After a collection of posts about whether to bat or field first in test cricket (starting with the importance of winning the toss), the home ground advantage was pointed out as being a critical factor. To tease out the importance of the home ground advantage I have taken a look at home Vs away form. It turns out that home teams have won 13% more games than away teams.
My analysis then turned into a question of which team was best at taking their home form on the road. We cannot just look at the away form, because a great team will win more often regardless of if they are home or away. Instead I have compared a team’s win rate at home with their win rate when they are on tour.
As with all sports there is a home ground advantage when your team of mere mortals is spurred on by thousands of cheering fans. For cricket, this is even more important because the playing conditions can be very idiosyncratic. Having local knowledge about how weather conditions make the ball swing, or perhaps being able to persuade the grounds person to prepare a home team friendly pitch (never!).
The data is from ESPN cricinfo . I have simply collated the 2182 international test matches played since 1877 by each nation and noted whether it was a home or away. There have been a few tests played in the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi, I have classified these as ‘away’ games for both teams.
Home ground advantage
The far right columns on Figure 1, the home team won 40% of all games and the away team won 27% of games (23% were draws). That is a pretty big advantage – a 13% advantage to the home team.
Home and away form by country
Firstly let’s just consider winning form – overall and when at home and away. Figure 1 has the countries ranked by their overall win percentage (e.g. Australia has won 47% of all games it has played). Daylight second, then South Africa and England are close having won 37% and 36% of their games respectively. Although South Africa has a slightly wider spread between the blue (home) and grey (away) columns, indicating they don’t travel as well as England. Pakistan are great at home, and Sri Lanka is also pretty good but it all falls apart when they are on tour (42% win rate at home and 19% away).
Figure 1: Test match cricket home and away performance of cricketing nations (entire record)
Best touring team
To define the best travelling nation, I tried to conceive of a statistical sleight of hand to give Bangladesh some encouragement. So I have defined the home win percentage as the baseline, and divided the win percentage from away games by this home win base line. The argument is that the closer the number is to 1, the closer you are to replicating your home performance when on the road.
……And the winner is ……..Bangladesh!!! They hardly ever win either home or away – so they have the most consistent performance.
If we exclude Zimbabwe and Bangladesh due to the low overall number of games then the best touring team of all time is the West Indies.
The West Indies lead the table as the best touring team of all time (Figure 2). They are 80% as successful when on tour as they are at home. Pakistan and England also have great long term touring form.
Figure 2: Best touring cricket team (all records)
To consider recent form, Figure 3 has the same method applied to just the period from 2000. How the mighty have fallen. Looking at just the last 15 years of results moves the West Indies to the bottom of the rankings, and Pakistan continues their great touring form moving to the top of the pile. Australia has also leaped up the heap to second, and England has slid well down, they may be great at home but the wheels fall off on tour.
What surprises me most isn’t the rearranging of the teams, but how the range of home/away ratios are pretty similar comparing the entire history of the game to the recent history. I would have expected that in the modern era of the game with our well paid coaching and advisory staff out scouting the local conditions that the home ground advantage would have become less significant. Not so.
Figure 3: Best touring cricket team (for period 2000-2015)
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