or any player will be permanently blocked from sending in any feedback in future.

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems

news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news