Grading T20 Batsmen


There have been many attempts to grade batsmen in the various formats in cricket, and the T20 format is no different.

The ICC, as the ruling authority of cricket, have their own rankings here, but these rankings are far from perfect given that they only take into account T20 internationals, and not the various T20 domestic competitions throughout the world.

Taking into account T20 domestic matches should be mandatory, as it has a variety of benefits:-

1) It allows for a much bigger sample of results for individual players and therefore avoids scenarios such as Hamilton Masakadza being graded as better than AB de Villiers, as the ICC current rankings at 28/7/16 suggest.

Not many cricket fans would grade AB de Villiers as a worse T20 batsman than Hamilton Masakadza, as the ICC rankings suggest...

2) It gives the opportunity for players without international experience to be assessed, because, as the data below will illustrate, international selectors are far from perfect.  A further advantage of this is that this allows us to work out how these non-international players are likely to perform on the international stage.  It would also allow T20 teams to find hidden talent which they could pick up for relatively cheap sums, similar to the 'Moneyball' approach in US sport.  In all sports, marginal gains are key and data such as this will help teams achieve this.

3) Not all formats/opponents are equal.  It would have been a much easier project to complete if I had just compiled data on domestic and international matches and worked out player averages and strike rates from these, but this would have been largely flawed given that not all formats and opponents are equal.

Furthermore, having a solid sample of data on all players makes it possible for modellers to grade players and work out combined team strengths, with a view to exploiting incorrect bookmaker/Betfair prices in the pre-match/in-play betting/trading markets.

Without giving away too much of my calculations, I can use an example of how I approached grading players.  An average player who has played in both the T20 Blast (in England) and the IPL (in India), will average a multiplier of 0.86 in the IPL than they would in the T20 Blast.  

So, for example, a player who averages 30.00 in the T20 Blast, will be expected to average 25.80 (30.00*0.86) in the IPL, because historical data has shown that batting in the T20 Blast is easier.

In fact, my research showed that batting in the T20 Blast was the easiest of all the major domestic T20 leagues in the world.  The average T20 Blast player will see their average reduced by a multiplication factor of 0.82 across a standardised worldwide mean, and their strike rate (runs per 100 balls) will be reduced by a factor of 0.92.  Either the bowling in the T20 Blast is extremely weak, or batting conditions are extremely good - a combination of the two is possible, and quite likely.

There are many examples of strong T20 Blast players failing abroad.  Ryan ten Doeschate is a good example - from 1/1/2014 to 24/7/16, ten Doeschate averaged 38.23 in T20 Blast innings with a strike rate of 143.52 - certainly very impressive data indeed.  However, from innings abroad in domestic leagues this period of time, he averaged just 17.00 with a strike rate of 112.89.

Ryan ten Doeschate has performed superbly in the T20 Blast in recent years, but in other tournaments around the world has struggled...

Grading T20 performances in the major domestic leagues and T20 internationals enabled me to build a comprehensive database of player abilities, including adjusted averages for each player given the difficulty of each innings that they played.  

For overall quality, multiple of mean differential was used.  

So, for example, Virat Kohli's adjusted average was 62.30 (very similar to his actual average of 61.51) and this was 2.49x the overall T20 time period mean of 25.06 runs per wicket.  

In addition, we could do the same for strike rate.  A mean time period strike rate of 134.50 was average for T20 matches, and Kohli's adjusted strike was 133.55, which was 0.99x the T20 mean strike rate.

Therefore, the average player would have an average mean differential of 1 (they'd score at an average of 25.06 and at 134.50 strike rate), whereas Kohli's was ((2.49+.99)/2) = 1.74, showing him to be significantly better than average, indeed, world class.

The table below shows the top 10 T20 batsmen in the world using this metric (minimum 700 runs 1/1/14 to 24/7/16):-

Player

Ave

Adjusted Ave

SR

Adjusted SR

Mean Diff

V Kohli

61.51

62.30

138.72

133.55

1.74

AB de Villiers

40.88

40.97

163.39

162.93

1.42

DA Warner

44.55

44.30

149.43

143.57

1.42

YK Pathan

44.81

43.91

146.12

138.81

1.39

RR Hendricks

43.12

47.22

120.96

118.76

1.38

JP Duminy

45.03

46.01

128.36

124.63

1.38

MS Dhoni

44.13

44.14

135.52

130.05

1.36

CH Gayle

39.90

39.75

148.91

148.11

1.34

UT Khawaja

43.68

42.92

138.47

129.56

1.34

HM Amla

41.21

42.09

129.28

130.01

1.32


The majority of these players would be absolutely expected by most cricket observers - the trio of Kohli, de Villiers and Warner would probably be at the top of most people's lists.  Joe Root was filtered out due to scoring less than 700 runs in the format.  Young English prospect Ben Duckett also fell just short of this mark.  It was also very difficult to grade associate nations but Mohammad Shahzad of Afghanistan had very strong numbers and it would be interesting to see if he can maintain this/gets picked up by a franchise.

However, Yusuf Pathan (due to superb performances in the IPL) and Reeza Hendricks (Ramslam and a handful of South Africa appearances) are names which many will not have anticipated.  

Pathan, at 33 years of age, has not played international cricket since 2012, yet his data shows that he is a better batsmen at this format than many of his international colleagues, and whilst his career T20I average isn't superb (slightly less than 20) it was achieved at a strike rate just shy of 150.  The data shows that he was discarded prematurely by the Indian selectors.

Hendricks' adjusted average of 47.22 was second only to Kohli in the sample.  However with a poor adjusted strike rate of 118.76, a role near the top of the batting with a view to anchoring an innings for South Africa should be considered, giving stability to the quicker scorers such as Quinton de Kock, David Miller and AB de Villiers.

The main issue for Hendricks perhaps is the embarrassment of riches South Africa have in the batting department in T20.  As well as de Villiers, Hendricks, JP Duminy and Hashim Amla in the top 10, Miller and de Kock also were included in the top 20.

Reeza Hendricks' adjusted T20 average was second in the world in the sample, despite him not getting many opportunities for the South African national team...

This embarrassment of riches was - fairly surprisingly - not found for World T20 runners-up, England.  Jos Buttler (23rd) was the highest rated English batsman, with Jason Roy (44th) the next current English squad member in the rankings.  

Having said this, a number of English players currently ignored by the national selectors were ranked between Buttler and Roy.  

Serial T20 worldwide franchise players Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen and Luke Wright were all rated above Roy and all other English batsmen (with the exception of Buttler), and T20 Blast regular run-scorers Ian Cockbain, Tom Westley and Sam Northeast also did so, despite their data being very adversely adjusted for the ease of run-scoring in the competition.  This trio definitely merit consideration at least for a national team berth.

Not only this, regular England T20 squad batsmen Alex Hales, Sam Billings and captain Eoin Morgan were assessed as being below average T20 batsmen.  Hales, with an adjusted average of 23.66 and adjusted strike rate of 130.26 was slightly below average for both metrics.   Morgan's adjusted strike rate of 119.98 was the main issue for the England captain.  

This data would suggest that Eoin Morgan's strike rate (as a middle order batsman) is a hindrance for England...

Billings' adjusted average of just 15.99 was the worst of all players who had scored over 700 runs in the sample time period, and the Kent wicketkeeper-batsman actually didn't have a great strike rate either, scoring at a strike rate of 131.78, adjusted down to 124.22 due to the ease of run-scoring in the T20 Blast.  Certainly this data would suggest that Billings has a long way to go to emulate his positional rival, Buttler.

Of the players to score more than 700 runs in the time period, Billings was joined by his Kent team-mates Darren Stevens and Joe Denly in averaging an adjusted average of below 20.  Five other players suffered this ignominy:-

Player

Ave

Adjusted Ave

SR

Adjusted SR

SW Billings

18.24

15.99

131.78

124.22

DI Stevens

19.92

16.40

147.70

135.67

Shahid Afridi

17.72

17.48

162.74

165.50

Mohammad Hafeez

16.80

17.71

108.62

111.14

DJG Sammy

18.73

18.82

139.77

141.00

LJ Evans

23.03

18.88

127.73

117.51

JL Denly

23.56

19.32

133.75

123.05

PD Trego

23.97

19.66

138.61

127.52


Despite low adjusted averages, it is fair to also state that Afridi, Sammy and Stevens had adjusted strike-rates above average, and in Afridi's case, hugely so.  Of course, players with a low average but extremely high strike rate are still valuable assets in T20 as finishers of innings.

However, of these players, Mohammad Hafeez and Laurie Evans cannot even boast an adjusted strike rate of over 120 and it would appear baffling that Hafeez, in particular, is regularly picked as a T20 batsman around the world (77 T20I's, and contracts in the Big Bash, PSL, BPL and CPL).  It may well be that his all-round abilities have helped him being selected, but the data suggests his very poor strike rate as a batsman harms a team more than helps them. 

This article really just scratches the surface with what is possible for cricket player data, and it is obvious what the benefits would be having such data in the betting/trading markets.

My next article will look at how to find the best players to start the innings, with a further article looking at the best finishers in the format.

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