Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pakistan's ODI Batting Problem

This post is in many ways a follow-up of a study done two years ago on general scoring patterns in ODI cricket. Previously, due to data constraints, only Pakistan, India, Australia, and South Africa were considered. This time however, owing to the extremely resourceful Shahan Shahid and the rest of his team at LUMS' Technology for People Initiative, we have player-versus-player data for all teams for all ODIs played starting with the 2001 NatWest Series. And well if you're a Pakistan fan, the data especially over the last few years doesn't present a pretty picture.

The data has been split into four different groups that correspond to major changes in fielding rules. They are defined as follows:

  • 2001-05 - Covers the period June 7, 2001, the date from which complete player versus player data first started becoming available, up till July 2, 2005. This period had the standard 'two fielders outside the 30-yard circle in the first 15, four in the circle after that'.
  • 2005-08 - Corresponds to July 7, 2005, when Powerplays were first introduced, till September 6, 2008.
  • 2008-12 - From October 9, 2008 to September 5, 2012. Batting teams were given a say as to when to take one of the two Powerplays after 10 overs.
  • 2012- From November 4, 2012 to present, which is ODI cricket under modern rules with one batting Powerplay and only four fielders allowed outside the circle in non-Powerplay overs. Most of the focus here will be on games played since late 2012.

Additionally, with due respect to Associate teams, only data for games played among the 10 Test playing nations is considered due to sample size issues.

Let's start off by taking a look at how batting strike rates have progressed for teams overall from 2001 onwards.

Just by eyeballing the graph, we can see the general trend is upwards. Most recently, New Zealand and Australia lead the way, being the first two teams to break the 90% strike rate mark, with the majority of the others coming in above 80%. Contrast that with 2001-05 when the only team above 80% was Australia.

Pakistan come in second from the bottom. While it may not be easy to spot, Pakistan in fact are the only team in this era of increasing strike rates with a lower strike rate today than they had in 2001-05.

India and South Africa seem almost inseparable the whole way through, even to the extent that they are the only two teams that see a decrease in strike rates since the new rules came into effect in late 2012.

For a more detailed look at strike rates, let's break them down by position. One by one, we'll look at the top seven in the batting order, and we'll stop there as they account for over 90% of all balls faced.

First up: openers.

Other than New Zealand, Australia, and the West Indies, every other team sees their openers' strike rates decrease under new rules. Part of it has to do with the rule of two new balls from each end that was introduced in 2011. Teams opt to be more watchful at the start in order to take full advantage of the relaxed rules later on. In India's case the drop from around 93 in 2008-12 to 87 from 2012 onwards is the effect of losing Virender Sehwag, who had a world-leading strike rate of close to 120 in the period prior.

For Pakistan, this isn't happy reading. The team has experienced two periods of continuous decline from 2008 onwards. Same as the overall trend, their openers now score more slowly than they did in 2001-05.

Here's the data on individual openers from 2012 onwards (all tables shown below cover only the period November 2012 - present, and have a minimum qualification of 300 balls faced).

Opening batsmen; Nov 2012 - present; min qualification: 300 balls faced

The default sort for all tables presented here is in descending order of scoring shot percentage (SS), which is calculated as (balls faced - dots)/balls faced. However, feel free to play around with the sorting filters as you wish by clicking on the dropdowns in the header row.

First let's look at the aggregate row. The average opener under the new rules scores at a strike rate of a shade under 82; roughly 33 runs off 40 balls, indicated by the RPI (runs per innings) and BPI (balls per innings) columns on the right. Over 57% of the balls faced are dots. So this is a basic yardstick to measure openers against. (The aggregate row by the way includes all openers, not just the ones that meet the 300 ball threshold.)

Hashim Amla is the only opener to score off more than half the balls that he faces (SS of 50.40). He hits fewer 4s and 6s than average (8.36 and 0.53 versus 8.92 and 1.24, respectively) but his rate of taking singles (34.72) is the best in the business, and he ends up with an above-average strike rate.

Below him, Brendon McCullum shows that there are many different ways of skinning the ODI cow. A staggering strike rate of close to 150 (the only player above 100 incidentally) is achieved by eschewing singles (he's the lowest at 17.85) in favor of the long ball. Over 26% of the balls he faces go for a 4 or a 6, comfortably higher than anyone else. While his innings are much shorter than average (25 balls versus 40) he sure makes them count, and is a big reason why New Zealand buck the trend in the graph above of openers having lower strike rates under new rules.

Pakistan are represented by Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, and Nasir Jamshed. Shehzad has faced over 2,000 balls in this period, the most after Dilshan, Amla, Dhawan, and Sharma. Yet unlike the other four, who all score 45+ runs every innings at 85+ strike rates, Shehzad scores a modest 36 runs at 72. His reputation is that of a big-hitting dot-ball merchant, happy to score 4 runs an over by blocking five balls and hitting one to the boundary. However, the data shows that he isn't even that good of a boundary hitter. His rate of scoring 4s is the 4th lowest at 7.34, while 5th lowest in terms of 6s. His singles rate is slightly lower than average (25.93 versus 26.87) but his main problem is lack of boundaries. Put differently, even if Shehzad were to miraculously start scoring singles at a world class 34% rate like Hashim Amla, this would still put him at a below average strike rate.

Compare him to Hafeez, who has an above average strike rate with a scoring shot rate that dips below 40%. That is because he's an above average boundary hitter. But Hafeez's innings both in terms of runs and balls are shorter (31 off 37) than average, from which we might infer that he doesn't convert starts as often as the team would like. So one opener who stays at the crease but doesn't score quickly, while another who scores quickly but isn't as consistent.

And then there's Jamshed, whose decline is captured by the fact that he has the lowest strike rate out of all openers here. His dot ball percentage isn't the worst, but the key again is boundaries. He is the worst in scoring 4s, a good 3.2% below average, which translates to a 3.2 x 4 = 12.8 strike rate differential. That's a lot.

Next is the strike rate progression for one down batsmen. Again the overall trend is upwards. Just a quick comment, the gap between Australia and the others in 2001-05 can be called the Ricky Ponting gap, while the gap between India and the rest in 2012- is the Virat Kohli gap (though Sangakkara isn't that far behind). A measure of how much better these players are than the competition.

South Africa went from having the best strike rate in 2008-12 to 5th best from 2012 onwards, and that is the effect of losing Jacques Kallis from the number 3 spot. They have replaced him with Faf du Plessis who doesn't score as quickly.

For Pakistan, while 2008-12 saw a precipitous decline, there has been an uptick of late. A lot of that has to do with the great run Hafeez has had at this position, particularly in 2013 with the highlight being the ODI series against Sri Lanka in the UAE.

One down batsmen; Nov 2012 - present; min qualification: 300 balls faced 

The average one down batsman from 2012 till now scores 36 off 44, at a slightly higher strike rate than the openers. This incidentally is the highest runs and balls per innings for all positions, an indication that teams generally slot their most dependable, consistent batsman here.

Jonathan Trott leads the way with a scoring shot rate of close to 56% (what is it with South Africans and batting efficiency?). He's the best at scoring 1s and 2s, and very good at 3s as well, which compensates for his relatively lower boundary rate. Steve Smith is next and in his short time promoted up to three he has shown phenomenal consistency. Kohli stands out both for his efficiency as well as power, having the best strike rate out of all these players. Followed by Kane Williamson and Sangakkara who also have tremendous records.

For Pakistan, Younis Khan is the second lowest in terms of strike rate, and the worst in runs and balls faced per innings. So he provides a double whammy of not a lot of runs at not a very fast rate. Again, while Younis has a better than average rate of scoring non-boundary runs, his 4s rate is the second lowest after James Taylor, and that hurts him the most.

Hafeez by comparison is a lot better, with an above average strike rate due to decent boundary hitting. His singles rate is below average though and a better conversion here would push him even higher up the list. Overall in fact, if someone had told you that Hafeez in the new era is almost as effective at one down as du Plessis (42 off 50 versus 45 off 56) you would probably laugh at them. But that's what the numbers show. Sure, we have to take into account differences in batting conditions, but what is true is that Hafeez at one down has been a pretty good option over the past couple of years. In hindsight, his absence from Pakistan's World Cup squad was probably felt the most.

At number four, South Africa are the trendsetters of late. AB de Villiers led the world in the period 2008-12 while a combination of him and newcomer Riley Rossouw continue to do it for them. India's relative decline here is due to a couple of things. One is they have pushed Kohli up to three, and secondly they have lost Yuvraj Singh circa 2005-11. While at times they have experimented with Kohli again - with great effect - lately it has been either Ajinkya Rahane or Ambati Rayudu, neither of whom have been able to keep up with the pace set earlier.

Australia are interesting, as the line is mostly flat around the 74% mark all the way through, until a sharp increase from 2012. All of this is pretty much down to Michael Clarke. The spike shows an improvement in his own game. Clarke's strike rate up to the last period was 74, while he increased it to 87 since then. Additional help from George Bailey and Steve Smith helps Australia go over 90% for this period.

Pakistan were the best in the world at this position between 2001-05 and are now the worst by a large margin, the only team below 70% while others all exceed 75. This is largely because of Misbah-ul-Haq. Misbah has spent a fair bit of time at both four and five but he bats a lot slower at four. Granted he is more often than not required for mop-up jobs after top order failures and is Pakistan's most consistent batsman, but this dependability comes at a cost.

Two down batsmen; Nov 2012 - present; min qualification: 300 balls faced 

At number four, the overall strike rate is slightly lower than at one down, with an average score of 33 off 41. Virat Kohli tops the scoring shot table. While his preferred position is quite clearly number three, he has proven equally if not more effective a spot lower. AB de Villiers is right up there with him in terms of efficiency, both score on around 60% of balls faced, which is a lot higher than average for this position.

Bangladesh also feature strongly here through Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah, who help make their team be the 3rd best in the world in terms of strike rate from the number four position. Very impressive given they were dead last between 2001-05.

For Pakistan, Misbah averages 42 off 64 balls, which is the second highest number of balls faced and sixth highest runs per innings. Much like Ahmed Shehzad discussed earlier, Misbah scores very few runs in boundaries compared to his peers, with his 4s rate the second lowest in this group. He also has the lowest percentage of 2s. Contrary to popular opinion, not scoring singles is not a major issue. Just as Shehzad, even if Misbah were to increase his singles from 34% to 44% to match de Villiers, his strike rate would still be 4% below average. It's the dots that others are scoring for boundaries that is the problem.

The other option they have tried is Sohaib Maqsood, who just hasn't shown the consistency needed to be successful at this position.

Number 5 is the spot from where the top teams are really starting to tee off. Both South Africa and New Zealand as a team bat at better than a run a ball, with Australia not far behind. If everything goes well, usually there are around 15-20 overs left, including the batting Powerplay, for the likes of de Villiers, David Miller, Brendon McCullum (before he switched to opening), Glenn Maxwell, etc. to come in and start smashing the ball around.

The highest strike rate at five in the early 2000s came from England when Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood batted there. Currently they have Eoin Morgan, who has really struggled of late, England apart from Bangladesh being the only team to see a strike rate drop here since 2012.

Pakistan have played mostly Misbah, and more recently the two left-handers Haris Sohail and Fawad Alam. While the overall strike rate has increased slightly of late, this is yet another batting position where they scored faster in the early 2000s.

Three down batsmen; Nov 2012 - present; min qualification: 300 balls faced 

Number five is the first batting position where the average batsman is expected to score on more than 50% of balls faced. The average strike rate of almost 88% is also considerably higher than earlier positions.

This is a position that de Villiers has made his own recently, and we're fast running out of superlatives for his batting. He is essentially playing a T20 innings with the same innovative shotmaking every time he comes out to bat, and is scoring a boatload of runs very, very quickly. A scoring shot rate of 63.3 is as close to unstoppable as it gets.

Behind him are Miller and Maxwell, also extremely destructive though to a lesser extent. Going down the table pretty much every team has at least one guy who can strike at around 90 while scoring 30-35 runs.

Except Pakistan of course. None of their players even cross the 80 mark. Fawad Alam, Misbah, and Haris Sohail are all in the bottom five in terms of hitting 4s, the first two being worst and second-worst, respectively. Alam to his credit has the better scoring shot percentage out of the three, and has the highest rate of scoring singles out of all three down batsmen. His RPI at 58 is also the highest, pointing to his consistency in the brief time he has been given in the team.

Misbah's stats at five are much better than four, as he scores almost the same amount of runs in fewer deliveries. Sohail's numbers are pretty similar as well. Ultimately all three offer more or less the same thing, and are held back by below average boundary hitting.

Number six has also seen a power surge in recent times. While in 2001-05, teams would do well to exceed a strike rate of 85, these days almost all teams are at this level. New Zealand lead the way mainly due to the efforts of Corey Anderson. Followed by Australia, who have played Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell here. South Africa, India, and England are grouped close to each other, and a bit below them are Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

In the previous decade, South Africa started at the top spot, with Mark Boucher filling this role and providing a fairly rapid 20-odd runs. Pakistan were second, and while they didn't have one go-to guy, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, and Abdul Razzaq were all pretty effective at this position. Currently Umar Akmal plays here and while his scoring rate is quite decent, his stays at the crease have gotten briefer, which is a worrying sign.

Four down batsmen; Nov 2012 - present; min qualification: 300 balls faced

In the scoring shot table, Mushfiqur Rahim leads the way with an outstanding record. Almost twice the number of average runs at a better than average strike rate. Bangladesh's other option Nasir Hossain isn't that bad either.

For India, this is MS Dhoni's preferred position. They used to play Suresh Raina here a lot as well in 2008-12, and he had a fabulous record. These days they have opted to push Raina up to five and keep Dhoni at six. Raina scores a bit quicker but Dhoni bats longer.

Pakistan as mentioned earlier play Umar Akmal in this spot, and overall he performs almost exactly the same as the average player. His average output, 24 off 27, is also pretty close to his last ODI innings in the World Cup quarter final versus Australia. Between 2008-12, he was averaging 31 off 37 in the same position, so his innings of late have gotten shorter. Pakistan would gladly take a few extra runs at a slightly lower strike rate from him. At present he has been dropped from the team of course, so it will be interesting to see who they replace him with.

On to our final set of results, for number seven batsmen. Once again, almost all teams have seen an increase in strike rates between 2008-12 and 2012 onwards, particularly England and New Zealand, who jump from 6th to 3rd and 8th to 2nd, respectively. Both have their wicketkeepers Jos Buttler and Luke Ronchi to thank for this increase.

Australia (very slightly) and South Africa are the two that have seen a strike rate drop. Australia have been pretty consistent at around 95 all the way through the last 10 years, playing the likes of Mike Hussey, James Hopes, Steve Smith, and more recently Brad Haddin and Matthew Wade. While South Africa have traditionally filled this position with a bowling all-rounder, starting with Shaun Pollock through the 2000s, and later on with Justin Kemp, Johan Botha, and Albie Morkel. They have tried Ryan McLaren here since 2012, but his contributions haven’t been satisfactory, and led to him not being picked for their World Cup squad.

Pakistan have traditionally always done well from the number seven spot in terms of strike rate. In the early 2000s Abdul Razzaq was slotted here. Since 2005, this position has mainly belonged to Shahid Afridi, who has consistently provided spurts of acceleration, but all too briefly.

Five down batsmen; Nov 2012 - present; min qualification: 300 balls faced

Looking at individual player data, this position has on average both the highest strike rate as well as scoring shot percentage. There usually aren’t many balls left in the innings when the number seven comes to bat, as indicated by a low 21 balls per innings, which also explains both the low dot balls and high boundary percentage as teams look to maximize scoring opportunities.

Jos Buttler leads the list in scoring shot rate and is 3rd in terms of strike rate. If you sort all players from 2001 till now, regardless of era breakdowns, Buttler has the highest scoring shot rate of all time. His 32 runs per innings is also the highest in this list, a mark that is better than the average runs even a number five batsman makes. So he provides England with not just quick runs but substantial contributions. Luke Ronchi plays a similar role for New Zealand, though his numbers see a significant skew due to his astonishing 170 off 99 against Sri Lanka.

Afridi has the highest strike rate among this group but the lowest number of balls faced. His average score at number seven is 22 off 16 balls. This should sound very familiar, because it is almost exactly the same score he put up in his last two ODI innings, versus Australia and South Africa. Since 2005 in fact, Afridi has averaged exactly 16 balls per innings and between 20-25 runs. While definitely entertaining (the highest six hitting rate of all time), Pakistan – same as with Umar Akmal at number six – would have preferred a bit more longevity in exchange for a lower strike rate. Which is a different way of saying they should probably have demoted Afridi further down the order – at eight, say, where he is much more successful compared to his peers – and played someone else at seven, but finding the right balance and personnel has been a continuous issue.

In summary, Pakistan’s challenges in ODI batting are numerous. In almost every position down the order, they are scoring slower than a decade ago, which is counter-intuitive when looked at in the context of how the rules of ODI cricket have changed. In the top and middle order there is a distinct lack of power hitting. Dot balls or lack of singles, while a problem, is not as big of an issue as the drought in boundaries. While further lower down the scoring spurts are all too brief. Generally, those that score don’t do it fast enough, while those that score quickly don’t stay around for too long.

Some of the problems can of course be traced to not playing any international cricket at home. Players don't have the luxury of rediscovering form playing on featherbeds in Karachi or Lahore. Their adopted home in the UAE, possibly due to slower pitches and bigger grounds, is also not as conducive to quick scoring as some of the other venues. Additionally, given the influence T20 cricket has had especially at the back end of ODI innings, their players not being able to participate in the IPL coupled with the absence of foreign players in the domestic T20 competition has meant that to a certain extent, modern cricket is passing them by.

Plenty of changes have been announced for the upcoming series with Bangladesh. Misbah and Afridi have retired, while Younis Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, and Umar Akmal have been dropped, justifiably so one may add. The recall of Fawad Alam is an encouraging sign. Less so Asad Shafiq, who over the last couple of years has a strike rate of 58% with a dot ball ratio of close to 60% and the lowest boundary percentage out of all their batsmen. What gap he is there to fill is unclear. The batsmen in general should find conditions in Bangladesh favorable, but looking to the future it is difficult to see where the solutions will come from.

Note: If you click on the bottom right of any of the tables, there's a link from where you can view and download the full-size workbook. It also includes data for all players since November 2012, not shown here due to space issues.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A Timeline of ODI Rule Changes

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of rule changes. The focus is mainly on changes in fielding restrictions, as well as ball changes, scoring of no-balls, and bouncer limits.

As you read through, you'll notice there are several gaps, indicated by question marks, where I simply don't know when a particular rule was introduced. Information from 2005 onwards is readily available, but prior to that it isn't easy to verify. Any help with this is greatly appreciated.

Fielding Restrictions

1983 – After the 1983 World Cup the ICC decided that only three fielders could be placed outside the 30-yard circle in the first fifteen overs. (Source)

This raises two questions:

1) Were there any fielding restrictions at all prior to this?
2) If not, what was the point of having a 30-yard circle?

???? – At some point it was established that you had to have at least four fielders inside the ring (or equivalently, no more than five outside the ring). This was definitely in place at least as early as the 1986 Australasia Cup because in clips from the final you can see Miandad pointing and counting while surveying the field towards the end of the game.

1992(?) – Only two fielders could be placed outside the 30-yard circle in the first fifteen overs.

???? – The rule about having 2 close-in catching fielders at all times in the first fifteen overs (or was it the first six/seven only?) was established at some point in the 90s.

2005 – Powerplays were introduced starting with the first match of the NatWest Challenge between England and Australia on July 7.

Powerplay 1: Applied to overs 1-10. Same rules as what was in place for the first fifteen overs at that time i.e. only two fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle, and two close catchers needed.

Powerplay 2 and 3: Two additional blocks of five overs each, which could be taken at any point after the 10th over at the discretion of the fielding captain. Only two fielders were allowed outside the 30-yard circle, while the two close catchers were not mandatory. (Source)

2007 – Number of fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle was increased from two to three for the second and third Powerplay. (Source)
Update March 31, 2015: Effective October 1, the number of fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle was increased from two to three in EITHER the 2nd OR 3rd Powerplay, the idea being it would help the spinners. (See the notes in the ball-by-ball commentary here)

2008 – Starting with the one-day series between New Zealand and Bangladesh in October, the batting team was allowed to decide when to introduce either the second or the third Powerplay. In other words the fielding and batting team each got one Powerplay. (Source)

2011 – Effective October 1, the five-over bowling and batting Powerplays could be taken after 15 overs, and had to be completed by the 40th over. Previously teams could take the Powerplays at any time after the 10th over. (Source)

2012 – Where we are currently. Effective October 30, the bowling Powerplay was scrapped. The batting Powerplay must be completed by the 40th over (so theoretically it can be taken immediately after the 10th over, which wasn't allowed under the rule changes in 2011). The fielding side can have no more than two fielders outside the 30-yard circle in the first Powerplay, and no more than three in the second. Additionally, the number of fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle during non-Powerplay overs has been reduced from five to four. (Source)

This last point is the most talked-about change at the moment, as many feel it has tilted the balance massively in favor of batsmen.

Ball Changes

2007 - Mandatory ball change after 35 overs. (Which ODI was the first to feature this rule? See March 31, 2015 update above.) Prior to this, umpires would change the ball at their discretion, either when it became too discolored or lost shape. (Source: see Fielding Restrictions, 2007)

2011 – Current rules. Two new balls from each end, effective October 1. (Source: see Fielding Restrictions, 2011)


???? – Originally if you scored any runs off a no-ball (or wides) you didn’t get an extra run for the no-ball. This was introduced starting when?

2007 – Free hit after front-foot no-ball. (Source: see Fielding Restrictions, 2007)


???? – While initially there was no limit on bouncers(?), they were completely disallowed at some point. Bowling a bouncer resulted in a no-ball.

2001 – Bowlers were allowed one bouncer per over. (Source)

2012 – Current rules. Bowlers are allowed two bouncers per over. (Source: see Fielding Restrictions, 2012)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What Color Food Should You Eat?

In traditional Chinese medicine the color of the food you eat plays an important role in terms of health. Foods of a certain color target or are good for specific organs inside the body. Additionally you should consume more of a certain color depending on the time of the year.

Here's how it breaks down:

Green - good for liver function; eat more greens in spring.
Black - kidney; winter. Think black beans. Bonus points for kidney-shaped beans?
Red - heart; summer. Watermelon for example, which incidentally is also a good thirst-quencher.
White - lungs; autumn. A time when radishes are in season.
Yellow - spleen; long summer (or the period between summer and autumn).

All this was related to me by a coworker of mine who is from mainland China. Said coworker recently also gave me a kind of tea to drink when I had a cold, which had a bit of a joshanda feel to it. It worked, sort of, though I cannot vouch for the taste.

I believe it all. Also I just wanted to save this before it gets lost among my notes about how to set interest crediting rates on fixed annuities.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dot Ball Analysis - India, South Africa, Australia, Pakistan

So last week after I shared the numbers on Pakistan’s percentage of dot balls, a number of people asked to know how it compared with some of the other teams. I looked at the top 3 teams in terms of win/loss percentage over that period - Australia, South Africa, and India - and pulled some more data.

Here’s what it looks like (Pakistan's numbers having been updated to include the last 2 one-dayers):

June 2001 to present:
RSA66549 35071 21515 3650 491 5088 8 726 55036 82.7 52.7 38.6 8.7 47.3
AUS88237 46940 27568 5235 847 6617 12 1018 73215 83.0 53.2 38.1 8.7 46.8
IND93224 50434 28742 4897 534 7568 24 1025 76680 82.3 54.1 36.7 9.2 45.9
PAK78799 43567 23852 4312 598 5601 9 860 61879 78.5 55.3 36.5 8.2 44.7

So the average for these four teams is around 54% dots, with South Africa and Australia above, and India and Pakistan below this number. India is able to beat the average strike rate because of its high boundary rate, though more interestingly South Africa and Australia are able to do the same with just an average boundary rate, because they have a greater proportion of 1s, 2s, and 3s. 

In the last post in an effort to save space I had combined the 1s, 2s and 3s, and the 4s and 6s together. I think it's more helpful to split these out because they affect the strike rate differently, and doing so can help answer questions such as why Australia has a slightly higher strike rate than South Africa even though their scoring shot percentage is lower.

June 2001 to present:
RSA82.7 52.7 32.3 5.5 0.7 7.7 1.1 47.3
AUS83.0 53.2 31.2 5.9 1.0 7.5 1.2 46.8
IND82.3 54.1 30.8 5.3 0.6 8.1 1.1 45.9
PAK78.5 55.3 30.3 5.5 0.8 7.1 1.1 44.7

Australia score fewer singles, and are also a touch lower on 4s, but more than make up for it because of the higher percentage of 2s and 3s, and a hair's width increase in the number of 6s. So, score more of shots that produce more runs and you can afford to pick up fewer singles without hurting your strike rate. Hopefully that's easy enough to understand.

Also, if you want to take one of these differences and translate it into a strike rate differential, the math is very simple. For example, a 1% increase in the number of 4s hit means a 1% x 4 = 4% increase in strike rate. Looking at India and Pakistan's numbers, that pretty much explains the difference in strike rates.

Now, given that the above is over the last 12 years, how about more recent numbers? What do things look like this decade i.e. 2011 onwards.

2011 to present:
RSA85.0 48.7 36.8 5.4 0.8 7.3 1.0 51.3
IND85.7 50.2 34.6 5.7 0.5 7.9 1.1 49.8
AUS81.9 53.1 31.7 5.9 0.9 7.0 1.2 46.9
PAK75.9 55.3 31.4 4.8 0.7 6.8 0.9 44.7

Difference between 2011 - and 2001 -
RSA2.3 (4.0)4.5 (0.1)0.1 (0.4)(0.1)4.0
IND3.5 (3.9)3.8 0.4 (0.0)(0.3)0.0 3.9
AUS(1.0)(0.1)0.5 (0.0)(0.1)(0.5)0.1 0.1
PAK(2.6)0.1 1.2 (0.7)(0.1)(0.3)(0.2)(0.1)

South Africa are still top and they've gotten a lot better. They now score on more than 50% of balls faced. India have improved a lot as well, and are almost at the 50% mark. The largest difference for both teams comes in the 1s column, with a very noticeable increase of around 4% in the number of singles both teams take. This offsets the small drop from scoring fewer boundaries, and helps increase the overall strike rate.

Australia see their strike rate decrease slightly mostly because of fewer 4s hit. 

Pakistan as I had mentioned the last time see a drop in their strike rate even though the overall SS% hasn't really moved. But what has changed is the actual composition of their scoring shots. Previously I had said it's the fewer boundaries. Which is true when looking at 4s and 6s combined. But the single biggest driver is actually the lower proportion of 2s, something I didn't pick up on the last time because I was too focused on dot balls. In this time period (mostly under Misbah if you ignore the first half of 2011) this 4.8% of 2s is the lowest out of all the other Pakistani teams I discussed. Is it because of the older legs in the middle order of the current lot? Grounds aren't that big where they play? Or is it related to fewer boundaries i.e. they're just not hitting the ball far enough? I don't know the reason but my guess would be it's more to do with lazy running.

Anyway the main point here I guess is that it's not good enough to maintain status quo if you're Pakistan. It's great that the number of dot balls hasn't increased but they need to go further down. Other teams are moving in the opposite direction, and in South Africa and India's case it's simply by scoring more singles. Which I would imagine involves taking fewer risks than trying to hit more boundaries. This last point largely addressed to those who were questioning the case for Fawad Alam by pointing out his low percentage of boundaries. He more than compensates for it with his high ratio of 1s and 2s.

Now, on to the individual players themselves. I had to put a qualifier of 'balls faced 3000 or greater' otherwise it would be too many. But you can see the complete list in the tables I post at the end.

 June 2001 to present (qualification: balls faced > 3000):
1 Duminy40.083.644.842.
2 Afridi23.2126.845.
3 Amla58.892.245.637.
4 Hussey48.287.245.739.
5 ABdeV50.293.846.936.
6 Boucher31.789.447.
7 Raina32.191.647.936.
8 Kohli42.186.048.536.
9 Dhoni48.287.648.636.
10 Symonds42.191.050.631.
11 Gambhir41.485.
12 Razzaq32.
13 Younis33.277.451.535.
14 Clarke44.778.251.634.
15 MoYo43.577.552.
16 Inzi37.879.152.534.
17 Kallis47.676.652.635.
18 Malik33.778.953.
19 Misbah41.273.953.
20 Martyn41.475.553.333.
21 Yuvraj44.787.353.630.
22 Sehwag37.0104.553.624.75.10.514.41.730.316.146.4
23 Dravid45.073.854.
24 Watson42.188.854.
25 Kaif35.
26 Ponting42.583.354.
27 Gilchrist37.0102.
28 Sachin42.585.655.527.55.50.710.20.733.610.944.5
29 Haddin32.181.756.
30 Smith38.981.256.427.
31 Gibbs38.286.857.724.85.10.710.31.430.611.742.3
32 Kakmal26.483.857.824.
33 Hayden45.
34 Dippenaar44.668.758.
35 Butt36.876.359.924.
36 Ganguly42.173.960.526.
37 Hameed36.967.063.422.
38 Hafeez27.369.163.922.

The top 5 has three South Africans, plus Afridi and Hussey. I would've expected Hussey to be #1, JP Duminy came as a complete surprise. Since he's been out of action of late due to injury, I haven't really seen him play.

Rounding out the top 10 are Raina, Kohli, and Dhoni, who form the backbone of the Indian middle order, with Gambhir not far behind at 11. Except for Gambhir and Hashim Amla, the top half is almost all middle order batsmen until you get to Sehwag at 22.

Amla's position at 3 is an anomaly almost of Bradmanesque proportions. The fact that he's so far ahead of other openers is pretty astounding. I think it points to his ability to convert his starts into high scores with great consistency. His last innings being a good example. After the first 10 overs he was 11 off 19 with 2 fours and 5 scoring shots in total i.e. 14 of 19 were dots. Of his next 94 balls only 23 were dots and he completed a half century just in singles. (Of course being dropped before 50 also helped.) Him and AB de Villiers are the best partnership in ODI cricket - possibly ever - and it's easy to see why. There's just simply no way to keep them quiet. They can reach the boundary regularly and also pick up singles with the utmost of ease.

Don't laugh when you look at Hafeez at the bottom. Seriously, his problem is the exact opposite of Hashim Amla, which is that he wastes too many good starts. What ends up happening is he plays a greater proportion of deliveries in the period where the ball's newer and there are more fielders in the ring, and just never gets to the point where run-scoring gets easier.

In general for Pakistan, what they have currently out there - Younis Khan the highest ranked frontline batsman at 13 - just isn't good enough. In order to keep up with other countries they need more busy bodies in there, especially in the middle order.

Addendum: One thing I'd like to add is: the South Africa effect. Their batsmen are consistently above the 50% scoring shots level, especially the middle/lower middle order. Some of the players I wasn't able to show here because of the 3000 ball qualifier are guys like Jonty Rhodes, Lance Klusener, Shaun Pollock, Albie Morkel, Nicky Boje, Johan Botha, and from among the newer guys Faf du Plessis. They're all above 50%.

South Africa have always had a very clinical, professional approach, especially to ODI cricket. Just looking at the numbers and seeing how many of them score so efficiently, I think this reflects on how those players are coached.

India's ODI surge one can argue began under the MS Dhoni captaincy, which started right after they won the T20 World Cup in 2007. Who did they hire as coach soon afterwards? Gary Kirsten from South Africa.

Is it a coincidence that India's scoring shot percentage has now started to trend upwards? I would put my money on no. I think this is the result of Kirsten instilling the same professional approach in India's ODI batting, especially among the newer guys like Raina and Kohli, that has been part and parcel of South African cricket throughout this time. And now even with Kirsten gone this approach is flourishing.

People had also mentioned trying to do this analysis based on over splits (e.g. what is the dot ball percentage between overs 15-35) but I'm afraid I don't have the data for that at the moment. I imagine for something like that I would need to parse Cricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary, but I haven't quite had the time to figure that out. The problem is deciding how nimble I want such a system to be. For if I'm collecting data on how batsmen score their runs, might as well analyze it from the perspective of bowlers as well. And extras, which are completely ignored here. Etc, etc. The more I want it to do, the more complex it'll be. Anyway, probably something to look for in the future.

Here's a zip file containing in CSV format the full list of 120 players (30 per team) as well as all innings data that I collected.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How Pakistan Scores Its Runs In ODIs

Fawad Alam has a very high percentage of scoring shots. Image source: ESPN Cricinfo
Here’s some data on how Pakistan as a team and players individually score their runs in ODIs. The goal of this exercise was to try and answer the question: what percentage of balls faced do players score runs on? One of the frustrations many people have with the current team under Misbah-ul-Haq is that they waste a lot of deliveries in dot balls and seem inept at turning the strike over. I wanted to analyze this in somewhat of a historical context, comparing the current team’s stats with its predecessors to see how bad this tendency was. I also wanted to look at how the individual players stack up, and separate the ball-hoggers from the strike-rotators.

Data has been gathered from the Player v player tab on Cricinfo’s match scorecards, as that’s the only place you can get a breakdown of how many dots, ones, twos, etc. each batsman scores. At the moment this data goes all the way back to the NatWest Series in the summer of 2001. I’m not sure if this is something that they are gradually updating for older scorecards, because ideally it would be nice to have this kind of information for all games. Of course in an ideal world this data would also be integrated into Statsguru and be easily retrievable. Anyway, the available data covers 287 matches, 76 batsmen, and over 78,000 deliveries faced in 3,000+ innings. So it’s a fairly rich sample and covers a wide variety of opponents, pitches, and conditions. (A download link to a CSV file with all the data is provided at the end.)

Here’s what the aggregate data looks like over this period:

Aggregate78273 43276 23705 4287 596 5557 9 843 61398 78.4 55.3 36.5 8.2 44.7
SR% = runs/balls; Dot% = 0s/Balls; 4,6% includes 5s as well; SS% = 1 - Dot% or 123% + 4,6%

This was a bit surprising to say the least. On average the team doesn't score on over 55% of balls faced, highlighted by 'Dot%' above, which is simply 0s divided by Balls. This translates to 10 dot balls every 3 overs. And the counterpart to this number is SS% - the percentage of scoring shots - coming in at 44.7%.

How do these numbers look batting first vs batting second?

Bat_1st4233922602135272461310294744883411580.6 53.4 38.5 8.1 46.6
Bat_2nd3593420674101781826286261053552728375.9 57.5 34.2 8.3 42.5

Batting first and setting targets the team does better than aggregate. Batting second and chasing, the team wastes more balls, rotates the strike less, and even though it scores a few more in boundaries, the overall strike rate is lower. This goes hand in hand with what we already know to be the team's problems with chasing targets.

Next, how do aggregate figures look for the different teams? The time period covered corresponds to the following captaincy periods:
  • Waqar Younis (2001 - 03)
  • Rashid Latif (2003)
  • Inzamam-ul-Haq (2003 - 07)
  • Shoaib Malik (2007 - 09)
  • Younis Khan (2009)
  • Mohammad Yousuf (2010) (just for the Australia ODI series)
  • Shahid Afridi (2010 - 11)
  • Misbah-ul-Haq (2011 - present)
I made some adjustments to these groupings. For example, this Asia Cup ODI against India in 2008 counts as a 'Malik' game even though Misbah was the captain, since this was really a Shoaib Malik-era team. Making this adjustment helps me to keep the numbers separate. There are other similar instances during Inzamam's captaincy with Razzaq, Younis, or Yousuf sometimes filling in.

Malik9979 5080 3243 649 79 816 0 112 8714 87.3 50.9 39.8 9.3 49.1
Afridi8749 4669 2841 459 66 608 2 104 7023 80.3 53.4 38.5 8.2 46.6
Inzi25793 14242 7719 1463 215 1854 3 297 20503 79.5 55.2 36.4 8.4 44.8
Aggregate7827343276 23705 4287 596 5557 9 843 61398 78.4 55.3 36.5 8.2 44.7
Misbah8838 4922 2790 410 62 588 1 65 6543 74.0 55.7 36.9 7.4 44.3
Waqar14894 8436 4351 782 105 1035 1 184 11479 77.1 56.6 35.2 8.2 43.4
Younis5556 3206 1579 285 34 414 0 38 4135 74.4 57.7 34.2 8.1 42.3
MoYo1039 627 263 62 11 63 0 13 750 72.2 60.3 32.3 7.3 39.7
Latif3425 2094 919 177 24 179 2 30 2251 65.7 61.1 32.7 6.2 38.9

The above is in descending order of scoring shot percentage, and I've added the Aggregate line in there as well to see where teams place in relation to it. Again, none of these teams break the 50% mark, with the Malik team coming closest at 49%. That team leads the rest by some distance in all scoring categories - strike rate, strike rotation, boundary hitting. If you look at scoring shots and strike rate simultaneously and go down the list, you can see an almost direct relationship between the two. Waste fewer balls and you'll score quicker, seems to be. Except for when you get  to Waqar and Younis Khan's teams, both of whom have a lower SS% than Misbah's team for example, but a higher strike rate, which owes to their higher proportion of boundaries.

This of course brings us to #TeamMisbah. When doing this analysis I fully expected their dot ball percentage to be through the roof, along with an abysmal strike rotation score, what with Mohammad Hafeez hogging the strike at the top and Misbah himself in the middle order. As it turns out, this isn't the case. The current team is just about on average in terms of wasting deliveries, and in fact, strangely enough, does better than average in strike rotation. What leads to the lower strike rate, however, is the lower than average proportion of boundaries hit. At 7.4%, they are third from the bottom in that respect, and this hurts the overall scoring rate.

Let's take a bit of a closer look at this. I'll split the batting order into top, middle, and lower, using Cricinfo batting position conventions (top = 1-3, middle = 4-7, and lower = 8-11). And further split the data between the current team and all data points excluding the current team.

Rest307981843877781517283253742412327575.6 59.9 31.1 9.0 40.1
Misbah43072547118519535326019309871.9 59.1 32.9 8.0 40.9

Rest3134215937109111909208198343902564581.8 50.8 41.6 7.6 49.2
Misbah38371994138817125222136291475.9 52.0 41.3 6.8 48.0

Rest729539792226451434490147593581.4 54.5 37.3 8.2 45.5
Misbah6943812174424001053176.5 54.9 37.9 7.2 45.1

It's pretty much the same pattern as the overall picture shown earlier. The current team's SS% and 123% are always there or thereabouts - even higher for the top order, in spite of Hafeez, go figure - but the lower percentage of boundaries across the board means that the strike rate is always lower by around 5 points.

Why is this? What is the point of comparison between the current team and Shoaib Malik's team for example, which is streets ahead of everybody else in strike rate and boundary hitting? Well, start with openers. Malik for the most part had Kamran Akmal/Nasir Jamshed together with Salman Butt. They struck at 90+ and 80+ and always with 10% or more in boundaries. At 3 was a younger and fitter Younis Khan also batting at 90+. 4, 5 and 6 were Yousuf, Malik, and Misbah, at 80, 90+, and 90+, respectively. Followed up with Afridi who went at a million miles an hour, always. Of course, something also has to be said about the docile bowling attacks this team faced on batting-friendly sub-continental pitches.

Still, compare with the current team. Nasir Jamshed is back, and is playing extremely well. Hafeez with his ODI form having regressed in the last year and a half doesn't replace Butt or Kamran Akmal (and of course the current version of Kamran Akmal himself doesn't replace Kamran Akmal). Younis does better now at 4 than at 3 where some combination of him, Azhar Ali, and Asad Shafiq combines to scratch around at a strike rate of 66%. (Push Younis down to 4 and he goes to 90+.) Misbah has a safety-first approach, Malik and Afridi are out of form, and there's no Razzaq either with the lower order big hitting. So while there doesn't seem to be a lack of 'let me dab it and run' especially in the middle order, they are definitely missing someone who can take the initiative from one end.

This will be abundantly clear when you look at the individual player data.


These are the top 30 batsmen in terms of balls faced over the last 12 years, but ordered again in terms of scoring shot percentage. Once again, I was surprised to find that all but 2 players were below 50%, I would've expected the number to be higher. Shahid Afridi has the highest at almost 55% but that means that even someone like him doesn't score off more than 4 of every 10 balls faced.

Afridi's high scoring shot rate is down to his insane boundary hitting ability (which has dipped of late however). To put it in some perspective, he is responsible for close to 25% of the total number of 6s (843) hit in this time. But the lowish average of 23 indicates that this is a very high risk strategy.

Next is Fawad Alam at 52%, and this is due to his high strike rotation rate of 47%. Because of his low boundary proportion (lowest of the 30) it means his strike rate isn't as high as such a high SS% would indicate. But his ability to turn the strike over means he's the ideal guy to have around with a bigger hitter at the other end.

Someone like Umar Akmal who comes in at 3, and as the overall line indicates is the best middle order ODI batsman the team has at the moment. He combines a decent boundary hitting ability with excellent running between the wickets, and, well, nothing more to say other than it's absolutely criminal that someone like Asad Shafiq or Azhar Ali (16 and 17) is preferred over him. If in the current team you swap in Fawad Alam and Umar Akmal for any two of Misbah, Asad Shafiq, and Azhar Ali, that goes a long way towards helping increase the scoring rate.

At 4 is Moin Khan, there as a reminder as to what he used to bring to the lower order. He was one of my favorite guys to watch back in the day (even as I preferred Rashid Latif over him as a wicketkeeper) because of how busy he always was at the crease. I had to hide the column due to space issues but Moin leads this list in terms of percentage of 3s scored. Just noticing that brought a smile to my face. A single meant a double and a double invariably meant a triple when he was batting.

At the other end of the list are the ball-hoggers, guys who get under your skin by their lethargic attitude at the crease. 7 of the bottom 10 are openers, which in a way makes sense that they have to be more watchful than say a middle order batsman, but really you have to question what this particular group, all with very similar sorts of low strike rates, averages, strike rotation, SS%, contributes to the team. (Saeed Anwar is a bit unfortunate to find himself so low on this list, his last couple of years he was but a shadow of his former self, with his strike rate here a good 10 points below his career figure.)

And all this makes you realize the worth of Nasir Jamshed at 12 that much more. He is an opener but with a line that makes him look like a middle order bat. It's still early days in his career but let's hope his form continues.

So, finally just to recap as I realize I've kind of rambled on:
  • Since 2001 Pakistan's percentage of dot balls is 55%.
  • The current team under Misbah is no different.
  • The current team is slightly above average when it comes to picking up ones, twos, & threes. So strike rotation has not fallen under Misbah.
  • The current team is below average in scoring boundaries in pretty much every batting position.
  • Because of this last point, they don't score as fast as the teams that came before.
  • Two players who don't waste too many dot balls are Fawad Alam and Umar Akmal. Both need to be permanent members of the middle order.
  • Most of our openers over the last 12 years have been ball-hoggers who are crap at their job.
  • Except for Nasir Jamshed, who's a gem.
Lastly, just a quick note about the aggregate number of runs, balls, etc. here. As mentioned at the top these were taken from the 'Player v player' comparison tab. As it turns out, the figures there are not always in accordance with the actual scorecard, which is where Statsguru pulls its queries from. So for example if you do a Statsguru query on Mohammad Hafeez, his total number of runs and balls faced are slightly different than what's shown here, because of this discrepancy between scorecards and the 'Player v player' tab. The overall difference however is very small - less than 0.1% - and has no material impact on any of the calculations.

You can download the data I used from here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hiroshima: Khamosh Chaltay Jao

I'm off to Hiroshima tomorrow for the weekend. I'm reminded of this poem by Junichi Mizuno, translated into Urdu by Yutaka Asada.

I will try and pay heed.

Hiroshima after the bombing. Source: Wikipedia

Also while doing some research for the trip I came across a crazy (in a completely heart-wrenching way) story about a man named Tsutomu Yamaguchi:
In August 1945, Yamaguchi was sent to Hiroshima on a business trip. With the job done, his co-workers left, but Yamaguchi realized that he had forgotten his personal seal for signing official documents, so he headed back into town to pick it up. That's when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Badly burned, deaf, and partially blind, he spent a night in the ruins of the city, and then found a railway station on the western edge of the city that was back in operation. He managed to catch a train home to Nagasaki, where — as Yamaguchi explained to his disbelieving boss what had happened in Hiroshima — the second atomic bomb was dropped.

In 2009, the Japanese government certified the still-living Tsutomu Yamaguchi as the first known person to have been at ground zero of both atomic blasts. A year later, Yamaguchi passed away from stomach cancer at the age of 93.
Just to get some perspective on what it means to have a bad travel story. Next time your plane's delayed or you lose your luggage or something, try and remember the story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi.