Decoded: Types of T20 batters

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10 Oct 2022 | 12:33 PM
authorAnirudh Suresh

Decoded: Types of T20 batters

In this week’s decoded, in a rather fun exercise, we at Cricket.com explore the different categories of batters that exist in the shortest format, and try placing individuals in brackets that pertain to their skillset

Openers

Powerplay bashers

First up, we have none other than the Powerplay Bashers, a popular yet not so widespread breed. These are essentially your openers whose primary intention is to make the field restrictions count. To fit into this category, we feel you ‘at least’ need to have a strike rate of 135 or more in the first six overs. Those with a SR of 150 or more can be considered truly elite powerplay bashers. 

Among current players, Prithvi Shaw (SR 152.5), Alex Hales (169.06), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (SR 159.8) and Phil Salt (SR 153.4) are four notable examples (numbers since 2020). The absolute best of the lot, however, is Finn Allen, who in the last two years has a powerplay SR of 183.9.  

But since this category has a diverse range of batters, there’s a need to divide it into sub-categories.

a) Bashers hopeless outside the first six

Falling into this sub-category are the batters who can do a very good job inside the first six, but are hopeless outside of it. A very good example being Wriddhiman Saha, who since 2019 has averaged 40.58 and struck at 137.57 inside the powerplay, but has been mediocre outside the field restrictions, averaging 21.13 and striking at 108. 

There are usually two reasons why this happens. The first one relates to the batter’s inability to muscle and manhandle bowling attacks when the field is spread out. It is easy to collect boundaries by showing intent in the powerplay, for all you need to do is clear the infield. But simply finding gaps won’t work outside the first six, and so the runs dry up. Someone like a Saha belongs to this first category.

The second reason why certain bashers tend to be hopeless outside the first six is because they simply aren’t skilled at tackling spin. They get bogged down or bamboozled and that ultimately leads to their demise. 

b) Bashers with low success rate outside first six but will win games if they bat through

These are the openers who seldom tend to bat deep in a T20 innings, but, unlike those in the first category, have the skillset to succeed outside the first six and will win games for their side whenever they bat through. Jason Roy, Prithvi Shaw, Paul Stirling, Phil Salt, Evin Lewis, Gurbaz etc all fall under this sub-category. The low success-rate is down to the fact that they boast an ultra high-risk style. They’ll more often than not get away with it when the field is up, but won’t have the same luck outside the powerplay.

X-factor merchantsIn the ‘x-factor merchants’ category we have the openers who are not particularly proficient at one thing but just boast that x-factor in them. You cannot bank on them to be consistent, nor can you expect them to do one job effectively, but on their day they will murder attacks. Most of the time teams feel that alone is reason enough to have them in the XI. 

Rohit Sharma, Aaron Finch, Martin Guptill all fall under this category. 

AnchorsIf we are to define anchors, they are ludicrous run-machines who guarantee runs and add solidity to the side, but do not have the capability to be destructive on a consistent basis. 

Again, this category too has a diverse range of batters, so we’ll be dividing it into sub-categories.

a) Anchors with a very high ceiling (on good days)

Falling into this bracket are the anchors who, at their very best, can set the world on fire. They are probably notorious for starting slow but once set, they can absolutely rip the bowling into shreds. A very good example of this sub-category being peak Virat Kohli. Not to mention Marcus Stoinis, who was also a batter of similar ilk when he opened the batting for Melbourne Stars in the BBL.

b) Anchors with a moderate-to-high ceiling 

These are your openers who have incredible consistency but not as high a ceiling as the batters in the previous category. The ones in this category are bound to consistently provide the same kind of impact across matches rather than, say, oscillate between a very poor knock and an outrageous match-winning innings. The players who fall under this sub-category are Shikhar Dhawan, Devon Conway, Brandon King, Ruturaj Gaikwad etc. Pretty close to this level is also someone like a Pathum Nissanka. 

c) Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan (ft. Kane Williamson)

Having a separate sub-category for Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan feels just about right because they just do not fit into any group. If we were to forcefully fit them in somewhere then it’d most likely be in the previous ‘moderate-to-high ceiling’ category, but then again there has been many occasions where, despite churning out a bucketload of runs, they’ve come off as batters with a low-to-moderate T20 ceiling. However, equally, the pair have played some high-ceiling knocks (such as Babar’s 122 off 59 vs SA in 2021).

Another player who fits into this category, despite being far less consistent, is Kane Williamson. But Williamson makes up for his lack of consistency through his versatility; unlike Babar and Rizwan, Williamson has played in the middle-order and has nailed the role too. 

The ‘I-can-do-anything’ godsThese are your out-and-out world-class openers who have no weaknesses and all the ability in the world. They are so good that they choose how they want to operate. Sub-categories included, we’ve seen eight divisions so far; these batters can willfully fit into all eight divisions, they are simply that good.

The batters in this category? Just three. Jos Buttler, KL Rahul and David Warner. 

Rahul, understandably, divides opinions, but his ability as a batter is not something that’s up for debate; there’s enough evidence to put him in this category. 

Quinton de Kock once threatened to break into this bracket but he has fallen off. Among active cricketers, going by franchise league numbers, the closest opener to the aforementioned three is perhaps Alex Hales. 

Middle-order

Since talking about anchors will be redundant, we’re skipping that part. However, we’ll throw in a couple of examples using the aforementioned categories.

Anchors with a very high ceiling (on good days)  

Dawid Malan

Anchors with a moderate-to-high ceiling 

Shreyas Iyer

And here, instead of Rizwan-Babar, we have a special category for Steve Smith. 

Because Smith is a quite fascinating T20 anomaly that fits into no category whatsoever. In fact, you cannot even call him an anchor because he is not consistent. He essentially just.. exists. 

Funnily enough, you can probably put the entire Bangladesh side under this particular category. They’ve been pretty hopeless in the shortest format.

Anyway, moving on. 

Note: there will be quite a bit of overlap going forward.

The momentum-driversThese are middle-order folks who are extremely quick-starters, batters that nullify the loss of a wicket by instantly putting pressure on the opponents by getting off the blocks quickly. Let’s say to fall under this category, you at least need to have a strike rate of 130 in your first 10 balls.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa (131.6), Rahul Tripathi (138.4), Suryakumar Yadav (140.3) and Liam Livingstone (145.9) can all be considered as momentum-drivers (numbers since 2020). The best of the lot, interestingly, has been Jitesh Sharma, who in the last two years has boasted a SR of 173 in his first 10 balls.

The pace destroyersThe title is self-explanatory. These lads absolutely love obliterating fast bowling and specialize in the role of taking the attack to the quicker men in the opposition side. All things considered, at the elite level, Mitchell Marsh has been right up there as the best pace destroyer since 2021, amassing 863 runs against the quicker men at an average of 61.64 and SR of 150.9. 

Other prominent players (runs/average/strike rate) in this category are Rilee Rossouw (1020/46/173), Suryakumar Yadav (936/32/172), Rovman Powell (649/38/167) and Dinesh Karthik (198/99/194).  (numbers since 2021).

As far as pace destroyers are concerned, we’ll traverse through one sub-category: those outstanding versus pace but susceptible against spin. Hopeless, even.

Take Moises Henriques, for instance. Since 2021, his numbers against pace (avg/SR) are 42/155, which is great. But in the same period, against spin, his numbers read 21/104.

Some of the other batters who fall under this sub-category are Matthew Wade (30/157 vs pace, 24/96 vs spin), Dasun Shanaka (42/163 vs pace, 27/102 vs spin), Ravindra Jadeja (44/153 vs pace, 30/85 vs spin) and Khushdil Shah (30/148 vs pace, 18/98 vs spin).

The spin bashersSame as the previous category, except replace ‘pace’ with ‘spin’. Spin bashers in general are considered even more valuable than pace destroyers, for they tend to inject momentum during the middle-overs (7-15) phase in which the bowling side is said to hold the upper hand. 

Going with just strike rate in overs 7-15, Maxwell (143.6), Ben Duckett (157), Moeen Ali (140.1), Deepak Hooda (142), Nitish Rana (139.4), Shadab Khan (141.2) and Sunil Narine (149.2) all fall under this category. (numbers since 2021).

And as it was with the pace destroyers, there is also one sub-category that’s worth mentioning: spin bashers extremely average versus fast bowling.

No one fits this description better than Shivam Dube. Across the last two IPL seasons, whenever he’s batted in the Top 5, his numbers (avg/SR) against spin read 92/135, just 2 dismissals. In contrast, he’s been dismissed 12 times by pacers and he’s averaged just 22 against the quicker men. 

Mark Chapman of New Zealand is also a weirdly similar case. Since 2020, his numbers (avg/SR) against spin read 34/154. However, he’s been very poor against the quicks, averaging 25.92 while striking at just 118.66. 

The all-round middle-order batters

Speaking of bowling types and weaknesses, there’s a third category of batters: those who are excellent versus both spin and pace. Without getting into too much detail, we’ll just throw a few names: Suryakumar Yadav (33/175 vs pace, 37/147 vs spin), Rahul Tripathi (37/155 vs pace, 28/138 vs spin), Rilee Rossouw (44/172 vs pace, 38/173 vs spin), Aiden Markram (42/144 vs pace, 34/137 vs spin) and Sanju Samson (29/144 vs pace, 39/139 vs spin).

From the aforementioned list, you can probably filter out SKY, Samson and Markram and label them complete, all-round T20 batters. Because not only are these players proficient against both spin and pace, they also — much like Warner, Rahul and Buttler — have the ability to don different roles as per the situation. On recent evidence, it would be an injustice to not add Hardik Pandya and David Miller to this list. As the description suggests, these are the ace batters in the format. 

The X-factor merchants (middle-order edition)

In other words, call them the ‘must-haves’. These players deal in sixes, have the ability to win the match from any situation single-handedly, and thereby put the fear of god in the opposition.

Glenn Maxwell, Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell and Liam Livingstone fall under this category. Asif Ali is a tier or two below these batters, but he’s of the same mould.

Bhanuka Rajapaska, of late, has been threatening to break into this category as well, but right now he is somewhere between ‘x-factor merchant’ and ‘complete middle-order batter’.

The accomplished finishers

When the going gets tough, you don’t want a finisher. You want a FINISHER. Who exactly is a FINISHER? The one whom you’d trust to take the team over the line 8/10 times when the equation is, say, 60 needed off 6 overs.

You’ve heard of run banks, but these players are your victory banks. They get you those extra 20-30 runs while batting first and are a comforting presence while chasing, for you know they ‘will’ get the job done.

Among the active players, you’d probably put Hardik Pandya, David Miller and Tim David in this category. Age has caught up with Kieron Pollard but for a decade, he was a cut above every other finisher in the shortest format. A fair shout also needs to be given to Jimmy Neesham, who has almost hit a new level in the last 18 months or so, and Dinesh Karthik, who since IPL 2022 has been outrageously good at finishing. 

Additional categories 

Pinch-hitter: A lower-order batter that’s sent-up the order for either match-up purposes or to simply cause havoc (eg: Narine, Mohammad Nawaz, Axar Patel, Dwaine Pretrorius)

Pinch-anchor:  A lower-order batter that’s sent-up the order for damage control purposes in the powerplay (eg: Ashwin for Rajasthan, Sai Kishore for Tamil Nadu). 

Versatile Warrior: A batter capable of creating a positive impact across multiple positions in the batting order (eg: Liam Livingstone, Jonny Bairstow, Josh Inglis, Suryakumar Yadav) 

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