Jason Gillespie - the wicketless wonder

Jason Gillespie, the Australian Fast bowler, never looks like he can take wickets.

He ambles in, his mullet flying everywhere, and delivers a well directed delivery that is either scored from or forces the batsmen to defend.

I honestly can't remember the last time he even looked threatening. Moreover, he always appears injured and is likely to miss the First Test tonight.

But obviously impressions don't always match with facts.

Everyone's excited about Brett Lee - even though it is highly likely that he will be pummelled by the English batsmen. But people these days are notorious for feeding on impressions rather than cold hard statistics.

My impression of Jason Gillespie is honest - he always appears as though he can't take wickets. But if you look at his record, you will notice that he has taken 248 wickets at 25.72 with a strike rate of 54.73. That is impressive. These statistics indicate that he is a very good bowler.

Strangely, he has taken 5 wickets in an innings only 8 times. That is not many for someone who has played as many tests as he.

Let's compare Gillespie to McGrath, Warne and Lee.

Jason Gillespie 66 Tests, 248 wickets, 5wi 8 times.
Glenn McGrath 109 Tests, 499 wickets, 5wi 26 times.
Shane Warne 123 Tests, 583 wickets, 5wi 29 times.
Brett Lee 37 Tests, 139 wickets, 5wi 4 times.

This means that Gillespie takes 5 wickets in an innings every 8.25 Tests. McGrath takes 5 wickets every 4.2 Tests and Warne every 4.2. Lee is pretty bad at 9.25 Tests (so I'm still wondering what all the fuss is about)

But, of course, Warne and McGrath are better bowlers with better averages than Gillespie. So let's compare him to others who average around the same:

Jason Gillespie, Av. 25.72, 66 Tests, 248 wickets, 5wi 8 times.
Courtney Walsh, Av. 24.44, 132 Tests, 519 wickets, 5wi 22 times.
Ian Botham, Av. 28.40, 102 Tests, 383 wickets, 5wi 27 times.
Bob Willis, Av. 25.19, 90 Tests, 325 wickets, 5wi 16 times.

Remembering the Gillespie takes 5 wickets per innings every 8.25 tests, we see here that Courtney Walsh took 5 wickets every 6 Tests, Botham every 3.8 Tests and Willis every 5.6 Tests.

On average alone, we can see that Gillespie is a far better bowler than Botham - but Botham was obviously able to exert his presence in a Test far more often than Gillespie ever has. Of course, this means that Botham was able to be seen to be successful while Gillespie is not.

How about comparing to some more recent Australian bowlers:

Merv Hughes, Av. 28.38, 53 Tests, 212 wickets, 5wi 7 times
Craig McDermott, Av. 28.63, 71 Tests, 291 wickets, 5wi 14 times
Paul Reiffel, Av. 26.96, 35 Tests, 104 wickets, 5wi 5 times

Hughes took 5 wickets every 7.5 Tests, McDermott every 5 Tests and Reiffel every 7 Tests.

All this proves one thing - that Gillespie is a wonderfully consistent bowler who has contributed greatly to Australia's success since his debut, but has never got the recognition he has deserved because he rarely performs in memorable ways. He is obviously the sort of guy who is consistenting taking 2-51 or 3-77 when he gets out to bowl - great figures for helping to bowl out the opposition but not the 5 wicket hauls that the public demand for great bowlers. For a side containing such great players as Warne and McGrath, the presence of Gillespie at the other end producing consistent wicket-taking pressure allows matches to be won and the glory going to the pretty boys (Gillespie, with his mullet and goatee, is obviously not a pretty boy!)

Jason Neil Gillespie - he can be proud of his achievements, even though no one notices them.

From the This Salient Sporting Life Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
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Anonymous said...

You really don't like Brett Lee!

Do statistics ever lie? Well, not really as long as we know what they're saying and more importantly what they are not saying. In other words statistics have their limitations of which we need to be aware.

In Brett Lee's case the statistics speak for themselves. His test bowling average isn't impressive. I'll give you that and despite all my training in sophistry (I am a lawyer!) I won't try to make his figures look good.

The all important question is what do the statistics *mean* and not just what they (on the face of it) *say*. What are we to make of the fact that Brett Lee's test bowling average isn't the best? It could be that he's not a very good bowler. Or there could be some other reasons responsible for this.

The first point is that Brett Lee has had limited game time in the test arena. I'm not trying to defend the man. He needs to make the most of the opportunities he's given and in the past he hasn't really done that.

The second point to note is that Brett Lee's effect (in the game time he has had) might not be fully reflected in the statistics. One factor that won't show in a bowler's average is the extent to which he contributes to the success of the bowler at the other end. Because of his pace, one thing Brett Lee can (and I say can -- as it's not guaranteed he will with any success) do is unsettle the batsmen which can allow the bowler at the other end (say Gillespie if he's fit and in the team) to exploit by taking wickets.

Now I wouldn't select someone merely because he unsettles batsmen. You do want bowlers to be taking wickets! So maybe your wariness concernng Lee's inclusion in the team is justified. All I'm saying is that some of the wickets that bowlers like Gillespie take are in no small part due to the work of the bowler at the other end.

We'll just have to wait and see how Brett Lee bowls if he's given a decent chance to prove himself.

One Salient Oversight said...

One thing I didn't mention about Gillespie is that he doesn't bowl as many overs per match - probably because McGrath and Warne do a lot of the work.

I do agree that statistics can and do lie. Botham's example is interesting thought - his 5 wicket hauls were more consistent than Glenn McGrath or Shane Warne or Jason Gillespie, but his overall average is worse. To me this indicates that he was very much a "shock" bowler who could perform quite badly at others times. If you look at Botham's Test history, you'd probably agree.

What I'm laughing at at the moment is my comment last week that I couldn't see the Australian top 7 being troubled by the English bowling attack. More fool me!!!