Finding Gems in Lower-Level Domestic Cricket - Extract from Strategies for Success in the Indian Premier League Book

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This chapter is taken from my book, Strategies for Success in the Indian Premier League (e-book available via the link below, with paperback release later in 2020).



Previously in this book, I suggested that paying large sums for rotation-orientated batsmen at the Indian Premier League auction would be a questionable strategy.  Of course, there’s plenty of evidence that this is the case already, but I wanted to make a further point to introduce this next chapter - there’s plenty of these type of players already in the domestic market who are far from guaranteed to be recruited by franchises, and these can typically be signed for relatively small sums, such as 20-50 lakh ($28,000 to $70,000).  I’ll be highlighting some of these later on in this chapter.


The Indian Premier League is arguably the best and most highest-profile domestic T20 competition in the world, and stands atop of the domestic T20 structure in India.  On a personal basis, I look at the main Indian Domestic T20 Structure as a three-tier pyramid, with the Indian Premier League at the top, then followed by the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and then both the Karnataka Premier League and Tamil Nadu Premier League, which aren’t massively dissimilar based on my perceived standard.


Perhaps this isn’t hugely dissimilar to the structure of football in England, with the Indian Premier League potentially the equivalent to the English Premier League in football.  The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy might be the English Championship, while the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Premier Leagues could represent the English League One.  


The best football teams in the English Premier League will tend to look at a number of leagues for their player recruitment.  This might span the best leagues worldwide for most of their overseas recruitment - similar to the Indian Premier League in cricket - but they also will look domestically, with perhaps particular focus on the best players from the smaller English Premier League teams and the best players among usually the better English Championship clubs.  


In cricket, the biggest Indian Premier League teams cannot look to buy players from smaller Indian Premier League teams, because no such inequality really exists - at least from a playing budget perspective.  Unlike football, there is no promotion or relegation, and each team has an equal recruitment budget.  Therefore, any team wanting to purchase a particular player must do so via the auction, where any of the eight teams are permitted to bid on that player.  


This is also the case if a team wants to purchase any player typically plying their trade in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, or the Karnataka or Tamil Nadu Premier Leagues - they simply have to win the lot at the auction to recruit that player.  In football, we noted that English Premier League teams tend to do their domestic recruiting from the smaller English Premier League clubs and the best players among usually the better English Championship clubs, and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy should be a good hunting ground for Indian Premier League teams looking for lower-profile talent.  


Sometimes English Premier League teams in football will look outside the top two divisions for players, and there are some gems who they have picked up in recent years - for example current England international Dele Alli was signed by Tottenham Hotspur from MK Dons, while Premier League winner Jamie Vardy was purchased by Leicester City from Fleetwood Town. 


In the context of the Indian Premier League in cricket, this can also be the case in the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Premier Leagues as well, but teams certainly need to be mindful of how performances are expected to translate from those leagues to the Indian Premier League, as well as being also mindful of data sample size.  In many cases, purchasing a player who has only played in these leagues for a high price might be viewed as quite a risky proposition.


Indian Premier League teams will have scouts actively looking at these leagues trying to find unearthed gems, but my research shows that - as is often the case with the eye test - this practice can be rather hit or miss.  Players are recruited for large sums but frequently have little impact, while there also look like some players still in these leagues which data makes a solid case for being good enough to step up to the Indian Premier League.


With so many matches in these leagues, all of varying standards, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for a visual scout to cover all the players in these competitions while also efficiently accounting for quality of opposition.  However, data can do exactly that, as well as doing so in a time-efficient manner, allowing us to highlight some players who look to have high current ability or potential.


Before going on to some more advanced metrics to highlight these players who have current ability or potential, one really easy way to see which young batsmen have high potential is to filter through historical databases to generate a shortlist of players possessing numbers so much better than the rest.  For example, over the last ten years in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, a filter for 300+ runs in one season with a strike rate of 150 or greater, plus age being 21 years or lower produces just three players - Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan and Devdutt Paddikal.


Player

Age

Completed Innings

Runs

Balls Faced

300+ Runs @ SR>=150, Age <=21





DB Paddikal

19

9

580

330

Ishan Kishan

20

6

333

220

RR Pant

20

9

411

210



We’ve already discussed Pant in a little detail in previous chapters, describing the Delhi Capitals batsman as, based on the run-scoring metrics used, ‘the most complete and well-balanced Indian Premier League batsman of this entire playing pool’.  While there’s an argument that he’s under-appreciated at national team level, it is difficult to suggest that he isn’t already a superstar and, at a good age, he is likely continue to improve further as his career progresses.


Ishan Kishan hasn’t been mentioned much in previous chapters though, although having played 37 Indian Premier League matches at the time of writing still aged just 21, he is far further advanced in high-profile match experience than the overwhelming majority of his age group.  While he had a challenging 2019 season, his boundary-hitting data from 2017 and 2018 combined (over 20% boundaries hit in either season), and even better boundary-hitting numbers in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy would indicate that he has great long-term value as a wicket-keeper/batsman capable of batting in the top six.


This leaves one player not discussed - Devdutt Paddikal.  Having performed a great deal of research into historical data for current internationals, and looking to see how a young player’s data in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy translates into future success, I could probably write an entire chapter on Paddikal - a left-hand batsman playing for Karnataka in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and on the roster of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League - and why I think he will be an absolute superstar in T20 cricket.  Such focus, though, is probably a little unfair on a player still yet to turn 20 at the time of writing, but you’ll see throughout this chapter that his current numbers (when looking at much more detailed metrics than batting runs or strike rate) in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy are consistently highlighted as being of extremely high quality, and are either similar or better that current T20 internationals who are considerably further along the age/improvement curve.


A look at the scoring data - boundary percentage versus non-boundary strike-rate for batsmen batting 250+ balls (one player was filtered out due to being so far outside of the worst bottom left-hand corner) in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy across the last two editions (2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons) of that tournament makes for interesting viewing:- 




Here we can see already that Paddikal is out on a league of his own as the best boundary-hitter in the competition in just his opening season in the tournament, and as we discussed earlier, this is a huge driver both towards batting strike-rate, as well as being of useful assistance to a team in winning the boundary percentage count in their match.  Not only this though, Paddikal also had the highest six percentage of all the players who made this sample size filter - and this is another driver towards batting success.  With generally increasing scoring rates occurring in the Indian Premier League (as well as other tournaments worldwide) a 19 year old with this skill-set is a hugely valuable commodity.

 




Looking at the chart above, we can see that across the last two editions of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Paddikal was out on his own for boundary-hitting balance, being closest to the top right-hand corner - he had the highest six-hitting percentage, while Jay Gokul Bista, another talented batsman who has currently never played in the Indian Premier League, just edged him for the highest four-hitting percentage.  From these numbers, Paddikal’s four and six-hitting balance puts him a different league to both Indian internationals and IPL regulars.


Right-hand opening batsman Bista’s mention here is also interesting, because he ranks well among batsmen who have performed well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy yet have never played in the Indian Premier League.  As you’ll see from some of the charts below, he, along with the likes of Birendra Vivek Singh, Shashank Chandrakar and Hiten Dalal as boundary-hitters and both Virat Singh and Harpreet Singh Bhatia as more stability-orientated players, were frequently flagged as players who could potentially have the ability to make the step up.  Indian Premier League franchises should be doing considerable due diligence and further scouting on these six players, because they could represent bargains in future auctions.


Having looked at how batsmen score their runs, I want to move on towards comparing boundary-hitting to stability.  Using the same sample of Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy batsmen, we can create a graph which looks as a batsman’s boundary percentage in conjunction with their balls per dismissal in that tournament across the last two seasons:-




Yet again, we see Paddikal (and again, to a slightly lesser extent, Bista) rate well here, with both near the ideal top-right hand corner, along with Indian international batsman Manish Pandey (Paddikal’s team-mate at Karnataka) and IPL regular Suryakumar Yadav.  More stability-orientated players edge to the top-left (lower boundary percentage but higher balls per dismissal), and again we see Virat Singh and Harpreet Singh Bhatia flagged as domestic players who look undervalued from a stability dynamic - we mentioned earlier that the domestic market could provide solutions for franchises overpaying for higher profile batsmen with a stability/rotation orientated dynamic - these type of players could well be the answer, although Sunrisers Hyderabad did pick up Virat Singh, paying 1.9 Crore ($270,000) in December 2019 for the 22 year old left-hand batsman.


The aforementioned Kishan is also illustrated as a strong boundary-hitter, but with less stability (bottom-right hand corner), along with those three boundary-hitters earlier, Vivek Singh, Chandrakar and Dalal - none of this trio have ever played in the Indian Premier League and none of these were recruited in the December 2019 auction.


So, based simply on this data alone, we can already start to generate a shortlist of potential batsmen who might have the capability of stepping up, and all are also of a reasonable age - 28 years of age or below where the potential for future improvement generally is likely to exist.


Before the 2019 Indian Premier League season, I sent some information to an Indian Premier League coach about their current squad, with algorithm-driven expected data as well as recent player data for each player.  My data represented strong views that one particular veteran player (who will remain un-named) would not be an asset in the current season and should have been jettisoned prior to the previous auction.  The coach challenged me on my assertions, firmly backing up his player and suggesting that the player in question had poor data because his Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy home ground was low scoring due to a poor pitch.  I was still extremely confident in my opinion on that particular player, but it frustrated me that I didn’t have a solution for the challenge from this coach, for that particular level of cricket.


Due to this, I subsequently created a further metric - strike rate difference.  This focuses on how well a particular player scores runs in relation to their team mates, which is incredibly useful to know because they are compared to players who generally face the same bowlers in the same conditions.  So, this should allow us to find a ‘flat-track bully’, if they exist - a player who has good data flattered by poor opposition quality, and/or flattered by batter-friendly conditions, but also some potentially under-valued players who have solid but unspectacular data, yet markedly outperform their team mates against the same opposition.


The process to create this metric was pretty straightforward - comparing a given player’s strike rate to the strike rate for their team-mates in the matches in which that given player played in, with the net result expressed as a difference between the two strike rates.  I filtered the above sample of 250+ balls faced batsmen across the last two editions of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy to focus on those batsmen striking at a strike rate of 130 or greater - a skill-set which should be of use to Indian Premier League teams.  The chart below compares a player’s actual strike-rate to the difference in their strike rate compared to their team-mates:-





In the above chart, the top-right hand corner is ideal, and in this top-left hand corner again is yes - you’ve guessed it - Devdutt Paddikal.  So not only did Paddikal strike at a superb overall rate, he also outperformed his Karnataka team-mates via this metric as well.  Karnataka team-mate Manish Pandey was the other player in this top-right hand corner.  Most of the potentially under-valued players mentioned previously also rated reasonably well here as well (and Ishan Kishan again), with the likes of Mandeep Singh (Kings XI Punjab), Murali Vijay (Chennai Super Kings), Shreevats Goswami (Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Shreyas Iyer (Delhi Capitals) all Indian Premier League players also making the filter to feature in this chart.  Suryakumar Yadav (Mumbai Indians) again impressed here, being the closest player to Paddikal and Pandey.


Interestingly, a few players such as Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sachin Baby, Mrunal Devdhar, Jitesh Sharma and the 35 year old veteran Paras Dogra were highlighted as obtaining solid although not necessarily stunning overall strike rates, but doing much better with the bat than their other team-mates against the same set of bowlers in the same conditions.


I then ran a further filter, which removed those batsmen with lower than a five-run net difference between themselves and their team-mates, and then compared their strike rate difference to their balls per dismissal figure - allowing us to compare refined striking ability  against stability - with the top-right hand corner (high strike rate difference, and high stability):-


In this top-right hand corner we see Paddikal and Pandey again, with Yadav the next closest - we are seeing this trio consistently feature in these comparisons.  Pandey is an India regular in T20 cricket and Yadav a consistent Indian Premier League run scorer (400+ runs in each of the last two seasons), so Paddikal featuring alongside these two high quality batsmen already at 19 years of age makes him an incredible prospect.


This chart gives us a nice general overview towards a player’s batting style, with Virat Singh and Harpreet Singh Bhatia again, as well as Jay Gokul Bista to a lesser extent, featuring as rather stability-orientated batting options.  The likes of Hiten Dalal and Vivek Singh again are illustrated as offering less stability, but more impactful from a strike rate (and therefore, boundary-hitting) perspective.


So, via this analysis, we can start to see how using filters for a player’s slightly refined data (boundary percentage, non-boundary strike rate and balls per dismissal) which you won’t be able to find online in raw form, and then subsequently more refined data which addresses that coach’s challenge about venue and opposition quality (such as strike rate difference between a particular player and their team-mates) can generate a shortlist of batsmen from the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for a team’s decision-makers to undertake  further due diligence on.


Finishing up on that analysis of batsmen, I thought it might be interesting to let you know the strike rate difference numbers for the batsman in question from the Indian Premier League coach’s challenge.  Firstly, the coach was correct by saying that his home venue was low scoring and difficult to bat on - that particular player’s team-mates also struggled with the bat.  However, it also illustrates the danger of weighting this too much without adequate statistical evidence - this player struck at -19.88 runs per 100 balls compared to his team-mates in the last two tournaments of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in which he played.  Essentially, he struck even worse than his strike-rate challenged team-mates in this competition, and this backs up my argument that by this stage of his career, that player was in decline and should have been released by his franchise previously.


We can also do very similar analysis for Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy bowlers as well.  It’s also worth noting here that the vast majority of current international T20 bowlers for India had excellent Syed Mushtaq Ali data in advance of them making their Indian Premier League debut, so this tournament looks like a strong hunting ground for franchises to look for future talent.  There are over 60 bowlers who have bowled 250 balls or more in the competition over the last two seasons, and with matches featuring teams of varying standards, more thorough analysis is absolutely critical here.  


As a starting point I looked at bowling economy rate versus bowling strike rate (balls per wicket), and this chart below suitably illustrates the varying quality of Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy bowlers who fit this sample size filter across the last two seasons of that competition:-




Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore was closest to the ideal bottom left-hand corner and the 23 year old slow left-arm bowler was astutely purchased by Chennai Super Kings in the December 2019 auction for just 20 lakh ($28,000).  I would anticipate him performing very well for CSK, particularly given a spin-friendly home ground in Chepauk.


A number of Indian Premier League players also were below-left of the sample mean figure (highlighted in red) including Piyush Chawla, Pawan Negi, Harshal Patel, Mohammed Siraj, Ankit Rajpoot, Shreyas Gopal and Jaydev Unadkat.  Interestingly, Nitish Rana, who doesn’t bowl a great deal in the Indian Premier League for Kolkata Knight Riders, also rated well here, and perhaps could be more of a viable bowling option for KKR than they might appreciate.


There are also a number of bowlers here who are perhaps more unfamiliar to readers, and certainly plenty with no Indian Premier League experience - given this, doing some further filtering makes sense to give some extra clarity.  What I did here to achieve this was to focus on the bowlers below-left of the sample mean figures (so, the bowlers who performed better than the average bowler in this sample for both bowling economy and bowling strike rate) and then look at the players among these aged 26 or below.  These players have the potential to both be less exposed from a team knowledge perspective, but also have some future upside, being younger than the typical bowler’s peak age.


Having established a smaller group of players, I then applied similar rationale to the previous metric I discussed for batsmen (batting strike rate difference) to both the economy rate and strike rate for these bowlers, and this chart is shown below:-




Looking at one example from this chart, Shreyas Gopal - the player closest to the ideal top-right hand corner, had an economy rate difference of 1.20 (he saved this amount of runs per over compared to his Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy team-mates) and also a strike rate difference of almost 10 balls per wicket (he took wickets on average using almost 10 balls fewer than his team-mates).  


In this chart, spinners are highlighted in black and pace bowlers in red, and there’s a clear dynamic towards spinners having good relative economy (being to the right of this chart) which isn’t particularly surprising given that spin is renowned for being more economical than pace bowling in T20 cricket.  With this in mind, the pace bowlers who look to have high quality based on this analysis include Ishan Porel, Chama Milind, Sandeep Sharma and Ankit Rajpoot.


Of these pace bowlers, only Sandeep Sharma and Ankit Rajpoot have reasonable Indian Premier League experience, and both are already on multi-Crore contracts.  21 year old Ishan Porel was picked up for 20 lakh ($28,000) by Kings XI Punjab in the December 2019 auction and this could well look like a bargain as time progresses, while Chama Milind was a regular member of the India Under-19 set-up when younger - he could well be one for a franchise to look closer at, particularly given the desire for them to have left-arm pace options.  Also, Sumit Kumar (pace) and Shams Mulani (spin) offer all-rounder potential, and both went unsold at a base price of 20 lakh in that recent auction.


On the subject of all-rounders, these two players feature among a list of potential all-rounders I comprised at a decent age, with Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy batting strike rate around or above 130 across the last two seasons in conjunction with bowling data around or better than that identified sample mean.  Other all-rounders identified include current Indian Premier League players Abhishek Sharma and Rahul Tewatia while potential all-rounders, or bowlers who can bat, at a good age from the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy without much Indian Premier League experience who franchises may wish to perform further due diligence on include Akshay Karnewar, Azim Kazi and Girinath Reddy.


As well as the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy playing pool, Indian Premier League teams are also willing to look at the Karnataka Premier League and the Tamil Nadu Premier League for potential recruits, and will even recruit players from these leagues at a multi-Crore price as well.  Understanding how performances translate from these other Indian domestic leagues to the Indian Premier League is critical, and naturally, I have run modelling based on historical data to assess how a player playing in one or more of these leagues below the Indian Premier League would be expected to perform if they were recruited by one of the Indian Premier League franchises. 


Some examples of the translation of performance levels from the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for players batting or bowling 180+ balls (and usually a lot more) in both that competition and the Indian Premier League between 2017 and 2019 can be seen below:-






With the axes the same for boundary percentages in both competitions, we can see that  there is a main grouping around the bottom-left corner, as well as a few in the top-right and bottom-right corner.   The bottom-right hand corner indicates a higher boundary percentage in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy compared to the percentage for the same player, but probably only Robin Uthappa can be considered towards getting towards the top-left hand corner, which would feature players posting a higher boundary percentage in the Indian Premier League than the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.


One take-away from this immediately is that many player’s boundary percentages in the Syed Mushtaq Ali doesn’t show hugely noticeable downsizings when they play in the Indian Premier League.  This is interesting because, having done a lot of work with English  counties with regards to T20 data as well, I found a similar dynamic between the Second XI T20 and the T20 Blast.  Essentially, it seems relatively commonplace that when increasing standard, a player tends to be able to maintain, or able to closely maintain, their boundary percentage - they basically either have this skill-set in their locker or they don’t, and my view is this area is very difficult to coach, particularly in the small time that franchise coaches have to work with their players.


Instead, the main trade-off as standards rise simply focuses more on these batsmen getting out more often.  The graph below illustrates the balls per dismissal figures for the same group of batsmen:- 



Here we can see a lot more players in the grouping highlighted as ‘High in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Low in Indian Premier League’, and certainly a lot more towards that corner compared to the top-left hand corner (Low in Indian Premier League, High in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy), where no player fitted.  As mentioned, this is where the increase in standard tends to have much more impact, and I’ve been able to quantify this more specifically via my modelling of historical player data.


Below, we can also look at the same for (un-named) bowlers fitting the same sample size criteria over the same time period.  Interestingly here, we see that many Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy bowlers see a reasonable rise in their economy rates from that tournament when they bowl in the Indian Premier League, and this is very logical, given that they are now bowling regularly to the best batsmen in world cricket in that competition.








Using my specific modelled translation figures between the various Indian domestic tournaments and the Indian Premier League, I looked at three-year data for batsmen and bowlers, batting or bowling 300 balls or greater during this time period, and the graphs below illustrate the players who have expected data better than the Indian Premier league mean figures for each discipline.  Ideally, this would also be cross-referenced with the strike rate and economy rate differences as mentioned above, and this starts to create a finalised shortlist of players who could have the potential to perform well in the Indian Premier League.

 

This chart below shows Syed Mushtaq Ali batsmen facing 300+ balls in the last three seasons with their expected Indian Premier League batting average and strike rate based on my algorithm.  It should be noted that these expected figures are not solely based on Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy data, but also their Indian Premier League data and Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Premier Leagues where applicable, adjusting for the perceived difference in standard based on historical data.





Just ten Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy batsmen fitted into the top right-hand corner (expected data better than the Indian Premier League mean) and these, as might be expected, include the three highest rated players previously closest to the top right-hand corner - Manish Pandey, Devdutt Paddikal and Suryakumar Yadav.


We also see a few of the lower-profile players highlighted before who haven’t had much, or any, Indian Premier League experience including Jay Gokul Bista, Hiten Dalal, Vivek Singh and Shashank Chandrakar.  You may also have noticed a box around a few un-named players on the right-hand side, and these are players with an above-average expected Indian Premier League batting average but with an expected strike rate a little lower than  the Indian Premier League mean.  These are the players who could have scope to provide a bargain as a domestic batsman and save franchises money which can be redistributed to areas where resources are more scarce.


I also did similar analysis for batsmen with the same sample size in the Karnataka Premier League, and this is illustrated below:-



Devdutt Paddikal again features in this chart with just one other batsman, the batting all-rounder Stalin Hoover (Belagavi Panthers).  Hoover has played just two Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy matches at the age of 31 but he’s recorded fairly high batting strike rates in a number of tournaments throughout his career as well - could he be an example of a player who slipped through the net, to some extent?  Several other players also fitted the more stability-orientated dynamic as well (two in that similar box) but with only a few players looking viable, according to my model, it starts to become apparent that a player in the Karnataka Premier League will need to produce stunning numbers to be expected to be a high-quality performer in the Indian Premier League.


As we can see below, this was also the case in the Tamil Nadu Premier League as well (some 300+ ball batsmen didn’t even make the bottom left-hand corner cut-off of the graph).  A few players were in the similar box - KB Arun Karthik, Srikkanth Anirudha and Murali Vijay - as stability-orientated players who could provide reasonable options to Indian Premier League franchises, but with my model indicating such a lack of potential batting options overall from these leagues, it seems apparent that it with the exception of some Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy players, it would be extremely risky for Indian Premier League franchises to pay considerable money at auction for most of the batsmen with a decent sample size of balls faced in these leagues.



 



Looking at bowlers, my model also indicated that there weren’t many current bowlers in the Karnataka Premier League with a decent sample size of data who were likely to have Indian Premier League success, as seen by the chart below.  Both R Vinay Kumar and KC Cariappa have been in and around Indian Premier League franchises for a while and while not in the ideal bottom left-hand corner (low expected average, low expected economy) they had low expected economy, a trait which can be useful to franchises, while Vasuki Koushik, a 27 year old right-arm pace bowler who also plays for Karnataka in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, was evaluated as having potential to step up to the Indian Premier League via being modelled in this ideal bottom left-hand corner. 




However, some Tamil Nadu Premier League bowlers did evaluate well, including the aforementioned Sai Kishore, now at Chennai Super Kings, as well as the left-arm pace bowler, Thangarasu Natarajan, who played six matches for Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League in 2017 having been bought for 3 Crore ($420,000):- 



Despite having not featuring in a single match for them, Sunrisers Hyderabad also purchased Natarajan in 2018 but for a reduced price of 40 lakh ($56,000), so Indian Premier League franchises have considered Natarajan a player worth investing in.  My model suggests that he shouldn’t be judged after a small sample size of Indian Premier League matches and could still represent a viable, and probably value for money option, particularly given the scarcity of left-arm pace bowlers in the playing pool.


Even after some pretty thorough research, another player of a reasonable age also slipped the net here due to sample size requirements.  He actually had a sample big enough across several or more leagues to qualify for model evaluation but didn’t have a big enough sample in an individual league - Ganeshan Periyaswamy.


The 26 year old right-arm pace bowler Periyaswamy was tipped to pick up quite a lot of interest ahead of the last auction in December 2019, but actually went unsold from a base price of 20 lakh ($28,000).  He also possesses data which translates very well to future success in the Indian Premier League, taking wickets at a superb strike rate in both the Tamil Nadu Premier League and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.  I’m extremely surprised there were no bids for him in that December 2019 auction - my model assesses him as considerably better than more expensive bowlers at numerous franchises.


Finally on this ‘finding gems from other leagues’ subject, Indian Premier League teams may also be focusing on the 50 over competitions in India, such as the Vijay Hazare Trophy.  I’m quite sceptical about the cross-over of formats - even 50 over compared to T20 - with both skill-sets and required drivers of team success rather different, but there probably is a little scope for finding some young talented players in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.  


I don’t want to focus on this particular competition much due to the reasons mentioned, but as an example, filtering for young batsmen scoring 300+ runs at a strike rate in excess of 100 in an individual season in the Vijay Hazare Trophy starts to create a list of talented young players from the last few seasons, including the previously mentioned players such as Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Singh and Ishan Kishan, as well as Indian international, Prithvi Shaw, who is still just 20 years of age.  Yashashvi Jaiswal also smashed this filter in the 2019/20 edition of this competition, and the India Under-19 star was purchased by Rajasthan Royals for 2.4 Crore ($340,000) in December 2019.  Several of these players are already making waves in the Indian Premier League, while I anticipate that it is likely for the others to eventually do so as well.


While his strike rate wasn’t as relatively stellar as his T20 numbers, which player scored the most runs in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in that last season?  Devdutt Paddikal - adding even more weight to my opinion that he will be a future superstar of Indian cricket.


Moving on, I already mentioned that my model assesses Ganeshan Periyaswamy as being a considerably better bowler than more expensive players at Indian Premier League franchises, and a brief discussion on why some players don’t get the opportunities that their numbers potentially merit is an interesting way to conclude this chapter.  


Firstly, my view is that Indian Premier League franchises often play quite safe with regards to focusing on players already known to them, either because they are in their current squad, or are players who have been in and around the competition across recent years.


Furthermore, given the vast playing pool and difference in standards among domestic cricket in India, it is virtually impossible for a visual scout to travel to and assess every player across a decent sample size of matches.  Even world-class performers can produce bad performances, but when dealing with a small sample size of visual assessments, it is possible that high quality players don’t perform well on the occasions when they are being scouted.  However, as we’ve seen here in this chapter, data analysis is capable of doing a pretty good job of making those assessments and generating a shortlist of players with various skill-sets.  


In short, it is my view that it is very difficult, if not virtually impossible for teams to know the ability of every player in the Indian domestic player pool without using predictive analytics.  In addition, what the charts and discussion in this chapter haven’t highlighted are the un-named players unlikely to be good enough for the Indian Premier League, yet have had or do have current (and often high-paying) contracts.  I took this approach deliberately because it offers as much, if not more value than highlighting the best players, and of course, any teams interested in this can contact me to discuss this further.


While there are few guarantees with respect to predicting a player’s future career, identifying a group of players through data who have the potential to yield high rewards from a low risk makes a lot of sense, and likewise, it also makes sense to utilise data to help teams predict with confidence which players are highly unlikely to be good enough.  







If this article has given you insight into the data that Sports Analytics Advantage can offer cricket teams around the world in formulating team strategies, selection, draft or auction plans, or any other work, please feel free to enquire at sportsanalyticsadvantage@gmail.com.








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