Indian Premier League: Sports Fans TV’s Statistical & Data Preview

Pimlico Tiger
32 min readApr 6, 2021

With India hosting the Men’s World T20 World Cup in just six months’ time, the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is arguably more important than ever. A player succeeding in IPL 2021 will give themselves a golden chance of making the World Cup squads.

In truth the IPL doesn’t really need any extra spice: it’s already the preeminent domestic T20 competition in the world. As good as the Big Bash is — and as hopeful the ECB brains trust must be for the The Hundred this coming English summer — there’s just something about the IPL that makes it a must-watch.

With a collection of many of the world’s very best white ball players rubbing heavily-sponsored shoulders with a highly impressive crop of domestic Indian players , IPL 2021 has plenty to get your teeth in to.

Ahead of the tournament, I’ve looked at the composition of the squads, the form they take going into the tournament and make a few tentative predictions for the tournament ahead.

How we’ve done it

I’ve corralled data on the last three IPL tournaments and T20 internationals since 1 Jan 2020.

I’ve also added in data from the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT), India’s ‘other’ domestic T20 competition which acts as a feeder competition for the IPL.

I also added in data from Big Bash 10 as it was pretty recent and, as 23 of many of the overseas players participated, a good source of data on the form of players going into the tournament.

So, looking at key batting and bowling metrics we can compare the squads and see who looks set fair for a strong tournament.

For both batting and bowling I’ve taken 120 balls (either delivered or faced) as my cut-off. That way we minimise polluting the data with noise from players with very little to go on. It does mean some big — and expensive — names drop out of the data, but I think that just goes to show the gamble some teams are taking on ‘names’ over performance.

When looking at batting, I use a runs per innings (R/I) measure. That’s as the name suggests and differs from the standard average as it doesn’t adjust for any not out innings. My thinking is, in T20 in particular, not outs are a bit of an irrelevance and probably do more harm than good in telling the underlying story.

For the batsmen I also like to look at strike rate, either per 100 balls or per over. Straightforward.

For an overall ranking I weight a players R/I ranking on a ratio of 2:1 with their strike rate ranking. Because strike rate is important but, runs: runs are the key.

For bowling, I take strike rate — so: number of balls bowled per wicket taken — and economy rate (runs conceded per over) as the key metrics. For the overall bowling ranking, I weight these equally.

There’s a debate to be had about what is more important in white ball cricket, and Tony and I have had it, but I think it feels right to keep them on a par.

Because of the auction system, we literally know what each player is worth to each team. By using the costs (and, apologies Indian fans, but I’ve converted them to £s sterling) we can also comment on the value for money for each player.

So, lots of numbers crunched. It’s just one way of looking at the teams, of course, and the reality of bat-on-ball will no doubt change things. But here are analyses of each team in the 2021 IPL.

Chennai Super Kings

Led by Indian legend MS Dhoni, the first thing that strikes me about the squad is it skews to the old. Dhoni is 39, top ranked bowler is 42 year old Imran Tahir and the highest ranked big name batsman is 36 year old Faf du Plessis.

By my count almost half of the squad are over 30 years old. That concerns me and I think may be at the root of their problem, which is that they look like a squad short on what it needs to compete this year.

Their batting seems underpowered.

CSK batting: the mystery of missing top quadrant

The chart shows each CSK batsman who, in the six feeder datasets, faced a minimum of 120 balls. The further to the right, the higher the runs per innings; the higher the faster scoring rate. Players close to where the axes meet are average; those heading towards the top right are the best.

CSK have no-one in the top right quadrant.

So what do they have? Young (and likely third-choice) keeper Narayan Jagadeesan brings good SMAT form into the tournament and may be one to watch, if he is played as a specialist batsman — he’s not going to wrestle the gloves off of Dhoni, is he? Across SMAT (plus a couple of innings in IPL 2020) Jagadeesan scored at over 39 runs per innings at a rate of 138 runs per 100 balls.

Otherwise, Faf, Dhoni and Suresh Raina score above average in terms of R/I — and Robin Uthappa is just below — but there’s nothing here to intimidate a bowling attack.

Likely to play — but with no T20 form to speak of so he’s not on the above chart— is Chet Pujara. Signed for 50 Lahks (about £50,000) he’s cheap compared to Dhoni (almost £1.5m), Suresh Raina (over £1m) and Moeen Ali (almost £700k) but in terms of value for money he still represents a risk and highlight what a gamble it is taking Pujara into the IPL. It may be the opportunity cost of playing him instead of some less well-known players that trips CSK up.

Young left hander Chez Hari Nisaanth, for example, brings decent SMAT form (almost 31 R/I at a rate of about 120 runs per 100 balls) — but does he have any chance of getting a game ahead of Pujara?

If CSK are going to be successful, it’ll likely be thanks to their bowlers.

CSK bowling: buying their wickets?

I have spinners, veteran Imran Tahir and young Ravi Sai Kishore, as the top ranked bowlers. Tahir goes for 7.24 an over; striking every 17 deliveries. Sai Kishore’s figures are from SMAT, but they are very good — an economy of 4.82, the best in the entire dataset, and a strike rate of a wicket every 21 balls. Could RSK be CSK’s find of the season?

Ravi Jadeja is more likely to play, of course. His strike rate of 24 is well below average; his economy rate is good if not spectacular.

Going a little quicker, the first thing to note is that any attack would miss Josh Hazlewood, who pulled out late on, and it leaves them a little thin in the pace department.

Top rated paceman is South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi. He is expensive — just under 9 an over — but takes wickets every 12 balls. That’s one of the very best in the data set (ranked 8th).

The other likely go-to seamer is Shardul Thakur. He too takes wickets at a belting strike rate (every 16.5 balls) but has been more even expensive, going at over 9 per over. That’s not been unduly inflated by international cricket either; he pretty consistently goes for more than nine an over in T20s.

The other main Indian seamer is Deepak Chahar. Chipping in with a wicket every 22 balls and an economy rate of 7.6 an over, Chahar is an experienced IPL campaigner who also got some overs under his belt in the SMAT. His performance is edging towards the top right quadrant.

As a bowling unit, CSK are about average for runs conceded; 8.07 versus a core average if 8.05. They’re a little better than average in terms of taking wickets, a wicket every 19.96 balls versus a core average of 20.58 balls.

This is enough to have them profile as the leading bowling attack as they are quite effective at taking wickets and controlling the scoreboard — but other teams are better at both. I have my doubts the tournament will play out with CSK’s bowlers performing better than anyone else.

In terms of squad building, the players who look like best value for money are Lungi Ngidi — who for around £50k looks like a steal — and Faf du Plessis, who at £150k still looks good value.

Under pressure to justify big money is Dwayne Bravo, as neither batting or bowling metrics suggests he’ll be a difference-maker. They also paid big money for Krish Gowtham (about £900k) and there’s not much in his numbers to suggest that was a sound investment.

Overall then, CSK are an ageing team and there are signs they bat like a team from the era when these guys were at their peak. T20 has moved on to be faster and more aggressive; I think the CSK side may have overdone it on the experience front.

Although the bowling metrics are good I would be surprised (but not, perhaps, amazed) to see them make the final stages of the competition. My suspicion is they will err on the side of playing the older, expensive members of the squad to the detriment of form and, possibly vitality.

More likely is they will fall a little short and get left behind by the better sides.

Delhi Capitals

Rishabh Pant takes the helm as captain in the absence through injury of Shreyas Iyer. It helps, of course that he comes into the tournament as one of the top ten batsmen — though leading this side to glory may be beyond the hugely talented wicketkeeper-batsman.

Although the Capitals are a side with plenty of star name power, they look a little short with bat and ball if they want to make the latter stages of the competition.

The batting sounds good when listed: Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, West Indian Shimron Hetmyer and how-is-he-still-only-21 Indian Privthi Shaw. Backed up by Pant and Sam Billings, plus the lower order biff of Axar Patel and Ravi Ashwin surely — surely! — this is a high scoring side?

Well, no.

Of the DC players in the dataset, only Pant ranks in the top 20, with Dhawan in at rank 21. Those guys are in the top 20 for R/I but none of the other illustrious names are in the Top 30.

They’re big names but they don’t score big runs in T20 — or at least not often enough. I rather suspect if DC lined up to play a Test match they’d be pretty hard to beat, but that’s not a recipe for T20 success.

They also appear to have paid over the odds for their batting talent. In building their squad of 24, The Capitals spent more than half their money on nine specialist batsmen and keepers.

Pant is the most expensive by far: for his performances: fair enough. No-one is a guarantee but almost any money for Pant is money well-spent. But despite Pant costing nearly £1.5m he looks better value for money that Shimron Hetmyer.

The West Indian cost £765k, almost exactly half that of Pant, but his metrics are nowhere near that of his captain. So the Capitals are going to need Hetmyer to bat way beyond the performances shown in the dataset if he’s going to give them value for money.

On the bowling side, South African quick (and Tony’s favourite) Kagiso Rabada ranks as an overall top 20 bowler, as does veteran leggie Amit Mishra. Mishra and Axar Patel are both top 20 bowlers for economy, going at 6.97 and 6.87 respectively. Indeed, Mishra is an overall top 20 bowler too though Patel, thanks to a pretty poor (33 balls) strike rate is lower mid table — interestingly, right next to Ravi Ashwin.

DC bowling: will their form bowlers play?

Also on the pace front is Ishant Sharma and Anrich Nortje, both also mid table contributors. Some of the other overseas recruits languish nearer the bottom of the pile — the Aussies Marcus Stoinis and Daniel Sams plus England’s Tom Curran. They’re joined down there by the rapid Umesh Yadav.

A couple of Indian players bringing good form with the ball from SMAT into the IPL — look out for off spinner Lalit Yadav and left arm quick Lukman Meriwala.

Lalit is economical (6.6 runs and over) and took a SMAT wickets every 17 balls. Meriwala has similarly good control — going at 6.52 runs an over — and took wickets every 12.20 balls. Impressive, even if unlikely to be replicated in the higher standard IPL.

Taken as a unit, the bowling looks to be the 5th best attack in the competition. Their strike rate is close to average but they concede too many runs. Marry that with a batting line up that looks tailor-made to be playing another form of the game, it doesn’t suggest Delhi Capitals will be adding silverware to their collection.

Although likely key players Smith , Mishra and Rabada all look good value for money, the Capitals have overspent on Tom Curran, Hetmyer and — on form if not reputation — their big name Indian spinners.

There is clearly a lot of cricketing talent in this squad but I think the are unlikely to make a serious push for the knock out stage.

Kolkata Knight Riders

Even though KKR are captained by the white ball Brearley, Eoin Morgan, he’s going to have to be at his very best to get consistently winning performances. The 2021 squad that looks light with the ball and a bit Vegas-or-bust with the bat. If it comes off it’ll be spectacular — but mark that down as hope rather than expectation.

Morgan is, of course, a much better player than his illustrious Middlesex predecessor. He’s in the top 25 in terms of strike rate (8.79 an over) and ranks 33rd for runs per innings (a shade under 27). What the numbers can’t show, of course, is Morgan’s game management and experience.

KKR batting: Vegas or bust

The other big name with the bat is Andre Russell. He’s one of the quickest scorers coming into the tournament — ranked 2nd overall for strike rate, going at 11.55 an over.

Of their 13 batsmen in the dataset, eight of them score at a rate of more than 20 runs per innings. A heavy scorer is Kiwi wicket keeper Tim Seifert (27.07 runs per innings) — though he’ll have to get past Dinesh Karthik if he wants to be first choice keeper. Unlikely.

A good exemplar of KKR batting would be Sunil Narine. The spinner scores at well over 10 an over but scores at a rate of just over 18 per innings. In that regard, Shubman Gill profiles the other way round: scoring at 7.51 an over but clocking up 24 runs per innings.

IPL-experienced Nitish Rana looks set for a good tournament. The left hander ranks in the top 30 batsmen, profiling very similar to Captain Morgan. Also worth a mention is 3rd choice keeper Sheldon Jackson (R/I 48.40; SR 9.31) and Venkatesh Iyer (R/I 45.40; SR 8.96), generating these numbers in the recent SMAT — so very much form players, if they can get game time.

On the bowling front, KKR rank last for both strike rate and economy. Their top two bowlers in the rankings — medium pacer Vaibhav Arora and batsman-who-bowls Rana — are more back up bowlers; Arora showing up well in SMAT and Rana bowling here and there across SMAT and previous IPLs.

KKR bowling: you don’t want a cluster below the line

KKR’s only other spinners in the overall top 30 — Varun Chakravarthy (10th) and Harbhajan Singh (25th) do give them good looking options — but will they play?

Harbhajan is now in his 40s and leg spinner Varun is another who is not a big name player — though his record demands respect — and they’re up against Sunil Narine, whose all-round skills surely see him picked when available, and the higher profile Kuldeep Yadav.

Kuldeep’s form coming into the IPL is middling at best (and nowhere near Varun’s) but was costly to recruit, so KKR will need big things from him to get a return on this investment.

The other spin option who looks likely to play is Shakib Al Hasan, the Bangladeshi left arm spinner. In form terms Shakib is another who comes into the IPL with fair-to-middling form, going at over eight and over and taking a wicket every 25 balls.

How many spinners can you fit into one team? The squad is a bit lopsided, with too many expensive spinners around the place. It looks like KKR will have some big money on the bench every game.

Pace-wise, Lockie Ferguson (ranked 29th overall) looks a sure fire bet to lead the pace attack with KKR’s biggest name, Pat Cummins. Cummins is a phenomenal Test match bowler but his T20 form coming into the tournament is good-but-not-spectacular. His economy is under eight-an-over and he takes wickets a shade under every 24 balls. Ferguson is both cheaper and takes wicket more quickly — every 17 balls in fact. Cummins ranks 60th overall and needs to take wickets more regularly in T20 cricket.

The pace attack also features all-rounder Dre Russell, of course, and like his batting, the runs per over flow (he goes for more than 9 an over) and the wickets come (every 18 balls).

The only other real ‘name’ quick is Prasidh Krishna, who recently made his ODI debut for India against England. He’s an experienced T20 bowler, though his numbers — strike rate of nearly 28 and runs per over conceded of nearly nine — do not stand out. However, he was an inexpensive recruit (£20k) so is good value for money. He won’t have to do much to be money well spent.

The other young quick to look out for is Kamlesh Nagarkoti. Despite being just 21 years old he’s been with KKR since 2018. He’s clearly an investment but, aside from IPL 2020, he hasn’t got much form or experience in T20 to speak of; he didn’t bowl in the SMAT for example. His numbers are underwhelming, meaning the c£320k KKR paid for him looks a lot. He will need a breakout IPL to pay that back.

As a bowling unit, KKR look like a step behind the other teams. The bowlers in the dataset have the worst strike rate by a country mile and the worst economy rate.

This doesn’t fill me with confidence for the tournament ahead. Eoin Morgan is going to have to find the right balance of spinners in his side, hope Cummins can be more like Test Cummins than T20 Cummins and rely on Andre Russell as an all-action all-rounder. KKR look reliant on a few big names and hoping that some younger players break out.

They might, of course, but this looks like too big a challenge for even this most cerebral of captains.

Mumbai Indians

Rohit Sharma’s side, although profiling a little on the old side, look like a competitive squad with bat and ball and should go into IPL 2021 with high hopes of a playoff place.

Rohit is the star man, and let’s be fair: every team would want him. That his reputation outstrips the data is perhaps a warning sign; I have Rohit ranked 44th overall amongst batsmen but: it’s Rohit, I wouldn’t bet against him.

MI batting: a bit too average-y

He is one of four big name Indian players in the squad. All are good players, all cost a lot of money. This gives the impression of eggs have been placed in the basket of these mainstays with the hope they come good. Three of them will be asked to do work with the ball.

MI bowling: looks better than the batting

The Pandya brothers, Hardik and Krunal are half of this investment. Hardik looks well set to contribute with bat and ball. He ranks 25th overall for batting and 49h for bowling. He scores at a rate of 23.06 each time he bats and does so quickly, at more than nine and over. With the ball in his hand his economy is below average (8.70 an over) but he takes regular wickets, every 17.51 balls.

Krunal is the more economical bowler, going at 7.27 an over, but takes his wickets more slowly (every 26.18 balls). With the bat, Krunal has some work to do to match his brother with a disappointing runs per innings of 14.21 and a strike rate of 8.03. Good but not outstanding.

The fourth Musketeer is Jasprit Bumrah. He’s a Top 10 bowler, raked 4th overall. He is undoubtedly a class act, going at just 6.70 an over and taking wickets at over one every 17.04 balls. Top class stuff and although he was relatively expensive (£700k) looks close to a sure thing in terms of performance.

There’s a strong antipodean flavour to the Mumbai bowling attack, certainly on the pacier side. Kiwi legend Trent Boult is another who takes wickets fewer than every 18 balls (17.02 in fact), though is a little more expensive, with a below average economy of 8.37 runs per over. Nonetheless he only cost £315k so looks a great pick on a value for money basis. Smart.

He and Bumrah are supported by the Australian Nathan Coulter-Nile. He’s an overall Top 25 bowler and will no doubt chip in with a decent (below eight) economy rate whilst taking regular wickets.

There’s also Adam Milne in the squad. An experienced NZ bowler who I rank as a lowly 83rd and with the kind of numbers that suggest he’s there as a back-up. Oddly he cost more than Trent Boult so looks a brave pick in terms of getting a return on investment.

Someone definitely not earmarked as a back-up is Kieron Pollard. He’s ranked in the Top 50 bowlers and Top 40 batsmen. He scores his runs more quickly than he concedes them; he’s ranked overall 4th across the dataset for his batting strike rate of 10.20 per over.

With Pollard and the Pandyas, Mumbai have gone all in with all-rounders. And there’s more: additional Kiwi seasoning comes from Jimmy Neesham, he scores almost as quickly as Pollard with the bat though is less effective with the ball, ranking as low as an eyebrow-raising 96th. Expect to see him biff some late innings runs and soak up some awkward middle overs with the ball. Expect to see him play. Expect all the main all-rounders to play.

In the spin department, Mumbai will look to leg spinner Rahul Chahar. He’s ranked 14th overall, taking wickets every 18.59 balls and going for just 7.40 an over. He comes into the IPL having had a cracking SMAT, taking wickets every 11 balls and going for just 6.5 an over. Top stuff. At just £190k he’s also great value.

Also looking good is offie Jayant Yadav. At £50k he really looks a steal. I have him sneaking into the top 20 bowlers overall, with his economy of 6.34 and strike rate of a wicket every 23.33 balls; he and Chahar look like dangerous and economical spin twins.

Mumbai can also call on the experience of Piyush Chawla should they need to. His recent numbers aren’t great — he ranks 72nd overall — but he knows what he’s doing in the IPL.

With the bat in hand, the battery of all-rounders will undoubtedly be asked to do a lot of the damage. Joining Rohit as a specialist batsman is one of the smartest bits of recruitment, in Australian Chris Lynn. There are bigger Aussie names in the IPL but none that look such good value for money (at £200k) for such high performance.

I rank Lynn as the 15th best batsman overall; the highest raked Mumbai player. He’s a consistent scorer with a runs per innings rate of 32.24 at a decent rate of 8.44 an over. He will do well at the top of the order.

He’ll be joined by the experienced (and now internationally-capped) Suryakumar Yadav. He too is a top 20 batsman who score at 30.98 R/I, at 8.34 an over.

Keeping wicket — and with an almost identical stats read out as Yadav — is South Africa’s Quinton de Kock. He too scores at 30.98 R/I and goes at 8.39 runs per over. He’s my 19th ranked batsman.

Finally, also in the top 25, is young back up keeper Ishan Kishan. Interestingly, he was significantly more expensive contract-wise than de Kock — £615k versus £275k — so presumably he plays as a specialist batsman.

Taken all together, if I’m a Mumbai fan I’m feeling pretty hopeful for this IPL. The team is led by a bona fide superstar, there is a core of batsman who contribute well and there is a spine of all-rounders to give Rohit plenty of batting and options in the field. Add to that an effective battery of pace bowlers and some in-form spinners…..it’s looking good.

I have their batting and bowling rated as third best overall. With the bat they outstrip the average for both runs per innings and strike rate. With the ball they are more economical and with a better strike rate than average.

A better than average team, so I’d say Mumbai Indians are a good shout for a playoff place. There may be better teams but Mumbai are well-balanced, benefit from smart recruitment and definitely will be ones to watch.

Punjab Kings

The Kings squad has been well-constructed, with smart use of money, to build an competitive group of experienced players. KL Rahul leads a side with genuine potential to win the tournament.

In terms of core batting, I rank the Kings as just about the number one side in the IPL.

Rahul himself comes in with a runs per innings rate of 41.80, Chris Gayle on 34.56 and Dawid Malan 32.40.

Add in Moises Henriques and young keeper-batsman Prabhsimran Singh also delivering at rate above 30 and that is a lot of runs.

PK batting: consistent scorers, which is a good thing.

And there’s more.

Mayank Agarwal’s R/I is 25.03 and West Indian keeper Nicholas Pooran scores more than 22 when he bats — and does so at a rapid 156 runs per 100 balls.

This is a good collection of run scorers and I expect the Kings to score big and score well this year.

PK bowling: some quality here

Turning to the bowling, the pace attack will be led by one Indian stalwart, two Aussies and an Englishman.

Mohammed Shami is a bit expensive (8.92 runs per over) but takes regular wickets. Looking more dangerous are Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith. Richardson is my 12th ranked bowler — going at 7.90 an over and taking a wicket every 14.09 balls. His confrere Meredith is slightly more economical (7.78) but still takes wickets at a more than useful 18.40 balls.

Chris Jordan will also surely play his part. Although his form coming into the tournament is not where he’d want it to be — I have him ranked a lowly 87th — I’ve seen enough of CJ to back him to perform in the IPL.

There are other bowlers with the potential to do very well this year. Young seamer Ishan Porel had a very effective SMAT. He went for just 7.42 and over and took wickets every 8.77 balls. He’s bound to slow down at bit in the rarefied atmosphere of the IPL but may be one to watch.

Also worth keeping an eye on is 20 year old leg sinner Ravi Bishnoi. He did pretty well in IPL 2020 and comes into this tournament having had a fearsomely good SMAT, going at 5.45 an over and taking wickets every 15 balls. He’s another play who may yet announce himself in this year’s IPL.

Overall, this is a good unit. As a team, I have the Kings batsmen as the strongest, virtually on par with Royal Challengers Bangalore. The Kings have the best runs per innings — 28.66 — way above the average figure of 24.57. They are also bang on the average strike rate too.

They marry this with a very dangerous bowling attack, who I rank second overall. Although marginally behind the average economy rate they take wickets every 18.49 balls, a whole ball-and-a-half more frequently than anyone else.

Taking all this together and the Punjab Kings are my number one team in this year’s IPL.

A word too on their squad building. Only eight of their squad are more than average expensive in value for money terms and the contracts for players such as Henriques, Gayle, Malan and Agarwal — all likely big contributors — are all better than average in terms of value for money.

This is a smart franchise and smart franchises deserve to do well.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

OK, so: RCB are taking the galacticos approach; the ‘Zidanes and Pavons’ strategy.

They have big names — including the biggest of all — but have had to pack their squad with 10 of the squad pulling in the minimum price (20 lahks, which is about £20k). This is a high wire act and if the big names fire you look great but if they don’t….. there’s not so much to fall back on.

This is Virat Kohli’s team. Any team would be happy to have him, not least for the glamour and the captaincy. I have him as the 17th ranked batsmen, with a strike rate of 136 runs per 100 balls (which is…OK for a mortal) and a runs per innings score of 34.84 runs. That’s genuinely very good.

RCB: they have *no* batsmen

OK: so where are the batsmen? This is it: there are just seven players in the squad who have faced 120 balls or more in the six competitions feeding data into this analysis. That’s….bold.

They really are relying on the big names firing as there’s not much else.

Ahead of Virat in the rankings is AB de Villiers. The annoyingly-good-at-everything-guy also scores at 36.21 R/I but goes more quickly: 162 runs per 100 balls. That puts him in the overall Top 5. He’s 37 years old but he’s still annoyingly good at everything. You’ve got to love him.

RCB spent all their batting money on these two big players; somewhere north of 90% of the money the spent on batsmen and keepers went on just Virat and AB. So they’ve had to bolster their ranks from the domestic game. Certainly, by the numbers, they’ve made some smart picks even if that has to be tempered by a worry the sample size of performances is small.

RCB have clearly looked at good performers in the SMAT. A good example is Mohammed Azharuddeen. His R/I of 42.80 and strike rate of an insane 195 runs per 100 balls is impressive. In 110 balls he only just fails the make the cut into the chart. If he had, he’d have been my number one ranked batsman, no doubt.

If he turns in these numbers in the IPL then he’d be rightly talked about as a new superstar. He’s 27 though so although not impossible is maybe unlikely.

One SMAT star who does make the cut is Rajat Patidar. Stunning SMAT numbers — R/I of 44.20; 153 runs per 100 balls — shove him to 3rd in the overall rankings but, like Azharuddeen he may not see much game time.

Same goes for Sachin Baby, he just missed out on 120 balls and would have ranked in the top 15 off the back of his SMAT performance. And there’s also Kiwi keeper Finn Allen. Signed as a replacement for Australian Josh Phillippe, Allen has performed well in recent T20Is against Bangladesh.

Possibly more likely to play is Devdutt Padikkal. The 20 year old batsmen showed up well in the IPL in 2020 and made a hatful of runs in the recent SMAT.

These guys are all smart recruits and I’d expect one of them to have a breakout IPL this year. In truth, RCB will need them to as otherwise it’s asking everything of the big name players — though maybe that’s how they like it.

The money not spent on batsmen — and there was some left after signing Kohli and AB — went on bowlers and all-rounders. The biggest chunk of change went on a sizeable chunk of New Zealand, Kyle Jamieson. His T20 form is not stunning to say the least (I have him ranked 99th) so this is very much a signing on potential. He looks like a player so, although he’ll have to go some to be value for money, he’s a talent worth a roll of the dice.

RCB also have Glenn Maxwell. He’s undoubtedly a talent but I was surprised to see him rank 60th as a bowler and 63rd as a batsman — lower mid table-ish for both.

Dan Christian has a similar profile to Maxwell: he scores runs at a good lick (164 runs per 100 balls, 30-odd runs better than Maxwell) with a runs per innings figure of 17.53 (Maxwell: 18.30).

With the ball Christian takes wickets more frequently — every 17.95 balls — compared to Maxwell (23.95 balls) though Christian is almost a run an over more expensive economy-wise (8.78 versus 7.88). Of the two Christian was almost £1m cheaper contract-wise (£475k versus Maxwell at £1.4m). On these numbers Christian looks the smarter recruitment and Maxwell is going to have to outperform him by a lot to be the better value player.

RCB can also call on Washington Sundar. Widely considered an all-rounder, I have to say his T20 numbers coming into IPL 2021 don’t back that up. He’s scored just 8.61 runs per innings with a strike rate of 127 runs per 100 balls. That’s all pretty underwhelming.

With the ball he’s relatively economical — going at 7.51 an over — but takes his sweet time to get wickets, taking one every 27.58 balls. These figures make him look pricey (he cost £315k) but, similar to Jamieson, he has bags of potential. Aged just 21 years old he could yet have a breakout season.

Also bowing spin is Yuzvendra Chahal. He’s an experienced leg spinner, bowling almost twice as many deliveries in the dataset than any other RCB player. His numbers are good — strike rate of 20.68 balls per wicket and economy of 7.80 runs an over — but for almost £600k he too looks pricey for that return.

RCB also have Australian Adam Zampa in their ranks. I have Zampa in the top 25 bowlers (22nd) with an economy rate very similar to Chahal’s (7.95) but wickets coming more quickly; every 17.33 balls. Zampa was also miles cheaper than Chahal. Indeed, Zampa looks a smart pick for the money.

On the pace front, RCB have another Australian, Kane Richardson. The 30 year old seamer is another top 20 bowler, this time ranked 17th; RCB top ranked bowler. He another with a 7.92 strike rate and he takes wickets every 16.33 balls.

There are two Indian pacemen who look set to feature too. Mohammed Siraj, one of the heroes of Australia, is one. He takes wickets at a reasonable rate — a smidgeon under 20 balls per wicket but, with an economy rate north of nine an over, is expensive.

Navdeep Saini is his opposite: a decent economy rate (7.98 runs an over) is somewhat undermined by only taking wickets every 27.38 balls. If they bowl in tandem and are at their best they’ll take wickets and control the run rate. If not: it might get messy.

As a team, RCB look like a decent batting line up — though dependent on a few big names to do the business. Their bowling attack looks a little short on wicket taking to me, even if at their best they can control the run rate.

As a batting side I have them just ranked second to the Punjab Kings, though there’s really nothing in it. As a bowling attack, I make them about average for economy but with a strike rate (of 21.38), higher than the average.

RCB have hitched their wagon to a few star names; some of the lesser known players do look pretty promising but may not get much game time — and with both Chahal and Maxwell they’ve recruited very similar players in Zampa and Christian, which suggests they can both spot bargain talent if they want to but also get drawn to names not numbers.

All in all, it’s a bit of a weird squad that, at its best, could bat big enough to get through to the play offs. I think that’s likely as the players here are class — though there is a real danger that, if a few key parts don’t go well, the wheels may come off.

I hope Virat has been practicing his look of disbelief in the mirror as he may yet need it.

Rajasthan Royals

Led by wicket keeper Sanju Samson, the Royals come into the tournament with some big names but with serious questions about how they have built their squad.

They have gone big on all-rounders. A massive 40% of their total spend has gone on South African Chris Morris and England’s Ben Stokes.

RR batting: Buttler and erm…..
RR bowling: they’re going to miss Jofra…..

Morris — the most expensive player in IPL history — is a bowling all-rounder. I have him ranked 42nd overall for bowling. His strike rate of 17.48 balls per wicket is good. His economy rate of 8.38 an over is nothing special. He hasn’t faced enough bowling to make the cut int the batting data — but if he did, his strike rate of 133 runs per hundred balls and his runs per innings figure of 7.47 would mark him out as a player with a fairly average return.

There’s really nothing here that means I can see why the Royals have paid such a premium for him. Morris must be under enormous pressure going into the tournament. I hope he does well but, really, is it even fair bidding him up this much?

He’s also got to contend with Stokes in the same side. Let’s be honest, if the Royals had paid the biggest IPL fee in history for Ben Stokes there would perhaps have been some logic behind it. He’s the premier all-rounder in Test cricket today and is an iconic, clutch player. He is — by any measure — a bigger name, a bigger draw and bigger box office.

What he’s not, in my data, is in better form. Across the dataset, Stokes has a runs per innings score of 21.42 which, although about three times higher than Morris, is only rank 55th for this metric. He scores at 134 runs per hundred balls — about the same as Morris.

With the ball, Stokes profiles surprisingly poorly; coming in ranked 85th. His strike rate of a wicket every 22.76 balls is lower mid table but his economy rate — of 9.14 runs per over — really hurts his ranking.

There has been some smart recruitment though.

On the batting front, another Englishman, Jos Buttler looks good. One of the bargains of the tournament, in fact. I rank Buttler overall as the 6th best batsman in the tournament. His strike rate of 150 runs per hundred balls is quick by any measure, and he scores volumes of runs too, with a runs per innings rate of 35.87 runs. That’s up there with the very best. Presumably Buttler will play as a specialist batsman with captain Samson taking the gloves.

Another value for money Englishman is Liam Livingstone. At SFTV we’re big fans of Livingstone. He ranks 33rd amongst batsmen, with R/I of 27.56 and a strike rate of 135 runs per 100 balls.

Both these players look good value for money, despite Buttler’s sizeable (£440k) fee. Livingstone, who cost just £74k — is terrific value. I suspect Livingstone — especially once he adds his golden arm bowling to the mix — will shine in this tournament, more than prove his worth and be signed for some multiple of £74k in IPL 2022.

The other key overseas batsman is South African David Miller. He profiles as mid table guy for both strike rate (ranked 61st) and runs per innings (ranked 52nd) but is an experienced player. He was another who was pretty inexpensive (£74k) so won’t have to do much to be excellent value for money.

The Royals also invested in Yashasvi Jaiswal, a 20 year old left handed batsman. He numbers coming into the tournament are not outstanding (he ranks 85th overall) but he already has double hundred in limited overs cricket and if anyone looks worth a put, it’s him. Definitely a player to keep an eye on.

On the bowling front, the potential star is Jofra Archer, though due to fitness issues he will miss the first few games. That must cast a doubt on his overall participation and he would be a huge loss for the Royals.

Archer is a top 20 bowler, indeed was man of the tournament in the last IPL. He is economical (7.33 runs an over) and takes wickets every 18.67 balls. A useful combination.

There are two other overseas pacemen: Andrew Tye and Mustafizur Rahman. Australian Tye takes wickets at an excellent rate (every 16.96 balls) with fairly average economy (8.62 runs per over). Rahman, from Bangladesh, has a very similar economy and takes wickets every 21.46 balls. Both were inexpensive recruits and look like smart squad players.

Jaydev Unadkat is the leading Indian seamer, though I rank him a lowly 95th. He has a fairly costly contract (£300k) so look set to play.

Chetan Sakariya might have something to say about that though. After a storming SMAT he sneaks in as overall number one in the bowling rankings. His 12 wickets for 98 runs (from a just-squeezing-in-the-data 120 balls) in that competition suggests he’s bang in form and another Royal to watch out for, if he gets game time.

On the spin front, leg spinner Shreyas Gopal looks a good player: takes wickets every 19.32 balls and goes for less than eight an over. A good combination. Rahul Tewatia also bowls leg spin, he goes for fewer runs an over (7.14) but takes 27.10 balls to take a wicket. He’s also a handy bat.

In a squad with plenty of leggies, it’s 23 year old Mayank Markande who may see the ball first. He’s ranked 31st overall, built on decent economy (7.60 per over).

Overall, the Royals looks a bit better on paper than their form coming into the IPL suggests. As a batting unit I rank them seventh out of eight; they just don’t quite score enough runs.

With the ball, they take wickets a little more quickly than average — but go for too many runs.

Taken together, this doesn’t quite seem enough. For all the undoubted talent available to them, I think they will fall short of doing enough to get through to the playoffs.

Sunrisers Hyderabad

David Warner leads a Sunrisers side that looks full of quality and look like a good bet to make the play off stages.

Warner himself is a key component of the batting line up, ranking 9th overall. His runs per innings of 43.21 is one of the very best and, as you would expect, he scores at a more-than-decent 138 runs per 100 balls.

SH batting: there’s classy runs there

He’s part of a talent batting line up. Jonny Bairstow is a ‘top quadrant’ player, with runs per innings of 33.43 and a strike rate of 144 runs per 100 balls. He ranks 12th overall. Also in the top 20 is Kane Williamson. The Kiwi Test maestro scores well (R/I of 32.09) and as quickly as Warner.

That’s what sets the Sunrisers apart: their big names also seem to have the genuine T20 numbers and not just high profiles across the game.

Joining these guys at the top of the order will undoubtedly be Jason Roy (ranked 37th) and Manish Pandey (ranked 50th). Both score at more than 26 runs per innings.

And we must also mention Virat Singh, a 23 year old left hander. He had a stunning SMAT, scoring at an amazing 50 runs per innings and a strike rate of 9.04 an over, facing 166 balls. This makes him the 2nd ranked batsman in the dataset. As ever, transferring SMAT form to the IPL is a big ask but the Sunrisers do have one of the form domestic batsmen to call on — another good young player to watch.

If the batting looks strong, then the bowling looks fantastic. With four ‘top right quadrant’ bowlers, the Sunrisers have an attack to trouble anyone.

SH bowling: batsmen — choose your poison

My favourite player in world cricket, and ranked 7th overall, is Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan. Taking wickets every 17.86 balls with an economy rate of 6.30, he offers control and penetration. Having sent down 1,518 balls in the competitions in the dataset, these numbers are the product of more bowling than anyone else going into the IPL too.

Rashid has his mate Mujeeb Ur Rahman bowling off spin too. He’s ranked 25th overall, taking wickets every 18.39 balls and going for 7.89 an over.

Sandwiched between them in the rankings is the West Indies former captain Jason Holder. Ranking 18th overall with the ball — and also handy with the bat — his contract for £75k is one of the best value in the tournament.

The final top quadrant bowler is yorker specialist T Natarajan. Taking wickets every 20.57 balls at a rate of 7.57 per over he’s another handy customer Warner can call on. With his contract worth £40k, that’s another good bit of squad building.

And then there’s Bhuvi.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar — Indian’s white ball man of the moment — is also part of the attack. He’s more economical (7.33 runs per over, ranked 28th) than wicket taking (strike rate of 27.70 which is…. not great). But what captain wouldn’t fancy having Bhuvi to throw the ball to?

Overall, the Sunrisers batting line up is about bang on average for runs per innings, though a little on the sluggish side; about 4 runs per hundred balls behind the average. That’s not huge, of course, and puts their ranking of 5th best batting side hot on the heels of 3rd and well clear of 6th.

With the ball, they are the number one side for economy — 7.64 runs per over versus the average of 8.05 — and, though their strike rate is surprisingly down at 6th, I have them overall as the equal 3rd attack.

This makes them my overall 3rd ranked side and I hope and expect to see them in the knock out stages. They look like a potentially very powerful side and would be my dark horses for the tournament.

Overall Predictions

To tie this together, my predictions then are…..

Punjab Kings to contest the final. The data says they’ll likely play the Mumbai Indians but I think they’ll lose out to Sunrisers Hyderabad. The other play-off team will be, by dint of Virat Kohli’s personality if nothing else, Royal Challengers Bangalore.

That said, if Kohli and de Villiers don’t fire then I could see Chennai Super Kings sneak into the latter stages — the Delhi Capitals will be competitive but it might be a long tournament for the Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals.

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Sports Fan TV Cricket Fan Show is part of the SFTV family. It’s on every week, on both YouTube as a video and on all good podcast platforms including Spotify and Google Podcasts. Mac hosts, and Steve — author of these articles — is joined by regular guest Tony to talk all things cricket.

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Pimlico Tiger

Former host of Sports Fans TV Cricket Fan Show and regular contributor to Premier League Football Fans Show.