Graphic: Who plays how much 2019
© ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Feature

Keeping up with Labuschagne and Lamichhane

The second edition of our global workload survey. Featuring Kohli, Azam, Root, Cummins, Healy, and a new Afghan spin sensation

Srinath Sripath, Girish TS and Shiva Jayaraman  |  

Surprise Ashes star Marnus Labuschagne moved up 586 spots from last year to become the busiest cricketer on the planet. Joe Root put in more international days than anyone else. Alyssa Healy played more high-level women's cricket than any of her peers. And Virat Kohli continued to top the charts for most balls faced in the international game. These are just some of the findings in the Cricket Monthly's second annual survey of cricketers' workloads - which reviews the period October 2018 through September 2019, features the ever busier women's game, and offers deeper insights on trends in men's cricket.

In other highlights, Nepal's Sandeep Lamichhane went past Rashid Khan as the world's most widely travelled T20 cricketer - although there is another Afghan spin sensation in pursuit (read on). And in a world with fewer and fewer long-format specialists, England Test regulars Jack Leach and Stuart Broad played a remarkable 139 days of first-class cricket between them without taking the field for a high-level limited-overs game. Also exclusively first-class in his outings was the joint leader on the board for most Tests played: Australian captain Tim Paine.

For volume, however, nobody could match the South African-born Labuschagne, whose memorable Ashes summer was preceded by a productive County Championship with Glamorgan, resulting in an astounding 117 days of first-class cricket - compared to 98 by last year's first-class leader Mark Stoneman. Overall, in the 12-month period between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019, Labuschagne racked up 129 days of high-level cricket, which covers first-class cricket (Tests included), List A matches (ODIs included), T20Is, and games in top T20 leagues.

At the other end of the spectrum, the trend of cricketers focusing solely on T20 gigs shows no signs of abating. As many as 25 players - most of whom have officially retired from the longest format - took part in no first-class cricket in the period but played over 30 T20s, a 56% rise from last year's 16. Colin Ingram, a South African batsman who retired from international cricket and went Kolpak in 2014, topped the charts for most T20s played, with 65 games for seven teams in domestic and franchise cricket around the world. A number of T20 stars also played in T20 leagues not recognised by the ICC and/or organised by non-Full Member nations, and in the UAE's T10 League - games that are not counted in this exercise.

Most international cricket

Most international cricket Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The busybees

 Three of England's World Cup-winning stars and Test regulars -Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler - featured among the seven busiest international cricketers. Root's 81 international days, however, was well short of Jonny Bairstow's 91 days, and his own 90, in last year's rankings. Stokes was the only allrounder in the top ten, and he moved 44 places up from last year, when his time away from the game following the events in Bristol pushed him down the list.

Meanwhile, Ross Taylor, among the first names on the team sheet across formats - a rarity in international cricket these days - jumped up 58 places to second position because of New Zealand's busier Test schedule in the period.

In terms of international matches, rather than days, Virat Kohli racked up 46 games - second behind Shai Hope - despite being rested for several limited-overs assignments, which gives us a sense of India's packed international calendar.

Most high-level cricket

Most high-level cricket Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

In a World Cup year that is set to finish with the fewest Tests since 2007, the charts for most days of high-level cricket were dominated by names from the County Championship, where every side is assured of 14 games a season.

None of the top five, however, except table-topper Labuschagne, was an international regular. Three - Duanne Olivier, Dane Vilas, Simon Harmer - are South Africans who have retired from international cricket to become Kolpak players in England. When the English summer winds down, the three will ply their trade on South Africa's domestic first-class circuit, which makes their workload heavier than those of any other type of cricketer.

Wicketkeeper-batsman-captain Vilas, who topped last year's leader board with 130 days, led Lancashire to promotion to the top division of the County Championship. Fast bowler Olivier quit the international game days after being named Player of the Series against Pakistan earlier this year, while offspinner Harmer, who has been a Kolpak player since 2017, capped another successful season with a domestic double for Essex across first-class and T20 cricket, the latter as captain.

Busiest female cricketers

Busiest female cricketers Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The busiest women
The women's game now has full-fledged T20 leagues in Australia and England, apart from ever-lengthening experimental games ahead of a potential women's IPL in India and a new domestic tournament in South Africa. We are getting to the point where women cricketers aren't available for chunks of these T20 leagues due to international commitments, like India's stars are not in this year's WBBL.

Unsurprisingly, the busiest players came from the two most professional set-ups, Australia and England. Two wicketkeepers led the list. Australia's Alyssa Healy, who plays all formats and is an important member of two-time WBBL winners Sydney Sixers, played more high-level cricket than several male all-format regulars like Jasprit Bumrah and Quinton de Kock. Behind her was England's Amy Jones, who has become her country's No. 1 keeper with Sarah Taylor's retirement.

The gap between these two sides and the rest is evident - especially in an Ashes year like this one - from the fact that we have to go as far down as No. 14 to find someone from the other nations: India's Smriti Mandhana, who played 51 games to Healy's 66.

Most teams

Most teams Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The globetrotters
There's a new Afghan teenage sensation in town, and T20 sides can't get enough of him. Qais Ahmad, still only 19, played for eight teams across four countries over the past 12 months. Five of them were on the T20 circuit - the Guyana Amazon Warriors in the CPL, the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash, the Rajshahi Kings in the Bangladesh Premier League, and two of Afghanistan's T20 sides, the Balkh Legends and the Speen Ghar Region in the Afghanistan and Shpageeza Premier Leagues respectively. While five of his teams were based in Afghanistan, it says something about the country's spin-bowling riches that Qais hasn't yet made his T20I debut, and played just one game for the national side - the one-off Test win in Bangladesh.


The rest of the pack features the usual suspects from the T20 caravan: Chris Gayle, Ingram and Lamichhane. All of them featured in teams based in at least four countries - a criterion put in place to account for the anomalous changes in Pakistan's domestic structure recently, which resulted in a number of players turning out for as many as eight domestic and representative sides. Without any filter, Hussain Talat would lead the way, with nine teams, only one of which was an overseas side.

Most countries

Most countries Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Lamichhane, the most widely travelled cricketer in the period - he played in eight countries - is arguably the single most in-demand T20 resource in the world at the moment. With Nepal's international calendar still relatively empty, he played in all the major T20 leagues around the world: the IPL, Big Bash, CPL, BPL and PSL, apart from 11 T20Is and three ODI appearances for his national side.

While the list is topped by a Nepali, the country with the most representatives in the top 20 is not India, not England, not even West Indies with its T20 superstars. Among the 45 players who have played in at least six countries, Afghanistan leads the way with as many as 12 representatives, and that is not down to international tours. Apart from Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Qais and left-arm wristspinner Zahir Khan are making a name on the domestic T20 circuit. Each of them played in at least six countries over the course of the year.

The format specialists
The most active cricketers in 2008-09 played more days of cricket than their counterparts in 2018-19. Boeta Dippenaar (150 days) and Zander de Bruyn's (147) numbers easily trump those of Labuschagne and Olivier (129 and 114). The difference, though, is in the format-wise split: there's undoubtedly a lot more T20 cricket today, and that has brought with it a number of specialists who only play short-form cricket.

While regulars in the County Championship remained the busiest first-class players in the game, Australia played more Tests than any other side in this period. Australia's Test captain, Paine, who was only playing domestic cricket across all formats for Tasmania till two years ago, is sixth on the list for most first-class games, with 22, of which 13 were Tests - the highest, along with his team-mate Nathan Lyon.

South African-born Leus du Plooy, who bats in the middle order for Derbyshire, was a new entrant on the list. Pakistan's Azhar Ali featured high up thanks to his stint with Somerset in the County Championship while his team-mates played the World Cup.

There is no such thing as a 50-overs specialist anymore: you either focus on the "red-ball stuff", or you play a load of T20s as a white-ball specialist. Fifty-over cricket at the domestic level accommodates players from both ends, depending on their availability. But in a World Cup year, there was plenty of ODI action. Rohit Sharma played in each of India's 30 ODIs in this period, memorably capping it with five hundreds in the World Cup.

T20 cricket remains sporadic at the international level, and the busiest names there are the most in-demand resources on the franchise and domestic circuit. The fact that Ingram, Cameron Delport and Dan Christian made it to the top six without playing a single international game tells the story.


While it should surprise no one that T20 is now cricket's most ubiquitous format, the ICC's move to award official status to every game between two recognised nations means the number of official men's T20 games is set to touch a thousand games (941 at the time of writing) in a calendar year for the first time in its 17-year history.

The upshot of the format's expansion - as many as 85 nations, including China, Brazil and Spain are now listed in the ICC men's T20 team rankings - might take a while to emerge, but a sneak peek into the future can be seen in Singapore's rise. While they have been an Associate nation for over four decades and in the lower reaches of the ICC World Cricket League, they played their first official T20I only in July 2019. At the time of writing, they have played 11 T20Is, but have already downed more fancied Nepal, Zimbabwe and Scotland. In the not-so-distant future, the next Lamichhane or Rashid could come from nations like Singapore - and perhaps feature in these charts. 


Most balls faced in international cricket

Most balls faced in international cricket Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Batting mainstays, bowling workhorses, all-round stalwarts
The list of international cricket's leading crease-occupiers reads like a roll call of its top all-format batsmen. Kohli leads the way, followed by Kane Williamson, Root and the consistently impressive Babar Azam.

Balls faced is an especially relevant parameter in the first-class game. There, Warwickshire's Dom Sibley faced more deliveries than anyone else, and was among the hardest to knock off, at 156 balls per dismissal. Other names include Bengal's Abhimanyu Easwaran, Sibley's Warwickshire team-mate Sam Hain, and a certain Chanderpaul: not Shivnarine but his 23-year-old son Tagenarine, who is proving almost as tough a nut to crack as his father, lasting 128 balls at the crease on average.

Most balls bowled in international cricket

Most balls bowled in international cricket Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The Australian Test attack featured the bowlers with the biggest workloads in international cricket - not surprising given their schedule. Mitchell Starc made it to the top five despite featuring in only one match in the Ashes. Pat Cummins, once a teenage tearaway ravaged by injuries, earned his place as the world's premier Test bowler with long spells through lengthy Test series.

Lyon, meanwhile, has delivered almost 4000 balls more than anyone else in Test cricket since his debut, and he topped the international bowling workload chart like he did in 2018. Owing primarily to two big Test series - against India at home and England away - he bowled 43% more international overs than anyone else in this period.

The all-format international allrounder is a rare species in today's age, and some of the names missing - Moeen Ali, Ravindra Jadeja and Marcus Stoinis, to mention just three - from the graph above show how hard it is to remain relevant across all forms of the game.

With a criterion of 750 balls bowled and faced at the international level across all formats, only eight names remain. Seven of these are widely recognised as allrounders, and the eighth - Cummins - has quietly slipped into the top ten on the ICC's Test rankings for allrounders.

If Cummins bore the load of Australia's Test attack over the course of a busy year, England's dependence on Stokes was even more evident. Apart from his heroics in the World Cup final and the Headingley Test, Stokes bowled long spells in Tests, ground out gritty innings, and regained his stature as England's MVP.

An interesting name on the list is Dhananjaya de Silva, who started his career in the Sri Lankan top order, but now plays as their first-choice spin bowler across conditions and formats.

Most balls faced in T20

Most balls faced in T20 Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Azam, the leading T20I batsman and the top run getter in this year's T20 Blast in England. Ingram, the busiest T20 player on the planet. D'Arcy Short, the T20 Blast MVP. AB de Villiers, because AB de Villiers: strike rate 159.

If you are facing more than 1000 balls over a year in T20 cricket, it's because you are maximising the returns on those deliveries: each of our top five scored at a strike rate of over 130. It also explains why Sussex's Laurie Evans, 32 years old, features so high up on this list, among the elite batsmen in the format. In fact, it is unfair to call him "Sussex's" Evans any more: his consistent hitting is now in demand all over the circuit, most recently with the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in the CPL.

Most balls bowled in T20

Most balls bowled in T20 Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Rashid might have come unstuck against top sides in the World Cup this year, but there is no doubt he remains the world's leading T20 bowler. He bowled 37% more balls in the format than anyone else on the planet. Four of the top five busiest T20 bowlers come from Afghanistan and Nepal, and all five are spinners. While four of them bowl the more glamorous and in-demand wristspin, Nabi's flag-bearing fingerspin in the shortest format deserves a mention. Even in the IPL, where overseas fingerspinners hardly get a game, Nabi established himself as a regular for Sunrisers Hyderabad, consistently shining in the Powerplay - quite apart from his big-hitting lower down the order.

It is no surprise, therefore, that Nabi was far and away the world's busiest T20 allrounder, excelling in two key roles: finishing games with the bat, and bowling early on. The big dropouts from last year's list are Dwayne Bravo and Carlos Brathwaite. Bravo's absence can be explained in part by an injury that sidelined him from the CPL; Brathwaite endured a poor run in the format, despite leading West Indies through this period.

Notable new entrants include Imad Wasim, whose left-arm darts proved effective for Nottinghamshire in the T20 Blast, and Ravi Bopara, who is enjoying a glorious late-career run as a T20 finisher: he helped Essex to the Blast title this season, and found himself among the first draft picks for next year's Hundred.

Srinath Sripath is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo, Girish TS is a designer, and Shiva Jayaraman is a senior stats analyst

 

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