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Statistical Analysis: Ravichandran Ashwin vs Rangana Herath vs Yasir Shah vs Nathan Lyon

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Looking at statistics, we take a look at who has been the best bowler of the lot.

Ravichandran Ashwin has the best average amongst the four

Gone are the days where every cricket fan debated between Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, and Anil Kumble as the best spin bowler. There are a host of new men in the house and they are taking the roof down with their performances for their respective countries. Ravichandran Ashwin, Yasir Shah, Rangana Herath and Nathan Lyon have been in the news for all the right reasons and their performances are the indicator as to why there is so much of a hype about them at the moment.

But, who is the best among all? Will either of them go on to eclipse Muralitharan, Warne, or Kumble’s record?

In this article, we analyse their statistics in different situations and you can decide for yourself as to who is the superior spinner amongst the four.

Overall Statistics

*Updated till today
PlayerMatchesWicketsAverageStrike Rate5 WI
R Ashwin41*228*24.7449.422
Yasir Shah20*11627.3754.08
Rangana Herath7535127.9760.728
Nathan Lyon5821333.35637

Looking at the above table, Ashwin is clearly the best bowler out of the all given his better average. Rangana Herath comes in a close second, and Yasir Shah, who has played the least matches out of the 4 bowlers might soon eclipse Ashwin and Herath if he continues to perform the way he is. He was superb in their “home” series against the West Indies where he picked up 18 wickets in 6 innings with his standout performance being in the second Test where he picked up his second 10 wicket haul in a match.

Herath has been in sublime touch recently picking up 13 wickets in a single match against Zimbabwe in the recently concluded Test match which Sri Lanka won. His 13 wicket haul which also propelled him to 350 Test wickets in 75 Tests, the second-fastest among spinners. 

Ashwin showed his class in the recently concluded series against New Zealand taking 27 wickets in 6 innings at an average of 17.77. By doing so, he became the fastest Indian ever to 200 wickets. The New Zealand batsmen had no answer to his spin variations and were completely bamboozled.  He will be looking to recreate his magic against England in the 5 match Test series against England which began yesterday at Rajkot.

Nathan Lyon has played the most matches out of the 4 spinners since 2011 and despite his average not being as good as the other three, he continues to play an integral role in the Australian cricket team. Lyon has had his task cut out bowling on the Australian pitches , but despite that has found immense success and constantly troubles the opposition batsmen.

Performances home and away

PlayerWickets at HomeWickets AwayAverage at HomeAverage Away
R Ashwin1716721.1933.24
Yasir ShahNA116NA27.37
Rangana Herath23112023.1537.28
Nathan Lyon10311033.1033.56

Ravichandran Ashwin has been unstoppable at home. With an average of 21 on the sub-continent pitches, Ashwin has proved to be India’s best bowler over the past couple of years. His recent performances against South Africa last year and New Zealand this year will be remembered for years to come.

Given his excellent home form, Ashwin has often been criticised for his poor away performances. He has not had nearly as much success away than he has had at home. Although, if we look closely at the statistics, his average in away matches is still better than Herath and Lyon

Rangana Herath too, has had immense success with the ball in home conditions, as can be seen with his average of 23.15 in 57 innings for the Lankans. He has broken numerous records with his skilful bowling; his latest one is becoming only the 3rd bowler in history to take a five-wicket haul against every opposition after his five-wicket haul in the recently concluded Test against Zimbabwe.  

The downside to Herath’s bowling is his extremely poor performance away from home. In 56 innings he has taken 120 wickets at a low average of 37.28. With his man of the series performance against Zimbabwe, he will be looking to improve on this average soon.

With an average of 33, Nathan Lyon is the only bowler out of the 4 bowlers who has a consistent average home and away.  As mentioned above, Lyon’s inferior average to the other three owes to the fact that he has predominantly bowled on Australian pitches which have not suited spin.

Given the fact that Pakistan have only played in neutral venues, Yasir Shah has had a lot of success and has been Pakistan’s go-to bowler for the past year or so. Pakistan have had the knack of producing great bowlers and Yasir Shah is all set to go down as one Pakistan’s greatest ever spin bowler. He boasts an average of 23 in 18 “home” Tests.

Favourite oppositions:

*Updated till after IND-NZ series
Player/CountryAustraliaBangladeshEngland IndiaNew ZealandPakistanSouth AfricaSri LankaWest Indies
R Ashwin34.6419.0052.89*NA15.91NA14.6118.1022.16
Rangana Herath22.6425.6032.3541.6327.7529.9927.72NA25.65
Yasir Shah17.2534.0032,26NA33,53NANA19.3326.86
Nathan LyonNANA29.7436.7122.57140.6742.3835.9024.18

After the rank turners which were produced over the past year or so in India, it comes as no surprise that his favourite oppositions are South Africa and New Zealand. None of the other 3 bowlers have had a better average than Ashwin has had against any opposition. Given India’s poor record against Australia and England in away matches, Ashwin has had a poor average against these two oppositions.

Nathan Lyon has enjoyed bowling against his neighbours New Zealand as can clearly be seen with his average of 22 against the Blackcaps. He has enjoyed reasonable success against the West Indies as well but has struggled against the sub-continent sides in particular.

Apart from his spectacular average against Zimbabwe after their recently concluded Test series against the African nation,Herath has enjoyed immense success against the Kangaroos as he boasts an average of 22 against them. Unfortunately, he has not enjoyed much success against neighbours India. We could expect his average to improve when he tries his hand out on the rank turners which India have begun to produce over the past year or so.

Just like Herath, Yasir’s favourite opposition are Australia as he has achieved an average of 17.25 against the Kangaroos. He has performed well against the West Indies as well but is yet to improve his performances against the other nations.

Conclusion

The baton has passed on from the legendary spin trio of Warne, Muralitharan, and Kumble to these four superstars. As fans, we should be lucky to witness these bowlers work their magician on the field. With their stupendous performances over the past few years, It isn't a surprise that they occupy three of the top six spots on the ICC's Test rankings. It would be great to see these bowlers eclipse the record of those legends, but given the fact that Test cricket is not as prevalent as it was before, it might be a bit difficult for them to do so. But, never say never, right? 




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