Chennai v Rajasthan, IPL, Chennai April 21, 2012

The case for Hodge batting higher up


Rajasthan Royals have done several things right in this IPL, but one area where they've messed up so far is in utilising the services of Brad Hodge. Quite apart from the fact that Hodge is one of their key overseas players, Hodge is also one of the best batsmen in the Twenty20 format. In 146 Twenty20 innings, Hodge has scored 4355 runs at an average of 36.59 and a strike-rate of 128.15; only David Hussey has scored more runs in this format. Also, Hodge has struck 453 fours in Twenty20 cricket, which is easily the highest - Brendon McCullum, in second place, only has 355. Hodge is also one of only three players - David Hussey and Albie Morkel are the others - to play 150 or more Twenty20 matches (Saturday's game against Chennai Super Kings was his 150th).

His experience and his overall record are compelling enough reasons for Hodge to be regarded as one of the key players for Royals, but perhaps an even more compelling reason is his form in IPL 2012: he has faced 82 balls in six innings, scored 129 runs, and been dismissed just twice, for an average of 64.50 and a strike rate of 157.31. Among batsmen who've faced at least 60 deliveries in this IPL, Hodge's strike-rate is third-best, fractionally behind Kevin Pietersen (158.16) and Chris Gayle (157.69). He has already played two top-class innings in the tournament so far - 44 off 29 against Kolkata Knight Riders, and an unbeaten 48 off 21 against Deccan Chargers in a successful run-chase of 197. Both efforts won him the Man-of-the-Match awards.

And yet, Royals' think-tank, in all their immense wisdom, have decided that Hodge shouldn't generally be batting in the top four - only twice in six innings has Hodge batted at No.4. Instead, the responsibility of batting in the top four has been thrust upon Ashok Menaria, a 21-year-old with some potential, but with little of the Twenty20 batting skills or track record that Hodge possesses: in 20 Twenty20 innings so far, Menaria has scored 385 runs at an average of 20.26 and a strike-rate of 117.02. In six innings of IPL 2012, Menaria's returns have been very similar - an average of 19.83 at a strike-rate of 110.18. Despite these modest numbers, Menaria has continued to bat in the top four - he has batted at three or four in five out of six innings - and has considerably slowed down Royals' momentum in the middle overs. In the match against Chargers, for example, Menaria came in at No.3 and scored 22 off 20 when the asking-rate was around ten an over; Hodge came in at No.5 in the same match and slammed 48 off 21.

Perhaps Royals view Hodge as a finisher only, who should come in to bat when the situation gets desperate. Perhaps they want to give ample opportunity to a young Indian player, given that this is, after all, the Indian Premier League. Either way, this strategy defies logic. Of the 146 innings that Hodge has played in Twenty20 cricket, 115 have been in the top three, where he has scored 28 fifties and two hundreds, and has a strike-rate of 128.86. And in a format as condensed as 20-over cricket, there's no such thing as a batting line-up being too top heavy: the best batsmen have to get as many deliveries as possible.

The team got away with it a couple of times, but paid the price against Super Kings, when Menaria took 34 deliveries to score 36 and considerably dampened the momentum in the middle overs. When he finally got out and Hodge came in, only seven deliveries remained in the innings. Royals still managed to make Super Kings sweat despite scoring only 146, but perhaps it's a good thing they lost - the result should hopefully force them to make the key change in their batting line-up. If Hodge does move up the order, Royals will have two of the three highest run-getters in this format in their top four - Owais Shah, with 3825 runs, has the third-highest aggregate in Twenty20 cricket.

Brad Hodge in T20 cricket
  Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Career 146 4355 36.59 128.05 2/ 29
In the top 3 115 3714 37.14 128.86 2/ 28
In IPL 2012 6 129 64.50 157.31 0/ 0
Ashok Menaria in T20 cricket
  Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Career 20 385 20.26 117.02 0/ 1
In IPL 2012 6 119 19.83 110.18 0/ 0

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Steve on April 22, 2012, 13:30 GMT

    Does it really matter? The rules prohibit more than 4 overseas players here so just leave the batting line-up as it is because Hodge may not make the cut when other players (like Watto) arrive.

  • Dummy4 on April 22, 2012, 8:11 GMT

    Hodge is eligible for middle order and he is great player also

  • Amit on April 22, 2012, 7:48 GMT

    maneria is a fture star,he need to bat up thorder,only rajput player rajasthan have in there team.

  • Ritvik on April 22, 2012, 5:29 GMT

    Hodge wasn't unsold at the auction. He wasn't all that cheap either. He went for about half a million. Owais Shah was bought outside the auction.. A very smart buy indeed. Royals will soon have a selection headache when Watson returns! Watto, Shah, Hodge, Cooper, Botha, Hogg and Tait? So hard to pick four.. With Dravid and Rahane opening.. Send Shah, Hodge, Botha and Cooper in sequential order..and maybe Goswami or Menaria at 7 and 8 or vice versa..

  • Dummy4 on April 22, 2012, 5:01 GMT

    I believe RR wants to provide ample chance to domestic players to grow which is what the said aim of IPL. Instead of lauding RR for their brave and honest effort..all of us are just seeing it as win and loss game!

  • Sarath Chandra on April 22, 2012, 4:16 GMT

    Now let's also compare Ajinkya Rahane's T20 stats (22 at 120.58 in 49 matches, this includes his recent successes), and make a case for him to move down the order to make way for Hodge. It is simply unfair to compare Hodge and Menaria - one had a successful career and the other started one. There are many reasons why Menaria should be persisted with despite temporary setbacks. After Watson comes, one of Hodge and Shah may have to sit out. The Indian players are the key to a successful campaign, and the foreigners must play vital supporting roles. Reversing this, will leave more difficulty in assembling a team for varying conditions.

  • Rohan on April 22, 2012, 4:05 GMT

    It's not hard to make out that Maneria struggle to put bat to ball against international fast bowlers...Its fine if RR wants to send him at no:3 or 4 but then he shud understand that if they r in 17th over with only 2 wickets down, then he shud sacrifice his wicket or get out deliberately to let Hodge and Cooper to come in...Hodge is gem of a player, i cant believe that after his match winning inning of 44 against KKR, he was dropped for the next 2 matches...Anyway, RR needs to win another couple of matches, before Shane Watson arrives after which RR will become a very strong team..

  • SWAMINATHAN on April 22, 2012, 2:01 GMT

    Hodge should be in as Opener with Dravid dropping down to #3 & owais shah coming in @ #4. Menaria should be used like how CSK use Badri,as a man of crisis who comes & stabilises things when the going is tough.

  • Dummy4 on April 22, 2012, 1:17 GMT

    Sending Hodge ahead might be a good winning formulae,but sending maneria up the order is promoting local Indian Talent,which was said to be one of the motives of IPL and Dravid is doing exactly fine,Maneria has got talent and needs to be given proper opportunities in order to prepare future heroes for India....Young Indian talents needs to be trusted and promoted in the IPL.

  • Dummy4 on April 22, 2012, 0:30 GMT

    hodge opens the batting in the big bash league. here he is the middle order batsmen :/ they have got it right with shah, as he is one to consolidate and is good at guiding the ship when they are chasing down a score. even botha could hit a bigger six than maneria. its better to nurse him. have maneria in the middle order, hes an allrounder in this format. hodge would be like du plesis is for chennai, if only he was utilized more. dravid could come in at 3rd, he gets quick runs but not big scores. hodge and rahane to open. then dravid/shah, hussey/maneria. they got the batting to blow this ipl away. but havent utilized it. teams have one big hitter, but they often hit or get out. RR have a top7 that can bat well

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