How long is a (piece of) String. Cricketing Greats and the length function

My Dad gave me a book recently – the 100 Greatest Cricketers. As well as selecting what – in his opinion at least – were the 100 finest exponents of the game, the author also decided to rank them in order from 1 to 100.
At this point, for those who don’t know, I should perhaps explain that Cricket is one of those games given by the English to the rest of the world….to prove what sporting losers the English could be.
For any Australians reading, to whom this statement may ring hollow given their teams current travails, fret not. Historically, England’s brief ascendancy the battle for the Ashes tends to come to a juddering halt when least expected, usually in the form of a 4-0 thrashing ( think 1958-59, 1989).

Anyway, back to the book. Comparing players across different eras is hard enough – just how would you evaluate the relative merits of Sachin Tendulkar and Sir Jack Hobbs, for example ?
But comparing the relative merits of a batsmen and bowler who were contemporaries in the same team is equally problematic. Who is the greater cricketer out of Dennis Lillee and Greg Chappell, or Malcolm Marshall and Viv Richards ?

All of this brings to mind the saying, “how long is a piece of string”.
In SQL, at least, we do have an answer to this question…or do we ? Continue reading