IPL 2014 April 30, 2014

Super Kings: squeezing the best out of the best

A look at how Chennai Super Kings' overseas players have added immense value to the team

Chennai Super Kings have been the team to beat for six years now. There are probably a number of things that make them tick and it would therefore be unfair put down their success to one single factor. However, it is undeniable that the management's ability to extract the best from its players is one of the major reasons for the team's success. Apart from motivating lesser known players like Manpreet Gony and Shadab Jakati to punch above their weight, Super Kings have also been able to ensure that their international stars deliver.

The fact that this is not merely a case of giving the management undue credit becomes clear when we see that these same foreign players have not performed at the same level while playing for other franchises. Michael Hussey had been the back bone of Chennai's batting for a couple of years, but now appears a shadow of that player with Mumbai Indians. While age might have something to do with Hussey's decline, that can't be the case with Albie Morkel. He had come in lower down the order and delivered many a knockout punch for Super Kings, but Royal Challengers Bangalore don't seem to have discovered (yet) how to best utilise Morkel. Below are performances of some international batsmen for Super Kings, who have played for other franchises as well. Apart from these batsmen, Super Kings have also had players like Matthew Hayden and Faf du Plessis who have done well for the team but not played for other franchises.

Dwayne Bravo, on the other hand, has scored three half-centuries for other teams (Mumbai Indians) but none for Super Kings - that probably only tells us that Super Kings' top order has usually ensured that he does not have to be pressed into service early in the innings. His strike rate and average are still significantly better when he plays for Super Kings.

Performance of foreign batsmen for Chennai
Player Innings Runs Average Strike rate 50+ scores
MEK Hussey 45 1691 44.50 124.33 13
JA Morkel 59 827 23.62 144.83 2
DJ Bravo 31 511 30.05 134.82 0
DR Smith 6 256 42.66 143.82 3
BB McCullum 6 249 49.80 130.36 3

Performance of Chennai's foreign batsmen for other franchises
Player Innings Runs Average Strike rate 50+ scores
MEK Hussey 4 30 7.50 56.50 0
JA Morkel 3 28 14.00 87.50 0
DJ Bravo 25 457 21.76 117.17 3
DR Smith 33 857 29.55 134.67 5
BB McCullum 48 1239 28.15 123.00 6

A look at the bowlers now, and the balance that Bravo and Morkel have lent to the side is well documented. In fact, Morkel is Super Kings' highest wicket taker. A couple of bowlers mentioned in the table below have not played for any other IPL team. So, while their performance for Super Kings cannot be pitted against their performance for other teams, it was necessary to include them in this analysis because their impact for the team has been immense. Chennai had lost five of their first seven games in the 2010 season, when Doug Bollinger was drafted into the side in place of the injured Jacob Oram. Chennai had lacked a genuine strike bowler in the tournament up until that point and Bollinger came in and made an impact straight away by picking up 12 wickets from eight games at a miserly economy rate of 6.67. Bollinger's stint with Super Kings ended after three seasons, and Ben Hilfenhaus has ably filled his shoes ever since. The table below shows that both Hilfenhaus and Bollinger have almost identical numbers while playing for Super Kings.

Performance of Chennai's foreign bowlers
Player Innings Overs Wickets Average Economy rate Strike rate
JA Morkel 75 254.1 76 27.07 8.09 20.0
DJ Bravo 42 140.1 53 21.05 7.96 15.8
M Muralitharan 40 156.0 40 24.85 6.37 23.4
JDP Oram 11 31.3 8 35.25 8.95 23.6
DE Bollinger 27 96.0 37 18.72 7.21 15.5
BW Hilfenhaus 14 51.0 20 18.55 7.27 15.3

Performance of Chennai's foreign bowlers for other franchises
Player Innings Overs Wickets Average Economy rate Strike rate
JA Morkel 4 10 3 28.66 8.60 20.0
DJ Bravo 30 87.5 26 27.65 8.18 20.3
M Muralitharan
22 84 20 30.15 7.17 25.2
JDP Oram 3 8 1 67.00 8.37 48.0

While some of these players have played a bulk of their matches for Super Kings and only a small number of games for other franchises, the fact that all of them have done better for the Chennai outfit must provide some indication of its superior player management - this is best demonstrated by Bravo, who has played a similar number of games for other teams as he has for Super Kings.

Super Kings have of course been fortunate to always have some of the best international talent within their ranks. Still, the captain, coach and management probably do deserve some credit for ensuring these big names performed to potential.

Bishen Jeswant is a stats sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here.