When you consider the big batting second stats of individual players in ODIs, you are likely to see Virat Kohli coming out on top in many parameters. But would you adjudge him to be a finisher? Considering he has remained unbeaten in so many successful run-chases, you could say that’s a good case to label him as one. But then again, when he comes into bat, finishing the game is rarely the immediate concern. There's usually a long way to go before getting to such a stage.
Hence, it’s probably wise to look at players who have batted at number five and below in ODIs as they are usually entrusted with finishing the innings. Those batsmen who come into bat when they don’t necessarily have to build a long innings but need to play a short and impactful knock. Obviously, you can’t consider this to always be the case – an early batting collapse can see batsmen batting at five or lower come into bat even in the first 10 overs.
The first thing you would want to see is how the batsmen compare when it comes to averages. While batting second at numbers five and below, if you consider a minimum of 1000 runs, it is AB de Villiers who averages the most. And he does so by a far margin.
The reason only average has been considered in the above graph and not strike-rate – which is an important metric in limited-overs cricket – is because ODI cricket has evolved so much. Hence, it’s unfair to compare Michael Bevan’s strike-rate – who played when run-rates were lower – to that of de Villiers.
When it comes to successful run-chases, there have been only nine batsmen who have scored 1000+ runs in such situations. Hence, the minimum requirement has been lowered to 500 runs here. In such a scenario, again de Villiers reigns supreme with an average of 223.67. But it must be noted that MS Dhoni has batted in many more innings and scored nearly thrice the runs de Villiers has while batting at number five or lower in successful ODI run-chases. So, the former Indian captain’s average of 96.6 under such circumstances is incredibly impressive.
All the above stats are fine, but if you are a ‘finisher’, wouldn’t your role demand that you are at the crease at the end of the innings? Therefore, remaining not out and seeing your team through to victory is paramount.
When it comes to not-outs in successful ODI run-chases, no one comes close to Dhoni when batting at five or lower. The Ranchi-born cricketer has been unbeaten 42 times under such situations. The second highest is Jonty Rhodes with 28. Even when it comes to runs scored, Dhoni is at the top (1546).
You might think that Dhoni has had the most opportunities, hence he has the best numbers. So, here’s looking at how many times batsmen batting at five or lower have batted in the second innings of an ODI and the percentage of times that they have been not out while their team has won.
Here, you see de Villiers coming out on top. His sample size is slightly on the lower side, yet it is remarkable. Among the five names, Dhoni and Rhodes’ percentages are quite impressive considering the number of innings they've played under such circumstances.
There’s another question that arises here. The batsmen in the above graph might have stayed not out in successful run-chases, but did they contribute a lot of runs during those matches? Since these are not-outs, batting average cannot be considered. Therefore, we have considered runs per innings during such successful run-chases.
While Yuvraj Singh tops this list, it’s interesting to see Arjuna Ranatunga’s name again. The World Cup-winning Sri Lankan captain, not only has been not out a considerable number of times in successful run-chases, but he has contributed almost 50 runs per innings while doing so. That puts him up there as one of the greatest ODI finishers of all time.
A name you might have noticed missing from some of the above graphs is Bevan. You must be wondering how the batsman often considered as the one who made the ‘finisher’ role popular in ODI cricket not being among the best statistically. While statistics are a great indicator of a player’s greatness, influence and memories are also huge factors.
Bevan’s unbeaten 78 against West Indies on New Year’s Day in 1996 was one such instance when he took Australia from 74/7 to successfully chase down a target of 173. From thereon in, Bevan was considered a specialist finisher in a dominant Australian team. It was perhaps the first time that a batsman was given such a role long-term. Therefore, his influence in the one-day game can never be underestimated.