March 11, 2016

The AB de Villiers T20I mystery

Despite his outstanding ball-striking skills, de Villiers' numbers in this format are decidedly ordinary
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AB de Villiers has good numbers in the IPL, especially in the last four years, but in T20Is he has struggled to replicate that success © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

By all accounts, AB de Villiers is one of the finest batsmen going around today. His defensive technique is compact, he has all the shots in the coaching manual and then some, and he can completely adapt his game to suit his team's needs. In ODIs, he holds the record for the fastest fifty and the fastest century, but in Tests he features twice in the top five - and thrice in the top 15 - slowest innings of 200 or more deliveries. (His two slowest innings, at third and fifth place, flank Chris Tavare's effort which is at No. 4).

While his defensive abilities and temperament are top-class, it's his ability to innovate and his audacious strokeplay that is truly astonishing. Those skills should have served him well in the shortest format of the game, but his record in T20 internationals is decidedly underwhelming. In 64 innings he averages 22.87 at a strike rate of 128.89, with only 15 scores of 30 or more. Those are hardly numbers that do justice to his incredible skills as an attacking batsman. His ODI numbers indicate how destructive he can be: he averages almost 55 at a strike rate of 100.18, but his T20I strike rate is less than 30% higher than the ODI strike rate.

De Villiers' IPL numbers are much better - an average of 36.71 at a strike rate of nearly 145, with 34 thirty-plus scores in 93 innings - but he hasn't yet been able to translate his IPL success into consistent runs at the international level in the 20-over format.

AB de Villiers in 20-over cricket
Type Inngs Runs Ave SR 30+ Inngs/30+
 IPL  93  2570  36.71  144.87  34  2.74
 T20I  64  1258  22.87  128.89  15  4.27

Even in the IPL, de Villiers' stats were solid without being extraordinary till 2011: an average of 33 at a strike rate of 121. Since the 2012 season, though, his numbers - especially the strike rate - have moved up a few notches. His strike rate in the last four seasons is 165.48, easily the best among the 44 batsmen who have faced at least 500 deliveries in the last four seasons of the IPL. (Chris Gayle is next with a rate of 149.22).

However, the IPL success during this period hasn't translated into more and quicker runs in international T20s. His average in the 32 T20Is since the start of 2012 isn't too different from the 32 innings before 2012, though the strike rate has improved a bit. In the last four seasons of the IPL, de Villiers has passed 30 once every 2.35 innings, compared to once every four innings in T20Is during this period.

AB de Villiers in the IPL
Period Inngs Runs Ave SR 30+ Inngs/30+
 Till 2011  39  983  32.76  120.61  11  3.55
 2012 onwards  54  1587  39.67  165.48  23  2.35
AB de Villiers in T20Is
Period Inngs Runs Ave SR 30+ Inngs/30+
 Till 2011  32  604  23.23  123.01  7  4.57
 2012 onwards  32  654  22.55  134.84  8  4.00

de Villiers' most frequent batting position in T20Is has been No. 4, where he has batted 27 times, but he has also played 17 innings at No. 3, and nine at the opening slot. The only position where he has lasted more than 20 balls per dismissal is at No. 4, where he averages 22 deliveries per dismissal. At No. 3 he averages 14 balls per dismissal, and as opener he lasts, on average, 18 balls. Those are underwhelming stats, for the opportunity to bat in the top three should ideally enable him to bat longer periods, and thus make a greater impact on the game. In IPL games, he averages 33 balls per dismissal at No. 3, and 24 per dismissal at Nos. 4 and 5.

de Villiers in T20Is, by batting position
Position Inngs Runs Ave SR 30+ Balls/ dis
 Opening  9  239  26.55  145.73  4  18.22
 No. 3  17  292  18.25  126.40  3  14.44
 No. 4  27  584  27.80  125.59  8  22.14
 No. 5  8  103  14.71  114.44  0  12.86

Among the 36 batsmen who have scored at least 750 runs in T20Is when batting in the top five positions, de Villiers' average is 32nd: the only ones with lower averages are Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Hafeez and Ireland's William Porterfield. At the other end of the table are batsmen like Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis, Kevin Pietersen, and Kane Williamson, which is where you'd think de Villiers belongs as well.

De Villiers' biggest strength is his ball-striking skills, but even his career strike rate of 128.89 is only middling, when compared with other top batsmen. In that list of 36 batsmen, de Villiers' strike rate of 128.21 when batting in the top five is only 18th. Aaron Finch, Pietersen and Chris Gayle all have 35-plus averages at 140-plus strike rates, while Kohli has an incredible average of 52.61 to go with a healthy strike rate of 133.

In the last couple of years, de Villiers' approach in T20Is has been far more frenetic - his strike rate has increased to 149.80 during this period - but his average remains a middling 26.08. For a player of his ability, you'd expect him to be able to score at those rates for longer periods, especially because he has batted in the top four positions in most of the innings during this period.

Lowest T20I averages for batsmen in top five slots (Min 750 runs)
Player Inns Runs Average SR Balls/dis
 Shakib Al Hasan  46  932  21.67  120.10  18.05
 Tamim Iqbal  47  942  21.90  109.79  19.95
 Mohammad Hafeez  72  1531  22.18  115.63  19.19
 William Porterfield  45  888  22.76  111.41  20.44
 AB de Villiers  61  1218  22.98  128.21  17.92
 Kamran Akmal  39  825  23.57  121.86  19.34
 Ross Taylor  59  1139  24.23  119.26  20.32
 Shoaib Malik  59  1213  24.75  109.87  22.53

The numbers for de Villiers, by various stages of a 20-over innings in both T20Is and the IPL, further illustrates the areas where he has been surprisingly ineffective in the internationals. In T20Is, he gets out once every 19 balls in the Powerplay overs, every 17.5 balls in the middle overs, and every 16 deliveries in the last five. Given how quickly he scores in the last five, that rate of dismissal is fine, but he has tended to get out far too often in the Powerplay and in the middle overs.

A comparison with the corresponding IPL numbers brings out this difference quite starkly. The strike rate is lower during the first six, but he bats more deliveries per dismissal, while the difference in the middle overs is huge: the balls per dismissal is almost 13 more in the IPL, resulting in an average difference of 16. In the last five, the balls per dismissal isn't very different, but the strike rate is much higher in the IPL.

De Villiers' numbers in the final overs aren't bad in T20Is, but he is capable of far more in the first 15 overs. Perhaps the World T20 will finally see AB de Villiers live up to his true potential in the T20I format.

de Villiers in various stages of an inngs, in T20Is
Period Runs BF SR Dis Ave Balls/ dis
 First 6 overs  359  310  115.66  16  22.43  19.38
 6.1 to 15.0  625  508  123.00  29  21.55  17.52
 Last 5 overs  274  158  173.33  10  27.40  15.80
de Villiers in various stages of an inngs, in the IPL
Period Runs BF SR Dis Ave Balls/ dis
 First 6 overs  295  280  105.33  11  26.82  25.45
 6.1 to 15.0  1284  1029  124.66  34  37.76  30.26
 Last 5 overs  991  465  213.00  25  39.64  18.60

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • tim on March 14, 2016, 5:36 GMT

    @RAVELSNIP: WC semifinals :P

  • bishwajeet on March 12, 2016, 20:22 GMT

    No matter wat the statistics r ,bowlers in this wt20 know who z d biggest threat 2 their own statistics z ..the man puts the fear of god in bowlers' hearts

  • Walid on March 12, 2016, 18:14 GMT

    In T20 cricket , average doesn't make any difference . A 10 ball 20 is a thousand times better than a 35 ball 40.

  • sri on March 12, 2016, 9:59 GMT

    Who cares about T20 average? I have not bothered to check Gambhir's average but i remember in early career (even in T20 WC) he used to score some 45 of 40 balls which is of little use(from opener) in the context of the game.

  • Usama Danish on March 12, 2016, 6:52 GMT

    Maxwell Calls that shot back away Deliberate Cut shot and has been often seen practicing it and this time it was middled too so i dont know why people here are calling it an edge and stuff like that because it was the shot of a genius

  • Merv on March 12, 2016, 6:25 GMT

    @ELECTRIC_LOCO_WAP4 Exactly! You prove my point. Maxwell is a slogger and in most other forms of cricket is hopeless due to inconsistency and lack of technique and shot selection. Thank you. The perfect example. And some others: Of course I often forget and I do sincerely apologise, Kohli is by far the best player in all forms of cricket and is without doubt the greatest player who ever played the game in any format ... Back to the point, I can't see ABDV losing a moment's sleep over his T20 average

  • Mishim on March 12, 2016, 6:20 GMT

    SA have the most formidable batting lineup in world cricket. 20 overs is generally not enough to accomodate those players. As you see, Amla is capable of batting the entire innings. If he opens with QdK, and the latter goes out in the 10th over, Faf has to come in because he is overall SA's best batsman in T20I. Now Faf is solid and can crank up the scoring rate later. If he and Amla ladt till, say, the 17th over, how much time does that give ABD to bat? And then what about Miller? T20 cricket should either become 'T25' cricket or it should be an 8-player-a-side game. Not just for SA's sake but for everyone's sake.

  • Suhas on March 12, 2016, 6:13 GMT

    Dear Sir. In my opinion he has better strike rate in IPL because he is not feeling pressure while playing the IPL. While he is representing the country he will took more responsibility than IPL. There he will play for country but in IPL he plays for give entertainment. While playing IPL he will try different shots and try to test different bowler. If it successfull he will execute it in International level.Look how he fantastically executed shots in ODI WC which are invented in IPL. It is my view. Not expert view.

  • Ramesh on March 12, 2016, 5:50 GMT

    @PT0502 Absolutely love your post. You spoke my heart out man! ABD is by far the greatest bowler killing machine this game cricket has ever seen! Show me one game he is not out or carried his bat and RSA did not win that game.

  • Logan on March 12, 2016, 5:05 GMT

    I have a good feeling that AB will be the top run scorer in this WC and SA will carry the trophy.

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