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18 Aug 2020 | 12:00 PM
authorSupratim Haldar
Batsmen in CPL: A Cluster Analysis
A mathematical analysis throws up some interesting results on batsmen through CPL's history

In a team game like cricket, each player plays a specific role at different phases of the game. Every team comes with a game plan. The most successful teams carry out the game plan in a most effective way. In the longer format of the game, a particular plan can be executed for an extended passage of play. But, the shortest format of the game demands multiple plans as the game situation changes rapidly. 

Thus, the role of a player also changes more often in a T20 format than Test cricket. One such example is Sunil Narine - an ace spinner and lower-order batsman - found his utility at the top of the order as a pinch-hitting opener. The T20 format has reduced the role of every batsman to being basically aggressive run-makers.

Yet, in that broad category, these batsmen can be further clustered into three sub-categories. They are Maker (the builders of innings), Blaster (the enforcers) and Passable.

The analysis

The mathematical technique used for this analysis is Hierarchical Clustering. Also known as hierarchical cluster analysis, an algorithm that groups similar objects into groups called clusters. The endpoint is a set of clusters, where each cluster is distinct from each other, and the objects within each cluster are broadly similar to each other. Batsmen are the objects in this analysis.

This analysis extracts the inherent qualities of batsmen in the Caribbean Premier League based on their performance from 2015 to 2019. To make sure that there is a reasonable sample picked, a minimum criterion of at least 20 innings with batting positions 1-6 across the last 5 years of the CPL is added.

The following attributes/statistic of batsmen are taken into account for the analysis.

    Runs per innings (RPI)

    Strike Rate (SR)

    Balls per dismissal (BPD)

    Boundary percentage (Bdry)

    Control percentage (Control)

    Attack percentage (Attacked)

A higher value of the attributes signifies better quality of a batsman. Given the difference in scale in values of these parameters, in order to achieve a consistent calculation, all parameters have been standard scaled such that resultant mean is 0 and variance is 1.

Classification of Batsmen

To set the context, here’s how the average value of these parameters look based on the performance of our sample set of players in CPL in the last 5 seasons.

Considering the average value of each aspects of batting, the batsmen are grouped in the following three categories compared to the average value.

Group 1: Consists of players who are consistent, reliable and build up innings. They score their runs at slightly below average Strike Rate, stay on the crease for long, do not attack much and have a high level of control. We call them the Makers.

Group 2: These players are pinch-hitters. They score quickly but not too many, hit lots of boundaries, attack a lot, but have a low control. They are the Blasters.

Group 3: The third cluster have attributes that are low on all counts. They neither attack nor play long innings. Most of them are allrounders or bowlers, and some of these players might be actually good when compared to the overall pool of CPL players. But here, they are the Passables.

On the basis of the above criteria following are the players in the three clusters. 

Observations

Chris Gayle as a Maker

Chris Gayle is on the borderline of Maker and Blaster. He still does dominate the bowlers in all aspects, but his ability to attack is on a downward slope. 

Unfortunately, his performance in CPL has been on a decline since 2015, though it slightly improved in 2019. Fans won't be able to watch him this year for the St Lucia Zouks, as he has opted out due to personal reasons.

Narine as a Passable Batsman

Sunil Narine’s batting performance in CPL over the years has been very erratic. While Narine is in the side mainly for his bowling variations, his batting has always been seen as ‘risk-free’ runs at the top. 

The curious of case of Dwayne Bravo

Bravo had a great season in 2018, but unfortunately, he missed the 2019 season due to an injury. In the 3 seasons prior to that, however, his batting form in CPL had been on a steady decline, thus dragging his overall figures on all parameters below the average (except SR which is still slightly better than the crowd). Given his talent, let us hope that he will make a terrific comeback once again this year.

Also, as he bats at 6-7 most of the time these days, he is now more of a death bowler than an allrounder.

Brandon King: The next superstar to look out for

The 25-year Jamaican Brandon King is the latest pin-up boy of T20 cricket. King scored 496 runs at an average of 55 and a strike rate of 149 in the last edition of CPL, which is the second-most runs scored by a player in a single edition. His hitting power is on a steady ascendancy in T20 cricket and he will be one of the most sought after players to watch out for in the upcoming season.  


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Christopher Henry GayleSunil Philip NarineDwayne John BravoBrandon Alexander KingCaribbean Premier League, 2020
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