Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Futility of a Long Batting Lineup in T20s

This title of this post seems counter-intuitive since most people believe Twenty20 cricket is a batsman's game. I should, infact, clarify that I'm not suggesting you pick four number 11s in your lineup. What I'm alluding to is the tendency of most sides to go in with bits and pieces players just to ensure they bat as deep as possible, thereby compromising on their chances of restricting the opposition to lower scores through good bowling.

There was no better example of this than the qualifier between the Delhi Daredevils and Chennai Super Kings earlier this year. The Daredevils had lost Irfan Pathan thanks to an injury sustained in the previous game. Since Pathan was in the side as an allrounder, the team decided for a like-for-like replacement in Andre Russell. Unfortunately, it meant that they would have to drop an overseas player as they could only have 4 in the playing eleven. They could have dropped Ross Taylor, who had scored just 173 runs at a strike rate of 110 that season. But in what must count as one of the dumbest decisions ever made by an IPL franchise, the Daredevils decided to drop the leading wicket-taker of the tournament and picked Sunny Gupta who had never played an IPL game before. The 4 overs shared between Gupta and Sehwag, went for 68 runs. Morkel, on an average, was bowling his 4 overs for 29 runs and taking over a wicket and a half every game. Needless to say, the Daredevils were eliminated from the competition.

You would be mistaken if you thought such brainlessness was confined to the IPL. India tried the tactic of packing the side with batsmen in the 2010 World T20 and were comfortably beaten by Australia and the West Indies. They tried the same tactic against New Zealand yesterday, with Irfan Pathan slotted to come in at 8 & Ashwin at 9. Eventually, they batted 20 overs & lost just 4 wickets, with the last one falling with 2 balls left.

So why do sides insist on picking bits and pieces players instead of specialist wicket-taking bowlers? I went through the stats for all teams by batting position to see just how often to players down the order get to bat, and how long do they bat when they get the chance.
Overall
Position
% Innings
Balls/Team Innings
Balls/Individual Innings
Open
99.24%
18.72
18.86
3
97.33%
17.34
17.82
4
95.04%
16.33
17.18
5
91.41%
13.26
14.50
6
84.54%
10.19
12.05
7
76.34%
7.24
9.49
8
62.84%
4.63
7.37
9
53.07%
2.89
5.44
10
35.63%
1.41
3.96
11
23.95%
0.75
3.12

As you can see, a number 7 batsman gets to bat in roughly 3 out of 4 games. The number is significantly lower for test playing nations. Essentially, it means that the lower down the order you are, the less likely it is that you'll play an innings that swings the game in your team's favour.

For India (See the table below), the number 7 batsman gets to bat in roughly 3 out of 5 matches. Even when the number seven batsman does get to bat, he faces, on an average, eight deliveries in the innings.

India
Position
% Innings
Balls/Team Innings
Balls/Individual Innings
Open
97.22%
18.58
19.11
3
94.44%
20.61
21.82
4
94.44%
18.39
19.47
5
88.89%
10.50
11.81
6
77.78%
11.33
14.57
7
61.11%
5.00
8.18
8
41.67%
3.67
8.80
9
33.33%
2.64
7.92
10
25.00%
1.25
5.00
11
16.67%
0.33
2.00

If India pick a side along the lines of the one they picked yesterday, the number seven spot will be occupied by either Manoj Tiwary of Rohit Sharma. It might even be Mahendra Singh Dhoni if India lose early wickets. Bear in mind that Irfan Pathan and Ravichandran Ashwin will follow in the batting order. Interestingly, none of the three batsmen likely to bat at 7 have a record that sets them apart from Pathan. While all 3 of them have a better average than him, their strike rates are either considerably lower as in the case of Tiwary, or almost identical as in the case of Dhoni and Sharma.

Player
Average
Strike Rate
M S Dhoni
35.05
129.18
Rohit Sharma
31.87
130.4
Manoj Tiwary
30.75
114.65
Irfan Pathan
23.96
130.19

A bowling lineup featuring Zaheer, Pathan, Dinda/Balaji & Ashwin is average at best and mediocre at worst. With just 4 specialist bowlers, it will be left to some combination of Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary & Virender Sehwag to bowl 4 overs. In a scenario where whoever bats at 7 will get barely any deliveries to face, it really doesn't make any sense to have an extra batsman who doesn't score any quicker than your allrounder instead of a bowler who will give you 4 quality overs. I would have gone with Pragyan Ojha but unfortunately, the selectors have picked Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla as backup. It may not be a bad idea to pick Harbhajan as he will atleast be more economical than the part-time bowlers. None of this, however, makes India favourites to win the World T20, in my opinion.

1 comment:

  1. nice blog


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    Stuart Larner


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    ReplyDelete