Picking T20 Batsmen to Start an Innings


The article Grading T20 Batsmen gave us an insight into the various metrics we can use to work out the ability of T20 batsmen in major domestic and international T20 matches.

It is generally accepted that batsmen with a high average are more valuable at the start of an innings (when a solid start is typically desired), whilst batsmen with a high strike rate are more valuable towards the end of an innings (when acceleration in the scoring is required).

Using the same data (1/1/14 to 24/7/16, minimum 700 runs) that was used in the Grading T20 Batsmen article, we can try to identify players who are well suited to batting towards the start of an innings in T20 matches.

Firstly, adjusted averages give us good insight into this.  It is natural for teams to prefer to have their best batsmen in for the longest periods of time, and the following 20 players had the highest T20 average in the sample, adjusted for innings difficulty:-

Player

Ave

Adjusted Ave

V Kohli

61.51

62.30

RR Hendricks

43.12

47.22

JP Duminy

45.03

46.01

DA Warner

44.55

44.30

MS Dhoni

44.13

44.14

YK Pathan

44.81

43.91

UT Khawaja

43.68

42.92

HM Amla

41.21

42.09

M Klinger

47.00

41.43

AB de Villiers

40.88

40.97

MN Samuels

38.88

40.78

CH Gayle

39.90

39.75

SE Marsh

39.17

38.75

Tamim Iqbal

32.66

35.40

RG Sharma

34.66

35.07

AM Rahane

35.20

34.89

DA Miller

33.62

34.59

BJ Hodge

34.15

34.33

RV Uthappa

34.86

34.33

LMP Simmons

33.36

34.02


These 20 players boasted the highest averages in T20 matches throughout the world in the sample, and actually, for the most part, these players are usually near the top of the batting order for their teams, although there are several examples of this not being the case, such as MS Dhoni.  In his case, a high percentage of 'not out' innings may have boosted his average, to an extent.

However, it is arguable that there is a better metric to use to work out a player's most efficient batting position.  As mentioned in the Grading T20 Batsmen article, we can use mean differential to work out how much better or worse a player is than average, for both their average and strike rate.  I'll repeat the example used in that article:-

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.

We can also use this data to work out whether a player should bat more at the start of an innings than at the end of it, by subtracting the strike rate multiplier from the average multiplier - in Kohli's case, this would be (2.49-0.99) = 1.50, which actually rounded down to 1.49 on my data.

A high positive number (mean differential of average is greater than mean differential of strike rate) would indicate a player that should be batting at the start of an innings, whilst a negative number (mean differential of strike rate is greater than mean differential than average) would indicate the player is better employed as a finisher of an innings.

Player

Ave

Adjusted Ave

Ave Diff

SR

Adjusted SR

SR Diff

Ave Diff - SR Diff

V Kohli

61.51

62.30

2.49

138.72

133.55

0.99

1.49

RR Hendricks

43.12

47.22

1.88

120.96

118.76

0.88

1.00

JP Duminy

45.03

46.01

1.84

128.36

124.63

0.93

0.91

MS Dhoni

44.13

44.14

1.76

135.52

130.05

0.97

0.79

M Klinger

47.00

41.43

1.65

129.24

120.69

0.90

0.76

UT Khawaja

43.68

42.92

1.71

138.47

129.56

0.96

0.75

YK Pathan

44.81

43.91

1.75

146.12

138.81

1.03

0.72

HM Amla

41.21

42.09

1.68

129.28

130.01

0.97

0.71

DA Warner

44.55

44.30

1.77

149.43

143.57

1.07

0.70

MN Samuels

38.88

40.78

1.63

120.40

127.18

0.95

0.68

SE Marsh

39.17

38.75

1.55

124.83

118.45

0.88

0.67

AM Rahane

35.20

34.89

1.39

122.84

116.38

0.87

0.53

Tamim Iqbal

32.66

35.40

1.41

118.57

123.04

0.91

0.50

JA Rudolph

39.03

32.51

1.30

118.40

108.27

0.80

0.49

CH Gayle

39.90

39.75

1.59

148.91

148.11

1.10

0.49

LMP Simmons

33.36

34.02

1.36

119.08

122.26

0.91

0.45

KS Williamson

32.92

32.81

1.31

120.95

115.92

0.86

0.45

RG Sharma

34.66

35.07

1.40

132.37

128.10

0.95

0.45

CL White

31.75

32.21

1.29

120.14

114.75

0.85

0.43

ADS Fletcher

31.79

32.79

1.31

118.66

117.87

0.88

0.43


The table above (sorted by Ave Diff - SR Diff, the final column) shows the top 20 players found by the above metric - the players best suited to batting at the start of an innings, basically because they have a good average but their strike rate isn't as relatively impressive as their average.  Indeed, only Yusuf Pathan, David Warner and Chris Gayle of these 20 players had an adjusted strike rate of higher than the worldwide T20 mean strike rate of the sample period, but all 20 had an adjusted average much higher than the worldwide T20 mean average.

Australia would benefit from David Warner facing more balls in T20 cricket...

There are definitely some players who look to be batting in the wrong positions based on this data.  MS Dhoni bats in the middle order for India (typically at around number six) whilst JP Duminy, one of the most 'average orientated' players in the sample, has batted at number five for South Africa of late.  David Warner, as one of the best T20 batsmen in the world, is wasted batting at number four for Australia, given that he will have much less time to influence a match than if he opened (as he does in other forms of cricket for Australia).

It's interesting to note that there are no England players in the top 20 players best suited for opening an innings.  England's players generally have a dynamic of a relatively high strike rate as opposed to a high average.  James Vince (37th) was the highest 'average-orientated' England player on the list, although fellow Englishmen Ian Cockbain, Ravi Bopara and Tom Westley also featured above Vince.

Current England openers Jason Roy (0.06) and Alex Hales (-0.02) were around average for this metric, suggesting that neither are particularly suited for batting towards the top of the innings.  Kevin Pietersen (0.27) and Luke Wright (0.24) look to be Englishmen that are more capable for this role, although neither appear to be considered by the England selectors currently.  Dawid Malan (0.29) looks like more of a selector-friendly choice for the future.

Data suggests that ability certainly isn't the factor keeping Kevin Pietersen from the England team...

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