Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Herschelle Gibbs had caught Steve Waugh during the 1999 World Cup? Or if R Ashwin and Hardik Pandya hadn't bowled no-balls in the 2016 World T20 semi-final? We'll never know if South Africa or India would have gone on to win those tournaments, but for all such events in future tournaments, ESPNcricinfo's Luck Index will have the answers.
Luck Index is a metric that, for the first time in cricket, puts a number to the luck factor. Every dropped catch, missed chance and umpiring error is identified and put through a complex algorithm, which identifies the impact of that event on the game. Thus, Luck Index will also tell which events would have changed the outcome of a match.
ESPNCricinfo ran the algorithm for IPL 2018 to find out who was the luckiest player, which the luckiest team was, and what was the luckiest event of the season.
The impact of a lucky event can be defined in different ways, but this list reveals the top three events which changed the result of a match. That is, the team that benefited from the event ended up winning a game that they would otherwise have lost.
The most impactful such event in IPL 2018 was in the match between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Delhi Daredevils. Here is ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary of that event:
Plunkett to Pathan, 1 run, good length on middle, and it's been pulled straight to deep backward square. But dropped by Shankar! He got under it, but the ball dipped late, which forced the error from him
Hyderabad required 31 from 15 balls with seven wickets in hand at that stage. Yusuf Pathan had just walked in and was on 2 when he was dropped by Vijay Shankar. With hardly any aggressive batsmen left after him, Pathan's drop proved costly. Pathan went on to score 27 from 11 balls to help his team get over the line in a tense chase. That dropped catch by Vijay cost his team 15 runs, and given the closeness of the result - SRH won with only one ball to spare - was found to be the most impactful match-changing event of IPL 2018.
The next two lucky events both belonged to last year's champions Chennai Super Kings, who were good enough to capitalise on the breaks. In fact, those two events happened in their first two matches of the season. Kedar Jadhav's LBW reprieve against Mumbai Indians in the first game of the season and Robin Uthappa's drop of Sam Billings on 9 in their first home game were detrimental to the result for Mumbai and Kolkata. While Jadhav returned after retiring hurt to hit the winning runs, Billings went on to score 49 from 17 deliveries after the drop to take his team home.
Here are the ball-by-ball commentaries from those two events:
Markande to Jadhav, no run, skiddy googly, breaks back in, cramps the batsman for room and hits the back pad. This is close but the on-field umpire shoots down the lbw appeal. Missing leg stump? Nope. Ball-tracking suggests it would have hit leg stump
Curran to Billings, 2 runs, full on middle, and that's been smacked over Curran! Uthappa, at mid off, runs backwards but drops it! Gives Billings a reprieve
Luckiest team of IPL 2018
In a tournament like the IPL, when teams play 14 league matches, luck is bound to play a role. Even the most skilled team is likely to get lucky breaks: a crucial dropped catch or an umpiring error or a bad no-ball call. Some are in the team's control and some are beyond theirs. Three of four play-off teams in the 2018 edition were also among the luckier teams. KKR were the luckiest team in IPL 2018 with 349 Luck Runs and champions CSK a close second with 315 Luck Runs. While Kings XI Punjab did capitalise on their luck, they still failed to close matches, and Rajasthan Royals were the least lucky side with just 163 Luck Runs but just about managed to make the play-offs.
The above graphic depicted whether teams capitalised on the Luck Events or not while the other measure is purely on how many lucky and unlucky events the teams actually got. KKR continue to top the list with Net Lucky Events score of eight, while Rajasthan were at the opposite end with a Net Lucky Events score of minus 11.
Luckiest team by events
What if the Lucky Events had not taken place? How would the IPL 2018 leaderboard look like? CSK and SRH still top the table but there would be a very close fight between four teams (KKR, MI, RCB and DD) for the remaining two spots. The last one was the most closely fought IPL among all the 11 seasons so far and the alternate points table shows pretty much the same. Teams such as KKR used the luck in their favour while RR overcame all the bad luck to still clinch a spot in the play-offs.
Luckiest batsmen of IPL 2018
If a batsman has to score 500 runs in an IPL season, which involves risky attacking stroke play, you expect them to have some luck. The Luck Index numbers for the luckiest batsmen reveals exactly that. Three batsmen among the top five run-getters of the season made the most of their luck. When the 2018 IPL started, Shane Watson was one of the under-the-radar players to perform. With his bowling skills on the wane, Watson was under a lot of pressure to perform with the bat. On more than two occasions, Watson was lucky to be dropped or escape a run-out chance. Both the centuries that Watson scored in the 2018 season had some elements of luck in it. Watson was good enough to make his luck count. The second and third luckiest players were Kane Williamson (167 runs) and KL Rahul (159) respectively. On the other side of the spectrum, Aaron Finch was the unluckiest batsmen (minus 29 runs) with a few bad decisions going his way
Luckiest bowler of IPL 2018
Most of the time, the bowlers find themselves at the wrong side of Luck. Dropped catches, wrong umpiring decisions, poor no-ball calls, the works. The T20 format does not have any sympathy for the bowlers. So who were the luckiest and unluckiest bowlers of IPL 2018?
Interestingly, Rashid Khan finds himself at the top of the unlucky bowlers. In spite of his bad luck, Rashid still was the second highest wicket-taker of the tournament and also very impactful and economical. CSK's Shardul Thakur and KKR's Shivam Mavi find themselves in second and third position. New-ball specialists Deepak Chahar and Umesh Yadav were the luckiest bowlers in IPL 2018. Both had 14 and 8 Luck Runs on their side and that possibly helped them to top of the charts when it came to Powerplay numbers.