CricViz analyst Ben Jones looks at the standout statistics from the fifth week of IPL action.
With Rajasthan Royals’ season on the rocks, they needed to make a substantial change to their line-up. However, seemingly the coaching staff looked at their bench strength, looked back to the guys in the middle, and decided that the solution was there in the team. A bit of batting order shuffling later, and Jos Buttler was moved to the top of the order. It’s been a masterstroke, the Englishman making 295 runs in four innings, and has almost single-handedly kept Rajasthan in the hunt for elimination cricket.
However, one has to ask why this wasn’t done sooner? As shown in the graphics below, Buttler averages more and scores faster when batting at the top of the order, throughout his career.
Equally, he has more influence on the game when opening, his role as ODI finisher not really extending to the shorter format. His Batting Impact Average in the powerplay is much, much higher than at other times of the match – if other franchises, and his national side, want to get the best out of Buttler, then they need to find room for him at the top of the order.
Not long ago, a left-arm seamer was a staple for coaches seeking a balanced attack. They were idolised and fetishised, and their appeal no doubt boosted the careers of some less than top-class players. This year, their reputation is having to withstand some pretty severe battering. No bowling type has been more expensive in this season of IPL cricket, the southpaw seamers going at 9.38rpo across the competition as a whole. Compared to the last few seasons, this represents quite the comedown, but more than anything it points to a fundamental aspect of T20 cricket, or indeed all cricket. Strategies, styles and aesthetics come and go in cycles, as teams seek to maintain competitiveness by keeping up with new trends, then look to seek an advantage by bucking them.
Earlier this year, the Big Bash was lit up by D’Arcy Short’s batting pyrotechnics, but as the Australian struggles to find form in this IPL, another muscular left-hander is having the time of his life. Rishabh Pant has quickly pulled away from the crop of young Indian batsman around his age, marking himself out as the best of a talented bunch. His century against Sunrisers Hyderabad was a thing of powerful beauty. Unfettered attacking, batting first and with a license to go all out, Pant made 128, and almost dragged Delhi to a match-winning score. It was the fifth highest impact knock of any batsman this IPL season, and pointed to a new-found substance in Pant’s batting which when allied with his destructive style, will have him pulling on the pale blue shirt of his country rather more regularly in the coming years.
As if anyone still needed convincing, there is plenty of room at the T20 table for a batsman with Test match class. In amongst the frenetic fury of the ultra-attacking Indian youngsters like Pant and Samson, old-time test veterans Kane Williamson and AB de Villiers show that some extra long-form class can take you to the next level. This season, there have been seven innings of 35+ balls in which not one shot was a play-and-miss, a serious feat of control and execution. The players to manage this once have been Shubman Gill, Sanju Samson, Ambati Rayudu, but the men to manage it twice are Williamson and De Villiers. Power and ball-striking is key in T20, but being able to get bat on ball every time is an impressive achievement and shows that you’re harder to tie down – Kane and AB are the masters, regardless of this young crop coming through.
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz. @benjonescricket