Tuesday 17 July 2012

Has Andre Russell replaced MS Dhoni as the best closer in ODI's

I watched Andre Russell's batting in the third ODI in St Kitts with some interest. The person sitting next to me in the press box had mentioned that he rated Russell, and so naturally I looked up his numbers. They were impressive; so I wanted to see what he could do. On a pitch where none of his team mates scored over 20, he got 42* off 24 balls. The next match he got 29 off 16, followed by the latest 59* off 40. He has now scored over 20 at better than a run a ball in eight of his last 11 innings.

To put this in context, there have been 5148 innings by batsmen batting at number 6 or lower in the last 3 years, and 407 of them have been over 20 at a strike rate of 100 or more. This is slightly under 8%, so a batsman doing this in 73% of his recent innings is remarkable. To put it in further context Dhoni's managed it only 3 times in his last 11, and two of those were not batting at 6 or lower.

It made me wonder if he had actually overtaken Dhoni as the most effective lower order batsman in the world. So I looked at all batsmen in the last 3 years who had batted at 6 or lower at least 15 times. The results were surprising.

I have sorted them by batting index, which I believe is the best way to compare batsmen in limited overs cricket. For more info on batting index click here.

NameInningsRunsAverageStrike rateIndex
JEC Franklin (NZ) 1544755.8788.3349.36
AD Russell (WI) 2158636.62123.6245.28
DJ Hussey (Aus) 2274743.9498.0343.08
MS Dhoni (India) 3090350.1678.7239.49
MEK Hussey (Aus) 2889440.6394.8038.52
YK Pathan (India) 1847031.33119.8937.57
Umar Akmal (Pak) 3199241.3384.9335.11
SK Raina (India) 37103435.6597.7334.85
Shahid Afridi (Pak) 56135726.09130.1033.95
MG Johnson (Aus) 3248425.47112.2928.61
KA Pollard (WI) 36101929.9792.7227.79

The surprise was first that Franklin was at the top. I knew that Franklin had performed well at the lower levels. I knew that he had improved a lot as a batsman. But I did not expect him to have a batting index of 49.36 or an average of 55.87. Secondly I genuinely expected that Dhoni would be well clear of the pack, with only potentially Angelo Mathews and Andre Russell near him. To see Dhoni in 4th and Mathews all the way down in 14th place was a surprise.

Russell is right near the top. To average 36.62 while striking at over 120 is really very impressive.

Russell has been particularly good in the first innings in matches, taking his team to big scores after they had been in some trouble. A lot of lower order players do much better when chasing a score than setting a target, but not Andre. Here are his numbers sorted by innings:

InningsRunsAverageStrike RateBatting Index
1st Innings1232740.87135.6855.46
2nd Innings925932.38111.1635.99

There is a significant difference, but his batting index in the 2nd innings is still better than Jacques Kallis' career figure.

I had to modify my normal criteria of 15 innings when comparing his first innings stats, as he has only played 12, so these numbers are less significant, but here is how he stacks up against all lower order batsmen (6-11) in ODI's: (minimum 12 innings)

AD Russell (WI) 32740.87135.6855.46
MEK Hussey (Aus) 212850.6696.2848.79
MG Bevan (Aus) 220755.1781.0244.7
M Azharuddin (India) 3524496.1742.32
DJ Hussey (Aus) 58939.26106.3141.75
L Klusener (SA) 120446.388.0740.79
OA Shah (Eng) 5464295.6240.16
DS Lehmann (Aus) 40140.198.2839.41
YK Pathan (India) 32532.5119.4838.83
MS Dhoni (Asia/India) 141241.5288.9136.93

Here again Russell shines. It is important to note that he has not played many innings yet, and so bowlers have not got much information yet on what causes him to struggle. Inevitably there is a fluctuation in most players figures. First they are unstoppable, then they get figured out (known as second season syndrome). Then, if they are good enough, they learn how to adapt their game and come back better than before. Their opponents then figure out a new weakness, and the cycle continues. Often fluctuations in "form" are as much down to the ball being bowled in a different place as they are about the batsman not being on his game.

But regardless of how small the sample size is, the numbers are still very impressive. Averaging over 40 at a strike rate over 130 is quite frankly ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as him batting at number 9 for the West Indies. However I see Gibson's dilemma there: if Russell is winning games at 9, why move him?

It is still early days in his career, but they are promising signs. Andre Russell is certainly a man to watch in when he has the bat in his hands.

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