Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Don: not done yet

Found an old piece of Frank Keating's for Wisden on Bradman's pre-eminence that mentions the research of Charles Davis, the mathematician who found a method of calculating the Don's domination.

Davis came up with a table that gave a numerical rating to the stats of great sportsmen. Pele rated 3.7, Nicklaus 3.5, Michael Jordan 3.2, Bjorn Born 3.15. Then he worked out Bradman - 4.4.

Statistically speaking, Davis said, Bradman's career 'should not have existed'. To top him, a footballer would have to score in 100 consecutive internationals, a tennis player win 15 singles titles at Wimbledon, a golfer 25 majors.

It would be interesting to have Davis go back again now that the careers of Roger Federer and Tiger Woods have evolved. Woods may be serving his time in the doghouse, but at one point a couple of years ago he was so far ahead in the world rankings that the number two player, Phil Mickelson, was statistically closer to the man ranked 999 than he was to Woods. Tiger needs another eleven majors to reach 25, but he has a lot of years left. Federer may not make 15 titles at Wimbledon, but what's so special about that one major? He has 16 already, and may play for another five years. 

But there are other miracles to consider too. Bradman is remarkable, but is he any more unlikely, statistically, than the outliers of the great West Indies sides? Representing a nation that exists only notionally, from a few small islands [and a thin strip of mainland], came the great men of the 60s and early 70s. Amazing enough. Then consider the next few years: Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Andy Roberts, Sylvester Clarke, Wayne Daniel and more, plus, at the tail end of the comet, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Brian Lara. Per head of population, what are the odds of that?

And then there is Sachin Tendulkar. He has scored 90 hundreds in international cricket. Ten more, and how do you compare?

Come back Charles Davis. You're needed here...

1 comment:

Tim Newman said...

I wonder where Usain Bolt would score? If you're looking for a sportsman who operates on another planet than those around him, he's your man.

Interesting trivia about him. Did you know that when, following his Olympic victories, he was asked who his sporting hero was, he didn't say Carl Lewis or some other sprinter? He named Matthew Hayden.