All stats updated until April 16, 2018. The qualifications are at least 50 balls faced for batsmen, and eight overs bowled for bowlers.
Thirteen matches into IPL 2018, Sunil Narine has offered more proof of why he is arguably the greatest T20 bowler around. In four games that Kolkata Knight Riders have played, Narine has figures of 7 for 82 from 15 overs, with an economy rate of 5.46, the best in the tournament so far.
Those numbers are impressive enough, but when seen in the context of the matches, they become extraordinary. Against Chennai Super Kings, he gave away only 4.25 runs per over when when the match run-rate was 10.20. The game against Sunrisers Hyderabad wasn't as high-scoring, but he still went at 4.25 when the average was 7.10. Taking into account the match economy rate and the specific overs that he bowled, Narine's Smart Economy Rate (SER) for the tournament so far is a staggering 2.77 and by far the best. In simple terms, taking into account the context of each match he has played so far, Narine has saved his team 40 runs in the overs he has bowled.
The next best SER, among those who have bowled eight or more overs this IPL, is Rashid Khan's 4.32, followed by Mujeeb ur Rahman's 5.17. Those three are among the top four in the regular economy rate table as well, but the next two SER positions go to bowlers who don't fare as well according to conventional metrics, which ignore criteria like match scoring-rates and which overs they bowled.
Rahul Tewatia was excellent against Knight Riders, going for just 18 in three overs, including a last over which cost only a single run. In their first match, against Kings XI Punjab, he went for 24 in four, when the match run-rate was 8.60. All of that translates to Tewatia having saved 17 runs for his team.
Similarly, Mustafizur Rahman has a much better SER than regular ER. Of the 11.5 overs he has bowled in the tournament, 7.5 have either been in the Powerplay or at the death (16th to 20th). He has delivered the 20th over twice - against Super Kings and Delhi Daredevils, conceding 10 and 11 runs, but then the average in the 20th over across the last three IPL seasons is 11.61. Also, his four-over figures in his last two games are 3 for 24 and 1 for 25; the latter coming in a match where 389 runs were made in 40 overs, or 9.70 runs per over. His overall death-overs economy rate is 6.62, and his Powerplay economy is even better at 5.33. Runs saved for the team according to Smart stats: 13.
Shakib al Hasan and Siddarth Kaul, the two bowlers who are in the top five according to conventional metrics, have done well in relatively low-scoring games: the matches involving Sunrisers Hyderabad have had an overall run rate of 7.20, compared to 8.98 for Knight Riders, 8.52 for Mumbai Indians, and 9.22 for Daredevils.
Among the batsmen, while Andre Russell, KL Rahul and Sanju Samson have been terrific, one of the big improvers this season has been Shikhar Dhawan. With David Warner unavailable for Sunrisers Hyderabad, Dhawan has stepped up and taken on the role of the aggressor.
In the 2017 IPL, Dhawan had a conventional strike rate of 127.39, and a Smart Strike Rate (SSR) of 108.91, which means his scoring rate was below par compared to that of the match and that of the batsman at the other end. Taking into account those factors, Dhawan's 479 runs were actually worth 409.51, which means his actual contribution was 69.48 runs below par, for the number of balls he faced. But this season, his 130 runs are actually worth 163.42, which means he has scored 33.42 runs above par, which brings his SSR up to 177.63, pushing him to sixth place, a significant improvement from last year.
At the bottom end of the scale are the captains of Daredevils and Knight Riders, the only players with SSRs below 100. The bigger surprise, though, is that Chris Lynn also languishes towards the bottom of this table. His SSR in IPL 2017 was 237.8, but things haven't gone to plan so far for this season. Ajinkya Rahane's SSR justifies questions about his role at the top of the order, while Kane Williamson's SSR doesn't dip as much because of the low-scoring matches he has been involved in.
Among the bowlers at the bottom of the pile, the SER largely mirrors conventional rates, but whichever way you look at it, Rajasthan Royals must be having early doubts over their decision to pay USD 1.8 million for Jaydev Unadkat.