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Feature

IPL 2024 - have batters ever had it better?

Four teams took the intent and scoring to a new level; others might have no choice but to follow suit

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
27-May-2024
Phil Salt and Sunil Narine were unstoppable at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata Knight Riders vs Punjab Kings, IPL 2024, Kolkata, April 26, 2024

Phil Salt and Sunil Narine would set the tone early for KKR with their rapid starts  •  BCCI

Eight of the nine highest scores in the IPL, including the top score.
Five of the six highest scores when chasing, including the highest successful chase in the IPL.
Seven of the ten highest powerplays, including the top two.
At 1260 from 1124, the biggest jump in number of sixes from edition to edition.
All of it happened in IPL 2024. Looking at some of the staggering numbers, it would appear something broke in the balance between bat and ball this year.
In the overall numbers, though, the average scoring rate went up at a similar increment as it has been doing over the last three years: 8.05 in 2021 to 8.54 in 2022 to 8.99 in 2023 to 9.56 in 2024. That's an increase of 11.4 runs every completed innings. Now that we put it this way, it doesn't seem as staggering as some of the high-scoring innings we have seen but it is still a significant rise in scoring rates.
There have to be some actions resulting in these outcomes. We looked at intent first. ESPNcricinfo's intent logs are robust enough to be comparable from 2021. Aggressive intent is basically a boundary attempt. It would be fair to assume the intent to score boundaries might have gone up with the introduction of the Impact Player.
Three extra boundary attempts every 200 balls is not the bump in the intent we expected from such an IPL edition. The change in the intent, and indeed the efficiency of aggressive intent, has been marginal. Only 5.7 of the 11.4 incremental runs scored per innings this year over the last can be attributed to the intent this year and its efficiency.
But there is one period of play that does stand out. While the overall increase in powerplay and death overs scoring rates has been marginal, overs 7 to 12 have been worth 4.26 more runs per innings.
In terms of overall numbers, though, it doesn't seem like this has been a landmark year in the way teams have approached or executed their run-scoring. That would point to flatter pitches and smaller boundaries, the latter even if marginally so. Perhaps the set of balls this year did a little less too. It did show in the later stages of the tournament where a little bit of help for the bowlers resulted in significantly lower scores.
Looking at just overall numbers, though, will be a disservice to the revolutionary seasons Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) and Delhi Capitals (DC) have had. KKR broke the record for the highest average innings in a single year by 21.8 runs. The other three, too, went comfortably past the number set by RCB in 2016: 192.4. That RCB effort from 2016 remains a freak occurrence as all the other big years from single teams have come in 2023 and 2024.
There is intent, and then there is intent. A subset of intent has changed massively this year. When batters are playing aggressively, they are trying to hit sixes. The first phase of six-hitting revolution that started in 2022 could enter the next phase if all teams follow this intent next year.
This is a shift that will truly begin to show across the board in the coming years provided the pitches and boundaries remain just as conducive to boundary hitting. Even if there is a brief period of revision - as there was after 2018, the highest-scoring year until then only to give way to a marginal slowdown - this increase in scoring rates will be irreversible unless the pitches and boundary sizes change. Rules like two bouncers will be superficial. Even the Impact Player has fulfilled its job: batters will remain bold even if it were to be taken away now.
The batters are hitting more balls than ever - be it regular nets or range-hitting - and are getting better at hitting for longer every day. With sidearms and bowling machines and the support staff dedicated to helping batters, the physical limit on the number of balls they can hit is much higher than what the bowlers can bowl. The ceiling for improvement in bowlers is much lower. They need the help from conditions or sizes of boundaries.
Which begs the question: will this T20 World Cup, starting barely a week after the IPL, be just as revolutionary in terms of scoring rates? Curiously, the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 remains the quickest of the eight held so far at 7.98 an over. The one in the West Indies, held in 2010, remains the third-slowest at 7.53.
At any rate, the formats and number of teams keep changing so often that it is not wise to compare World Cups. This being the biggest World Cup yet, there are chances the first round might feature some unusually high scores, but the slower pitches in the West Indies could bring the scoring down at the business end of the tournament.
If teams can go at anywhere in the vicinity of 8.5 an over Super Eights onwards in the West Indies and against international attacks, it will be incontrovertible evidence that T20 batting has turned a corner. Don't hold your breath, though.

Sidharth Monga is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo