By Jaideep Varma and Jatin Thakkar
Three teams have won the IPL so far - Rajasthan Royals, Deccan Chargers and Chennai Super Kings (twice). This is an attempt to find the common thread between these 3 sides, and try and examine what it possibly takes to win the longest competitive league in cricket history.
We use the Team IMPACT function to examine this - which is fundamentally the potential impact of each team based on the impact of each player that constitutes the team.
First, on a team level (and on a scale of 0 to 5), the four champions till date register these as their Team IMPACT numbers - Rajasthan Royals (2008) - 1.95, Deccan Chargers (2009) - 2.06, Chennai Super Kings (2010) - 1.96, Chennai Super Kings (2011) - 1.95. It is interesting that DC comes out the highest impact side amongst the four (despite being fourth at the end of the league phase in 2009) - and the other 3 teams had almost exactly the same impact.
Three out of the four times, we also found that the team with either the highest bowling or batting impact at the end of the league phase went on to win the tournament. This probably just proves that in a long tournament like this, even in the knockout phases, the strongest sides will prevail (so much for T20 and IPL being random). The interesting exception here was Dhoni's 2011 team - the defending champion - which performed erratically in the first part of the tournament and had a high failure rate. But they had two things going for them - one, no reliance on any specific players; a lot of players (8, to be precise) had an IMPACT of over 2, which eventually made the team a cohesive unit. Two, quite a few of those players were big match players - who relished the big occasion and were fully turned-on for it when the time came.
It is very curious that in all four previous years, the team with the second-highest Team IMPACT at the end of the league phase went on to win the tournament. All four years - so it is probably not entirely a coincidence. Hunger (and greater desire in that team - perhaps like the legendary Avis tagline suggested "When you're number 2, you try harder") does come up as an explanation, a feasible one too, or complacency of the highest impact team - whichever way you want to look at it. Peaking at the right time perhaps means something like this - keeping something extra in the tank for the final two laps. Big match performance is probably just that - as it certainly takes something extra, mentally and physically, to overcome the pressure of the big occasion and the additional effort that may be coming from the opposition too. Dhoni's team clearly had proven players in this respect - whereas Warne and Gilchrist, as captains of the other two winning sides, had the ability to inspire their team-members by getting out the best from the younger players (a key contributor) and also performing at their best in the big moments.
The highest impact players in a team usually are those who have usually have registered high impact in knockout games previously - the chances of them doing it again are reasonably high, especially if they have had sufficient time to get into the groove in the tournament.
Here's a year-wise list of observations:
IPL 2008 - Rajasthan Royals (Captain - Shane Warne)
Warne led Rajasthan Royals as they made it to the knockouts with style winning 4 of their last 5 league matches, and topping the league table (Delhi Daredevils topped the IMPACT charts though). Match-winning young players came into the fore - all suitably inspired by Warne to give their best - Shane Watson, Swapnil Asnodkar, Munaf Patel, Yusuf Pathan and Sohail Tanvir, along with Grame Smith and Shane Warne himself, all delivered with consistency and combined well as a unit.
Through the IMPACT prism:
- Rajasthan Royals had the highest impact batting unit in the tournament at the end of the league phase. They also had the highest Strike Rate and Chasing IMPACT and were the most consistent side in batting (lowest failure rate) at the end of the league phase. Graeme Smith, Swapnil Asnodkar, Shane Watson and Yusuf Pathan were amongst the high impact batsmen in the tournament. Watson and Pathan were the key batsmen with Strike Rate IMPACT and Watson, yet again, was the key batsman alongside Smith with Chasing IMPACT.
- Rajasthan Royals had the 4th highest impact bowling unit in the tournament at the end of the league phase. They also had the highest Economy and Pressure Building IMPACT (ability to build pressure with quick wickets) amongst all teams at the end of the league phase.
- At the end of the league phase, they had the 2nd highest Team IMPACT in the tournament behind Delhi Daredevils. Interestingly, they met DD in the semi-final and Watson's all-round and Patel's bowling performances KOd them at crunch-time.
- 6 of the Rajasthan's players were high impact players (IMPACT of 2.5 or more) in the tournament at the end of the league phase - the highest for any team. Shane Watson, Swapnil Asnodkar, Yusuf Pathan, Graeme Smith, Sohail Tanvir, and Kamran Akmal. Of these players, Watson, Asnodkar and Pathan delivered tournament-defining performances as well for Rajasthan Royals by giving high impact performances in the two knockout games.
IPL 2009 - Deccan Chargers (Captain - Adam Gilchrist)
The side that had ended last in the IPL table in 2008 dramatically turned around their fortunes through Gilchrist's captaincy and high impact performances from Andrew Symonds, Dwayne Smith and Rohit Sharma. The side scraped through the league matches to just qualify (4th team in the league table - but with the second-highest impact) for the knock-outs losing 3 of their last 5 league matches and both their last 2 matches. Once they qualified, Gilchrist led from the front in the semi-final against the highest impact side in the tournament to take them to the final.
- Deccan Chargers had the 2nd highest impact batting unit in the tournament at the end of the league phase. They had the highest Strike Rate IMPACT and were also the most consistent batting unit in the tournament till then. Deccan's batting revolved around 4 foreign players - Andrew Symonds, Dwayne Smith, Adam Gilchrist and Herschelle Gibbs. Symonds, Smith and Gilchrist were also the key batsmen when it came to Strike Rate IMPACT for the team - a crucial element in T20 cricket.
- Deccan Chargers had the highest impact bowling unit in the tournament at the end of the league phase. They had the highest impact team on all bowling parameter and were also the most consistent bowling unit in the tournament at the end of the league phase. Their bowling revolved around performances from Fidel Edwards, RP Singh and Pragyan Ojha and even a vital contribution from Rohit Sharma.
- They had the 2nd highest Team IMPACT in the tournament at the end of the league phase behind Delhi Daredevils, yet again. Eerily, it is they, the eventual champions, who met Delhi Daredevils in the semi-finals, where brilliant performances from Ryan Harris and Gilchrist ensured that their team reached the final.
- 6 of the Deccan Chargers' players were high impact players (IMPACT of 2.5 or more) in the tournament at the end of the league phase - the highest for any team. Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Dwayne Smith and Rohit Sharma led the pack while Scott Styris and Chaminda Vaas contributed in between. Symonds and Gilchrist went on the deliver tournament-defining performances while Gibbs, Ojha (both in the final) and Harris (semi-final) also delivered tournament-defining performances for their team.
IPL 2010 - Chennai Super Kings (Captain - MS Dhoni)
Dhoni's team has had the lethal combination of individual brilliance as well as team cohesiveness. The team won a lot of games on team strength supporting the individual brilliance well, including the final against Mumbai Indians. They were inconsistent during the league phase though and it could have cost them a place in the knockouts - but they scrappily won 5 of their last 7 league games.
- Chennai Super Kings had the highest impact batting unit in the tournament at the end of the league phase. Their batting relied on Murali Vijay's consistency as an opener and Raina and Badrinath's consistency in the middle order. While Raina and Badrinath absorbed a considerable amount of pressure for the team, Raina also was a key batsman alongside Vijay when it came to Strike Rate IMPACT.
- Chennai Super Kings also had the highest impact bowling unit in the tournament at the end of the league phase. Despite the fact that they were not the highest impact team on any individual batting or bowling parameter, it demonstrated the team effort that they could put with a lot of players contributing to the success regularly. Bollinger, Muralitharan and R Ashwin took charge of the bowling department while Jakati contributed very consistently.
- They had the 2nd highest Team IMPACT in the tournament at the end of the league phase behind Mumbai Indians who were much more consistent than Chennai Super Kings during the league matches. CSK faced MI in the final where a strong performance from Raina around vital contributions from all the players ensured that they edged past them.
- 3 of the Chennai's players were high impact players (IMPACT of 2.5 or more) in the tournament at the end of the league phase. Royal Challengers Bangalore and Deccan Chargers had a higher number of high impact players but only a couple of them could rise to the big match occasion and deliver - the main reason why both the teams failed in the semi-finals. Raina, Dhoni and Bollinger led the pack in the league games and also gave tournament-defining performances in the knock-outs while Badrinath gave a tournament-defining performance under pressure in the semi-final. Dhoni's team was also very consistent as 16 of the players managed to have an IMPACT of 1 or more in the tournament - a remarkable titbit, this.
IPL 2011 - Chennai Super Kings (Captain - MS Dhoni)
Starting the tournament as defending champions, Dhoni's team yet again started on a slow note, winning just 2 of the first 5 matches. However, they gathered momentum in the last 9 matches as they won 7 of them to be second on the league table (and also the second-highest impact side). In the playoffs, a familiar assurance came into the fore again, as they prevailed with something to spare.
- CSK had the 4th highest impact batting unit at the end of the league phase. They also had the highest Strike Rate IMPACT and were 2nd highest impact batting unit at absorbing pressure before the playoffs began. Their batting revolved around the joint efforts of 5 batsmen throughout the tournament - Hussey, Raina, Badrinath, Dhoni and Vijay. Dhoni led the pack on Strike Rate IMPACT while Badrinath led them on Pressure IMPACT, performing complementary roles with great cohesion.
- CSK had also the 5th highest impact bowling unit in the tournament at the end of the league phase, including the 3rd highest Economy IMPACT. Their bowling revolved around consistent performances from R Ashwin and high impact performances from Bollinger with the rest chipping away. Ashwin led the pack on Economy IMPACT while Bollinger took wickets consistently.
- However, after combining batting, bowling and all-round impact of the team, CSK had the 2nd highest Team IMPACT in the tournament at the end of the league phase behind Deccan Chargers. Astonishingly, DC never made it to the playoffs despite consistent performances from quite a few players as they lacked high impact players (IMPACT 2.5 or more).
- 3 of the Chennai's players were high impact players (IMPACT of 2.5 or more) in the tournament at the end of the league phase. Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders had a higher number of high impact players but Chennai produced the maximum number of big match performances in the tournament - a testimony to their players' abilities in the big match scenario. For the first time in IPL history, all the 3 high impact players at the end of the league phase from the 4 IPL winning teams were also Indians - Dhoni, Raina and R Ashwin - the last two also producing tournament-defining performances (with Hussey, Vijay and Jakati joining them in the final with high impact performances).
IN A NUTSHELL - if the second-highest impact team is most likely to win IPL (as every one of the last four years suggest), then Delhi Daredevils may have reason to be wary - as they have registered the highest impact as a team up to this point (Friday, 18th May - still 5 league matches to go). Do check this space on Monday for final league impact results - with some succinct observations and projections that time around.
For more information, please go to www.impactindexcricket.com