CricViz analyst Ben Jones looks at the five standout statistics from the first week of the 2018 IPL season.
Chris Gayle’s innings against Sunrisers Hyderabad felt seismic. In the context of the tournament, it put an abrupt full-stop to the first phase of an impressive Sunrisers campaign, shattering the illusion of a side against whom scoring 160 looked a tough task. More widely though, it showed the cricketing world that Gayle is still a force to be reckoned with. CricViz have our own batting metric, Batting Impact, which calculates the impact any given innings has on the team’s final score. Across the IPL so far, Gayle has an average impact of 17.8, the highest of anyone in the competition. His attacking output in 2018 is absolutely astonishing – he’s averaging more than 140 when attacking, which (as the graphic below shows) is his best record for any calendar year, by a massive distance.
And why should we have ever doubted him? He has (considerably) more T20 hundreds than anyone else, and surely such class is permanent? Well, the man in second on that ton-making list suggests that isn’t always the case. RCB’s Brendon McCullum has so far registered an average batting impact of -3.5, meaning that he is on average costing Bangalore more runs than he’s scoring. He’s struggled against spin, and is yet to truly come to the party in this year’s competition. The two veterans may have had wildly different fortunes at the IPL auction, but so far it seems the West Indian has still got it, whilst his Kiwi contemporary is rapidly on the wane.
Off the back of a brilliant BBL season for the Hobart Hurricanes, D’Arcy Short was a hot commodity at the auction. Rajasthan Royals would have been delighted to get their hands on him back at the start of the year, but he’s resolutely failed to convince in the blue for Rahane and his team. His four innings so far, 4 (4) , 6 (3), 11 (17), and 44 (43), represent a meagre start to his IPL career, but what will worry most is that the most substantial of those scores was the most unconvincing. His 44 against Kolkata may have seen him occupy the crease for a longer period, but in reality it felt tortuous, a 43-ball explanation of why you simply have to bowl spin to the Australian. Of the 28 balls he faced from KKR’s slower bowlers, he scored just 18 runs and missed or edged eight of them. Across the IPL as a whole, he’s scored at just 4.39rpo against spin, compared to 8.07rpo against pace, with captains becoming ever wiser to his weakness. Big Bash captains were tearing their hair out trying to work out how to restrict the Aussie opener – right now, the answer seems all too obvious.
It’s always a gamble picking young players. They can have outstanding matches, then slip back into the pack as their experience comes to the fore, excellent mixed into a cocktail of inconsistency. It’s because of this that the most impressive aspect of Mujeeb Zadran’s IPL so far has been his consistent excellence. An overall economy of 6.8rpo is fantastic, and would no doubt be the eye-catching figure for Kings XI fans, for all IPL fans, but it’s the fact that Mujeeb has never gone at more than 7.5rpo in a game so far which shows his class. Nobody has been able to fully get on top of the young Afghan, which hasn’t been the case for all of Kings XI’s spinners; Ashwin has gone at less than 7.5rpo only once so far, and Axar Patel went at 11.66rpo in his first outing. After 16 matches, he holds the fourth best economy of any bowler, and the best economy by an overseas player – if he can continue such consistency, he’ll be a T20 superstar on the level of his compatriot Rashid Khan.
Since the start of 2017, Sunil Narine has batted on 78 occasions. 40 of those innings have been with him opening the batting, who after the first two weeks of this IPL is now more regularly batting at the top of the order than the bottom. In his career he’s scored at 9.47rpo when opening, his average innings lasting just 11.3 deliveries. Compared to a career figure of 8.85rpo, and a dismissal rate of 10.6, it’s clear that Narine’s exploits at the top of the innings have been mutually beneficial, offering a clear strategic option for his team, whilst doubling his effectiveness (and no doubt increasing his price tag) as a globetrotting T20 player. This season, he’s playing a key role for Kolkata. As the graphic below shows, of those to face 10 balls in the powerplay he’s scoring the fastest, getting his team off to a flyer and giving Andre Russell full license to unleash later on.
It took 16 matches, but finally an IPL captain won the toss and decided that, perhaps, chasing wasn’t the best route to victory. In Kings XI Punjab’s clash with Sunrisers Hyderabad last night, R Ashwin called correctly, and opted to bat first. Gayle’s heroics ensured that Kings XI came out on top on this occasion, but more broadly the call was reflective of the early chasing trend subsiding. After the first nine matches (unaffected by rain) were won by the chasing side, five of the last six have been won by the side batting first. Ashwin’s call was the culmination of a gradual regression to the mean for defending sides. Still only 6% of tosses have led to the captain opting to have a bat – but after Kings XI’s twin triumphs in Mohali, you’d have to say that number will be on the rise sooner rather than later.
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz. @benjonescricket