The performance metrics of the game have evolved a long way like the game itself. Standard metrics are not deemed redundant, but the context it gives to the naked eye is a fairly false perception at times, especially in the shorter version of the game. Comparing batsmen by runs, averages and strike rates, or bowlers by wickets they take might not provide a complete understanding of the nuances of the game. Impact Index is an analytical tool owned by Wisden India. Former cricketer Aakash Chopra has explained more about the coining of the specific term and it’s use case scenarios in his book “Numbers Do Lie: 61 Hidden Cricket Stories”.
KL Rahul’s 50-ball 65 in a low scoring game chasing 120 when his team is 8 for 3 in the second over impacts the game result in a more positive way than his 50 ball 65 knock, batting first in a pitch considered to be batsman’s paradise. In both cases, his strike rate is 130, which does not provide enough context to know what’s really going on. We tried to develop a generic rating system derived from the standard metrics that compares a player’s performance with all the other players involved in a match and spits out a number (on a scale of 1-10), rating the impact the player in question has had on that particular match relative to his team mates and opposition players. This analysis analyses the impact index, and uses analysis to see who comes out on top.
The generated metric was tested with the Indian Premier League and the impact index quotient is derived from the base metrics with a point system for each player. You can read it about here. The Impact index is formulated for batting and bowling separately and it is normalized with respect to the best performer in each department, scaled downed between one and ten to generate a rating for the player in both departments.
Indian Premier League
The match ratings are derived from impact index’s point system. The player who gets 10 rating is essentially the best player of the match and has impacted the match in the most positive way for his side. The ratings are derived separately for batting and bowling. A player who gets 10 ratings more than often stands for consistency. The most consistent players from each season in the Indian Premier League is shown below.
The number of times a player gets a ten rating (highest in the match) is directly proportional to the performance consistency in a season. Chris Gayle, unaidedly has impacted seven and eight games in the most positive way in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Jofra Archer won the most number (eight) of best bowling performances, meaning he was the match’s best bowler in 8 of the 14 games his side played in the 2020 season.
The rating system timeline increases the clarity of player performances in a distinct timeline.
A renowned finisher like MS Dhoni has been the most significant player in an IPL match 18 times in total. He has influenced the outcome of the game as the highest factor once in every 11 games.
On the other end of the spectrum, players who concede the most are generally considered to be lousy bowlers, undermining their contribution to the game. Shardul Thakur is one among them.
In retrospect, Thakur has had the most negative impact as a bowler only 5 times in his IPL career out of the 51 matches he has played. So there is always chance that it just might not be his day once in every ten game he plays. Conceding runs at a higher economy does not mean that the bowler is not bowling well. In fact, it means the batsmen are untouchable, or the external conditions are favoring the batsmen.(Pitch,Boundary length etc).
Reward vs Performance
The impact index system leads to robust talent recognition and player scouting. The Indian Premier League is a billion dollar sporting event and franchises are ready to pay copious amount of money to recruit the right talent.
Heavy weights like Royal Challengers Bengaluru, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings relatively rely more on their superstar players, whilst the Rajasthan Royals played “Moneyball” and punched above their weight every season until they were banned. After the re-entry of CSK and RR, all teams tend to spend more or less the same on player wages.
In the last four seasons, the amount a franchise spends on the player wages is uniformly distributed with slight deviations. So, are superstars really worth their huge fees?
- Kolkata Knight Riders’ high income batsmen do not perform as one would expect them to.
- Chennai Super Kings’ bowlers are underpaid for the job they do. They have an high impact season after season demonstrating consistency.
- Mumbai Indians’ superstars repay the management’s faith by their performance justifying their price tag.
What do the title winning teams do right in terms of recruitment and performance? The main factors are team combination and player versatility. The consistency in team selection and the depth of all-rounders is a pattern that is inherent in title-winning IPL sides. Bubble size in the below graphic is directly proportional to the number of matches played.
The composition and balance of bowling all-rounders and batting all-rounders separates a given IPL side and the silverware. Role oriented approach is a game changer in the shorter version and the teams that do it right are complemented with the trophy. That is the factor that makes Mumbai Indians an ideal powerhouse of the sport. The role of superstars in title winning teams gives rise to a curious thought: does mega bucks bring you glory?
The answer to that question is subjective. The players who earn more put up a mediocre performance to the least. On the other hand of the spectrum, the players who earn less and put up consistently magnanimous performances are far and few between. In my opinion, one team that maximizes talent recruitment and correlates it with high end performances challenging the title time and again, is Mumbai Indians.