T20 Analysis: Understanding Player Abilities Across Conditions

3rd May, 2018.

Email: Sportsanalyticsadvantage@gmail.com

Recently, we took a look at the dynamics of a variety of the major T20 leagues throughout the world, in our article 'Understanding T20 Leagues', and the data from this showed a marked difference in the skill-sets required to succeed across the various T20 leagues around the world.

There was a clear split between the six major leagues, with the BPL, CPL and PSL being considerably more spin-orientated than the Big Bash, IPL and T20 Blast, both in spin overs bowled (higher across BPL/CPL/PSL), and also the economy rates of spinners (much lower in the BPL/CPL/PSL).

With this in mind, we can start to differentiate between the BPL, CPL and PSL (spin-orientated franchise leagues) and the Big Bash, IPL and T20 Blast (pace-orientated).  Doing this, we can identify which players are better in spin-orientated leagues than pace-orientated ones, and vice versa.  

For a player to be a worldwide T20 success, ideally he'd be able consistently high averages and strike rates against both spin and pace bowling, in either spin or pace orientated conditions.  In truth, players with consistent abilities against all bowling and all conditions are very rare, as I'll demonstrate shortly.  However, this doesn't stop T20 franchises signing players who are unlikely to be a success in their particular competition, judging them on their performances in rather different conditions.

We saw this, to an extent, in the recent BPL.  Recency bias often plays a large part in T20 franchise decision-making, such as the prevalence of recent Big Bash performers signed by IPL franchises, and there is a similar relationship between the T20 Blast, which is fresh in the mind of BPL franchises.

In the 2017 BPL, played several months after the T20 Blast, English players did not, on the whole, perform well.  The table below illustrates each English player's batting data, as well as the overall figures for English players combined:-

Player

Completed Innings

Runs

Balls Faced

Average

Strike Rate







A Lyth

3

7

11

2.33

63.64

AU Rashid

1

3

6

3.00

50.00

BAC Howell

0

9

3

N/A

300.00

CJ Jordan

0

17

11

N/A

154.55

DJ Bell-Drummond

1

0

2

0.00

0.00

JC Archer

3

87

53

29.00

164.15

JC Buttler

12

225

204

18.75

110.29

JL Denly

6

187

177

31.17

105.65

LE Plunkett

1

13

6

13.00

216.67

LJ Wright

6

135

120

22.50

112.50

LM Reece

6

141

120

23.50

117.50

RA Whiteley

4

91

73

22.75

124.66

RS Bopara

9

365

316

40.56

115.51

SR Patel

6

100

60

16.67

166.67

TT Bresnan

2

61

45

30.50

135.56







Overall

60

1441

1207

24.02

119.39


Of the main batsmen, only Joe Denly and batting all-rounder Ravi Bopara could be considered successes, although Jofra Archer was obviously superb in the event with the ball, and from a limited sample, with the bat.  Jos Buttler, good enough to be a regular for his IPL franchise as well as England, did not have a good tournament.

Summarising, it is illogical for BPL franchises to consider T20 Blast players a rich hunting ground for batting talent, given the differences in conditions and bowling types in the two events.  It's like seeing a South American clay-courter perform well at the French Open, in conditions that suit him, and then considering him to have a good chance at Wimbledon, on grass.  The two tournaments are played in extremely different conditions, and that's the same comparison we can make between the BPL and the T20 Blast.  

At this stage, it's important to clarify that I'm not suggesting all English players are ill-equipped to succeed in the BPL, but I am clear on the fact that BPL franchises need to perform considerable due diligence before considering them to be a viable option in drafts.

This is also the case for a number of players who have been regulars on the T20 franchise circuit in the last couple of years.  I filtered my database for batsmen, and some batting all-rounders, who from the 2015-16 Big Bash onwards have played at least 10 completed innings in both spin-orientated (BPL/CPL/PSL) leagues and pace-orientated (Big Bash/IPL/T20 Blast) leagues, to understand which players are assets, or indeed, liabilities, depending on the conditions.

Firstly, I sorted the 23 players via their performances in the spin-orientated leagues:-

Player

BPL/CPL/PSL

BPL/CPL/PSL

BPL/CPL/PSL

BPL/CPL/PSL

BPL/CPL/PSL

Data 2016+

CI

Runs

BF

Ave

SR







CA Lynn

10

454

341

45.40

133.14

L Ronchi

24

928

524

38.67

177.10

CH Gayle

44

1658

1139

37.68

145.57

C Munro

20

748

536

37.40

139.55

HM Amla

11

410

324

37.27

126.54

JL Denly

16

510

434

31.88

117.51

DR Smith

50

1551

1269

31.02

122.22

KA Pollard

35

1050

673

30.00

156.02

KC Sangakkara

60

1767

1401

29.45

126.12

SR Watson

39

1130

832

28.97

135.82

DJ Malan

20

578

475

28.90

121.68

CS Delport

16

456

333

28.50

136.94

BB McCullum

40

1085

844

27.13

128.55

KP Pietersen

23

611

439

26.57

139.18

LMP Simmons

29

769

678

26.52

113.42

LJ Wright

12

316

261

26.33

121.07

CR Brathwaite

18

426

255

23.67

167.06

AD Russell

22

489

319

22.23

153.29

MJ Guptill

14

306

289

21.86

105.88

JC Buttler

12

225

204

18.75

110.29

KS Williamson

10

172

193

17.20

89.12

EJG Morgan

12

173

177

14.42

97.74

GD Elliott

14

182

171

13.00

106.43



Of these players, averaging over 30 was rare, although averaging over 25 was pretty commonplace.  Standout players from both an average, and strike rate perspective, include Luke Ronchi, Chris Gayle, Colin Munro and Kieron Pollard.  Chris Lynn's strike rate is lower than many may expect, although it's far from a disaster at around 133, and his average is still world-class.

Looking at the players with lower averages, Carlos Brathwaite actually performed well, given his strike rate, marginally better than his West Indian countryman, Andre Russell.   However, all of Martin Guptill, Jos Buttler, Kane Williamson, Eoin Morgan and Grant Elliott under-performed considerably, and BPL, CPL and PSL franchises should certainly be doubting the viability of signing this quintet of batsmen.

Next up, I wanted to look at how these players performed in the pace-orientated leagues, and the table below contains this data:-

Player

Bash/Blast/IPL

Bash/Blast/IPL

Bash/Blast/IPL

Bash/Blast/IPL

Bash/Blast/IPL

Data 2016+

CI

Runs

BF

Ave

SR







CA Lynn

27

1403

856

51.96

163.90

HM Amla

13

577

407

44.38

141.77

JL Denly

29

1091

778

37.62

140.23

KS Williamson

25

911

705

36.44

129.22

KP Pietersen

27

946

675

35.04

140.15

GD Elliott

10

332

247

33.20

134.41

CH Gayle

34

1116

742

32.82

150.40

JC Buttler

47

1533

1016

32.62

150.89

DJ Malan

16

500

349

31.25

143.27

L Ronchi

18

541

313

30.06

172.84

LJ Wright

41

1143

875

27.88

130.63

BB McCullum

62

1718

1172

27.71

146.59

CS Delport

19

517

372

27.21

138.98

EJG Morgan

33

886

719

26.85

123.23

DR Smith

22

563

377

25.59

149.34

AD Russell

28

700

399

25.00

175.44

KA Pollard

37

880

643

23.78

136.86

SR Watson

52

1201

873

23.10

137.57

MJ Guptill

14

314

238

22.43

131.93

KC Sangakkara

24

520

363

21.67

143.25

LMP Simmons

16

322

258

20.13

124.81

C Munro

11

120

94

10.91

127.66

CR Brathwaite

11

111

65

10.09

170.77


Chris Lynn topped the table again, but this time with a much higher average and strike rate, marking him out to be one of the best T20 batsmen in the world, but also much stronger in pace-orientated conditions.  Hashim Amla, Joe Denly and Chris Gayle were three other players who managed to replicate strong performances in the spin-orientated leagues, and these four players look viable signings for any franchise around the world, although Amla and Gayle are moving into their late 30s, from an age perspective.

We can also see how Kane Williamson, Grant Elliott and Jos Buttler were able to transform their data from being at the bottom of the spin-orientated condition table, to towards the top of the pace-orientated condition table, while Brendon McCullum's strike rate in pace-orientated conditions was around 20 higher than in spin-orientated conditions.  

These players fit the 'horses for courses' dynamic - sign them in pace-orientated condition leagues, but not in spin-orientated ones.  Furthermore, as T20 leagues proliferate around the world, these players need to be smart (or well-advised by agents) to pick leagues which suit their skill-set, so that their overall T20 data remains strong.

At the bottom of the table, Lendl Simmonds, Colin Munro and Carlos Brathwaite have plenty to prove in pace-orientated conditions.  Certainly, that should be a worry for Kent, who yesterday signed Brathwaite as an overseas player for four matches in the T20 Blast - his average in spin-orientated leagues is over double that for him in pace-orientated leagues.

The next area to look at is the combined data for each player, in this time period from 2015-16 Big Bash onwards:-

Player

Combined

Combined

Combined

Combined

Combined

Data 2016+

CI

Runs

BF

Ave

SR







CA Lynn

37

1857

1197

50.19

155.14

HM Amla

24

987

731

41.13

135.02

JL Denly

45

1601

1212

35.58

132.10

CH Gayle

78

2774

1881

35.56

147.47

L Ronchi

42

1469

837

34.98

175.51

KP Pietersen

50

1557

1114

31.14

139.77

KS Williamson

35

1083

898

30.94

120.60

DJ Malan

36

1078

824

29.94

130.83

JC Buttler

59

1758

1220

29.80

144.10

DR Smith

72

2114

1646

29.36

128.43

C Munro

31

868

630

28.00

137.78

CS Delport

35

973

705

27.80

138.01

LJ Wright

53

1459

1136

27.53

128.43

BB McCullum

102

2803

2016

27.48

139.04

KC Sangakkara

84

2287

1764

27.23

129.65

KA Pollard

72

1930

1316

26.81

146.66

SR Watson

91

2331

1705

25.62

136.72

LMP Simmons

45

1091

936

24.24

116.56

AD Russell

50

1189

718

23.78

165.60

EJG Morgan

45

1059

896

23.53

118.19

MJ Guptill

28

620

527

22.14

117.65

GD Elliott

24

514

418

21.42

122.97

CR Brathwaite

29

537

320

18.52

167.81


The players at the top of the list have performed well across franchise leagues around the world - I'm still perplexed as to why Luke Ronchi did not get an IPL contract, and Joe Denly can also consider himself very unlucky not to - but this data also shows that four batsmen in particular - Lendl Simmons, Eoin Morgan, Martin Guptill and Grant Elliott - have combined averages and strike rates across these six leagues to be well below the worldwide mean figures.

On a number of occasions, people on social media have questioned IPL franchises on an apparent unwillingness to sign Guptill, and perhaps in this case, they've done their research.  Across franchise leagues, he's certainly been below the average batsman, but in 22 completed innings in T20 internationals from 2016 onwards, he's averaging 38.95 at a strike rate of 152.22.  He's been world-class for New Zealand, but below-average for franchises.  Interestingly, 14 of these innings have been at home in New Zealand, where he's averaged 47.28 at a strike rate of 158.75.  It would appear likely that Guptill has been able to take advantage of small boundaries in his home country to flatter his T20i numbers, and is naturally unable to replicate this away from home, at bigger venues.

Such analysis should give franchises further ideas on which players are likely to thrive or fail in various conditions, and understanding the strengths and limitations of particular batsmen is vital when doing due diligence on signings.


If this article has given you insight into the data that Sports Analytics Advantage can offer cricket teams around the world in formulating draft or auction plans, selection strategies or tactics, please feel free to chat to us at sportsanalyticsadvantage@gmail.com.
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