Six & not out: the IPL's best finishers
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.)
|Batsman||Innings||Runs||High score||Strike rate||50+ scores||4s||6s|
|AB de Villiers||10||419||89*||146.50||3||34||22|
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.
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.