In the first article in a new series where we use Smart Stats to analyse various aspects of cricket, we look at who the most impactful player in T20 cricket in the last 12 months has been. Smart Stats is a part of Superstats, a new set of metrics ESPNcricinfo has devised to tell more enriching and insightful numbers-based stories. More here.
Context is key in any performance in cricket, but perhaps even more so in T20, where the impact of an innings or a spell isn't necessarily linked to its length. The top run-scorer or wicket-taker may often not be the most impactful player over a period of time. Hence the need for a more nuanced approach. Using ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats, we pick the 15 most impactful T20 players since the start of IPL 2019, and tell you why the top names are ranked so high.
How is Impact Score calculated?
This impact score is calculated using a complex algorithm, which takes into account multiple factors. For each batsman, this includes the innings run rate and required run rate at every ball when he scored his runs, the quality of opposition bowlers, the number of wickets in hand, and the quality of batsmen to follow. For bowlers, it includes the phase in which they bowled, the current and required run rates, the quality of batsmen dismissed, and the match context when the wickets were taken.
What are the criteria for picking players for this exercise?
1. They should have played a minimum of 15 matches across the big leagues - IPL, T20 Blast, BBL, CPL, Mzansi Super League and PSL.
2. The BPL was not considered since the league adopted certain new rules in the latest edition, moving away from the traditional franchise model.
3. The period considered is since the start of IPL 2019.
Why are allrounders dominating this list?
Allrounders have always been preferred in the shortest format of the game. The T20 format is tailor-made for such players, who have more chances to perform with bat or ball, or both, in each game, thereby giving them a better chance to make an impact in each match.
Andre Russell tops the list comfortably, with an impact score of 76.7 per match, while the spin allrounders, Sunil Narine, Moeen Ali, D'arcy Short and Glenn Maxwell are bunched together to complete the top five. Hardik Pandya and Mohammad Nabi are the other allrounders in the top ten. Dale Steyn, Rashid Khan and Imran Tahir are the bowlers who have made it into the top ten.
How come Russell is so far ahead compared to the others?
Russell was the player of the tournament in the 2019 IPL. Not only did he pile up the runs, he also was singlehandedly instrumental in KKR winning a few games from situations that were next to impossible. Russell scored 510 runs that season, at a strike rate of 204.8, contributing 22% of KKR's batting runs . While he was at the crease, he scored 62% of the total runs scored - 510 out of 825, including extras, an indication of his domination. In games against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad, KKR required more than 52 runs in the last three overs and Russell did most of the work needed to guide his team to victories.
Apart from performing in such high-pressure chases, Russell also has had strong performances while batting first when his team was in trouble. For instance, he came in at 61 for 5 in the tenth over against Delhi Capitals and scored 62 off 28 to lift Knight Riders to 185. Russell didn't have a huge impact with the ball overall but he did play crucial roles in a few matches by controlling the flow of runs and taking key wickets. Overall, his impact per match was very high as he had relatively little support from his team-mates, and he often had to do the heavy lifting all by himself.
Moeen Ali? Really? Has he been that impactful in the last 12 months?
There are a few reasons why Ali has created a lot of impact. Barring the IPL, where he played for the Royal Challengers, the teams he represented have had players with fairly low strike rates. Ali's Impact score in the last 12 months has largely been due to his performances in the Vitality Blast. He played just 50% of the matches in that competition but ended up as the second highest run-getter for Worcestershire. He also won three Man-of-the-Match awards. Twice he remained unbeaten to guide his team to victory chasing a score in excess of 180. He made 85 from 46 balls against the Birmingham Bears and 121 from 60 deliveries against Sussex. In these two games the batsmen he batted with were scoring at strike rates of 102 and 127 when the asking rate was well above nine an over; Ali had to do the bulk of the scoring in these matches.
With the ball too, he put in some significant performances, taking 4 for 18 defending 160 against Nottinghamshire, and conceding just 6.76 runs per over, even when bowling the difficult overs for Royal Challengers in the IPL. His impact with bat and ball during various parts of the last 12 months might have slipped under the radar but Smart Stats helps uncover these performances.
What about D'arcy Short? Didn't know he was this good!
Short played in two leagues during this period - the Vitality Blast and the Big Bash - and was very impactful in both. He gave strong starts to his teams, with just four single-digit scores from 21 innings. On analysing the games, Short's contributions are evident. There have been matches where he has dominated the opposition by chasing high scores in very few overs. Against Leicestershire, his innings were helpful in chasing scores of 158 and 142 in 11.1 and 14.4 overs respectively. On a couple of occasions in the Big Bash, he singlehandedly carried his team to a par score in tough conditions when the other batsmen. His aggregate of 357 was the highest for Hobart Hurricanes, and his BBL tournament strike rate was a healthy 131.25.
Like Ali, Short also had good performances with the ball. In the Blast, he took 13 wickets at an economy rate of under eight, and he was the third highest wicket-taker for Durham. In the Big Bash, he took 5 for 21 against Thunder, including the key wickets of Alex Hales and Alex Ross when they were cruising. Short's effectiveness with bat and ball during the last 12 months might have slipped under the radar of a lot of cricket fans, but the Australian limited-overs team and Smart Stats have identified his true potential. Watch out for him in the coming year.
Maxwell and Narine complete the list of the top five, thanks to impressive performances with bat and ball across the IPL, Blast, CPL and BBL.
Gaurav Sundararaman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo