Understanding the issues of Lahore Qalanders

11th March, 2019.

I haven't written any analysis pieces for a while, given my previously noted concerns that teams were using my research for free, as opposed to recruiting me as a consultant.  However, I will still be writing some 'reactive' pieces on occasion, when I consider something noteworthy can be commented on.

Today's comprehensive defeat at the hands of Multan Sultans saw Lahore Qalanders come bottom - again - of the PSL, for the fourth consecutive season.   Considering the PSL has only been running for four years, this is quite an incredible 'achievement'.

One of the beauties of franchise T20 is that each team has the same budget.  There is no way that a team can spend their way to a title, as they often do in soccer, because each team has no financial advantage over another.  This makes it very difficult for one team to have a considerably higher win expectation over another, making the format very competitive and often, in what are seasons usually spanning 10-16 matches, rather variance-heavy.

I have a rule whereby it is very difficult for a T20 team to have a greater than a 60:40 chance over their opposition.  I'll be writing more about this in the future - particularly in my upcoming T20 strategy book - but if a T20 team has an above 60% chance of winning a match, then either they have recruited very well, or their opposition has done so very badly.

For the first two seasons (2016 & 2017), there were five teams in the PSL, rising to six in 2018 and 2019.  Each year, four teams have qualified out of the league stage, so it's pretty fair to suggest that it is actually easier for a random team to qualify for the knockout stages than not. 

I thought I'd add some context to these numbers.   Prior to the start of the PSL in 2016, a random team would have around a 29% chance of qualifying in all four tournaments from 2016 to 2019.  The chances of a random team coming bottom of the league in four consecutive years would be 0.11% - around a one in 900 chance.

Therefore, if we assume that Lahore's four consecutive bottom placed finishes were simply down to luck, then owner Fawad Rana needs to buy a lottery ticket, because he might well be due to have some positive variance!

In all seriousness, though, these numbers indicate quite how unlikely Lahore's difficulties stem from bad luck.  I wrote this piece last year about their numerous issues but it appears that their management still hasn't learned from their previous issues in past PSL editions, notably in the wicket-keeping department (their domestic wicket-keepers still do not add value, based on my expected data) but also with their domestic bowling options.

I've not made any secret of my beliefs that a successful PSL team needs to have almost a pre-requisite template.  Primarily, this pre-requisite template focuses on the disparity between plentiful and scarce availability of resources (players), with there being a considerably higher number of quality domestic T20 bowlers in Pakistan than quality domestic T20 batsmen - particularly from a strike-rate perspective.

With this in mind, it is not difficult to recruit quality domestic bowlers, but given the scarcity of quality domestic batsmen, overseas recruitment needs to focus on batsmen for this particular T20 competition.  Islamabad United, the most successful PSL team to date, have clearly noted this phenomenon - they haven't used an out-and-out bowler as an overseas player all tournament.

In fairness, Lahore's out-and-out overseas bowlers haven't been used much either, with the exception of the prodigious Sandeep Lamichhane, who would improve the vast majority of T20 teams around the world.  Hardus Viljoen contributed just five overs, while overseas all-rounders David Wiese, Asela Gunaratne, Ryan ten Doeschate and Carlos Brathwaite also bowled.  

This list of all-rounders begin to show what my numbers consider to be quite poor recruitment.  Wiese has very poor expected data, based on my PSL algorithm (see pre-tournament expectations for the Lahore squad below) while ten Doeschate doesn't impress either.  I consider Brathwaite to be something of a 'luxury' all-rounder, in that he often doesn't bowl his full quota of four overs, nor face many balls with the bat either.  His 'match involvement percentage' - the average percentage of the time a player bats or bowls in their major league T20 matches - isn't particularly high, although not as low as someone like Peshawar Zalmi's Daren Sammy, Colin de Grandhomme, or indeed, the aforementioned Wiese.  It would be difficult to make a case for any of this quartet being used as a specialist batsman or bowler.

Below is my pre-tournament player data for the Lahore squad, and below this, my pre-tournament squad analysis from my PSL data pack:-

Lahore Qalanders

Overseas/Domestic

Playing Role

Expected PSL Batting Average

Expected PSL Batting Strike Rate

Boundary Hitting %

Boundary Run %

Non Boundary SR

Balls Faced/Inns

Expected PSL Bowling Average

Expected PSL Bowling Economy

Expected PSL Bowling Strike Rate













AB de Villiers

Overseas

Batsman

46.19

158.26

22.56

66.19

72.19

22.56

N/A

N/A

N/A

Agha Salman

Domestic

All-Rounder

28.12

110.16

12.80

50.00

67.28

15.00

32.54

8.47

23.05

Aizaz Cheema

Domestic

Bowler

3.14

43.06

0.00

0.00

47.37

1.90

29.72

9.61

18.56

Anton Devcich

Overseas

Batting All-Rounder

25.53

131.38

20.93

67.69

57.00

19.54

38.78

7.76

29.98

Brendan Taylor

Overseas

Wicket-Keeper/Batsman

29.23

122.28

14.72

53.04

66.59

18.93

N/A

N/A

N/A

Carlos Brathwaite

Overseas

All-Rounder

19.91

149.83

20.28

68.54

58.95

9.53

30.94

8.38

22.15

Corey Anderson

Overseas

Batting All-Rounder

28.86

134.11

18.69

62.78

67.68

16.74

35.81

8.57

25.07

David Wiese

Overseas

All-Rounder

19.22

129.54

14.61

52.06

75.76

10.45

40.51

9.01

26.98

Fakhar Zaman

Domestic

Batsman

29.40

138.17

19.52

63.14

64.18

18.16

N/A

N/A

N/A

Gauhar Ali

Domestic

Wicket-Keeper/Batsman

13.32

116.42

18.44

62.30

60.00

9.40

N/A

N/A

N/A

Hardus Viljoen

Overseas

Bowler

12.89

119.18

14.36

55.46

65.84

6.71

24.07

8.35

17.30

Haris Rauf

Domestic

Bowler

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Haris Sohail

Domestic

Batsman

16.63

101.58

10.84

45.87

65.19

12.69

N/A

N/A

N/A

Hasan Khan

Domestic

Bowling All-Rounder

15.33

120.83

7.14

32.35

88.46

5.60

36.35

8.24

26.47

Mohammad Hafeez

Domestic

All-Rounder

26.60

113.78

15.54

60.30

54.35

18.96

21.64

6.34

20.48

Mohammad Imran

Domestic

Bowling All-Rounder

19.90

107.95

11.72

42.11

77.88

8.53

28.58

9.60

17.86

Rahat Ali

Domestic

Bowler

3.00

46.15

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

29.67

9.32

19.10

Saad Ali

Domestic

Batsman

45.05

116.44

13.19

45.85

79.90

26.11

N/A

N/A

N/A

Sandeep Lamichhane

Overseas

Bowler

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

22.14

7.25

18.32

Shaheen Afridi

Domestic

Bowler

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

22.88

7.53

18.23

Sohail Akhtar

Domestic

Batsman

31.09

122.41

17.78

65.49

55.17

14.92

73.10

13.16

33.33

Umair Masood

Domestic

Wicket-Keeper/Batsman

7.86

99.78

9.76

40.00

72.97

6.83

N/A

N/A

N/A

Yasir Shah

Domestic

Bowler

5.67

87.19

8.97

47.76

49.30

4.59

28.43

7.29

23.40


Squad Analysis:

We’ve already discussed Lahore’s deficiencies with the ball in recent years, so how did they address that in the draft? By signing AB de Villiers - one of the world’s best batsmen - as a marquee player, and bits and pieces all-rounders Corey Anderson and Carlos Brathwaite, and all-rounder David Wiese, who looks below-average, based on my algorithms.

They have, however, signed Mohammad Hafeez as captain, and the spin all-rounder will offer bowling economy, although his batting isn’t likely to generate fireworks, and have also recruited one of the best young spinners in T20 cricket, in the shape of Sandeep Lamichhane. With Shaheen Shah Afridi a much better bowler than in PSL 2018, and Yasir Shah a reliable - if unspectacular - T20 performer, there is something to work with the bowling, although I anticipate the 5th/6th bowler and bench bowling strength (which looks likely to be expensive from an economy perspective) being a particular problem.

Given the lack of quality domestic bowlers, I’d be tempted to play Lamichhane regularly as an overseas player, and perhaps Hardus Viljoen will also be used in this role also, although this does generally go against the pre-requisite template of PSL teams needing to use domestic bowlers and overseas batsmen. However, picking their five best bowlers looks a reasonable strategy for Qalanders, and if means a difficult decision regarding prioritising this over their batting (and rely on De Villiers in the extreme) despite the fact that the tail looks very long if they do so.

A final problem is the wicket-keeper slot. Brendan Taylor can keep but takes up a valuable overseas berth, and the two domestic options, Gauhar Ali and Umair Masood, are unlikely to be much of a threat with the bat. This represents a tough decision for Lahore’s ‘brains trust’, who again look to have struggled with recruiting a balanced squad.

One to watch:


Sandeep Lamichhane -
The Nepalese teenager not only has huge potential, but also is ready to make a big impact in T20 leagues around the world. A smart signing from Lahore. 

Data-selected best team, four overseas players permitted, batting order subject to game state:-

Fakhar Zaman, Brendan Taylor (OS/WK), AB de Villiers (OS), Mohammad Hafeez, Saad Ali, Sohail Akhtar, Carlos Brathwaite (OS), Hasan Khan, Yasir Shah, Sandeep Lamichhane (OS), Shaheen Shah Afridi. 


In my data pack, I noted Lahore's lack of quality domestic bowling options prior to the tournament, and also their issues with wicket-keeping recruitment, both of which came to manifest themselves again in PSL 2019.

In fact, Lahore's domestic bowling has been an issue in the previous editions of the PSL, as can be seen below:-

PSL 2016:-

Team

Domestic Player Bowling Average

Team Domestic Bowling Average vs League Mean Deviation

Domestic Player Bowling Economy Rate

Team Domestic Bowling Economy vs League Mean Deviation

Peshawar Zalmi

23.09

1.16

7.02

1.07

Quetta Gladiators

26.66

1.01

7.60

0.99

Islamabad United

23.00

1.17

6.76

1.11

Karachi Kings

35.88

0.75

7.54

1.00

Lahore Qalanders

32.30

0.83

8.68

0.87



PSL 2017:-

Team

Domestic Player Bowling Average

Team Domestic Bowling Average vs League Mean Deviation

Domestic Player Bowling Economy Rate

Team Domestic Bowling Economy vs League Mean Deviation

Peshawar Zalmi

21.33

1.13

7.29

1.05

Quetta Gladiators

32.52

0.74

7.88

0.97

Karachi Kings

23.13

1.04

7.53

1.02

Islamabad United

22.04

1.09

7.32

1.04

Lahore Qalanders

25.53

0.94

7.52

1.02


PSL 2018:-

Team

Domestic Player Bowling Average

Team Domestic Bowling Average vs League Mean Deviation

Domestic Player Bowling Economy Rate

Team Domestic Bowling Economy vs League Mean Deviation

Islamabad United

21.91

1.13

7.21

1.06

Karachi Kings

22.51

1.10

7.63

1.00

Peshawar Zalmi

25.67

0.96

7.53

1.01

Quetta Gladiators

26.61

0.93

6.97

1.09

Multan Sultans

22.42

1.10

7.22

1.06

Lahore Qalanders

32.24

0.77

8.41

0.91


Only in 2017 - mainly thanks to Yasir Shah and Sohail Tanvir - did Lahore's domestic bowling get close to PSL domestic bowler mean figures, while in 2016 and 2018 their domestic bowling data was considerably worse than the overall PSL figures for domestic bowlers.

This year, their domestic bowlers have cost 28.24 runs per wicket and 7.93 runs per over, which is an improvement on 2018.  However, as can be seen above, these numbers are still unimpressive when looking at the data from other teams over recent years in what is a very bowler-friendly T20 league.  Overall, including overseas options, Qalanders bowlers cost 27.13 runs per wicket and went for 7.99 runs per over, again, worse numbers than the current 2019 PSL mean of 26.48 runs per wicket and 7.75 runs per over.

Until Lahore can recruit domestic bowlers who have considerably better expectation than those numbers above, it is likely that their struggles will continue.  I have no idea who is in charge of their recruitment, but if anyone reading is interested in passing this on to them, or indeed owner Fawad Rana or Chief Operating Officer Sameen Rana, please feel free to do so.

If this article has given you insight into the data that Sports Analytics Advantage can offer cricket franchises around the world in formulating draft or auction plans, please feel free to enquire for bespoke draft and auction strategies via sportsanalyticsadvantage@gmail.com.


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