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Jofra Archer - IPL 2020's MVP by a distance

Smart Stats puts Archer well ahead of others, while Trent Boult was the true leader in terms of wickets

Jofra Archer is the clear and undisputed MVP of IPL 2020, according to ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats. Archer's conventional numbers speak for themselves: 20 wickets at 18.25, conceding 6.55 runs per over. The economy rate was the best among the 40 seamers who bowled at least 15 overs in the tournament. Archer's powerplay economy rate of 4.34 was among the best by any bowler in any T20 tournament. As if that wasn't enough, he also exceeded expectations with the bat, scoring at a strike rate of 179 and hitting ten sixes - fourth-highest for the Rajasthan Royals - off the 63 balls he faced.
However, even these incredible numbers don't do full justice to his performances this season. For that, we need to look at Smart Stats, which looks at every batting and bowling performance through the prism of match context, and the pressure on the batsman and bowler at each delivery when they batted or bowled.
Archer's 20 wickets included ten in the powerplay, and among the batsmen he dismissed were Faf du Plessis and David Warner (twice each), Jonny Bairstow, Quinton de Kock, Shikhar Dhawan and Chris Gayle. Fifteen of his 20 wickets were of batsmen in the top three batting positions; eight times he dismissed batsmen for single-digit scores, and 14 times before they reached 20.
Because Smart Wickets takes into account the quality of the batsman and the score at which they were dismissed - getting a good batsman out early before he can inflict any damage fetches higher points - Archer's 20 wickets were worth nearly 27 Smart Wickets.
Also, Archer was incredibly consistent with his economy as well: only four times in 14 innings did he concede more than seven runs per over. While the overall powerplay economy rate in the tournament was 7.46, Archer went at 4.34. All this with hardly any support at the other end.
These factors ensured that Archer's impact per game was 76.2 points, an incredible 47% higher than the second-placed Rashid Khan, who also took as many wickets as Archer and had a fantastic tournament. His economy rate of 5.37 was the best among all bowlers - without any qualifications - while his Smart Wickets tally was 22.5.
There is little to separate the rest of the top five, with Jasprit Bumrah, Rahul Tewatia and Sam Curran taking up those positions. The first specialist batsman in the list is Mayank Agarwal at No. 7, with an impact rating of 42.3. Trent Boult, Mohammed Shami, Jason Holder and Pat Cummins are the others in the top ten.
While bowlers and allrounders took the top positions in terms of overall impact, the match-wise top impact position went to a batsman: KL Rahul's outstanding unbeaten 132 off 69 balls against the Royal Challengers Bangalore took pole position, followed by the all-round contribution of Ben Stokes against the Kings XI Punjab, when he scored 50 off 26 deliveries and also took 2 for 32. The highest bowling performance is Lockie Ferguson's 3 for 15 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad: his three victims were Kane Williamson, Priyam Garg and Manish Pandey - two of them for single-digit scores - and he went at 3.75 per over when the other bowlers in the game had a collective economy rate of 8.39.
The list of bowlers with the highest Smart Wickets deviates from the list of top wicket-takers, because Smart Wickets takes into account the quality of batsman dismissed, his score at the time of dismissal and the match context at that point.
Taking all those factors into account, Trent Boult, who is third on the wicket-takers' list with 25, tops the Smart Wickets tally with an aggregate of 31. He is well clear of the others because of his powerplay haul of 16 wickets, which is six more than the next-best in that phase. Powerplay wickets often tend to impact the course of the game significantly, because most of those wickets are of top-order batsmen dismissed cheaply. Of Boult's 25 wickets, 14 were of openers - and 18 of batsmen in the top four - while 19 of his dismissals were before the batsmen reached double digits.
On the other hand, only seven of Kagiso Rabada's 30 wickets were of batsmen in the top three positions, while 14 were of batsmen batting at No. 6 or lower. While late wickets can sometimes be crucial when the match is in the balance, often they come about when the result is a formality.
In Rabada's case, a couple of examples illustrate this. Against the Royal Challengers, he took 4 for 24, but three of those wickets - of Washington Sundar, Shivam Dube and Isuru Udana - came in the last 25 balls after the asking rate had touched 20 runs per over, and the Delhi Capitals had already pocketed the match. Four days later, against the Rajasthan Royals, he took 3 for 35 in a match that the Capitals won comfortably by 46 runs. Two of those wickets came in the last over, and all three were taken when the Capitals were already well on top. These wickets add to the conventional wickets tally, but don't add much to the Smart Wickets count.
Among those who bowled at least 25 overs, R Ashwin had the highest ratio of Smart Wickets to conventional wickets: his 13 wickets counted for 20.6 Smart Wickets, a ratio of 1.58. That is because the batsmen he dismissed included de Kock (twice), Kieron Pollard, Jos Buttler, Virat Kohli, Nicholas Pooran and Gayle. Seven of his 13 dismissals happened before the batmen reached double digits.
Similar to Smart Wickets, the Smart Runs leaderboard also varies from the list of top run-getters. Rahul got the Orange Cap, but Shikhar Dhawan is the leader in terms of Smart Runs despite scoring 52 fewer runs. That is because Rahul often played the anchor's role for the Kings XI Punjab; in several innings, he scored at a conservative pace, with others scoring faster than him in matches that the Kings XI lost. Dhawan's runs came at a faster rate, and in his big innings, he scored a higher share of the team's runs. Rahul's opening partner Agarwal is in the top ten in terms of Smart Runs despite being 14th in terms of his aggregate runs, because of his key contributions - both in terms of runs and strike rate - under high pressure.