Daily Archives: 12 May 2012

Top heavy IPL: A statistical analysis.

The IPL season is in full swing.About 3/4th of the season is over and this might be a good time to assess why certain teams are doing well and why some others aren’t. This piece aims to look at things from a purely batting perspective. The particular focus is on trying to correlate the success that certain franchises have enjoyed to the performance from their top order batsmen.

These are the current rankings:

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Apart from rankings, few other things are also shown. None of these statistics have been taken directly from cricinfo.

IPL is a fairly batsman friendly game. Also, a team gets to face ~120 balls per inning. So, in my opinion, the performance of the top order becomes extremely critical, regardless of whether a team is trying to set a total or chase one. While one bad over might be overcome by a good one following it immediately, a couple of quick wickets, especially among the top order batsmen puts much higher pressure in a T20 game in my opinion. This is the rationale behind assessing batting performances.

I consider the statistics listed above as a reasonable metric for analyzing the performance of top order batsmen.

All the teams have played at least 12 games. PWI is the only team that has played 13. As per current rankings, KKR, DD, MI and RCB round off the top four spots. Let’s try to look into how does their success correlates with the performance of their top order.

For the purposes of this piece, top order will refer to the first three batsmen in the lineup. Middle order will refer to batsmen no. 4 & 5 in the order.

Here’s how the table appears when the teams are sorted based on the % of total runs of the entire team scored by the top order.

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The results show that three out of the top four teams continue to feature in top 4. The only new entry is RR, which wasn’t too far (5th in overall rankings) to begin with. Further, there is not much change in CSK, KXIP and PWI’s positions. This suggests that there is a reasonable correlation between the performance of top order and overall success of the teams. The major outliers to this trend would be MI and DC.

A couple of interesting revelations:

  • MI slips to the last spot. This suggests they do not truly depend on their top order for their success. This in spite of one Sachin Tendulkar, but I shall not dare to ramble along those lines.
  • DD top order accounts for nearly 2/3rd of the total runs scored by the team!.

A few other details are revealed when the teams are sorted out based on the total number of runs scored per inning by the entire team.`

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A few interesting observations right away:

  • Top teams like KKR and DD have now slipped to the bottom of the ladder. In fact, those two teams score nearly 20 runs fewer than RCB, which leads the pack. In a nutshell, while DD and KKR don’t score much (relatively speaking), they do rely on their top orders to set or chase a target quite heavily. This accentuates the value of Gautam Gambhir, Brendon McCullum, Virender Sehwag and Kevin Pietersen.
  • MI continues to sit at the bottom of the pile. So not only does MI score the fewest runs, their top order contributes the least towards their scores. So how a does team that performs so poorly with the bat manage to do well in the overall rankings? I’ll try to address that in more detail now.

The curious case of MI:

How is MI winning games in spite of horrendous scoring compared to the rest of the league? One of the possibilities is a strong middle order. The table below sorts the IPL teams based on the average runs scored by the middle order.

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No points for guessing which team has the BEST middle order in the business. It’s MI.  Here are a few other interesting observations:

  • Mumbai’s middle order contributes nearly TWICE as much to its team’s success when compared to Kolkata. This is further proven when one watches the performances of Rayudu, Pollard and the likes who have bailed Mumbai out many a times. The latest addition to this was the blitzkrieg from Dwayne Smith that flattened CSK.
  • Sorting teams based on average runs scored by the middle coincidentally sorts the teams based on the % runs contributed by no. 4 and no. 5 towards the total score. This further accentuates the contribution of the middle order of MI towards its success, particularly in close games.
  • The fact that KKR lies in the bottom of this list again accentuates how important the top order is for its success. Same rationale applies for RR that has been enjoying the success of Rahane and Dravid, and now Watson. The top order is critical for their success as well.

So I hope that I have been able to throw some light on the importance of the top order’s performance towards the success of a team. While this might be intuitive for some, analyzing statistically, nerding it up with figures and tables makes a lot more fun! Also, this could enable fantasy IPL players to choose certain players from particular teams. Too bad I won’t be getting a medal for this social service.

P.S: 3 matches have taken place since I’ve compiled this data. It would be great to put the above analysis to a litmus test.

Game 1: DD v/s DC

  • For DC, the top order scored 107/187 runs (~57.2%). While this sounds quite impressive for a team that is dead last in standings, this is still an AVERAGE if not slightly below average performance. The middle order scored 78/187 (~41.7%) runs. This is nearly twice their average production, which is probably why DC posted a significantly higher score than their season average.
  • For DD, it’s very simple. The top order won the game for them. They scored all the runs and flattened the opposition. This certainly holds true with the above analysis.

Game 2: RR v/s CSK

  • RR has relied quite a bit on it’s top order. In this game, they were fairly abysmal. They scored 26/126 (20.6%) of the team’s runs, which is barely 1/3rd of their season average! The middle order (Binny and Botha) bailed them out a little with 60 runs (47.6% of the total score). But this is a clear cut deviation from their season’s average trend.
  • CSK on the other hand, didn’t rely on their top order to win this game, which is in line with the above analysis. The top order scored only 42/127 runs (33.1%). This is below their season average of 49.8%. The middle order and the bottom order bailed them out big time and they were able to snatch a close game from RR’s hands.

Game 3: RCB v/s PWI

  • RCB batted first and their top order gave them an excellent start to set a platform for a competitive score. Chris Gayle, Tilakaratne Dilshan and Virat Kohli combined for 68.8% of the team’s runs. This is in line with their season’s trend.
  • PWI continued to showcase the fact that they have one of the worst top orders in the game This doesn’t have to do with poor quality batsmen as much as the number of times they’ve tinkered with their top order. They have changed their top order roughly 9 times in a span of 14 games. That is not the best approach towards a stable, established lineup. The game was practically over when they lost their entire top order for a mere 17 runs. The middle order did well by scoring 69/138 (50%) of the runs but it was clearly too much pressure to bail out such a poor show from the top order. The result was a crushing defeat.

So it appears that the above analysis was valid to a good extent on the games that transpired after compiling the data. As the title suggests, IPL does seem to be top heavy.

– Ajit Bhaskar.

(@ajit_bhaskar on Twitter)

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I’m not “Okay” with Switch-Hit

Summer of 2008. New Zealand vs England. In Game-1 of the 5-match ODI series, played at Cheseter-le-Street, Kevin Pietersen rattles the world of cricket with a new shot (Click here to watch Pietersen’s switch-hits in that ODI). If not for the career-low decision making skills of Paul Collingwood in the next two ODIs, Pietersen’s  switch-hits would’ve been bigger news, if not, the only news of the summer.

The switch hit had instance reactions. Cricinfo had compiled some of them in the same week the shot was first revealed. Everyone had their say, they should. Some liked it, some didn’t, and some were speechless. I didn’t like it.

We can react, we are just the fans who cough up money to watch the game, and then enjoy the game and support the players we love. But, if you are the ones who is drafting the rules of the game, I’d rather you take your time before you make the decision on it, call in the views, condense the views, debate it, and then draft the law on it, or make amendments.

The shot was played on June 15th, MCC approved the Switch-Hit on June 17th. Within 2 days, MCC has accommodated the shot while weeks and months after it, people were still debating its legality. This was a knee-jerk reaction from the MCC. Law makers should make decisions, not give reactions. They are supposed to be responsible for the game more than I am. And 4 years later, today, they are going to review it. Four years, it takes them to compile the feedback that they should’ve catered to before approving the act.

Yes, I don’t like the shot. The switch-Hit is very fancy, very skillfully executed, almost impossible to execute in a game-situation. I accept that. But, it doesn’t fit within the laws of the game.

Let me elaborate with a batsman as a specific case – a Right Handed Batsman (RHB).

A RHB has his right wrist below the left wrist while holding the bat. His right shoulder exerts the force into the shots. His left arm plays support, while guiding the bat with a direction. As soon as that left wrist grips the bat’s handle under the right wrist, the batsman turns into a Left Handed batsman (LHB).

First of all, the batsman cannot and should not do that. If that batsman comes to the crease as a RHB, he MUST play RHB. The whole *deletes swear words* nuances of bowling and fielding depends on that orientation of a batsman.

A bowler HAS to tell the umpire if he is going to bowl with his right arm, or his left; also, which side of the wicket he will be bowling from. If he doesn’t it is declared a no-ball. No, this is not Madrasi Gully Cricket rules, it’s what I understand from MCC’s Law 24 Clause 1. That’s their opening line, like saying, “Listen up, bowlers, you should give me your bowling run-up and stride’s co-ordinates in writing; and if you dare step one inch out of the path, you’re screwed. My back may be facing you, but I’ve got GPS to track you”.

“The off side of the striker’s wicket shall be determined by the striker’s stance at the moment the ball comes into play for that delivery.” – says Law 36, Clause 3. Does it mean that it means that if the batsman switches hands before the ball is released, the left half of my television screen becomes the leg side of the formerly RHB batsman who has jussst switched to a left handed orientation, according to that law? Because, if that was true, it is going to hit the fielding team in BIG way.

According to Law 41, clause 5, there can be no more than two fielders on the leg side behind the popping crease at the instance of bowler’s delivery. If our beloved RHB becomes a LHB at the instance of the delivery, and I, as a fielding captain, have set two slips, a gully, a point (standing behind the popping crease) and a 3rd man, then three or more of them have to act out scenes from the movie “Avengers” really fast to flee to the other side of the popping crease. Till that day arrives, however, I cannot fathom that happening. So, it obviously turns out to be a no-ball. Thus, almost every time a batsman is allowed to switch hands, becoming a left hander, he gets a no-ball.

Some interpret Law 36, clause 3, as “…before the start of the run-up.” In that case….

The most obvious, and the most widely debated issue in this Switch-Hit party is that of the LBW. This, is if you assume that everything else on the  field is frozen for a RHB, and then the batsman switches hands and has become a LHB and gets hit on the pads after the ball pitches on the leg side area of a RHB’s pitch map while he trying to swing the ball across to an RHB’s cover-point region. Even if the batsman is now a LHB, he can’t be out, because it is interpreted that the leg side is as per the batsman’s orientation when the bowler starts his run up. If the batsman is still considered to be a RHB in-spite of the switching, then this shoots up all the rules for wide and LBW. There is no clarity over which side is the leg side, and which is the off side before and during and after every ball.

All these levels of confusion, only because the batsmen have been given the leeway to switch their orientation as and when they wish. Which is plain wrong. Going back to the point I made earlier – bowlers are penalised for switching from over the wicket to around, or vice-versa, and the umpire conveys that information to the batsman.

If you really want the bowlers to bowl where you want, how you want, use a bowling machine.

I’ve also been bumped with this question – “How is reverse sweep looking okay to you, but not Switch-Hit?

In a reverse sweep RHB plays with right wrist on the bat’s handle under the left, unlike in the case of a switch hit. So, there is not confusion with the field set-up, or the pitch map, or any rule pertaining to a RHB.

What puts me off the most, is the excuse MCC made to bring the shot in. In the June 17 press release, MCC says – “They (bowlers) do not provide a warning of the type of delivery that they will bowl (for example, an off-cutter or a slower ball). It therefore concludes that the batsman should have the opportunity – should they wish – of executing the ‘switch-hit’ stroke.”

Well, neither do the batsmen give a warning about what shot they are going to play (for example sweep, cover drive, lofted shot over long off, cut shot, or for *deletes swear word* sake even a leave).

Where is the mismatch in expectation or element of surprise, where is the need for the “opportunity”?

And yes, Kevin Pietersen has been tweeting wild defending the switch-hit(1, 2, 3, 4, 5), while the ICC is trying to modify the LBW rules for it.

To me, Switch-Hit has no place in cricket. And trying to accommodate this and then modifying other laws of the game to compensate for this is will dilute the quality of the game. Of course, it is a stroke of exceptional skills, and am sure Pietersen (and Robin Petersn and David Warner and the other faithfuls of the act) will find a platform to showcase that and entertain the people who love that. Like, in those cricket skills shows .

– Bagrat