IPL 2014 May 17, 2014

Six & not out: the IPL's best finishers

How MS Dhoni and AB de Villiers' IPL numbers stack up to show they are the best in finishing business

MS Dhoni the finisher is now considered among the game's best, be it in T20s or ODIs. His teams' supporters have come to not just hope, but almost expect Dhoni to take the side to victory when he is batting in a chase. Here we look at Dhoni's finishing prowess in the IPL. Does he deserve all the accolades he gets or are there other batsmen, like AB de Villiers, who are being slighted in the process?

Below is a list of batsmen who have been there at the end of successful chases the most number of times for their respective IPL teams. (The statistics don't account for the vagaries of whether the concerned batsman came in with only a handful of easy runs to be knocked off, and so the chaff will have to be separated via a manual, qualitative assessment.)

Batsmen who have remained not-out at the end of a successful IPL chase
Batsman Innings Runs High score Strike rate 50+ scores 4s 6s
LRPL Taylor 11 243 81* 149.07 1 16 14
MS Dhoni 10 289 67* 156.21 2 23 12
AB de Villiers 10 419 89* 146.50 3 34 22
G Gambhir 10 539 75* 125.34 7 60 3
RA Jadeja 10 193 38* 178.70 0 14 11
DPMD Jayawardene 10 368 110* 139.92 3 42 7
JH Kallis 10 500 89* 123.15 5 47 13

From the table we can see that Ross Taylor is the only player to have been in such situations more often than Dhoni. Taylor sitting on top of the list may surprise a few because he has a limited array of shots and is not a player particularly well known for his temperament. Of Taylor's 11 innings, a couple are single-figure scores - 2 not out and 9 not out (13b) - and there is also an 18-ball 13. None of these innings can be said to have tested his qualities as a finisher.

There are also a clutch of batsmen who, like Dhoni, have finished not out 10 times at the end of a successful chase. Among these, Jacques Kallis and Gautam Gambhir stand out because of the large number of 50+ scores they have made in order to take their team over the finish line. Creditable no doubt, but the relatively low strike rates for both indicate that, more often than not, they were probably batting in low-pressure situations. Only Ravindra Jadeja has a higher strike rate than Dhoni, but he regularly walks in when there is not much left to do (evidenced by the fact that he has no fifties and his 10 innings includes three single-digit scores), or it is just a big shot or two needed at most.

AB de Villiers and Dhoni, on the other hand, have borne the weight of their respective teams on their shoulders. Both de Villiers and Dhoni have no single-figure scores in their ten innings, and have, on an average, had to score at a very high strike rate - 149 and 156 respectively.

Another of Dhoni's signature moves is taking the game into the last over and spanking a few sixes right at the end. The image of him hitting a six in the last over and calmly walking away with a souvenir stump in hand has now become common in world cricket. The table below lists the batsmen who have hit the most number of sixes in the 20th over of an IPL chase.

Most sixes by a batsman in the 20th over of an IPL chase
Batsman Innings 4s 6s Runs Balls Strike rate
MS Dhoni 12 8 8 99 34 291.17
M Morkel 10 4 5 60 28 214.17
KA Pollard 8 4 5 51 17 300.00
RG Sharma 5 3 5 52 18 288.83
Harbhajan Singh 12 2 4 39 23 169.50

Dhoni heads this list by a long way. All of Dhoni's last-over sixes in chases have come when more than 10 runs have been required off the last over. Only on one instance did Dhoni end up on the losing side despite hitting a last-over six - in the IPL 2013 final, when Super Kings need 42 runs to win off the last over. Dhoni's success is further highlighted by the fact that all but two of the sixes hit by Morne Morkel and Harbhajan Singh have come in losses; the two victories effected by Morkel and Harbhajan were when ten runs or less were required off the last over. Kieron Pollard and Rohit Sharma have had their days in the sun, but Dhoni has clearly done it more often.

AB de Villiers is not one to take it late and has hit only two such 20th-over sixes. However, an interesting fact is that AB de Villiers has hit 11 sixes in the 18th and 19th overs of a chase - the most by any batsmen. Dhoni has only hit six sixes during this period - putting him only tenth-highest among the six-hitters in these overs while chasing. Clearly both players have differing strategies, but the merits do not need questioning as both methods seem to be equally effective.

Dhoni is not without his critics - there are some who are of the view that Dhoni is a glory hunter who pushes game too deep even when it could have been taken to its logical conclusion much earlier. While this criticism does not always seem unreasonable, Dhoni's explanation is that the deeper you go into a match, the more it becomes a question of who will hold his nerve better - the batsman or the bowler? In these one-on-one situations, Dhoni backs himself to come up trumps against the bowler every time.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 22, 2014, 6:31 GMT

    MSD is da best in all formats for finishing da game becoz he bats with a sensible head and plays according to the situation....

  • Vasanth Kumar on May 20, 2014, 6:23 GMT

    While this analysis is helpful to shortlist candidates, it will neither tell, nor must not be used, for purposes of finding better finishers. A few other dimensions will be useful: - number of times these shortlisted guys remained not out till the end AND lost a close game. - number of times these shortlisted guys got out in the ending stages of a chase AND lost the game. (The above will help eliminate non deserving candidates) - a game is a game, but big match finishers must be given extra points for the sheer pressure they withstand to deliver.

  • James on May 20, 2014, 2:25 GMT

    Finishing is overrated. Smashing a couple of sixes at the end of an Innings is now commonplace, nothing special, a lot of people can do it, we saw Faulkner do it the other day.

  • vas on May 19, 2014, 12:04 GMT

    @freedomofspeech2, you call Dhoni not a match winner. Then How come he has won so many trophies. Non other Indian captains have any trophies except Dev, who has one,WC. How many trophies AB has won to show for his match winning abilities, specially with the talented team like SA? Dhoni's captaincy skill alone is enough to win matches. Add to that his wicket keeping and finishing matches in pressure situations he is incomparable.

  • Peter on May 19, 2014, 9:50 GMT

    ABD is not a finisher..He is a top class batsman who can take any bowlers to the cleaners. He can score wonderfully in any formats, can play all the shots in the book and also can improvise new shots... He scores at very quick pace and gets out sometimes so that batsman like Dhoni can take time and score off the last over.

    Dhoni is a good finisher but not a match winner...He cannot win when the target set is a bit high..He can chase any run a ball targets not if the target is very high. He gave up against Punjab X1 when chasing 230 plus target.... I would have backed ABD to go for the target.... I do not understand the role of finisher...If you can score a 20ball 23 or something like that in the last overs and win the match...Yes Dhoni is the best.. I can bet on Dhoni 7 out of 10 times to win the match...But you need to score a target of 200plus in 20 overs...or 60runs to get in 25 or 30 plus balls...Dhoni backs out.I would bet my money on somebody like ABD to do that.

  • vas on May 19, 2014, 6:38 GMT

    At the start of his international career, Dhoni used to play in Sehwag's mode. See the ball, hit the ball style. But through experience he understood that that style doesn't necessarily win you games. He started valuing his wicket. Pacing the innings and batting till deep will win you more games than carefree batting. He evolved as a better cricketer. Everybody gets better with experience. But in Dhoni's case he completely changed the way he approached the game. Hence all the trophies.

  • vas on May 19, 2014, 6:10 GMT

    Definition of finisher means you bat till the end and win the games. Not to leave it to others to finish it. To do that you have to play percentage shots. Dhoni does that vey often. AB goes for his shots and and might lose his wickets in the process, as he did in yesterday's match. Of course his cameo won the game for RCB and deserved MOM but he did not finish the game. Both their methods are equally valuable for the teams. But to call one a finisher there is no one better than Dhoni.

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2014, 5:50 GMT

    If AB plays countinuisly he will finish the match before 20th over (By 18th or 19th over). .... But if Dhoni .....he will take it up to the 20th over and will finish it at the end....but Dhoni will never give a chance to opponent to come back..thats the different between AB & Dhoni....if Dhoni is there... more than 90% of the times he will win the match... AB is technically more sound than dhoni, but Dhoni is ahead of AB Devilliers in finishing stages at the moment.. ..we will see in the future.... but both of them are fantastic cricketers...any true cricket fan will love both of there talent....

  • syed on May 19, 2014, 5:47 GMT

    Dhoni creates fear among the bowlers and they often does mistakes at the end. He is very clever in choosing the right bowlers to hit. Anyhow, he has the ability to hit any bowler out of the park.

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    ABD is under the same constant scrutiny now as Sachin Tendulkar used to be. He is amazing talent and has proven himself in all formats. Ofcourse, he will have bad days like Tendulkar used to have, but like Tendulkar in the past ABD is most talked about cricketer and a benchmark for good reason.

  • No featured comments at the moment.