Cricket Case Study - Scouting Death Bowlers for a T20 Blast Club

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In December 2016, we were asked to identify players to perform several roles for a T20 Blast club for the 2017 season.

Primarily, they were looking for an overseas all-rounder and a death bowler, and you can view the death bowler analysis below.  Some player names and further information have been redacted due to sensitivity, as they were the main recommended players.

The data:

Player

Country

T20 Blast Bowling Expectation Average

T20 Blast Bowling Expectation Economy Rate

Expectation Bowling Average Deviation

Expectation Bowling Economy Rate Deviation

Expectation Bowling Average/Economy Rate Mean Deviation

2015-2016 Overs Bowled in Overs 17-20

2015-2016 Runs Conceded in Overs 17-20

2015-2016 Wickets in Overs 17-20

2015-2016 Mean Runs per Over Conceded in Overs 17-20

2015-2016 Mean Runs per Wicket in Overs 17-20

2015-2016 Overs Bowled in Overs 17-20, Under 8.5 RPO

Under 8.5 RPO in death overs %















Player 1

[REDACTED]

13.64

6.75

1.77

1.16

1.46

20

138

16

6.90

8.63

13

65.00

SL Malinga

Sri Lanka

14.68

7.15

1.64

1.10

1.37

29

246

22

8.48

11.18

15

51.72

Player 3

[REDACTED]

14.25

8.08

1.69

0.97

1.33

4

33

6

8.25

5.50

2

50.00

Player 4

[REDACTED]

16.99

6.57

1.42

1.19

1.31

6

63

3

10.50

21.00

1

16.67

Player 5

[REDACTED]

17.23

6.66

1.40

1.18

1.29

64

477

34

7.45

14.03

39

60.94

DS Kulkarni

India

16.40

7.23

1.47

1.08

1.28

10

89

7

8.90

12.71

4

40.00

DJ Grobbelaar

New Zealand

17.69

6.94

1.36

1.13

1.25

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Player 8

[REDACTED]

20.27

6.82

1.19

1.15

1.17

11

88

9

8.00

9.78

7

63.64

A Nehra

India

19.84

7.06

1.21

1.11

1.16

27

220

21

8.15

10.48

17

62.96

Player 10

[REDACTED]

17.56

8.32

1.37

0.94

1.16

18

129

15

7.17

8.60

13

72.22

B Laughlin

Australia

18.48

7.90

1.30

0.99

1.15

26

255

15

9.81

17.00

9

34.62

SHA Rance

New Zealand

20.53

7.07

1.17

1.11

1.14

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

CJ McKay

Australia

20.19

7.21

1.19

1.09

1.14

46

367

28

7.98

13.11

26

56.52

Player 14

[REDACTED]

19.51

7.71

1.24

1.02

1.13

46

407

30

8.85

13.57

23

50.00

KMDN Kulasekara

Sri Lanka

20.44

7.35

1.18

1.07

1.12

24

210

13

8.75

16.15

12

50.00

B Kumar

India

21.11

7.25

1.14

1.08

1.11

49

466

29

9.51

16.07

19

38.78

Player 17

[REDACTED]

21.04

7.31

1.15

1.07

1.11

20

172

13

8.60

13.23

9

45.00


Notes: (Sensitive Information Redacted)



The accompanying data spreadsheet has data for the top non-spin/death overseas bowlers - again, I am happy to explain any of the columns/calculations if required.


A number of observations should be noted:-


1) These are players with T20 Blast bowling expectation figures of 1.10 or greater mean deviation.  This would indicate that their overall T20 Blast expectation figures are at least 10% better than the average bowler in the competition.  For reference, last year’s main overseas signing, [REDACTED], was rated at 1.07 mean deviation, so fell just short of qualifying for this elite list.


2) It is vital that career averages are not used for analysis.  Player’s levels change throughout their career, and can particularly make older players can look much better than they actually are (e.g. Andrew Strauss, who only averaged around 30 batting for England in Tests in his last five years in the team).  More recent averages, adjusted for previous opposition difficulty and current competition, are a much better indicator of the ability of a player, and are more useful for identifying under-valued players.


3) In the T20 Blast group stages in 2016, there was an average of 24.10 runs per wicket, and 7.84 runs per over.  This equates to a mean strike rate of 130.64.


4) These T20 Blast average figures indicate that the competition is very orientated towards batsmen, and the tournament is easier to bat in than most of the other major T20 competitions around the world.  There are various reasons for this, with the lack of quality overseas players and dilution of bowling quality due to the high number of teams several major contributory factors.  Essentially, what this means, is that an average batsman from other major T20 competitions will see their batting average improve if they play in the T20 Blast, whilst English batsmen will see their T20 Blast dominated average fall when they play for franchise teams abroad (as has been the case on many occasions).


5) There are more lower profile bowlers who have excellent expectation figures, as opposed to all-rounders.  On this list, there are a number of players who are unlikely to command a high salary who would add excellent value to the [REDACTED] team.  


6) Whilst these players have excellent overall bowling expectation, their abilities in the four main death overs (17-20) are very mixed.  I will add commentary on this for each player.


Recommended Player Report:-

Ranked by all-round mean deviation



Player 1 - Age [REDACTED] - Country [REDACTED].  Left Hand Bat, Left Arm Fast.


Out and out the best T20 bowler in the world.  [REDACTED] has a T20 Blast expectation bowling average of 13.64, coming at just 6.75 runs per over.  Furthermore, he is magnificent in the death overs, conceding just 6.90 runs per over in overs 17-20 on average in the last two years, with each wicket in these overs costing a mere 8.63 runs.  65% of his death overs cost less than 8.5 runs, which is also world-class.


[REDACTED] can also bat, and given his 50 over strike rate, should have the potential to score much faster than the smaller sample of his current T20 data suggests.


Summary - Simply the best, but likely to be expensive and in demand from other clubs/his country.



Lasith Malinga - Age 33 - Sri Lanka.  Right Hand Bat, Right Arm Fast.


A T20 legend bowler with a reputation for being superb in the death overs.  Having said that, his death over data in the last two years is solid but not great (average of 8.48 runs per over, 11.18 runs per wicket) and it would appear his abilities are declining due to age, and his injury issues.  A better strategy for Malinga would be to look to bowl him more early in an innings, than late.


Summary - Still a great bowler but declining, injury prone and probably financially expensive.



Player 3 - Age [REDACTED] - Country [REDACTED].  Right Hand Bat, Right Arm Fast-Medium.


One of the Moneyball choices on this list, with [REDACTED] being far from a household name.  A fringe player for the [REDACTED] in the [REDACTED], his data, from an albeit small sample size is superb, both from an overall and death over perspective.


Given the sample size, he would represent a cheap gamble, but could well turn out to be a great value gun bowler.


Summary - A cheap risk, although if he performs well in upcoming [REDACTED] matches, there is a risk that demand for him will increase.



Player 4 - Age [REDACTED] - Country [REDACTED].  Right Hand Bat, Left Arm Fast-Medium.


A bowler that shows up positively in all my analysis over various seasons, [REDACTED] is under-rated having never been called up for his national side over any format.  However, he is much more economical bowling early in an innings than late, with an overall T20 Blast expectation economy rate of 6.57, but rarely bowls the death overs, going for an average of 10.50 in the six death overs he has bowled in the last two years.


For a tail ender, he isn’t the worst batsman either.


Summary - Not a death bowler, but superb earlier in an innings.



Player 5 - Age [REDACTED] - Country [REDACTED]  Left Hand Bat, Left Arm Fast-Medium.


The best young pace bowler in the world, [REDACTED] had a short stint at [REDACTED] last season which was interrupted by injury, which he’s just about recovered from.


He excels both at wicket-taking (T20 Blast expected bowling average of 17.23) and economy, with expectation at just 6.66 runs per over.  His death bowling would also be hugely valuable, with the most experience of death over bowling (64 overs in 2 years) of any player in this sample.  In those overs, he has gone for an average of 7.45 and cost less than 8.5 runs per over 61% of the time in death overs.  


Summary - Likely to be in demand, but a huge prospect that would have a real impact.



Dhawal Kulkarni - Age 28 - India.  Right Hand Bat, Right Arm Medium.


Not really a death bowler (just 10 death overs in the last 2 years) but his overall bowling data earned him a place near the top of the overseas bowling list, with his wicket-taking a particular asset. 


Also a pretty solid batsman with averages over 12 in all formats.


Summary - Not a death bowler, but a very good option for earlier in the innings.



Donovan Grobbelaar - Age 33 - New Zealand.  Right Hand Bat, Left Arm Medium.


I cannot get ball by ball data for New Zealand domestic T20, so it’s impossible to tell if he is a death bowler.  However, from a small sample, his T20 Blast expectation bowling numbers were superb, and he also averages over 20 with the bat in all formats.


It’s worth noting on a general basis that batting in New Zealand is generally very easy due to small boundaries, so any bowler with good economy in New Zealand is almost certain to replicate this around the world.


Moneyball analysis always flags up some really under-valued players and Grobbelaar looks to be one.


Summary - Seems to have been bizarrely ignored for the majority of his career (the number of wickets in club cricket eventually got him a contract).  A cheap choice that no other club would ever consider.



Player 8 - Age [REDACTED] - Country [REDACTED]. Right Hand Bat, Right Arm Fast.


A more known player who has already had a stint in the IPL with [REDACTED].   [REDACTED] is a wicket taking threat who has excellent economy expectation, and is also a superb death bowler, costing an average of 8.00 runs per over in death overs in the last two years, with wickets costing 9.78.  Over 60% of his death overs cost less than 8.5 runs.


He can also bat, with a T20 average over 20 at a decent strike rate.  


Summary - Signing [REDACTED] should be strongly considered.  He is a great death bowler and would add batting depth coming in at around 8.



Ashish Nehra - Age 37 - India.  Right Hand Bat, Left Arm Medium Fast.


Nehra’s T20 Blast expectation figures are superb both from a wicket taking and economy perspective.  Nehra also has a ton of experience bowling death overs in the IPL, where he cost just over 8 runs per over in death overs in the last two years.


Summary - Old but experienced.  With the T20 Blast coming later in the year, it could create opportunities to sign Indian players, and he could be a viable option.



Player 10 - Age [REDACTED] - Country [REDACTED].  Right Hand Bat, Right Arm Medium Fast.


A player unlikely to be on the radars of other clubs, [REDACTED] has an excellent wicket-taking record in his native country, although he can be a little expensive.  However, he excels in the death overs, averaging a cost of just 7.17 runs per over in the last two years.  He took 15 wickets in 8 matches in the recent Bangladesh Premier League.


Summary - Statistically an excellent death bowler, and one who would be very cheap financially.



Ben Laughlin - Age 34 - Australia.  Right Hand Bat, Right Arm Fast Medium.


An interesting player, who has excellent wicket taking expectation (expectation T20 Blast bowling average of around 18.5), but is only around average for economy.  However, his death bowling stats are awful compared to the others on the list (9.81 runs per over in death overs, costing 17.00 per wicket) so he definitely shouldn’t be considered to be a death bowler (although it is likely he does, and so do his BBL team given the fact they use him in this role) but one who would be an asset earlier in an innings.


Summary - Not a death bowler, but a likely cheap overseas player who could have a big impact bowling early in the innings.



Seth Rance - Age 29 - New Zealand. Right Hand Bat, Right Arm Medium.


As with Grobbelaar, a bowler with excellent domestic T20 data in New Zealand, a league where high scoring matches are commonplace.  


However, ball by ball data is not available in the New Zealand T20 competition, so I cannot assess his death bowling.  


Can also bat, but has much better first class stats than in limited overs.


Summary - Would be a very cheap gamble, and would prefer more data on him.



Clint McKay - Age 33 - Australia.  Right Hand Bat, Right Arm Fast Medium.


Has re-signed for Leicestershire.  A decent bowler opening the bowling, but inconsistent in the death overs.  He seems to either keeps it tight or go for 15+ in a death over.  Very few 7/8/9 run overs.



Player 14 - Age [REDACTED] - Country [REDACTED].  Left Hand Bat, Left Arm Fast Medium.


A very strong T20 bowler with a T20 Blast expectation average of around 19.5, with predicted economy of around 7.7 runs per over.


[REDACTED] can also bat, with a career T20 average of just over 9, coming at a strike rate of 139 - he has hit an incredible 29% of deliveries for boundaries, so he’d be a perfect batsman to come in at 9 and hit a few late boundaries.


However, for death overs, he is just average. He’s bowled plenty (46 in the last two years without including his lower-level domestic T20) but only kept 50% below 8.5 runs per over.  Mean death over economy of 8.85, 13.57 runs per wicket.


Summary - Superb T20 bowler, but only around average in death overs.  Can also be a useful lower order batsman in the last couple of overs.



Nuwan Kulasekara - Age 34 - Sri Lanka.  Right Hand Bat, Right Arm Fast Medium.


A strong bowler both from an average and strike rate perspective, Kulasekara would add general value to most T20 bowling attacks around the world.  He’s bowled 24 death overs in the last two years, with 50% costing fewer than 8.5 runs per over.  He’s a little more economical than Player 14, but slightly less of a wicket taking threat.


Kulasekara can also bat lower down the order, with a career T20 average of 10, coming at around 122 strike rate.  Another who can come in at 9 and be useful.


He played for Sussex last season but so far, they have only announced Vernon Philander as an overseas player.


Summary - A very slightly worse version of Player 14, but still a very useful bowler.



Bhuvneshwar Kumar - Age 26 - India.  Right Hand Bat, Right Arm Medium.


Kumar has frequently been used in a death bowling role in the IPL but considering less than 40% of his death overs have gone for less than 8.5 runs, he shouldn’t be thought of as a death bowler.


However, his overall numbers (T20 Blast expectation of 21.11 runs per wicket, 7.25 runs per over) propel him into the best overseas T20 bowlers, but he should be bowled out earlier in the innings, as opposed to being left 1/2 overs late on in an innings.


Also a pretty solid lower-order batsman, but he doesn’t score particularly quickly.


Summary - Overall a very strong T20 bowler, but despite having bowled plenty of death overs, he isn’t strong in this area.  



Player 17 - Age [REDACTED] - Country [REDACTED].  Right Hand Bat, Right Arm Fast Medium.


[REDACTED] recently made his T20 debut for the [REDACTED] - his numbers in several franchise leagues (CPL/BPL) are superb and his T20 Blast expectation numbers are 21.04 per wicket and 7.31 runs per over - he’d definitely add value to T20 Blast teams based on this data.


His death bowling data is far from disastrous - going for 8.60 runs per over and 13.23 runs per wicket over the last two years - but not hugely spectacular either.  45% of his death overs cost less than 8.5 runs in this time period.


Summary - An improving bowler who is unlikely to be as expensive, financially, as many others.  Definitely worth consideration.



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