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.
In a previous post, I looked at the great bowlers of T20 cricket and found unique tendencies for each one that made them stand out as outliers against their peers (except Harbhajan Singh). It was not possible to do the same thing with the batsmen. Only one player seems to have particularly unique tendencies and he stands out as an outlier on almost every single chart. Enjoy
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 batsmen who had faced at least 500 deliveries were included in the charts. The bubble sizes represent the total number of deliveries faced by each batsman across all those matches.
I have highlighted the same six batsmen in every chart: Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Brendon McCullum, David Warner, and MS Dhoni. There is no super-scientific reason for choosing these batsmen but they are all among the most commonly featured batsmen in my data and are players that I find interesting
The Front-Runner: AB de Villiers
AB de Villiers is the only T20 batsman who has played as much as he has who scores significantly faster in one innings than in the other. The other five key batsmen all line-up in an almost perfect correlation of scoring rates between the two overs. But AB bucks this trend. When chasing his strike rate is 154 in comparison to 132 when setting a target. That is a difference of more than 13 runs per over!
Quick out the blocks: David Warner
Very few batsman are as sharp as David Warner from the very first ball of the innings. Of course, David Warner scores quickly at all times during a T20 match but he stands out during the first six overs. More surprising was to see MS Dhoni so far down at the bottom but it makes sense after a bit of thought: Dhoni is unusual in that he tends to bat down the order and for him to be batting during the Powerplay is probably a sign that the innings is not going well. He would see it as his role to shore up a collapse and protect his wicket at all costs, even if it means scoring more slowly than he would like to
Grim Reaper: Brendon McCullum
At the other end of the innings, we have a trio of players who score at over 2.5 runs per ball in the final overs of the match. For a bowler coming in at the death, it must be terrifying to see Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, and Brendon McCullum at the other end of the pitch having already witnessed them destroy every single other bowler in your team. Here the nod is given to Brendon McCullum whose scoring rate just edges out the other two batman (2.68 runs per ball)
The Anchor: Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli's average in T20 cricket is ridiculous. He plays phenomenal shots in all forms of the game and he has anchored countless innings for both India and the Royal Challengers Bangalore. I don't think he gets enough criticism for this. Often there is a need for one player to stick around and allow other players to hit their shots. But Kohli scores too slowly, especially considering the teams that he plays for and the batsmen waiting to step in when he falls. It is hard to criticise a player who scores so consistently and contributes to so many winning totals but he would be even scarier if he could adapt his strategy in the shortest form of the game
Usain Bolt: MS Dhoni
Watching Dhoni during the middle overs is a lot of fun. Especially when he is partnered with Kohli - the two cover ground so quickly that almost any shot can be taken for a single. I was recently listening to some cricket commentary during which the one of the commentators claimed that Virat Kohli covers the 22 yards between the wickets (in pads) faster than Usain Bolt covers the same distance in his 100m races. This is completely implausible unless you allow for the fact that Kohli might already be in motion and can reach with his bat for the finish line
But my data crowns Dhoni as the fastest man in cricket. Or at least the most opportunistic. He runs for two more than 10% of his shots and seizes the opportunity to take a bye on a further 2% of deliveries. Kohli on the other hand seems very reluctant to run for byes. Perhaps this again reflects his unwillingness to take risks in favour of protecting his wicket
The Outlier: Chris Gayle
Up to this point, I have done my best to choose charts where Gayle does not stand out; trying to hide him amongst the crowd. This is basically impossible but the charts presented so far do a better job than most. Chris Gayle is simply an extraordinary T20 batsman. He is an outlier on every chart and has a completely unique style that nobody else can emulate. Plenty has been written about the majesty of Gayle as the ultimate T20 batsman and so I will stop now and just show some charts....