Simple statistics in T20 don't always tell us what we need to know. James Faulkner was averaging over 100 with the bat for most of this season, but that information wasn't helpful. Against Sydney Sixers, he came in just before the death and took 12 balls to score more than a single. In the 17 deliveries Faulkner faced, he hit one boundary.
The Stars scored at 9.8 overall. Faulkner scored at 7.4. In the innings where he has faced more than 10 balls over the last three years of the Big Bash League, he has scored slower than his team in all bar one of them.
Back-room staffs and coaches are already looking for alternate ways of evaluating players. Not just for their worth to a team, but also as what kind of player they are. You don't want to send out two batsmen with a high activity and slow balls-per-boundary rate. They'll both hustle to get more singles for each other.
What follows are a few methods available to us that aren't as well known.
True economy and strike rate
Career strike rates in T20 cricket are dependent on when a player bats and bowls. A bowler who goes at 8.5 an over and only bowls death and Powerplay is good. Bowling in the middle overs and returning 7.7 is bad.
A way around this is to use true economy and strike rates. Every single over in T20 cricket has its own economy rate. In this BBL season, the first over is worth 5.7 on average; the 15th is worth 8.5. So let's say you bowl the 10th over, and over the course of your league, that over goes for seven runs an over. But when you bowl it, eight runs come from it. That means you are +1 run for that over. One run worse than the average. We can do that for all the overs in T20.
In the BBL over the last three years (not counting the last game), Rashid Khan is worth -2.1 runs. In a four-over spell, he has been worth eight saved runs for the Strikers. Of regular bowlers that's the best. Peter Siddle is the second best, with -1.84. There are eleven bowlers who are worth more than a run an over to their team, Samuel Badree (-1.8), Jofra Archer (-1.8), Mohammad Nabi (-1.8), Mitch Johnson (-1,8), Steve O'Keefe (-1.7), Adil Rashid (-1.6), Jacques Kallis (-1.4), Nathan Lyon (-1.3) and Sunil Narine (-1.2).
If there are good bowlers, there are bad. Gurinder Sandhu's true econ is +2.24 runs an over. Jon Holland is at +2, and Jhye Richardson is at +1.5. For this season, Marcus Stoinis is +2.8.
The same rules apply for batsmen, except they want to be adding runs, not subtracting them. At the top of the tree, which should surprise no one, is Chris Lynn, who is worth an astonishing 2.8 extra runs an over for the Heat. Behind him is a surprise: Rob Quiney, at 2.4 runs. It would appear age has slowed him down this year as the bowlers couldn't. Batsmen with a true strike rate of better than 1.5 an over are Usman Khawaja (2.4), Brendon McCullum (2.1), Chris Gayle (1.9), Jos Buttler (1.9), Ashton Turner (1.8), James Vince (1.8), Aaron Finch (1.8), Alex Carey (1.8), and Sam Whiteman (1.6).
The worst of the batsmen is James Faulkner, who has a stunning average of 86, but for every over he is out in the middle he costs the Stars -2.2 runs an over. Peter Nevill is at -2.1, and Jake Lehmann is -1.7. The Stars also have Peter Handscomb at -1.4.
Activity rate and balls per boundary
Activity rate is a stat that came into cricket through T20, but is already used by some as a measure in Tests and ODIs. It refers to the percentage of balls a batsman scores off. A high activity rate may not mean a high strike rate, but it will say that the scoreboard is often ticking over.
James Faulkner scored off 82% of his balls in this match against the Sixers. This season, Jonathan Wells and Jordan Silk are both at 75%. Seb Gotch and Adam Voges at 72%. They aren't fast scorers - Wells' strike rate is 117, Silk 130, Gotch 103 and Voges 120. But they rotate the strike brilliantly, what we call busy players. The only one of these players who hits a boundary less than every ten balls is Silk, at 7.5. Anything above six means you're not a regular boundary scorer.
The slower activity rates are generally for openers. Many hover around 50%, with the field up stopping them getting easy singles. The English trio of Luke Wright, Jason Roy and Joe Denly are all below 50% this year.
Then there are the monster boundary hitters. Over the last three years, Lynn hits a boundary every 3.7 balls (Khawaja leads the way with 3.2, McCullum is 3.5) in the Powerplay. Outside the fielding restrictions, Lynn only moves it up to 4.1, second to Simon Milenko at 3.7. McCullum, Khawaja and Gayle are the only other batsmen who strike a boundary more than every 4.5 balls. James Faulkner is last on the list; he hits once in 16 deliveries.
There is a sweet spot where batsmen have a high activity rate and also hit a lot of boundaries. In the last five years of the IPL, AB de Villiers scores off 70% of his deliveries and smacks a boundary every 4.4 balls. No one is at that level in the BBL. Over the last three years, Glenn Maxwell scores off 73% of his deliveries and strikes a boundary every 5.3 and Dwayne Bravo is also above 70% activity rate and below six balls per boundary.
Not far behind is Ashton Turner at 69% and 5.3 balls. This season, he's at 71% and 5.3. His true strike rate is +2.7. Along with D'Arcy Short or Alex Carey, he's in the best three batsmen this year; the others get credit for making more runs, which is what openers do. In the BBL, an opening batsman on average makes 18% of his team runs, and they always end high up the list in the top-scorers. Turner doesn't always bat, but when he has, he's performed better than anyone else.
Looking at what batsmen do in the Powerplay, and the six overs after it, clears up what some openers do. There are players, like Carey this year, who bat slowly at the start, and then smack the hell out of the ball once it is over. Over the last three seasons, Carey strikes at 125 in the Powerplay, and 140 outside it. This year it's 129 and 151.
The reverse of this is Short, who strikes at 157 with men up, and 128 with them out. Both players have had success with their method; they're one and two on the BBL run list this season. But batting this way also puts pressure on your team-mates. Carey's low scoring (it's clearly part of a team plan) means there aren't many runs on the board if wickets do fall. Short's post Powerplay nap means that other batsmen, perhaps pinch-hitters, have to come in to maintain the scoring rate he has inspired.
At the moment, they are making so many runs it doesn't matter. But other players employ these tactics with less success. The most extreme examples are McCullum, who strikes at 170 at the beginning but then slows to 120 in the next six overs; and Shaun Marsh, who scores at 92 and 156. Perhaps the worst example is Alex Doolan, whose best innings this year came after being hit in the head and not being given out lbw. He starts from a low base and adds a significant differential: 111 and 88.
When you are looking at this Powerplay split, what you want is consistently high. Even a strike rate of 135 in both parts of the game would be decent. But the best players do far better. In the BBL that has been Lynn (160/156), Khawaja (167/162), Quiney (156/149) and Gayle (154/159). They get their teams off to a flying start, and they keep going. These are the unconsolidators - they bash big, all the time.
With stats inputs from Shiva Jayaraman