Stats matter in cricket more than in any most sports. The greatest Batsman there ever was, is defined by one number – 99.94. You talk to any cricket fan and mention the number 99.94, everyone will know who you are talking about. Cricket has had great batsmen over the years, and each has a number to define their greatest performances, like for instance, 365, 375, 380 and 400*.
These numbers need no explaining to a cricket fan, and any cricket follower worth his salt will know that these numbers indicate the Record highest Individual Test Score in an innings over the years.
First it was Sir Gary Sobers with 365, then Brian Lara took the record with a fine 375, and then Matthew Hayden blitzed his way to 380 and then Brian Lara reclaimed his most cherished record and in the process broke down a barrier many thought would never be crossed in test cricket, that of an individual innings test score of 400 and beyond.
Arguably the greatest batsman of the past 20 years Sachin Tendulkar created his own unbeatable stat to cement his dominance and a place in history – that of a hundred international 100s. To almost every great player there is his own signature number or stat that stamps his authority.
Cricket has a game has evolved more than any other game over the years, and first while there were only Test Matches, then ODIs came in and now T20 is the rage. Cricket is the only game that has three such distinctly different formats, and all of them work.
As the game evolved from purely test cricket to ODIs and Tests, the traditional stats that defined a good performance in tests, were equally efficient in defining a good outing for a bowler or batsman in ODIs.
The most important long run indicator for any batsman was the Batting Average, while a low Bowling Average for a bowler to go with his wickets was a must. While the total number of runs scored and wickets taken counted, but the respective averages sort of defined their quality.
5000 runs in ODIs at a batting average of 38 is good, while the same 5000 runs in ODIs at a batting average of 45 is great. 150 wickets at an avg of 30 is fine, while 150 wickets at an avg of 25 is World Class. In a manner of speaking the stats still worked.
With the advent of limited overs cricket, new factors were coming into play – Strike Rate for Batsman, and Economy Rate for Bowlers. With the number of overs now limited, the faster one scored the more runs one could score, and similarly the few runs per over a bowler gave away, the fewer runs the opposition would score. Even so the traditional stats Batting and Bowling Averages continued to be the defining indicator of quality.
With T20 however, the ability of the stats to indicate quality has sort of started to stutter and develop a snag. The traditional stats don’t work any longer. With the number of overs per innings really reduced now, the emphasis is more on scoring fast than on scoring, and more on restricting runs, than taking wickets.
It is considered better to score fewer runs, but to score them really fast, than to score a lot of runs at a slow rate. Similarly restricting runs by bowling a tight over is preferable to picking up a wicket in an expensive over.
Consequently since the emphasis has shifted from the traditional aspects of cricket, the traditional stats that define a good performance are no longer an ideal indicator of good T20 performances, or consistency.
A new stat is required to judge batting and bowling performances, which gives due weightage to a Batsman’s strike rate and a Bowler’s economy rate, without ignoring the batting and bowling averages. One has to also not get carried away by just the strike rate and economy rates, because eventually the runs scored and wickets taken still matter.
A batsman could have a strike rate of 180 but an average of just 10, and thus is not a very consistant batsman. A quick 10 would help the team sometimes especially in the closing stages, but more often than not a quick 10 would leave the batting side in trouble.
Similarly a bowler may have an economy of 5, but may have picked just 20 wickets, and thus perhaps not useful as a bowler who may have an economy of 6.7, but with 100 wickets to his name.
The ideal new stat would be one that for Batsmen merges Strike rate with Batting Average, and for Bowlers merges Economy Rate with Bowling Average (which already takes into account the total wickets taken and runs given away), and presents one consolidated figure which we could call the ‘Batting Appeal’ and ‘Bowling Appeal’ respectively.
While the nomenclature itself is not important, but this is how I propose we do the needful –
Batting Appeal = (Batting Average x Strike Rate)/100
Bowling Appeal = (Bowling Average x Economy Rate)/100
Let us say we take the case of two Batsmen ‘A’ and ‘B’, of which ‘A’ averages 22 at a strike rate of 147, while ‘B’ averages 37 at a strike rate of 100. Under normal circumstances its would be hard to set them apart because we are judging them on two factors that don’t exactly merge. One has a much more attractive strike rate while the other has a much better average and unless we combine the two to arrive at a single stat one cannot quite fully judge.
Once we combine as proposed above, we find ‘A’ has a Batting Appeal of 32.34, while ‘B’ has a batting aspect of 37.00, and thus now that we have the two stats (Avg and S/R) combined, we can get a more complete picture and unified picture of the batsmen.
As with any batting stat the one with the higher number should be given more weightage, and thus we can conclude that ‘B’ has a higher ‘Appeal’ as a T20 Batsman.
Is this the best way to combine the two stats, I don’t know, but at least it is a way. The key point is by multiplying Average with the Strike Rate, the average is given its due weightage. All said and done, one still wants a batsman to score consistently more than one wants a batsman to score fast. A batsman could have a batting average of merely 15, but a S/R of 180 and one could think the world of him, but its still not exactly ideal.
With the formula above a batsman strike rate is also given due weightage, but at the same time to get a high Batting Appeal the Batsman must have also scored consistently. If a batsman consistently scores runs, and scores them fast (ideal scenario), his Batting Appeal would be through the roof, because the effect multiplies as opposed to just adds on.
The division by 100 (which is common for all and thus irrelevant) is merely to present Batting Appeal in a form that we are used to, like for instance 32.34 as opposed to 3234.
Lets take some real players and their International T20 stats –
Jayawardene – Avg – 31.76, S/R – 133.18
Duminy – Avg – 37.27, S/R – 124,45
Kohli – Avg – 45.30, S/R – 129.98
Maxwell – Avg – 20.20, S/R – 165,57
Yusuf Pathan – Avg – 18.15, S/R – 146.58
Now these are 5 batsman with varied stats, and some have high averages while others have higher strike rates, and its hard to get a proper read on which set of stats is better till one combines them to arrive at Batting Appeal .
Duminy – 46.38
Kohli – 58.88
Maxwell – 33.40
Pathan – 26.64
It is clear after this break down that Kohli is the ideal player with an acceptable S/R but a great average.
Also players like Jayawardene and Duminy who one tends to think of more as accumulators not perhaps ideal for T20, still have more ‘Appeal’ as Batsmen than the likes of Maxwell or Pathan who are tailor-made for T20, or so one tends to believe.
Batting Appeal still gives due weightage to consistently scoring runs (Avg), but at the same time doesn’t ignore S/R, and what is more presents Avg and S/R in one unified stat, that is much more ideal for judging a T20 batsman.
Similarly Bowling Appeal combines the three key aspects of bowling in T20. Wickets Taken and Runs given away (unified by Bowling Avg.) and the rate at which the bowler is leaking runs (Economy Rate), in other words unifies Bowling Avg with Eco. Rate. Lets take two examples again, ‘A’ and ‘B’ one with an economy rate of 5 at a Bowling Average of 36, while the latter with an economy of 6.7 but bowling average of 26.
When we unify their stats as Bowling Appeal, we find ‘A’ has a Bowling Appeal of 1.80, while ‘B’ has a Bowling Appeal of 1.74. Its much easier to judge performances this way and both key aspects of bowling in T20 are taken into account.
Lets take a look at some real players based on their International T20 stats –
Afridi – Avg. – 22.61 E/R – 6.48
Malinga – Avg. – 21.10 E/R – 7.25
Steyn – Avg. – 15.98 E/R – 6.45
A good set of stats, good economy and averages for the most part, but unless a common figure is arrived at, there cannot be a decision on which of them is the best.
Afridi – 1.46
Malinga – 1.52
Steyn – 1.03
The comparison between Afridi and Malinga is particularly interesting, as one has the better Avg. while the other the better E/R, but once we combine the two stats we get a more complete picture.
Is this the best way to combine, I don’t know, but it is a way. Since a lower bowling average and a lower economy rate is what a bowler is looking for, the Bowler with the lower Bowling Appeal number can be said to be the one with more ‘Appeal’ as a bowler.
The point is both Bowling Appeal and Batting Appeal, combine two different sets of numbers, to arrive at a conclusive figure and help make a more complete sense of T20 career figures, where the traditional stats have proven to be inconclusive.