Getting Battered With Dot Balls


The quality of batsmanship on display in the recently concluded Caribbean T20 tournament left a lot to be desired. Trinidad and Tobago, whose heavyweight batting line-up mercilessly bludgeoned a succession of hapless bowling ‘attacks’ into submission, was the notable exception. Other laudable individual batting performances were turned in by Jamaica’s Chris Gayle, Guyana’s Chris Barnwell and the Combined Campuses and Colleges’ Chadwick Walton. However, by and large, there was precious little excitement generated by the willow wielders.

Only one team – Combined Campuses and Colleges – really demonstrated the requisite appreciation for the importance of minimizing the number of dot balls consumed and rotating the strike. If not for their knack of toying with their woefully overmatched opponents, one suspects that Trinidad and Tobago could have been pacesetting in this regard as well. Most other batting units seemed intent on compiling a cache of dot balls for some apparently covert purpose. There was precious little acknowledgement of the fact that deliveries are too precious a commodity to wantonly waste in T20 cricket. This has to change. So, too, does the system of appraising the performance of batsmen.

Pacman

In baseball, Sabermetrics, a comprehensive system for statistical analysis, is extensively used to evaluate player performance. Thanks to the evolution of this system, a ‘batter’ (baseball’s equivalent of a batsman/batswoman) no longer has their production – or lack thereof – assessed solely based on individually isolated measures such as home runs (akin to a six in cricket), batting average, runs batted in, etc. Now, however, through the use of integrative metrics such as On-base Plus Slugging (OPS), it is much easier to get a comprehensive read on the relative effectiveness and value of a particular hitter’s offensive contribution to his team.

Like in baseball, we, too, need to become much more analytical when evaluating batsmen and their performance. As such, I propose the use of the Batting Efficiency Score (BES) mechanism, which features a BES Calculator and an accompanying interpretative BES Classifier, as one of the tools for evaluating a batsman’s performance. The proposed BES formula for calculating T20 batting efficiency is detailed below:

BES = Runs scored + Leg byes – Penalty runs ∕ Deliveries faced

The batsman would be credited for each run he scores. He would also be ‘credited’ for each leg bye that results while he is on strike. Hence, if the batsman Napoleon Einstein scores fifty (50) runs and ‘generates’ a further four (4) leg byes during his sojourn at the crease, he would be credited for a gross run output of fifty-four (54) runs. However, a nominal penalty of one (1) run would be imposed for each dot ball, a legitimate delivery off which no runs is scored, that he consumes.

Assuming Einstein failed to score off twenty (20) deliveries he faced, he would be liable for a corresponding twenty (20) run penalty. This 20-run liability would be subtracted from the batsman’s 54-run gross output, leaving him with a net output of thirty-four (34) runs. This 34-run net output would then be divided by the number of balls faced by the batsman. Let’s say that Einstein faced forty (40) deliveries in total during his innings. The thirty-four (34) runs to his credit, divided by the forty (40) deliveries faced, produces a batting efficiency score (BES) of 0.85.

The BES Classifier, which is represented below, was developed to aid interpretation of the batting efficiency scores generated by the BES Calculator.

Rating

Batting Efficiency Score (BES)

Excellent (A)

1.75 & above

Very good (B)

1.50 – 1.74

Good (C)

1.25 – 1.49

Average (D)

1.00 – 1.24

Poor (E)

0.75 – 0.99

Very poor (F)

0.50 – 0.74

Atrocious (G)

0.49 & below

Its seven bands were demarcated after using the BES Calculator to evaluate a sample of individual innings randomly drawn from the collection compiled at the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 tournament. The ball-by-ball statistics required to conduct the aforementioned assessments was retrieved from ESPNcricinfo’s Statsguru database.

Of course, it would be foolhardy not to consider the particular context in which an innings is played. For example, Marlon Samuels’ epic knock of seventy-eight in the final of the aforementioned tournament returns a BES of only 1.00. However, when one puts ‘extenuating’ circumstances such as the nature of the pitch (seaming and turning), the enormity of the moment (the final of a major international tournament in the opponent’s backyard) and the high quality of the opposing bowling attack (Mendis, Malinga, Mathews, Kulasekara and Dananjaya) into the mix, it becomes apparent that BES cannot be looked at in a vacuum.

Jamaica’s playoff loss to Guyana left many local cricket fans in shock. While the team’s bowling effort was obviously tainted by complacency, its seemingly brilliant batting performance was also surprisingly inefficient. Chris Gayle’s punishing innings (122 not out) accounted for two-thirds of the runs scored by the team. His BES of 1.67, which was negatively impacted by the twenty-two dot balls he faced, contrasted starkly with the 0.18 BES cobbled together by his batting teammates. Overall, their ineptitude resulted in Jamaica’s cumulative BES only clocking in at 0.94 (Poor).

On the other hand, Guyana’s BES was a much healthier 1.16 (Average). Despite not being brilliant at minimizing the dot balls themselves, they still managed to cut down on Jamaica’s dot ball count of sixty-two. Forty-one dot balls was their eventual tally. In the final analysis, they comfortably trotted across the line though scoring twenty runs less in boundaries than the overly boundary-dependent Jamaicans.

Even with Chris Gayle in the line-up, Jamaica’s batting was never likely to be good enough to win the 2013 Caribbean T20 title. Too many of the batsmen selected were obviously ill-suited for this form of cricket. In T20 cricket, three types of batsmen are most likely to succeed: a) the consistent boundary hitter (Gayle); b) the skilful manipulator (Mahela Jayawardene); or c) the hybrid of both (Eoin Morgan). Deeper analysis is definitely needed to ensure that we start picking the right ‘horses’ for the appropriate ‘courses’.

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