T20 Auction, Draft & Recruitment Strategy Part 1: Understanding T20 Leagues

13th March, 2018.


Any person with a reasonable grasp of Economics will be able to discuss the relationship between supply and demand, with the primary result being that when supply is low and demand is high, prices will be at a premium level.  Conversely, when supply is high and demand is low, suppliers need to price their products very low in order to attract those who are still interested in their commodities.

We can apply this rationale to cricketers in drafts and auctions - even for overseas player recruitment by English counties as well - and essentially, the more valuable a player should be when they are of either premium quality, or there are few other quality players who can play their role.  We've seen this in the recent IPL auction, where quality all-rounders are in short supply, thus inflating the price for Ben Stokes.  Indeed, the England all-rounder has been signed for premium pricing two years in a row at the IPL auction.

While I'd contend that Stokes isn't a premium player at T20 level - various analysis has shown he's a below-average bowler, and while his expected batting strike rate is above-average, his expected batting average is not - if he is perceived by IPL franchises to be of premium quality, and he plays that crucial all-rounder role, it is completely logical that he will go for premium pricing.  

Another logical dynamic is the demand for quality domestic players (scarce resource) compared to overseas players of a similar level (more plentiful resource), particularly bearing in mind that all major T20 leagues currently require more domestic players in each time than overseas players.  This is, naturally, reflected in the premium pricing for quality domestic performers, and I'd expect this condition to persist, thus giving a number of English players a significant payday in the new league, due to start in 2020.

Less logical from a mathematical perspective, however, were the purchases of both MS Dhoni (15 Crore) and, particularly, Steve Smith (12 Crore) in the recent IPL auction (both were retained prior to the auction).  While it is probably reasonable to suggest that there has been some impact on their captaincy roles in their price, it would be difficult to make a case to support their premium pricing level in this particular format compared to their expected data for IPL 2018 (and indeed, the next few IPLs as well).  As others have suggested previously (writing in The Times, Mike Atherton did so here with Steve Smith), they almost look like 'statement' purchases.

In addition, several analysts have pointed out that quality bowlers have usually been relatively cheaper than quality batsmen in historical auctions and drafts.  Again, this is quite illogical, as I proved recently in my article 'How to win a T20 league'.  In this, we found that teams who came 1st or 2nd in their T20 league (in the last two editions of all major events) had an average mean deviation of 1.07 and 1.01 for batting average and strike rate, respectively, while having a bowling average mean deviation of 1.11 (bowling average) and 1.03 (bowling economy).  In addition, on average, teams who qualified had bigger positive mean deviation figures for their bowling than their batting, and teams who failed to qualify had a more negative mean deviation with the ball than the bat.  

In short, teams who succeeded in T20 leagues generally had stronger bowlers than batsmen, and therefore prioritising a quality bowling attack in recruitment will give teams a competitive advantage over those who focus on batsmen - a niche which the vast majority of teams either have no knowledge of, or choose to ignore.

Several other areas worth discussing are the impact of pace v spin bowling, and, vitally, the effects of overseas players across various leagues, with particular focus on the recruitment of these overseas players on the auction and draft dynamics, and the knock-on effect that this should have on domestic pricing.

Below is a table which shows pace and spin bowling data for the major T20 leagues across the world, from the 2015-16 Big Bash onwards:-

League

Year

Mean Bowling RPW

Mean Bowling RPO

Pace Bowling RPW

Mean Deviation

Pace Bowling RPO

Mean Deviation

Spin Bowling RPW

Mean Deviation

Spin Bowling RPO

Mean Deviation

Pace Over %

Spin Over %















Big Bash

2015-16

28.25

8.05

28.33

1.00

8.25

0.98

28.09

1.01

7.65

1.05

66.85

33.15

Big Bash

2016-17

25.81

8.22

24.79

1.04

8.57

0.96

29.45

0.88

7.67

1.07

61.32

38.68

Big Bash

2017-18

28.93

8.01

27.86

1.04

8.46

0.95

31.30

0.92

7.23

1.11

62.92

37.08

PSL

2016

26.82

7.52

25.24

1.06

7.65

0.98

29.31

0.91

7.34

1.02

56.55

43.45

PSL

2017

24.06

7.64

24.24

0.99

7.92

0.96

23.80

1.01

7.25

1.05

57.14

42.86

PSL

2018

23.83

7.34

23.28

1.02

7.62

0.96

25.02

0.95

6.82

1.08

64.32

35.68

IPL

2016

31.39

8.19

29.89

1.05

8.26

0.99

34.55

0.91

8.08

1.01

63.94

36.06

IPL

2017

28.35

8.29

28.54

0.99

8.65

0.96

27.98

1.01

7.64

1.08

64.11

35.89

Blast

2016

26.18

8.16

26.05

1.01

8.38

0.97

26.53

0.99

7.65

1.07

70.24

29.76

Blast

2017

27.41

8.46

27.68

0.99

8.78

0.96

26.82

1.02

7.79

1.09

67.21

32.79

CPL

2016

27.53

7.95

26.89

1.02

8.39

0.95

28.83

0.95

7.24

1.10

62.05

37.95

CPL

2017

26.17

7.78

25.69

1.02

8.45

0.92

27.01

0.97

6.87

1.13

57.79

42.21

BPL

2016

24.49

7.22

24.43

1.00

7.57

0.95

24.56

1.00

6.83

1.06

53.40

46.60

BPL

2017

25.78

7.80

25.96

0.99

8.34

0.93

25.50

1.01

7.03

1.11

58.40

41.60


Here we can see that in every single year of every single league, spin bowling was more economical than pace bowling (Spin bowling RPO mean deviation >1), with the closest being a mean deviation of 1.01, in the IPL in 2016, where spin bowling cost an average of 8.08 runs per over, compared to 8.26 runs per over for pace bowling (mean figure was 8.19 runs per over).  The biggest difference was a mean deviation of 1.13, which occurred in the 2017 CPL (spin economy 6.87, pace economy 8.45).

Another interesting trend is the improving relative economy of spin bowling, with spin bowling having a higher mean deviation for each year in each league.  In effect, spinners are becoming more relatively economical, while pace bowlers are becoming more relatively expensive - information that I am sure Brendon McCullum would have liked to avail himself of when the Lahore Qalanders picked the paceman, Mustafizur Rahman, to bowl the super over in defeat against Islamabad United recently in the PSL, as opposed to his much more economical spinner, Sunil Narine.

While spinners are more economical than quicks, they have tended to be a slightly less wicket-taking threat (although with less deviation than their economy).  Only five times across these 14 league editions did spinners have a better bowling average than pace bowlers, but it's worth mentioning that it wasn't hugely worse, with the exceptions of the Big Bash (2016-17 & 2017-18), PSL (2016) and IPL (2016).  Generally speaking, the wicket-taking threats of spinners has slightly improved throughout the years in the above sample.

Why are spinners more economical?  There could be arguments made that they work harder to master their craft in general, compared to pace bowlers, that they are perhaps better suited to T20 than other formats or that they benefit from bowling a higher percentage of their overs in the non-powerplay/death overs, where the run-rate tends to be higher (although this benefits pace bowlers in picking up cheap wickets at the death, in particular).  Perhaps it's a combination of all the above factors, but clearly there is a big difference in spin bowling than pace bowling, with the maximum effect being 31.60 runs - formula of ((8.45-6.87)*20) - in a 20-over innings in the CPL 2017.

With this in mind, teams should certainly have quality spinners at the forefront of their plans when at auctions and drafts, and perhaps also batsmen who are capable of bowling spin - to utilise favourable batsmen v bowler match-ups.

However, despite this success for spinners, we can see from the data that in every league in the sample, non-spinners bowled more than 50% of the overs, with the 2016 BPL (46.60%) having the highest proportion of overs bowled by spin.  More pace orientated leagues (Big Bash and T20 Blast) have seen a slight rising in spin over numbers compared to the 2015-16/2016 seasons, but still feature a low percentage (around a third) of overs bowled by spin across their season.  The IPL also has a low spin over percentage (stable at around 36%), which may be a surprise to some, while the PSL in 2018 has seen a marked drop in overs bowled by spinners, from around 43% in 2016 and 2017, to 36%. 

The fact that the 2017 BPL increased the pace over bowling percentage by 5% is rather strange, given that spinners went for just 6.83 runs per over in 2016, but it may well be due to the increased availability of overseas pacemen due to the T20 Global League not taking place.  Whatever the reason, it didn't benefit franchises - spinners went for 7.03 runs per over, and pace for 8.34 in 2017.  CPL franchises have possibly understood the benefits to using spinners better than franchises in other countries, increasing their usage by 4.26% in 2017 compared to 2016, and being rewarded with the highest mean deviation between spin and pace bowling.  As England Lions have recently found to their cost, it is now not easy to play spin bowling in the Caribbean.

Understanding the percentages that either bowling type is used is very useful when recruiting batsmen.  Almost all batsmen in the world have a preference for either pace or spin bowling which is reflected in their data, and some batsmen have an overwhelming preference.  D'Arcy Short and Chris Lynn are two high-profile examples of players who have a strong preference to pace bowling compared to spin - reflected in their respective strike rates against each.  They would look like being excellent signings for a T20 Blast team (high percentage of pace overs bowled), but less so for BPL or CPL teams, which feature a higher percentage of spin overs bowled.

I also made the point last week in an analysis of the Lahore Qalanders that Brendon McCullum appears to struggle against spin bowling, in the subcontinent in particular, and with a higher percentage of spin overs bowled in subcontinental leagues, he looks better suited to tournaments such as the T20 Blast as well.

League

Year

Mean Batting RPW

Mean Batting SR

Overseas Batting RPW

Mean Deviation

Overseas Batting SR

Mean Deviation

Domestic Batting RPW

Mean Deviation

Domestic Batting SR

Mean Deviation













Big Bash

2015-16

25.48

129.66

27.26

1.07

137.34

1.06

25.06

0.98

127.84

0.99

Big Bash

2016-17

23.65

132.58

24.15

1.02

133.23

1.00

23.53

0.99

132.42

1.00

Big Bash

2017-18

25.90

128.67

24.98

0.96

132.76

1.03

26.07

1.01

127.94

0.99

PSL

2016

23.39

120.36

26.44

1.13

119.42

0.99

21.02

0.90

121.31

1.01

PSL

2017

20.64

122.52

23.22

1.13

125.60

1.03

18.49

0.90

119.46

0.98

PSL

2018

20.97

117.29

24.76

1.18

124.68

1.06

18.27

0.87

110.95

0.95

IPL

2016

27.01

131.43

27.02

1.00

137.43

1.05

27.01

1.00

127.05

0.97

IPL

2017

25.29

133.36

25.81

1.02

138.68

1.04

24.95

0.99

129.92

0.97

Blast

2016

23.51

129.79

26.92

1.14

134.84

1.04

22.97

0.98

128.90

0.99

Blast

2017

24.83

135.47

26.41

1.06

141.82

1.05

24.55

0.99

134.34

0.99

CPL

2016

24.16

125.92

26.33

1.09

123.97

0.98

22.77

0.94

127.40

1.01

CPL

2017

22.81

122.48

21.62

0.95

118.79

0.97

23.39

1.03

124.24

1.01

BPL

2016

21.33

115.97

23.20

1.09

123.28

1.06

20.05

0.94

110.79

0.96

BPL

2017

22.92

124.40

25.91

1.13

131.97

1.06

19.39

0.85

114.11

0.92


The above table illustrates the impact of overseas players versus domestic players across each league from the Big Bash 2015-16 onwards.  We can see that in the majority of cases, overseas batsmen have had a positive impact, with only the Big Bash (2017-18) and CPL (2017) having mediocre figures for overseas batsmen, and it's worth looking at the Big Bash data to start with.  

As the years have progressed, overseas batting performance for Big Bash franchises has declined, and one possible reason for this is that Big Bash teams have often preferred to look at established, veteran, T20 batsmen for overseas options, and are often very loyal to their overseas players (e.g. Kevin Pietersen/Luke Wright at Melbourne Stars).  The effect of this is that they have failed to value the age/ability decline curve as much as they should have, and the Melbourne Stars in particular look like having a problem with this.

I've mentioned on numerous occasions that the PSL and BPL have very poor domestic batting data and this is demonstrated here, with overseas players in the PSL having a mean batting average deviation of 1.13 or greater in every year, while the BPL has had mean deviation of 1.09 (2016) and 1.13 (2017) for the batting average of overseas players.  Domestic batsmen in these events have produced horrific data, with the current PSL (18.27 average, 110.95 strike rate) being the worst of all the above leagues.  Quality domestic batsmen in Pakistan and Bangladesh are such a scarce resource that they must be absolutely prioritised by franchises when recruiting teams in their respective drafts.

Overseas batsmen have had little impact in the IPL, being barely any better than their domestic rivals.  With this in mind, IPL franchises should consider prioritising overseas bowlers, as opposed to batsmen, given that the domestic batting talent pool is so plentiful.

League

Year

Mean Bowling RPW

Mean Bowling RPO

Overseas Bowling RPW

Mean Deviation

Overseas Bowling RPO

Mean Deviation

Domestic Bowling RPW

Mean Deviation

Domestic Bowling RPO

Mean Deviation













Big Bash

2015-16

28.25

8.05

23.97

1.18

7.33

1.10

29.10

0.97

8.18

0.98

Big Bash

2016-17

25.81

8.22

19.23

1.34

7.82

1.05

28.16

0.92

8.30

0.99

Big Bash

2017-18

28.93

8.01

22.97

1.26

7.76

1.03

30.71

0.94

8.06

0.99

PSL

2016

26.82

7.52

28.00

0.96

7.66

0.98

26.14

1.03

7.43

1.01

PSL

2017

24.06

7.64

23.06

1.04

8.14

0.94

24.29

0.99

7.50

1.02

PSL

2018

23.83

7.34

23.95

0.99

7.64

0.96

23.78

1.00

7.21

1.02

IPL

2016

31.39

8.19

28.65

1.10

8.27

0.99

33.46

0.94

8.14

1.01

IPL

2017

28.35

8.29

27.81

1.02

8.30

1.00

28.77

0.99

8.28

1.00

Blast

2016

26.18

8.16

24.64

1.06

8.07

1.01

26.43

0.99

8.17

1.00

Blast

2017

27.41

8.46

25.45

1.08

8.28

1.02

27.84

0.98

8.50

1.00

CPL

2016

27.53

7.95

24.63

1.12

7.71

1.03

28.63

0.96

8.03

0.99

CPL

2017

26.17

7.78

25.10

1.04

7.27

1.07

26.74

0.98

8.07

0.96

BPL

2016

24.49

7.22

23.13

1.06

7.04

1.03

25.56

0.96

7.37

0.98

BPL

2017

25.78

7.80

24.21

1.06

7.46

1.05

27.14

0.95

8.08

0.96


As can be seen above, overseas bowlers - particularly from a wicket-taking perspective - have had success in many leagues, with the most notable success being in the Big Bash.  In fact, overseas spinners have been particularly successful in the last few years in this event, and with domestic batting being strong, Australian teams should generally focus their two overseas spots on bowlers or bowling all-rounders.

The only league where overseas bowlers have not had a bigger impact for wicket-taking than domestic bowlers has been the PSL - further adding weight to the assertion that PSL teams should focus their recruitment on overseas batsmen, and it would appear that the domestic bowling talent pool in Pakistan is strong.  The BPL at least did feature better performances for overseas bowlers than domestic, but to less of an extent than overseas batsmen outperformed domestic batsmen.

Domestic bowlers did manage to offer relatively comparable economy to overseas bowlers in almost all cases, so it looks like the main benefit to overseas bowlers comes from more of a wicket-taking threat than from an economy basis.

Actionable recruitment strategies for franchises in each league:-

Big Bash:

Focus on overseas bowlers due to the strong performances of domestic batsmen - overseas batsmen are less of a necessity.
Overseas spinners have had great success
Spinners have had much better economy than pacemen, so increasing spin bowling options is logical

PSL:

Premium priority on the few quality domestic batsmen
Focus on overseas batsmen due to the generally poor level of domestic batsmen
Domestic bowling talent is strong, so overseas bowlers are not a priority

IPL:

Overseas bowlers have more impact than overseas batsmen
Domestic batsmen are strong and the talent pool is large, so should not attract premium pricing
Domestic bowlers are relatively worse than domestic batsmen, so recruiting quality domestic bowlers should be a priority and teams should be prepared to pay for the privilege

Blast:

High percentage of overs bowled by pace bowlers, so teams should focus any batting recruitment on players with a high strike rate v pace bowling
Overseas bowlers have been a wicket-taking threat
Spin cost almost 1 run per over less than pace in 2017

CPL:

High percentage of overs bowled by spin bowlers, so teams should focus any batting recruitment on players with a high strike rate v spin bowling
Overseas batting performance dropped badly in 2017 - any overseas batsmen recruited should be strong v spin bowling and be of premium quality
Overseas bowling performance strong throughout, and domestic bowling offers relatively poor economy, so focusing overseas recruitment on bowlers and quality domestic batsmen makes sense

BPL:

High percentage of overs bowled by spin bowlers, so teams should focus any batting recruitment on players with a high strike rate v spin bowling
Premium priority on the few quality domestic batsmen
Focus on overseas batsmen due to the generally poor level of domestic batsmen
Domestic bowling talent is strong, so overseas bowlers are not a priority

Above, I have demonstrated a number of strategies which data has shown that franchises should adopt to improve their recruitment efficiency, and in part two of this article, I will be looking at the recent IPL auction and CPL draft and assess both good and bad purchases, compared to the league dynamics.

If 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.
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