Is Stokes worth £1.7m?

Ben Stokes is a hugely valuable cricketer but probably not valuable enough to justify a £1.7m price tag based on his on-field performances alone

Ben Stokes was front page news in February as he became the most expensive overseas player ever sold in an IPL auction. Rising Pune Supergiant(s) shelled out 4.5 crore for him - equivalent to £1.7m pounds - after a fierce bidding war with the Mumbai Indians

I want to try to answer the question of whether or not one player could possibly be worth that much money. Sadly, Stokes has already returned to England to prepare for international duty. He is one of the most entertaining cricketers in the world with the ability to explode with either the bat or ball in any game

Ben Stokes value to his IPL franchise clearly extend beyond his impact on winning games. He is an exciting player who appeals to fans and helps to expand their audience into overseas markets. But I am only going to focus on the cricket. Have Stokes' contributions lived up to his rather large price tag?

2017 Performance

Summary of Ben Stokes' contribution to the wins and losses of Rising Pune Supergiant

The season did not start out well for Stokes. He had a good knock against Kings XI Punjab (50 off 32) but otherwise his performances with the bat were fairly unspectacular. And in his role with the ball, he was leaking over 9 runs per over. This included a disastrous 22-run over at the death against Delhi Daredevils, costing his team the game. Through four games he had cost his team 0.36 wins in total, mainly from uneconomical bowling

But he was back to his destructive best in the very next game against RCB as he took 3 wickets (including the great Virat Kohli) at an economy of 4.5. Over the next few games he continued to earn back wins as a bowler. Nonetheless, we were still waiting for him to produced the promised match-winning performances as a batsman...

Beautiful visual that shows the Runs Scored and the Runs Added above a benchmark from Ben Stokes in the 2017 IPL season

After a short break with injury, Stokes returned to craft a masterful innings against the Gujurat Lions. Coming in at 10-3 after just nine balls, he scored a perfect paced century to lead RPS to the win. This was the match-winning performance that fans had been waiting form as he almost single-handedly won the game for his team (+0.8 wins)

Total wins contributed during the 2017 IPL season

Total wins contributed during the 2017 IPL season

He continued to deliver value in the last few games of the season, including another fearsome bowling performance against the Sunrisers Hyderabad (3 wickets; 7.5 economy)

By the end of the season, he had accumulated 0.81 wins which easily put him into the top 10 for the season. But expectations for a player sold for £1.7m are higher than mere top 10. The question remains whether he was truly worth such a vast sum of money

The number of wins contributed by a particular player can be calculated by considering how his teams' chances to win the game change when he is in game. Before and after every ball we can estimate each team's chance of winning by looking at how often teams in similar situations (runs scored, balls remaining wickets remaining) went on to win in the past
For example, if a player scores a 6 or takes a wicket then his team's chances after that ball will be higher than they were before. This player has earned his team some fraction of a win. Conversely, if a player fails to score gets hit for 6 then he has cost his team some fraction of a win. The swings in fortune depend hugely on the match situation - paerformances at the death during close games have the potential to be extremely valuable or extremely costly

Value of a win

Comparison of IPL salaries in the 2017 season including the amount paid to the teams' highest paid players

To establish whether Stokes redeemed his price tag we need to establish the value of a win in the IPL

The average IPL team spends £7.1m on player salaries. Each team plays 14 matches during the league stage of the tournament and the average team will win seven (because of arithmetic). This means that each win is worth £980k. Luckily with Stokes, we have the luxury to ignore the playoffs as he was bought knowing that he was never likely to play at this stage of the tournament

So Stokes provided 0.81 wins for his team which (at £980k per win) is worth about £830k - far short of his total salary. The answer to our question is that Ben Stokes was not worth his auction price this season

There are some caveats that come with this conclusion. Firstly, we could quibble with a few details. We need to consider the hypothetical replacement player who would take Stokes spot in the lineup if he was not in the squad. Unfortunately, that does not change the numbers much at all: T20 is a game for superstars and in most games it is possible to limit the negative impact of a less skilled player

As with Narine, we could also try to take into account Stokes' status as an all-rounder. But this once again only changes the maths very slightly. We need him to be more than twice as valuable as we have calculated to meet the demands of his salary

The other caveat is that Stokes is in excellent company. None of the top 20 highest paid players in this year's IPL repaid their teams in full with winning performances (including most of the RCB team). There is a reason for this: my analysis only factors on-field performances but the biggest stars bring value to a franchise beyond their play alone

Unlike half the RCB team, Ben Stokes actually played like a top player. In the process, he won the hearts and support of Rising Pune Supergiant(s) fans. The Indian Express constructed an IPL dream XI based by finding the players most mentioned on Twitter. That @benstokes38 was the only overseas player on the list speaks to his value to the franchise