Batting: The aspect of cricket that enjoys a relative bias. Even the most ardent lovers of bowling understand that in cricket, the skills with the willow is the ultimate crowd-puller. Statistically and conceptually, the bowlers are the match-winners. Yet, it is the batsmen that are the more celebrated lot in cricket’s history across formats. Using posture, timing, power or just sound off the bat, the batsmen offer a lot more variety for the viewer’s hungry eyes while accumulating the cricket’s ultimate currency - runs.
T20 cricket elevated batting to a higher level. This stands true in terms of the array of shots and fearlessness if not for the defensive technique. What started as a format for attacking batting, T20 has become a lot more inclusive. There is a substantial increase in batsmen dominating all the three formats. Even in just a 20-over span, T20 requires its fair share of role definition. Even the Indian Premier League has undergone an evolution. With a better quality of grafters and hitters, most teams now enjoy a deep line-up. This is different from the early seasons when a few good men occupied the top 4-5 slots, while other lesser-known players filled the lower-order only useful for a rainy day.
How does then one arrive at the best batsmen in a format that might seem skewed towards the top-order? To achieve this, we must account other aspects of batting in addition to runs per innings and strike-rate.
To account for other batting dimensions we look into parameters such as balls per boundary, balls per dismissal and not-outs. Balls per boundary help us identify the frequency of a batsman to hit fours and sixes – a necessary ingredient for a T20 batsman. Balls per dismissal inform us about the tendency of a batsman to stick around to build an innings. Not-outs bring the lower-order batsmen into play with their ability to finish the game for their team.
Before we dive into the calculations, let us look at how the top IPL batsmen fare across these parameters –
There are a few expected contenders like Chris Gayle and David Warner who dominate every aspect of T20 batting. But, there is a heavy muddle of relatively similar batsmen that we need to analyse further.
To account for these, we build a model that includes all the five parameters described earlier to generate a score for each batsman in the IPL. The approach that we opt for in this exercise is the Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM). It is an approach to help decision-makers to rank objects (players/products/candidates) based on several criteria. This is widely used in various domains such as business, medicine, industries, etc. These criteria may represent different aspects, for example: While purchasing a car, we look at safety, comfort, price, colour, fuel efficiency and our main objective is to get the best car considering all the above factors. To reiterate – from the point of view of batting in IPL, the parameters we consider for the analysis are: (a) runs per innings, (b) strike-rate, (c) balls per boundary, (d) balls per dismissal and (e) not-outs.
AHP (Analytic Hierarchy Process) is one of the MCDM methods. Here, we use pair-wise comparisons to estimate the weights of each parameter. E.g. first, we rank strike-rate in comparison to the other four parameters. Then, we do the same for runs per innings and we continue to do it for other three parameters as well to arrive at the final weights for each one of them.
These comparisons can be subjective. But, since all the five parameters are objective in nature we opted for a mathematic approach. We looked into the impact of each of these five parameters towards victory in an IPL game. Our observations suggest the following
After providing the relative rankings of parameters the final weightage that we get are-
Runs per innings: 0.29
Balls per boundary: 0.14
Balls per dismissal: 0.1
Not-outs per innings: 0.1
To obtain the final score, we check how far each batsman is on a particular parameter from the worst-performing batsman across that parameter. Then we use these numbers calculated for each parameter along with the weights above to arrive at a final score.
As we saw above, Gayle and Warner are ahead over others on most parameters. Hence it is no surprise that they occupy the top two spots. In a close-run competition between the two, Gayle takes the spot by bettering Warner on the most important aspect: strike-rate (151 vs 142.4). He also leads over the Aussie on balls per boundary (4.3 vs 5.2). Warner has the highest runs per innings record (37.3) among all 59 batsmen with a minimum of 60 innings in IPL. This propels him to the number two spot.
In just 69 IPL innings, Shaun Marsh left a lasting impact in the competition. Pipping AB de Villiers for the number 3 spot, Marsh has a better runs per innings record (35.9) as compared than the South African (31). The Aussie also has a significantly high balls per dismissal record (30.1 vs 26.4). With a strike-rate of 151.2 to go with other good numbers, de Villiers sits comfortably at four.
A lot of Indian fans might expect the highest run-getter in IPL, Virat Kohli, to be higher in the list. Yet, a relatively low strike-rate of 131.6 and a high balls per boundary record of 6.1 pulls him to five. This is despite a high runs per innings record of 32.
The chart makes it seem like MS Dhoni is above Suresh Raina from an overall perspective. But, Dhoni has a significant lead on lesser important factors like not-outs per innings (0.4 vs 0.1) and balls per dismissal (30.6 vs 24.3). While Raina leads on higher important factors like runs per innings (28.4 vs 26.1) and balls per boundary (5.7 vs 6.4). The two have a similar strike-rate of around 137. Despite being lower-order player, Dhoni has an impeccable ability to not throw his wicket. He is among the players with the best not-out/innings (0.4) and balls per dismissal record (30.6).
Steve Smith, Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Watson fill up the final three spots in the top-10. Smith, like Dhoni, is not an easy wicket to take. Clubbed with decent runs per innings (28.1) and strike-rate (128.9) push him to number 8.
Despite a low strike-rate (119.8), Tendulkar finds a place in the top-10 with a sixth-highest runs per innings record of 29.9 among players with minimum 60 innings. He also proved to be an efficient innings builder with a record of 29.1 balls per dismissal (fifth-best). Watson fills the tenth spot on the back of a high strike-rate of 139.5 and a record of 4.9 balls per boundary.
A key player to miss out from the top-10 is Virender Sehwag. Despite a strike-rate of 155.4 (second-highest) and 4 balls per boundary (highest), Sehwag ends up at number 12. Fifty of the 59 players with a minimum of 60 innings in IPL better Sehwag’s record of 17.7 balls per dismissal. Among the batsmen in the top twenty, 17 players have a better runs per innings record than Sehwag’s 26.2. Underperforming considerable on these two parameters resulted in him losing a deserved place among the top-10 batsmen in the IPL.