Recently, I have been working on a way to simulate each individual delivery of a T20 cricket match. Part of the challenge is to parse out the impact specific bowlers and batsman have on the outcome of each ball. So I created a spreadsheet which details how many times each player hit sixes, lost wickets, bowled dot balls, conceded wides etc.
It was at this point that the ability to easily make bubble charts distracted me from the task at hand, as I started to look for the statistical outliers in T20 cricket. This post uses some of those bubble charts to explore some of the unique tendencies of certain T20 bowlers. A separate post will cover batsmen
The charts below cover a variety of T20 matches including T20Is, IPL, BBL, PSL, the Natwest T20 Blast; basically everything that I could download from cricsheet.org. Only bowlers with at least 1000 deliveries were included in the charts. The bubble sizes represent the total number of deliveries for each bowler across all those matches.
I have highlighted the same six bowlers in every chart: Sunil Narine, Lasith Malinga, Dale Steyn, Dwayne Bravo, Shahid Afridi, and Harbhajan Singh. There is no super-scientific reason for choosing these bowlers but they are all among the most commonly featured bowlers in my data and are players that I find interesting
Total Control: Sunil Narine
Narine's bowling style has come under a huge amount of scrutiny in the past and he has needed to work constantly to refine it and stay on the right side of ICC law. Some things have always remained true - he is hard to hit and his ball placement is extremely well controlled. Not only does Narine have a phenomenal economy, his teams also concede byes on just 1.2% of his deliveries (impressive even among fellow spinners). Only Badree had a more efficient economy: 6.2 vs 6.4 for Narine
Kamikaze: Dwayne Bravo
On the other far end of of the spectrum we have Dwayne Bravo, a T20 bowler known for his performances at the death. Unfortunately, bowling at the death comes with its hazards and Bravo is certainly not immune to them. He has one of the lowest dot ball rates in T20 cricket (29.7%). Admittedly, dot balls are only part of the equation and he does take a lot of wickets - on 5.8% of deliveries. It seems that his willingness to bowl in the final overs is matched only by how eventful those overs turn out to be
Chicken: Shahid Afridi
If Dwayne Bravo is the brave warrior throwing himself into the fray at the death, Shahid Afridi is a chicken. As a spinner, Afridi is always going to bowl more overs in the middle overs of a T20 game but he takes it to the extremes. Almost 11% of Afridi's contributions are bowled in over seven - the first over following the Powerplay and noticeably lower scoring than any other over in a T20 match as batsmen adjust to the new fielding conditions. Considering that he was captain in many of these matches, the label 'chicken' seems appropriate while he shirks the big moments of the game
Ground Attack: Dale Steyn
Lasith Malinga and Dale Steyn are both difficult bowlers to hit for six (as is Starc who is the smaller bubble hiding behind Steyn). The difference betwen the two is that Dale Steyn goes to the boundary surprisingly often considering his bowling economy. There are 17 bowlers in my analysis with an economy less than 7 and Steyn is hit to the boundary more often than any of them: 14% vs. an average of 11%. And as you can see from the chart, these boundaries come along the ground rather than through the air
The Sweeper: Lasith Malinga
Malinga stands out in a few of these charts but this one is my favourite. Having such a prolific bowler take aim at tailenders on 20% of his deliveries seems unfair (and calls into question whether some of his statistics are helped by bowling to poor batsmen). There may be bowlers who take the wickets of tail end batsmen more frequently on a per ball basis, but Lasith Malinga is an outlier through sheer volume. Over the course of these matches, he has taken 71 tailender wickets, sweeping up like nobody else before or after (Gul took 28)
Mr. Boring: Harbhajan Singh
Let's be clear - I don't think that Harbhajan Singh is a boring cricketer. He has been involved in more highlights, match winning moments, media controversies than I can shake a stick at. But throughout my analysis he stubbornly refused to reveal himself as an outlier. Sometimes this was because he was "out-outliered' by Shahid Afridi and sometimes it was because he has quite average tendencies. Clearly, he is also a phenomenal T20 bowler. He is one of the 17 aforementioned bowlers with a sub-7.0 economy and contributes more with the bat than some of the others on this list. And it is as a batsman that I finally found his unique characteristic. Of all batsmen who have faced more than 500 deliveries, he is most likely to be facing those deliveries at the end of the innings: more than 50% of his time as a batman was spent in the final three overs. Stat.