BPL 2017 - What Have We Learned So Far?


9th November, 2017.

Yesterday's two matches signalled the end of Phase 1 in the Bangladesh Premier League, which contained eight matches and was played at Sylhet.  The BPL, compared to other franchise leagues, is a little unusual in that there are just three host stadiums, and two matches per day are played at the same venue.

So - what have we learned so far from the Sylhet phase?


Domestic batsmen not up to the task


Prior to the event, I made the point - and did so again on Twitter several days ago - that Bangladesh batsmen, in general, are not up to the task when it comes to scoring quickly.  While this has always been the case in BPL, it is even more prevalent so far when looking at this season's batting data, split by country  from the eight matches in Sylhet:-

Country

Average

Strike Rate

Boundary %

6 %






Bangladesh

17.19

113.34

10.99

3.14

England

21.60

119.56

12.92

4.80

Sri Lanka

37.18

128.62

15.09

4.72

West Indies

29.12

135.25

18.31

7.38


Of the four nationalities which have generated more than 10 completed innings so far, Bangladesh's batsmen fall short in all four of the above metrics.  While an average of 17.19 can be acceptable in conjunction with a high strike rate, clearly it isn't with a mean strike rate of 113.34, and a boundary percentage of sub 11%.  

English batsmen have also struggled, while the success of some of the Sri Lankan and West Indian batsmen - particularly the Sylhet Sixers duo, Upul Tharanga and Andre Fletcher - has been a little surprising.  


Bangladesh bowling relatively stronger than batting


However, the bowling figures for domestic players are much more in line with overseas players so far, again giving weight to my point of view that Bangladesh's bowlers can perform reasonably well in their home conditions:-

Bowling

Average

Economy




Afghanistan

34.00

7.29

Bangladesh

30.44

8.20

England

18.53

6.78

Sri Lanka

45.33

8.00

West Indies

29.33

8.41


Of the five nationalities to have bowled at least 80 deliveries in the tournament so far, Bangladesh have the third best average and the fourth best economy, so their bowling - relatively speaking - is more effective than their batting.  While English batsmen haven't impressed generally so far, their bowling has, and the English bowling has been by far the best from both an average and an economy basis in Sylhet.

With five overseas players permitted, before the tournament started, I mentioned that a team who picks five quality overseas batsmen, and then domestic all-rounders/bowlers would have a huge competitive advantage in this tournament, and these statistics again rubber-stamp this point.  The first coach who realises this will have a massive edge over their rival franchises.

Having said this, perhaps the degree of accountability on T20 coaches still isn't enough to push themselves to look at either marginal gains, or in this case, significant gains.  Certainly, with perhaps England and India as part-exceptions, T20 coaches don't appear to be under considerable pressure to deliver results, and franchise T20 as a sub-format of cricket will fail to reach its full potential until more importance is given to results, as is the case in the likes of football and baseball - several sports which derive huge TV revenue, which T20 franchises will attempt to emulate.


Franchises continue to make negative expectation decisions


Watching the BPL is an incredibly frustrating exercise.  It is absolutely evident that almost every franchise makes considerably negative expectation decisions, in numerous areas.  This is almost certainly due to the biased, subjective 'eye test' from coaches that was accurately described in Michael Lewis' excellent book, Moneyball, and also too much reliance on perceived 'form', which is often simply variance.

In addition, as mentioned above, there is generally far too much faith placed in domestic batsmen, and many have the capability of slowing an innings down, or even playing a 'match losing innings', where they use a high percentage of a team's batting resources without scoring enough runs.


Misbah-ul-Haq contributing to Chittagong's late innings strike rate issues


On the subject of wasting batting resources, there were also some bizarre overseas signings, and few were stranger than Misbah-ul-Haq, looking at his batting data.

Prior to the 2017 BPL, the table below shows Misbah's batting data from 2015 onwards in major domestic T20 events and T20 internationals:-

Year

Completed Innings

Runs

Balls Faced

Boundaries

Average

Strike Rate

Boundary %









2015

8

154

158

14

19.25

97.47

8.86

2016

5

166

131

24

33.20

126.72

18.32

2017

7

158

142

16

22.57

111.27

11.27









Overall

20

478

431

54

23.90

110.90

12.53


While a 23.90 average is certainly respectable enough in T20s - a figure not far removed from the worldwide T20 mean - a strike rate of 110.90 isn't nearly as strong, and a boundary percentage of 12.53% isn't close to the T20 mean figure either.  

It certainly isn't a coincidence that when Misbah has batted in the Chittagong team, it has produced a dramatic slowdown in the scoring rates for the Vikings, and without Luke Ronchi's dominance at the top of the order, their squad is always likely to struggle to score quickly.

Indeed, so far in the BPL 2017, Misbah has scored 37 runs from 43 balls so far (strike rate of 86.05) and what is likely to further cause future issues is his poor strike rate against pace.

Misbah's issues with scoring against pace bowling was something that I noticed a number of months ago when I was researching Test strike rates - he was scoring at a strike rate in the 30s in Tests against pace over a decent sample - but his strike rate against spin was much, much better.

Some teams may have worked this out, with 28 of the 43 balls that Misbah has faced so far (65.12%) being bowled by seamers.  Having said that, it's worth noting that so far in BPL 2017, Misbah's strike rate against spin is also very poor, and it's also worth taking into account that many of these balls faced were actually in death overs, a stage of an innings where expected strike rates are considerably higher:-


Balls Faced

Runs

Strike Rate

Pace

28

26

92.86

Spin

15

11

73.33


Regarding Misbah, Chittagong have several options.  They either bat him higher up the order, given that many teams are opening their bowling with spinners, or are looking to bowl spinners early - perhaps opening with the quick-scoring Ronchi wouldn't be the worst plan - or they continue to have these spells during the second half of their innings where their scoring rates dramatically slow down.  Their final option (but unlikely, given that he is captain) would be to drop him, as they do actually have a player on their bench who would hugely improve their side - as I'll mention below...


Overseas player selection extremely questionable


I could talk all day, and give numerous examples, about the incredible value left on the table by all franchises in drafts and auctions around the world, and the BPL is no different.  Many players were left unsigned who are considerably better than those drafted, and this poor evaluation from franchises regarding overseas players has also spilled over into their team selection.

With the majority of Pakistan players unavailable so far, there has been a reduced pool of overseas players for each team to choose from (with the exception of Dhaka Dynamites, who have stockpiled overseas players), and a few examples of players who would add considerable value to their franchises who have already not made the starting XI in matches so far are listed below:-

Player

Franchise

Expected BPL Batting Average

Expected BPL Batting Strike Rate

Boundary Hitting %

Balls Per Boundary

Expected BPL Bowling Average

Expected BPL Bowling Economy









Adam Lyth

Rangpur Riders

33.49

145.53

24.34

4.11

N/A

N/A

Benny Howell

Khulna Titans

20.82

110.31

11.57

8.64

15.47

5.96







Liam Dawson

Chittagong Vikings

13.12

100.77

9.36

10.68

18.01

6.71

Michael Klinger

Khulna Titans

43.18

118.61

15.99

6.25

N/A

N/A

Mohammad Sami

Rajshahi Kings

11.09

130.19

18.24

5.48

19.51

6.40

Najibullah Zadran

Chittagong Vikings

28.70

143.16

18.93

5.28

N/A

N/A

Sunil Narine

Dhaka Dynamites

17.11

127.98

22.97

4.35

21.79

6.16

Zahir Khan

Rangpur Riders

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

14.73

8.02









Joe Denly

Dhaka Dynamites

29.43

130.20

19.84

5.04

N/A

N/A


As you will be able to see, the ten players listed above boasted strong expected data prior to the start of BPL 2017, either from a batting or bowling perspective, and in some cases, both.

We've seen already that English bowlers have performed extremely well in the BPL in 2017 yet several excellent English bowlers - indeed, better than the majority of those who have already bowled - in Benny Howell and Liam Dawson, are not being picked by their franchises.  

Both Michael Klinger and Sunil Narine were left out of their opening matches.  Klinger's omission was odd considering Khulna's mediocre batting line-up - he scored a typical innings yesterday in their win, however - while Narine was left out in favour of Adil Rashid, who has worse batting and bowling data than the West Indian spinner. 

Furthermore, as mentioned above, Chittagong have a much better overseas batsman than Misbah-ul-Haq waiting on the bench in the Afghan, Najibullah Zadran, while Zadran's 18 year old countryman, left arm spinner Zahir Khan, looks an unbelievable prospect.

I also want to briefly talk about Joe Denly, who was included at the bottom of this list for a reason.  This year's T20 Blast leading run-scorer isn't getting in the Dhaka side, and that's a shame, as the vast majority of overseas batsmen in the competition have worse batting data than the Englishman.

However, Dhaka have so many good overseas players in their squad that it is understandable why he hasn't been initially selected, which makes me wonder whether in the future a player might be able to reject a move to a given franchise because they feel they are unlikely to get in the side - particularly if a significant proportion of their salary will be based on appearances.


Sylhet likely to be the most batting orientated venue


Finally, the eight matches in Sylhet (a new venue) have seen an upturn in scoring rates in the BPL, with a mean first innings score of 160.75 - well in excess of the 147.96 mean combined across both Chittagong and Dhaka last season.

Many will feel that this increased scoring rate will be sustainable, but I'd argue that it is unlikely to be.  While I'd certainly expect BPL 2017 to have a higher mean first innings score than last season, it's worth noting that in T20 internationals since 2010, Sylhet has been - by some distance - the most batting orientated venue:-

Venue

Average

Strike Rate




Sylhet

24.77

125.37

Dhaka

20.52

112.48

Chittagong

19.13

116.35


Both the Chittagong and Dhaka venues have had very poor batting data in T20 internationals, so comparing like for like, it would appear that batting at Sylhet is considerably easier in general than the two venues still to host matches in this year's BPL.  


Hopefully this article has given you insight into the data that Sports Analytics Advantage can offer cricket franchises around the world in formulating draft or auction plans - please feel free to enquire for bespoke draft and auction strategies via sportsanalyticsadvantage@gmail.com.
Comments