Is MSD the batsman still the best finisher in the IPL?

MSD clobbers Irfan Pathan in the last over of a do-or-die match to qualify for the playoffs and eventually win CSK’s first IPL

When the Cricket world debates the finest captains to have ever played the game in colored clothing, one name will always be in the list of contenders – Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Even when such debates circle around the topic of the best wicketkeepers, he should find a seat in the TOP 5 in the one-day formats. However, the role he carved out for himself in any of the teams he has played for which made him an immovable force was his role as a finisher in the batting order. The greatest knock as a finisher in his long international career might always be 91* in CWC 2011 Finals. While his 50 of 72 balls in CWC 2019 Semi-Finals against NewZealand is speculated to be one which made him take the call of international retirement a year later.

Apart from his numerous mentionable contributions in the blue jersey, the ones in the yellow have had a major impact on the persona of MS Dhoni, the cricketer. MS Dhoni the captain almost always overshadows his role as the finisher and the big hitter for CSK in the IPL. In the T20 format, every team looks for at least one bat in the last few overs which strikes in upwards of 150 in every 100 balls he faces. This is where MS Dhoni the batsman came to the forefront over a long period of time for the Chennai-based franchise. Since this role in the shortest format of the game statistically has had the most decisive impact on the result of a match, we will take a deep dive to understand if Captain Cool is still ideal for this role for CSK in the IPL.

Approach

            We have analyzed his IPL performance with the bat since inception of tournament in two phases-

  1. IPL 2008 – IPL 2019, the period when he was regularly playing Cricket till his international retirement.
  2. Post IPL 2019, when he only played Cricket for CSK in the IPL

In these two phases combined we found that he has faced around 370 balls in the 15th, 16th and 17th overs which is more than any other overs in his IPL career to date. Looking at this information, we further dived into his performance post the 14th over of an innings in the two phases. We compared his own performance in the two phases and then we compared the performance of other players in the IPL who have performed a similar role as his for different franchises with him all based on actual data.

KPIs   

The Key Performance Indicators measured during this analysis after the 14th over of the innings are as below –

  1. Batting Strike Rate – This KPI indicates the number percentage of runs scored per 100 balls faced. As for a finisher in the T20 format, it becomes essential to accelerate at a brisk pace to set or chase the desired target.
  2. Runs per Innings – While batting average is the more popular KPI chosen to represent a batsman’s performance. In the shortest format and during the closing stages of an innings, it becomes almost immaterial if the batsman gets out or stays not out. While batting average is calculated as the total runs divided by the number of innings where the batsman was out, we have hence calculated RPI (Runs per innings) as a total number of runs divided number of innings played independent of the batsman being out or not out.
  3. Balls per innings – While comparing his own performance against himself we also wanted to check the number of balls he played in the two phases analyzed to get an idea about the amount of time he was spending in the crease to make the contributions he was making.

Tools used

We used Python programming for the analysis and visualization of all the parameters.

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