AB de Villiers may not have won an IPL title yet, but very few will begrudge him the status of being one of the best in the league
One way to gauge how influential a player has been for his team's fortunes is to look at how often he has won the Man-of-the-Match award. ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats has a metric for objectively identifying the player who has had the highest impact on the match: the Total Impact measure.
de Villiers has delivered the most impactful performance of the match roughly once every nine matches he has played in the IPL. This is the fifth-most frequent rate for any player who has played at least 60 games in the tournament. In fact, since the 2011 season, when he moved to Royal Challengers Bangalore and became part of a star-studded line-up, he's only upped his game. He has been the top performer once every seven matches in spite of often coming lower down in the batting order.
The graphic below lists the top five of de Villiers' 17 most impactful performances in the IPL, according to Smart Stats. While he faced at least 40 balls in each of these five innings, he has often made a telling impact on the outcome of the match in half the number of balls.
Take the RCB v Deccan Chargers game in Bangalore in 2012 that is among these 17 innings. Chasing 182, RCB needed 39 from the last three overs with de Villiers at the crease on 7 off nine balls. RCB were faced not only with an asking rate of 13 - challenging even in these power-hitting times - but also two overs from Dale Steyn, then a premier T20 bowler. But Steyn never got a chance to bowl his second over. de Villiers hit 23 runs from the 18th over, bowled by Steyn, and 15 from the first four balls of the 19th. The match was wrapped up with seven balls to spare.
According to Smart Stats, de Villiers' impact with the bat on this match, because of the quality of the runs he made (quantified by the Pressure Index, as explained in the sidebar), was greater than that of three other batsmen who scored at least as many runs as him. In fact, his Batting Impact value of 97 was 40% more than that of Cameron White, who had the next highest impact on the match. Although two other batsmen got 70-plus scores, there was no doubt about who had had the highest impact on the game, as corroborated in this instance by the official award of Man of the Match to de Villiers.
And then there was his 11-ball mayhem against Mumbai Indians in 2015.
Such innings weren't always the highest-impact performances of the matches but they were significant nevertheless, because their impact was much higher than what the scorecard tells you.
Set a stiff target of 210, RCB had meandered to 60 for 2 after the tenth over and looked set to lose by a huge margin. According to ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data, no team has successfully chased 150 in the last ten overs in T20s. The longest any team has sustained a scoring rate of 15-plus an over is eight overs by Kings XI Punjab against RCB in 2013. Even teams batting first have scored 150 or more in the last ten overs only four times in over 750 IPL games. So RCB's task of getting 150 from the final ten against Mumbai was bordering on the impossible.
de Villiers walked in to bat in the middle of the 11th over and, by the end of the 13th, RCB needed 91 more (the required rate reducing from 15.57 to 13). Chasing teams have scored 91 or more 19 times in the IPL from the last seven overs. In the end RCB fell short by 18 runs. According to Smart Stats, de Villiers' innings influenced the match almost as much as Harbhajan Singh's 3 for 27 and nearly three times more than Lendl Simmons' top-scoring innings of 59 off 44 balls.