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)

9 responses to “Top heavy IPL: A statistical analysis.

  1. Good one, Ajit. Yes, nothing like a runaway start by the top-order. You cannot imagine how relieved I’ve been everytime Gayle has done that for RCB. Just blows the wind out of the sails of the opposition.

    While the IPL is top-heavy, I think a little credit to the thankless bowlers is also due. MI, inspite of its pathetic scores (top or middle-order) is hanging in there because of its bowlers (and a few Dwayne Smith-like moments of brilliance). Sunil Narine has been a revelation for KKR and a big reason they’re sitting comfy this year. In contrast, an RCB supporter is always resigned to his team having to chase (or defend) a big score.

    So it’s a lot of different factors coming into play, as you would expect. (I haven’t even talked about Strike Rates). But yes, if your top order keeps failing you – and you don’t have an ABDV – you’re really in T20 trouble.

  2. Nice to hear your thoughts🙂

    Absolutely, there are many factors, with bowling being one of the main. However, I figured a statistical analysis of bowling was harder than batting. b/c the order keeps changing so frequently. depending on the pitch, the composition and the order changes. for instance, ashwin might open the bowling or after after 4-5 overs. So to get ‘representative data’ is a bit harder than batting where the top 5 batsmen are more or less set. but yes, I completely agree that there are other factors to be considered here.

    I hope you saw KKR v/s MI. KKR’s top order bombed big time whereas MI’s put up its best performance of its season.

    Also, DD’s top order has tanked against CSK and they’re struggling. Oh wait…credit goes to the bowlers too;)

  3. Pingback: Top heavy IPL: A statistical analysis. | i3j3Cricket :: A blog for fans of … « Sport Kandy : Cricket, Football, F1, Tennis, WWE Latest News and Information

  4. Nice article, actually I made a 4-week analysis of the IPL recently. You can check it out right here: http://goo.gl/8yAIJ

    I actually feel bad for DC because their batting is pretty good but their bowling is probably the worst, even more than RCB’s attack. My prediction for the top 4 to make it to the play-offs are: DD, KKR, MI, and CSK. I know it’s hard to leave out RCB and even KXIP after their win today, but the odds are against KXIP with two games against table-toppers DD. I am a CSK fan so I’d like to see CSK win and make it a hat-trick of titles, but we will see.

  5. @ CricketNNS: Nice read! DC’s case is a bit puzzling since their batting is decent and Steyn has been good overall. I don’t follow follow IPL as passionately but as one of my friends (maxdavinci) pointed out, fantasy cricket is a nice way of following IPL. You just want certain players to do well and enjoy the entertainment w/o getting too passionate abt the region being represented by the team😉

  6. Any day , it is the best bet to make the best batsmen play the maximum number of overs , in any format. Most of the teams are reaping the benefit of it.Regarding MI s, certain points are not to be missed ,Tendulkar was out for quite some time and they kept on shuffling for the openers’ slot. Pune did unnecessary experiments , kept Ryder out for Clarke ,forced Pandey there despite failures and Ganguly blocked a position in the top order.

  7. Hi Loy,

    Thanks for your comments. You’re right about Sachin. He was out for sometime (with a thumb injury I think). However, if you look at the last 3 games MI has played with SRT in the lineup, their top order has scored 93 out of the team’s 422 runs. That’s a very low 22%. And they’re 1W-2L in those games. They are relying on their middle order heroics a tad too much.

    And you’re spot on with Pune. They just don’t have a stable batting order. I think that is important to lend some consistency to the team’s performance.

  8. after all that controversies IPL comes again with new interest if you want to read more about ipl plz visit http://www.iplpointstable.com/

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