CricViz Analysis: The IPL’s English Contingent

The 2019 Indian Premier League season is playing host to an entire team’s worth of England-qualified players. Ben Jones casts his eye over the 11 Englishmen about to take to the stage.

JOS BUTTLER – Rajasthan Royals

Has an Englishman ever had a better IPL than Jos Buttler did in 2018? Even when Ben Stokes was voted Most Valuable Player in 2017, he arguably had less of an impact than Buttler did for Rajasthan Royals, almost single-handedly dragging them into the play-offs following a transformative move to the top of the order. Only twice in IPL history has an opener scored more runs than Buttler did last year whilst maintaining a higher scoring rate. As shown below, he’s in decent company.

Heading back to Rajasthan this year, he’s nailed on to slot back into that opening berth, having established himself as one of the premier openers in T20 cricket. Since Buttler was promoted to open, he’s made 908 runs in that position. Only six other men have made more, and only one (Aaron Finch) has done so whilst scoring more quickly.

Chance of playing: 10/10

Chance of success 9/10

JOFRA ARCHER – Rajasthan Royals

Of all the English-qualified players at the IPL, Jofra Archer has arguably the most intriguing campaign ahead of him. The debate around him has been tainted by numerous issues, longstanding and deep-rooted, relating both to ideas of national identity and to the concept of “earning your spot”. This debate has, more often than is ideal, been conducted by critics who have not watched quite as much of Archer’s T20 career as some others, and as such the arguments have been painted in broad, unhelpful strokes. Amidst this, it is easy to lose the fundamental point here – that Archer is brilliant.

Since he made his T20 in July 2016, playing for Sussex against Hampshire, only eight men in world cricket have taken more T20 wickets. Some will decry the hype around Archer’s potential World Cup inclusion as a passing fad, but his longevity is underrated. Sustaining his level of success for two-and-a-half years is not easy. Plenty of players arrive en vogue for six months, but fail under the pressure. Archer has not done that.

Yet this IPL, there will be plenty of English eyes on Archer’s performances. For Rajasthan, Archer plays that crucial double-role, one which echoes what he’d be asked to do in the England team – take wickets up front, and dominate the death. In 2018 he took more powerplay wickets than any other RR seamer, and had comfortably the best economy rate of their regular death bowlers. Given the lack of real change to their squad, Rajasthan are likely to use him in a similar way in 2019; whilst a slightly disappointing BBL08 will have dampened expectation, Archer is still a classy performer capable of having a real impact on this IPL.

Chance of playing 8/10

Chance of success 8/10

BEN STOKES – Rajasthan Royals

After his MVP exploits in 2017, Ben Stokes had a quieter IPL season last year. With the bat, he passed 40 only once and struggled to hit top gear; with the ball, he went wicketless in eight of his thirteen matches. While Stokes is player who rarely goes long stretches without contributing in the some manner, given his fielding and leadership qualities, his value as a player is still largely determined by the runs and wickets he provides. He will be eager to improve. Stokes’ batting struggles in 2018 were primarily against spin. He was dismissed every 11 balls he faced from the slower bowlers, unsustainable in a tournament with so many quality spinners. If he’s to succeed this year, he’ll need to address that.

As a bowler, Stokes has evolved into more of a middle-overs merchant than he had been; 45% of his deliveries since the start of 2017 have come in Overs 7-15. That shift is reflected in his economy rate of 7.71rpo in that time, indicative of him not bowling at the business ends of the innings, but even so – that is an excellent economy rate. Given the make-up of the RR squad, one would expect the pitch to help seamers, and that could benefit Stokes.

Chance of playing 9/10

Chance of success 7/10

JOE DENLY – Kolkata Knight Riders

Kent veteran Joe Denly has enjoyed something of a career revival in the last few seasons. After a period of solid success on the T20 domestic circuit, beginning in the 2017 BPL, Denly has began to force his way into the thoughts of both major T20 leagues and the England set-up. At the 2019 auction KKR secured his services, banking on his mixture of batting nous and canny leg-spin.

Typically batting at the top of the order, Denly is extremely unlikely to dislodge either Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine from the opening partnership. Equally, since that 2017 BPL season, Denly’s batting has been extremely secure, dismissed every 30 balls against pace and every 26 balls against spin. That is slightly at odds with KKR’s traditional gameplan of charging out of the blocks, but it does make Denly ideally suited to the rebuilding in the middle overs that will inevitably be required. KKR could well use him as a safety net middle-order option, particularly on turning tracks where his leg-spin becomes a greater weapon.

Chance of playing 6/10

Chance of success 6/10

JONNY BAIRSTOW – Sunrisers Hyderabad

A recognised international star now, and with a serious claim on being the best ODI opener in the world, Jonny Bairstow is in a peculiar position at Sunrisers. Given the nature of the overseas players in the Sunrisers squad, he’s unlikely to get a game, competing with established SRH stars David Warner and Kane Williamson for a place in that top order.

Equally, his strong record has largely been based around dominating pace, rather than spin. In and of itself that is not a flaw, but it may limit his effectiveness on the Sunrisers home surface, the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium. In the last two seasons, only the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur has seen a lower economy for spin bowlers – Bairstow will be working against his home conditions. Given his all-format commitments with England, Bairstow has had little experience of T20 cricket in recent times; indeed, he’s only played 16 T20 matches in the last 24 months.

All that comes with the caveat that Bairstow is a man who undoubtedly prides himself on proving people wrong, and may be spurred on by the challenge. Given a full season in Hyderabad, you wouldn’t bet against him dislodging some more established names, but on this occasion the curtailed opportunities from World Cup commitments may limit him.

Chances of playing 5 /10

Chance of success 7/10

HARRY GURNEY – Kolkata Knight Riders

Off the back of a very successful BBL campaign, where he helped guide the Melbourne Renegades to an inaugural title, left-arm seamer Harry Gurney’s stock rose even higher when Kolkata snapped him up at the IPL auction. His canny collection of slower balls and variations has been honed over years of white ball cricket and, as it stands, sees him placed as one of the leading death bowlers in the world.

Gurney has the double-edged benefit of not being in World Cup contention, meaning he can focus on applying himself to KKR’s cause for the whole campaign. He will be competing with Lockie Ferguson for the overseas bowler spot, an interesting contest given how different they are as bowlers; Ferguson’s raw pace is a fascinating contrast with Gurney’s change-ups, a contrast that should allow the KKR coaching staff to opt for either bowler according to conditions or opposition match-ups. Smart recruitment, and giving Gurney a strong likelihood of playing.

Chance of playing 7/10

Chance of success 8/10

MOEEN ALI – Royal Challengers Bangalore

Mixed in with England’s bounty of white ball stars, Moeen Ali can often be an afterthought. Whilst his bowling has become more appreciated (largely by association with Adil Rashid’s improved form), his batting is routinely relegated to the out-and-out slogging of the last few balls. Without question, this is an underuse of his talents. Since the start of 2017, Moeen Ali has faced 260 deliveries in T20 cricket, and 381 other players have faced as many; only three have scored more quickly – RCB will be eager to make the most of Moeen’s hitting ability.

Given the undoubted presence of AB de Villiers as one of the overseas spots, the probable inclusion of Shimron Hetmyer and the likely need to include Nathan Coulter-Nile as an overseas seamer, Moeen will be fighting with Colin de Grandhomme and Marcus Stoinis for the overseas all-rounder spot. The clear differentiating factor that Moeen has from those two is that he is a spin option, which could be necessary if Washington Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal need more support on helpful surfaces. While perhaps less valuable in a dressing room full of international stars, Moeen’s cricketing brain is an asset that could prove useful; his performance as Worcestershire skipper in the 2018 Blast semi-finals and final was a masterclass in calm thinking in a pressurised environment. With some hot-headed characters in that RCB squad, Moeen’s calm could offer important balance.

Chance of playing 7/10

Chance of success 8/10

SAM CURRAN – Kings XI Punjab

In T20, Sam Curran’s value is still largely in his potential. Here is a man who has played T20 cricket for only two teams (Surrey and Auckland), never for his country, and is generally regarded by those who know him best as a red ball specialist. A talented and rounded cricketer, but not yet a proven talent against top-class performers. Despite this, he has been made the flagship signing by a team in desperate need of inspiration, in desperate need of a hero. It’s hard to ignore the amplifying effect that Curran’s superb performance in the Test series between England and India will have had. India’s entire cricketing culture watched Curran repeatedly take his side from the point of defeat to the point of victory. Regardless of his pedigree as a T20 cricketer, one can understand why an Indian side are willing to thrust their hopes into his hands.

As a batsman, Curran is less than explosive, with a career scoring rate of 6.31rpo in Surrey colours, though his work in Test cricket shows that he has hitting ability. However, his role/performance with the ball is more clarified; 48% of his career bowling has been in the Powerplay, establishing himself as a new ball specialist. His strike rate and economy in that period are both better than the average for games he’s been involved in, suggesting he is performing reasonably.

Equally, you have to commend Kings XI for being astute in which young player they have targeted – Curran definitely won’t be going to the World Cup, which improves his availability and his opportunity to improve over a season, an investment for the 2020 IPL.

Chance of playing 8/10

Chance of success 6/10

LIAM LIVINGSTONE – Rajasthan Royals

Livingstone has garnered a serious reputation as a dangerous white-ball hitter, and while his opportunities to prove it on the highest stage have been limited, it is a reputation he deserves. He has scored faster than almost everyone in domestic T20 cricket over the last 12 months – indeed, everyone with a better record than him is an established star. Still – he is unlikely to feature for the Royals, certainly before the World Cup exodus begins. The overseas-heavy leanings of the RR squad does dictate that Livingstone’s opportunities will be small, but as a team they are lacking in late innings firepower. With his career scoring rate of 9.4rpo in the last five overs, Livingstone could be well placed to come into the side once that problem has been established in practice, not just in theory.

Chance of playing 4/10

Chance of success 7/10

DAVID WILLEY – Chennai Super Kings

Since the start of 2017, 58% of Willey’s bowling has been in the Powerplay. That is his role. His own economy in that period is almost exactly the same as the average for the games he’s played in, and his strike rate slightly better than the average – he’s a decent option, but for a man who is almost exclusively used in this role, it’s not ideal.

For Chennai, he sits behind Imran Tahir and Lungi Ngidi in the overseas bowler spot, and has a 50/50 chance of leaving the competition midway through to head to the World Cup. As a result, it will be tough for him to get a game. However compared to those two options he has a few key differentiating features. He offers a left-arm variation, which is valuable for strategic planning, and his batting is substantially better than either of the South Africans, as is his fielding. An opener for the Blast-winning Northamptonshire side, and latterly for Yorkshire, Willey has always been a mercurial hitter, but he has serious power with the bat that is probably still underutilised outside of the English domestic game. He scores at 12.13rpo through the legside – none of the English representatives at this IPL can boast a faster scoring rate through that zone.

Chance of playing 4/10

Chance of success 5/10

SAM BILLINGS – Chennai Super Kings

Abundantly talented and under-exposed, Sam Billings has suffered for being born in a generation of wonderful English batsmen. In particular, his career has been in the shadow of Buttler’s, both being audacious wicket-keeper batsmen, with huge potential, born within 12 months of each other. The consequence of being squeezed out of international recognition is that he has gained considerable T20 experience; of the 11 English players at the IPL, only Jos Buttler has played more matches in this form of the game. Equally, he’s had a boost in public profile following his superb 87 (47) against Windies in St Kitts and Nevis, and all signs suggest he’s in excellent form. His batting against spin is excellent, scoring at 8rpo since 2016 and dismissed only every 21 balls, making him an excellent option against spin-dominated attacks likes Sunrisers Hyderabad, used as more of a horses-for-courses selection.

Chance of playing 5/10

Chance of success 6/10

Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.

(Visited 208 times, 1 visits today)
1 reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *