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Stats: Why we need to look beyond the 'innings per century' ratio

Taking a slightly different view of the conventional innings taken to number of centuries presents an interesting insight.

Virat Kohli, India
Virat Kohli has taken just 166 innings for his 26 centuries

No batsman has set the ODI record books blazing in recent memory quite like Virat Kohli. In particular focus has been his ability and (unprecedented) frequency of scoring centuries. After his match-winning 154* vs New Zealand at Mohali, there were comparisons all over the internet of his stats/numbers with other batsmen.

It took him only 166 innings to score 26 ODI centuries, and he is easily the fastest of the 4 batsmen who have scored more than 26 hundreds to reach that milestone. Sachin Tendulkar comes next with 247 innings, followed by Ponting (286) and Jayasuriya (402).

While Kohli is without a doubt an exceptional ODI batsman, such a simplistic comparison, does not show his competition in the light that it deserves to be. 

Also read: Stats: Most runs by a batsman while chasing targets on his home turf 

For instance, Sachin Tendulkar scored his first ODI century in only his 76th innings, and from there on he took only 171 innings (247-76) to register 26 centuries. Jayasuriya also took as many as 64 innings to score his first century, and he took 338 (402-64) innings to score 26 ODI hundreds; still only half as good as Kohli but better nonetheless. To be fair to Kohli, he took 13 innings to score his first century, and hence has only taken 153 innings (166-13) to get to 26 ODI hundreds.

A more nuanced comparison shows that Kohli is not as ahead of the curve as is shown to be.

Batsman Name# of Innings (total) to 26 ODI Centuries# of Innings from 1st ODI Century-26th ODI Century
Sachin Tendulkar247171
Ricky Ponting286274
Sanat Jayasuriya402338
Virat Kohli166153

Table 1: Innings to 26 Hundreds (Overall and Filtered)

There have been other batsmen who found good form either very late in their careers (Sachin Tendulkar, Mark Waugh, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sanath Jayasuriya), or didn't score many centuries after a point of time (Sourav Ganguly, Brian Lara).

A comparison of  innings per century on an overall and a filtered basis (1st century – Last century) for batsmen who scored more than 15 ODI centuries provides interesting insights and gives reasons as to why we should avoid doing a like-to-like comparison of batting achievements without taking career trajectories of the concerned players into account.

BatsmanTotal Innings# of Innings from 1st ODI century to last100s

Overall Ratio (Innings/100s)

Filtered Ratio (Innings from 1st-last century/100s)

Overall RankFiltered RankDifference
Hashim Amla137124235.965.39110
Virat Kohli168154266.385.92220
AB de Villiers197156248.216.50330
Sachin Tendulkar452376499.227.67440
Ross Taylor1601501510.671057-2
Herschelle Gibbs2402172111.4310.3369-3
Chris Gayle2642312212.0010.50710-3
Ricky Ponting3653383012.1711.27812-4
Saeed Anwar2442342012.2011.70913-4
Mark Waugh2361801813.11101073
Nathan Astle2172031613.5612.691116-5
Sourav Ganguly3001912213.648.681257
Tillakaratne Dilshan3032072213.779.411367
Desmond Haynes2372371713.9413.941417-3
Kumar Sangakkara3803012515.215.2015141
Brian Lara2892031915.2110.6816115
Sanath Jayasuriya43335328

15.46

12.6117152
Virender Sehwag2452221516.3314.818180
Adam Gilchrist2792561617.44161921-2
Mohammad Yousuf2732361518.2015.7320200
Jacques Kallis3142541718.4714.9421192
Mahela Jayawardene418405192221.3222220

Table 2: Innings/Century (Conventional vs Filtered)

The table above provides enough evidence as to why stats should always be looked in a more detailed manner, rather than just quoting them as they seem on the surface.

While the top four remain the same (although their ratios are more congested than before), there are some notable instances of players moving up the rank heirarchy in the filtered analysis, the most prominent 4 such players are:

#1 Sourav Ganguly (Rank 12 – Rank 5)

Sourav Ganguly made his ODI debut in the 1992 tri-series in Australia and was dropped after 2 matches. Although he came back with a bang in 1996, it was not until 1997 that his ODI career took off and once he scored his first century (113 vs Sri Lanka at Colombo, 1997), it took him only 191 innings to score his 22 career centuries, the last of which was vs 111* Kenya at Durban, 2003.

Ganguly’s form took a dip for the worse following his much-publicised fall-out with the then coach Greg Chappell, and he didn't score another ODI century for the 4 more years he continued to play that format. In his prime, though, Ganguly was as big a match winner for India as Sachin Tendulkar.

#2 Tillakaratne Dilshan (Rank 13 – Rank 6)

Dilshan’s career followed much the same pattern as his compatriot Jayasuriya’s, he batted at no.5 and 6 for nearly a decade until blossoming from 2009 onwards. From then on, Dilshan became one of the best opening batsmen in the format. It took him a further 207 innings to score his 22 career centuries.

In fact, accounting for the 3-year gap between his 1st and 2nd century, the number of innings are reduced to 151; translating into a Inns/Century ratio of less than 7, which places him above Tendulkar. Dilshan found his most useful form when promoted as an opener, his average is 4th best  amongst all openers with 2000 or more runs. It is only a matter of conjecture that how different his numbers could have been, had he been an opener much earlier than he was.

#3 Brian Lara (Rank 16 – Rank 11) 

Lara had a blistering start to his ODI career, he became the first batsman after Viv Richards to register 2 150+ scores (153 vs Pakistan, 169 vs Sri Lanka). The revival of his Test career from 2000 onwards saw a parallel moderation in his ODI numbers because of batsmen like Gayle, Chanderpaul, and Sarwan coming into their own. Lara took 203 innings for the 19 hundreds he registered overall, pushing him up in the revised ranks by 3 positions.

#4 Mark Waugh (Rank 10 – Rank 7) 

Mark Waugh made his ODI debut in 1988, but it wasn’t until 1993 that he scored his first ODI century; 108 vs New Zealand. From then on, right up till the end of his career in 2002, Mark Waugh remained one of the most consistent batsmen in ODI cricket.

His form hit its peak in 1996 when he became the first batsman ever to score two consecutive, and then three centuries in a single World Cup edition. His exasperating grace at the crease sometimes overshadows the steely nerves he possessed to be the performer that he was.

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