What Can We Expect from the IPL?

The 11th season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is officially upon us! There is no doubt that the IPL is the number 1 cricket league in the world. Over its 11-year span, the IPL has changed T20 cricket – it’s more commercialised, entertaining and offers more Cricketer Brand Value. It is the most-attended cricket league in the world and ranks sixth among all sports leagues. The Brand value of IPL is estimated about $4.16 billion. With so much investment and attention on this league, we can expect big players and bigger plays to make news. I can’t wait to see what’s in store this year!

This week, I’m looking at what we can expect from this new season, from revolutionary technology to which players to look out for.

Smart Stats

Recently, ESPNcricinfo announced it would be using Smart Stats, starting in IPL 2018. Through this, you will see a new set of metrics introduced on the site which will quantify batting and bowling performances. Many of these are contextual numbers, which will take into account the match stats – whether it was a high-scoring or low-scoring match – and the phase of the game in which the batsman/bowler performed. These will, therefore, allow for the fact that bowlers concede more runs in the slog overs, and batsmen are expected to strike harder too. These will be broken down into 3 categories.

  • Smart strike rate: a measure to calculate the scoring rate of a batsman, but it goes beyond dividing runs scored by balls faced. Smart strike rate takes into account the overall scoring patterns in the game, and during the period when the batsman was at the crease. The two factors considered are:
  1. The match strike rate, excluding the batsman’s numbers in the game.
  2. The strike rate at the other end while the batsman was at the crease.
  • Smart Runs Index: this calculates the number of runs by which a batsman has outperformed the average batsman who has come in to bat at a similar stage of the innings in past T20 matches. It can have a positive or a negative value, with a negative value indicating a below-par performance. Again, there are two parts to this calculation:
  1. Calculating the smart runs of a batsman in an innings/group of innings.
  2. Calculating the average smart runs historically made by all batsmen who have come in to bat at the same stage of an innings (in terms of overs remaining in the innings).
  • Smart Economy Rate: this is a bowler’s economy rate after taking into account the rate of other bowlers in the match, and also the phase of the game when he bowled (Powerplays, middle overs, death overs). Thus, due consideration is given to bowlers who bowl the tough overs – the last five/Powerplays. There are three factors considered when calculating the smart economy rate:
  1. Runs conceded in the previous over (not applicable for the 1st, 2nd, and 7th overs).
  2. Runs conceded by other bowlers in the phase in which the over was bowled.
  3. The match economy rate.

It’s no surprise that these momentous changes are being brought in for IPL. Given that it’s the biggest stage for T20 cricket, I think this league will be the best judge of how useful these stats are. Personally, I’m looking forward to this level of analysis and the possibilities it unleashes. This will shed some light on how the players perform under different conditions and provide interesting information on who is – and who really isn’t – shining on this massive stage.

Incredible plays (and players)

If the start of the IPL is anything to go by, we’re in for an amazing season of cricket. Already, India batsman Lokesh Rahul has set a new Indian Premier League record, hitting the fastest ever half-century in the Twenty20 tournament’s history.

Playing his first match for his new franchise, Rahul needed just 14 balls to score 50 runs in a blistering start to Kings XI Punjab’s run-chase against the Ricky Ponting-coached Delhi Daredevils. With the previous record already standing at an impressive 15 balls, this opener by Rahul already justifies his $2.1 million price tag. 

As well, I’m looking forward to seeing how Ben Stokes fares in this league. The talented all-rounder – 2017’s player of the series for the IPL – was sadly missed by the English team this winter following his contentious arrest for affray. Stokes will be back for the whole IPL season, except a potential semi-final and final which will take place at the same time as England play their first test against Pakistan. I’ve missed Stokes and his style of play and can’t wait to see what he brings to cricket’s biggest stage.

The greatest thing about the IPL is what we can’t expect. Each year, the league brings a touch of unforeseen magic to the game, whether that’s a new star or a new style. With the cricketing world turning its attention to the IPL, I’m ready to settle in for a few months of superb cricket in the biggest, brashest and most exciting league in the world.

Saad Raja