Who are the best bowlers in T20 Cricket?


20th October, 2017.

In several of my previous articles, I wrote about the fact that no two performances in cricket are equal, and some are considerably more relevant than others.

In my article 'The Problem with using Career Averages', I mentioned that Sunil Narine and Rashid Khan's bowling averages and economy rates look better than they actually should be, given the fact that they frequently bowl against weaker than average batsmen in bowler-friendly conditions, and I made the point that Narine's numbers are incredible in the bowler-friendly BPL, CPL and PSL, while his IPL data is pretty mediocre, particularly from a wicket-taking perspective.

Also, in another of my recent articles 'Selecting Players for the 2020 English Franchise Draft', I introduced a metric known as 'FOC' - defined as Four Over Contribution.  Effectively, this is the number of runs that a bowler reduces an innings by over the average bowler - so in that article, for example, Benny Howell was the leading English bowler, saving his team 15.29 runs per four overs compared to the average bowler.  For a detailed description of how to calculate FOC, please refer to that article.

Benny Howell produced the best bowling FOC for an English player...

I thought it would be interesting to look at FOC for all worldwide players, so what I did as a starting point was look at the career bowling averages and economy rates, enabling me to work out the average runs per four overs that each bowler conceded (RP4) and the average wickets per four overs that they took (WP4), and then ultimately calculate a basic FOC for all players.  

Requirements were that bowlers had to have bowled over 100 overs from the start of 2015 until the 20th October, 2017, in at least two of the major domestic T20 leagues (IPL, Big Bash, T20 Blast, PSL, CPL, BPL, New Zealand, South Africa), as well as T20 internationals, or one league plus T20 internationals.

The following worldwide players had a basic FOC of over 5:-

Player

RP4

WP4

FOC





Rashid Khan

24.35

1.47

14.39

KOK Williams

31.09

1.71

13.96

Al-Amin Hossain

31.93

1.68

12.48

AF Milne

30.07

1.61

12.48

BAC Howell

26.49

1.47

12.26

KK Cooper

30.88

1.63

12.24

A Zampa

27.23

1.49

12.19

Mustafizur Rahman

26.08

1.44

11.83

YS Chahal

32.56

1.68

11.69

CJ McKay

30.15

1.52

10.05

SL Malinga

31.54

1.54

8.99

LA Dawson

28.19

1.40

8.69

B Kumar

29.60

1.43

8.11

E Leie

28.97

1.39

7.83

TT Bresnan

34.04

1.57

7.52

AJ Tye

30.81

1.45

7.37

MJ Santner

27.94

1.32

6.92

Mohammad Sami

26.73

1.27

6.80

BW Hilfenhaus

32.89

1.50

6.62

NM Coulter-Nile

30.90

1.41

6.33

AU Rashid

29.23

1.34

6.25

Imad Wasim

25.02

1.18

6.24

RR Emrit

28.98

1.33

6.12

R Ashwin

26.18

1.22

6.05

TS Mills

29.77

1.36

6.05

D Paterson

30.78

1.39

5.88

DJ Bravo

32.92

1.46

5.72

LE Plunkett

32.28

1.44

5.70

Wahab Riaz

31.10

1.39

5.67

Imran Tahir

31.31

1.40

5.60

DJ Willey

31.75

1.41

5.57

RS Bopara

28.38

1.28

5.45

Junaid Khan

29.93

1.34

5.44

IS Sodhi

30.74

1.37

5.42

CH Morris

30.49

1.35

5.22

JJ Bumrah

30.18

1.33

5.03


In total, 36 players had a FOC of 5.00 or more, indicating that they saved their teams at least 5 runs per four overs on average, with ten players producing FOCs above 10 runs per four over spell.

Interestingly, the players who had FOCs above 10 were a mixed bag of names, with the likes of Rashid Khan, Adam Zampa and Mustafizur Rahman probably not being a shock to anyone who watches T20 cricket on a regular basis.  

Regular readers of my work will also not be surprised that Benny Howell made the top ten worldwide bowler list, and likewise Kesrick Williams - I've been beating the drum about both in a number of articles.  Adam Milne's excellent T20 Blast campaign for Kent helped the New Zealander push his way to fourth spot.

Adam Milne had an excellent T20 Blast campaign for Kent...

Al-Amin Hossain and Kevon Cooper were two very unlikely names near the top, and they derived considerable chunks of their success in the extremely bowler-friendly BPL (Cooper has taken the most wickets in the competition across the last two seasons), so this gives something of a 'false reading' here.

What is also evident among these top 10 bowlers with FOCs above 10 is that they all are supreme wicket-takers.  The average T20 bowler will take 1.20 wickets per four over spell, and Williams (1.71) topped the list from Hossain and Yuzvendra Chahal (both 1.68).  Mitchell McClenaghan (1.44 wickets per four over spell) was the best wicket-taker not to have a FOC of 5.00, with his poor economy rates giving him a FOC of 4.33.

While the observation that players who have a high FOC are strong wicket-takers seems fairly obvious, it also throws doubt on those who consider bowling four wicketless overs for around average runs, or even slightly lower than average runs (e.g 4-0-28-0) to be a positive contribution - the fact that no wickets were taken in the four over spell is a huge negative and while the four overs were relatively economical, they then put pressure on those who have to bowl the other 16 overs in an innings knowing that the batting team will be able to take more risks knowing they have wickets in hand.  

Indeed, Imad Wasim was the only bowler to have a FOC of greater than 5 but have below average wicket-taking, primarily due to his magnificent economy rate.

However, as I alluded to earlier in the article, false readings are possible given the varying difficulty of overs, and batsmen, in cricket.  Therefore I applied a weighting to the basic FOC (WFOC) to account for this, and doing so changed the rankings of the top bowlers considerably:-

Player

RP4

WP4

FOC

WFOC

FOC-WFOC







YS Chahal

32.56

1.68

11.69

15.09

-3.40

Rashid Khan

24.35

1.47

14.39

13.11

1.28

BAC Howell

26.49

1.47

12.26

12.72

-0.46

A Zampa

27.23

1.49

12.19

12.64

-0.45

B Kumar

29.60

1.43

8.11

12.30

-4.19

AF Milne

30.07

1.61

12.48

12.10

0.38

KOK Williams

31.09

1.71

13.96

11.65

2.31

Mustafizur Rahman

26.08

1.44

11.83

10.87

0.96

SL Malinga

31.54

1.54

8.99

10.77

-1.78

CJ McKay

30.15

1.52

10.05

10.72

-0.67

KK Cooper

30.88

1.63

12.24

9.40

2.84

NM Coulter-Nile

30.90

1.41

6.33

8.92

-2.59

Al-Amin Hossain

31.93

1.68

12.48

8.42

4.06

LA Dawson

28.19

1.40

8.69

8.41

0.28

TT Bresnan

34.04

1.57

7.52

8.30

-0.78

AJ Tye

30.81

1.45

7.37

8.21

-0.84

E Leie

28.97

1.39

7.83

7.23

0.60

BW Hilfenhaus

32.89

1.50

6.62

6.92

-0.30

MJ McClenaghan

33.79

1.44

4.33

6.49

-2.16

CH Morris

30.49

1.35

5.22

6.48

-1.26

Imran Tahir

31.31

1.40

5.60

6.41

-0.81

R Ashwin

26.18

1.22

6.05

6.35

-0.30

TS Mills

29.77

1.36

6.05

6.29

-0.24

AU Rashid

29.23

1.34

6.25

6.14

0.11

MJ Santner

27.94

1.32

6.92

5.98

0.94

JJ Bumrah

30.18

1.33

5.03

5.89

-0.86

DJ Bravo

32.92

1.46

5.72

5.63

0.09

DJ Willey

31.75

1.41

5.57

5.31

0.26

RS Bopara

28.38

1.28

5.45

5.24

0.21

LE Plunkett

32.28

1.44

5.70

5.18

0.52

D Paterson

30.78

1.39

5.88

5.14

0.74


With this weighting present, fewer bowlers (31 instead of 36) had a FOC over 5, and Rashid Khan was no longer the best bowler, dropping to number two. In a stunning rise - indicative of how difficult it is to bowl consistently in the IPL - Yuzvendra Chahal shot to number one by some distance, and another IPL superstar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, went from outside the top ten to fifth in the world.

With weighting present, Yuzvendra Chahal was ranked as the number one T20 bowler in the world...

The likes of Kevon Cooper and Al-Amin Hossain predictably dropped their rankings, to just outside the top ten - make no mistake, they are still strong bowlers in this format - but the weighted FOC top ten definitely features more household names.

We can see that with a (FOC-WFOC) total of 1 or greater - indicating that they generally bowled in favourable conditions - that Rashid Khan, Kesrick Williams, Kevon Cooper, Al-Amin Hossain, Mohammad Sami, Imad Wasim, Rayad Emrit, Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan all dropped their basic FOC considerably and analysis of their career averages and economy rates should be considered in conjunction with the relative ease of conditions in which they bowl in.

However, it's fair to suggest that any bowler on this list should be a prime target for T20 franchises looking to improve their bowling attack, and with a number of lower profile names present, some extremely good bowlers are being ignored by franchises at present - again illustrating how bad the recruitment strategies are for many franchises around the world.  

Hopefully this case study 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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