CricViz analyst Ben Jones looks at the standout statistics from the third week of the 2018 IPL season.
When English names began attracting vast sums at the auction this year, commentators and pundits were treating it as if the The Beatles had broken America. This was the moment that British talent was going to go to India and make a real splash. In reality, Ben Stokes’ MVP award last season should have been acknowledged as that moment, particularly given how the English imports have gone this year. No other nationality (if we remember Jofra Archer has not yet qualified for England) has a higher economy rate in this year’s competition. More joyful is the fact that no nation has a lower economy than Afghanistan, yet another marker showing that Mujeeb and co have successfully moved from “good news story” to top-class cricketing nation. Three cheers for the IPL’s global meritocracy.
Can anyone stop AB de Villiers? In the last week, his two innings against Delhi and Chennai have left the crowd breathless, regardless of the crest on their replica shirts. The South African is a phenomenon of modern batting, and his numbers are out of sight. You can’t move for discussions about what a “360° player” AB is, about how he scores all around the ground – but in some ways, this does a slight disservice to quite how prolific he is in certain areas. As these wagons show, he scores 44% of his runs just in front of square leg, and just behind. Through that zone his scoring rate comfortably exceeds 15rpo – a strike rate of over 250.
He’s a power-hitter to compete among the best, but this wasn’t always the case. Indeed, before the start of the 2015 IPL season, his record in this competition was far more human. An average of 38.61 and scoring rate of 8.38rpo is still an extremely good record, but it doesn’t terrify in the way his current numbers do. Since the 2015 tournament kicked off on the 8th April of that year, his record has sky-rocketed, averaging 51.12 and scoring at an astonishing 10.02rpo. There’s a message there for young batters – if arguably the best batsman of all time can hit his peak at 31 years of age, there’s plenty of time to perfect your game.
This week saw Delhi’s captain Gautam Gambhir resign, after his side won just one of their first six matches. They’ve had a multitude of issues, from the early loss of key man Kagiso Rabada, to an unhelpful ability to seemingly lose a match from any position. Most of all though, they’ve struggled immensely with batting depth. Rishabh Pant is their top-scorer in the competition so far, scoring 227 runs – as the graphic below shows, no other team have been as reliant on one man to score their runs. Pant is a wonderful talent, but even his staunchest supporters would struggle to argue he’s consistent. His record varies wildly even according to just when he bats in a match, averaging 34.06 and scoring at 9.31rpo batting first, compared to 22.85 and 8.57rpo batting second. Perhaps this will be the season when he blossoms from outrageous talent to top-end run-scorer, but if it isn’t, Delhi desperately need to find someone who can make a match-winning contribution.
Rashid Khan’s supremacy in T20 cricket is without question. The accolades continue to pour in for the Afghanistan leg-spinner, from being named Wisden’s inaugural T20 cricketer of the year, to sitting proudly atop the ICC bowling rankings for the shortest format. Yet there is one minor fly in the ointment for Rashid. Recently, his record against left-handed batsmen has taken a rather severe dip. In 2018, he’s dismissed just three left-handers, with a bowling average of 51 and an economy of 8.19rpo. When that’s compared to his record in the same period against right-handers (23 wickets at an average of 12, economy 5.59rpo), it’s clear that what’s been largely interpreted as Rashid’s preference for right-handers is actually quite a substantial issue with left-handers in general.
What brought this sudden issue on? In 2015 and 2016, left-handers couldn’t score at more than 6rpo against Rashid, and all of a sudden he’s getting clobbered. The difference seems to have come in the intent of the batsmen. More than ever, left-handers who may have previously been cowed by Rashid’s overall record are noticing the bat-hand differential, and are taking him on – as this graphic shows. It’s not a terminal issue for Rashid, who is still arguably the first name on a World XI teamsheet, but his current trajectory to being The Greatest T20 Bowler of All Time could be partially blocked, if he can’t subdue the lefties to a greater degree.
Twice in a week, Sunrisers Hyderabad managed to pull off remarkable wins after posting under-par totals in the first innings. First against Mumbai Indians on Tuesday, then last night against Kings XI Punjab, Kane Williamson’s team produced magnificent bowling displays to keep their excellent campaign on track, even to draw suggestions that they are now the favourites for the competition. Whilst Rashid Khan may draw a lot of the plaudits, it’s actually been the seam attack, spearheaded by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, that has stood out for Sunrisers. They have the most frugal seam unit in the competition, with Bhuvneshwar ably supported by Siddarth Kaul and Sandeep Sharma. At the start of the competition, the loss of Billy Stanlake would have been devastating, given his T20 pedigree, but right now Sunrisers have more than enough in-form seamers to suggest he wouldn’t even make their strongest eleven.
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz. @benjonescricket