world-cup-(impact-index)

Despite only one of the seven knockout games providing a close finish, despite the four overwhelming favourites reaching the semi-finals, it wasn’t entirely a boring World Cup because of the interesting encounters at the Group phase. New Zealand beating Australia, Ireland beating West Indies, Pakistan beating South Africa, India beating Pakistan and South Africa, Afghanistan beating Scotland and definitely Bangladesh beating England – these made for compelling encounters. The so-called “minnows” also had their moments, or some of their players did. Many individual performances stood out despite the matches they were from not being particularly notable. And, of course, one semi-final was a true classic.

Finally, in the end, as tallies and averages are used to look back and provide summation (reducing cricket stats to general trivia too often), Impact Index, in the spirit of mindset rather than a mere stats system, brings forth these findings to mull about.

1.
THE 2015 WORLD CUP WINNING SIDE IS THE JOINT-HIGHEST IMPACT SIDE EVER

This is quite a staggering finding. In an earlier piece we had found, based on the 11 constituents of each World Cup winning team in each final, the 2007 Australian eleven was the highest impact in World Cup history.

This 2015 team now actually matches that, making this the joint-highest impact team to ever win the World Cup.  The 2007 team had considerably more experience but the fact that this 2015 side could still have such high impact players is significant. They have been a formidable ODI side for at least 2 years; they were the highest impact team before Champions Trophy 2013, where they were very unlucky with the weather and also had form issues.

The highest impact players in this side are James Faulkner, Glenn Maxwell, Shane Watson, Mitchell Starc, Steve Smith, Josh Hazlewood (although he has played only 11 matches), Mitchell Johnson, Michael Clarke and David Warner. So, nine out of the 11 players who played in the World Cup 2015 final for Australia have a Career Impact of more than 2.50; the 2007 team had eight such players (the highest till 2015). On an all-time list of Australian ODI players (minimum of 30 ODIs), there are four players from the present team among the top ten – Faulkner, Maxwell, Watson and Starc.

This team now sets Australia to dominate for another generation in this format if things go right with them.

2.
THE HIGHEST IMPACT BATSMAN IN WC 2015 WAS NOT GUPTILL OR SANGAKKARA

Guptill made the most runs in the tournament (547) followed by Sangakkara who had the highest average (108.20). And yet, the highest impact batsman of the tournament was Steve Smith, who was sixth on the runs tally list (402).

The reason is simple. In each of the three knockout games (the most significant matches in any tournament), Smith contributed prominently – 65 (off 69) against Pakistan out of 216 for 4, 105 (off 93) against India out of 328 and 56 not out (off 71) after being 2 for 1 against New Zealand. Each of these performances would have individually got him a tournament-defining performance for his batting alone; no batsman in World Cup history has been this consistent (only Aravinda de Silva in 1996 comes close) in knockout games.

Kumar Sangakkara: Highest average but not the highest impact batsman.
Kumar Sangakkara: Highest average but not the highest impact batsman.

3.
THE HIGHEST IMPACT BOWLER WAS NOT MITCHELL STARC

Starc got the Man of the Tournament award for his undeniably lethal bowling. Interestingly though, he was not even the highest impact bowler of the tournament. It may seem a bit outlandish to a casual viewer but this is why.

i) In none of the three knockout games was Starc the highest impact bowler for his team. Against Pakistan, it was Hazelwood (4-35 in ten overs), against India it was Mitchell Johnson (2-50 in ten) and against New Zealand it was Faulkner (3-36 in nine). Twice, Starc was the second-highest impact bowler for Australia and once the third-highest.

ii) Due to the above reason, Starc shared impact with the other three Aussie bowlers and ended up being a support act rather than the lead act in the most crucial games even though it may have felt different watching him bowl (like when he took a crucial wicket like McCullum’s in the final). As happens in strong bowling sides, registering impact sometimes is about plain luck but here, there is another curious reason too.

iii) Starc was the joint-highest wicket-taker of the tournament (with Trent Boult) but 8 of his 22 wickets were lower-order batsmen (nos. 9-11). Boult meanwhile, took only 2 of those in his 22. Since Impact gives a lower value to these wickets for obvious reasons, Starc goes down in Impact compared to Boult despite a superior Economy Impact .

iv) Starc easily has the best economy rate in the tournament (3.50). Boult (4.36) is considerably behind him conventionally but this gap is substantially reduced on Economy Impact , because more runs were scored per over in New Zealand than Australia (for obvious reasons).

James Faulkner was the highest impact bowler in the tournament. But Starc did register very high impact in some individual bowling parameters. Besides the highest Economy Impact he had the highest Lower Order (9-11) Wickets Impact in the tournament. Also, he did not fail in even one match.

No one is taking any credit away from Starc’s magnificent bowling in the tournament. Still, the Man of the Tournament should rightfully have gone to Steve Smith.

Mitchell Starc: Ended up being a support act rather than the lead act in the knockouts.
Mitchell Starc: Ended up being a support act rather than the lead act in the knockouts.

4.
NEW ZEALAND ENDED UP AS THE FOURTH HIGHEST IMPACT SIDE IN THIS TOURNAMENT

Before the semis began, Australia were behind India on Team Impact but they surged ahead substantially because of how they played their last two matches.

New Zealand were curiously level with South Africa before the semis, ostensibly odd because New Zealand had won every game while South Africa had dropped two. But that was primarily because the Kiwis had ridden more on individual brilliance and South Africa had played more as a team.

The final Team Impact numbers for the teams in the tournament ended like this.

Australia- 3.71
India- 2.45
South Africa- 2.35
New Zealand- 2.27

Once again, New Zealand’s impact ended up lower than South Africa’s, despite beating them narrowly in the semi-final, because of their ascent on individual brilliance, which was badly shown up by the Aussies in the final.

Still, New Zealand lit up the tournament this year more than anyone else. Much like England in 2011, the most interesting matches involved them (two classics in this case). Unlike England of course, New Zealand reached the final with an unbeaten record, playing some exciting cricket and riding on some stunning individual brilliance (which was also their weakness as we have explained). The rather one-sided final against Australia took the sheen off a superb run. But all said and done, perhaps New Zealand were amongst the most memorable finalists in World Cup history, along with the Australian teams of 1975 and 1996, in terms of great matches played and individual performances which stood out.

A final observation on this 2015 side – Brendon McCullum’s team that lost in the final to Australia was 24% higher impact than Martin Crowe’s legendary 1992 side that lost in the semis to Pakistan, as per career numbers until the end of both World Cups. And 4% higher impact than the formidable New Zealand side that won the Mini World Cup in 1999. This is the highest impact New Zealand side in World Cup history.

This means that three teams in these semis – Australia, India and New Zealand were the highest impact teams that ever represented their countries in World Cup history. Some coincidence.

AB de Villiers: Produced the highest impact performance of the tournament against West Indies.
AB de Villiers: Produced the highest impact performance of the tournament against West Indies.

5.
INDIA’S HIGHEST IMPACT BATSMAN WAS RAINA, NOT DHAWAN

Shikhar Dhawan scored the most runs for India in the tournament (412) with the fifth highest runs tally in the tournament. Raina was twenty-fourth on that same runs tally list (284) but was higher impact than Dhawan.

The rate at which Raina made his runs gave him a considerably higher Strike Rate Impact than Dhawan and moreover, the circumstances of Raina’s runs gave him a higher Pressure Impact (an unbeaten 110 after being 71 for 3 chasing 288 against Zimbabwe, for example), some of which also got him a high Chasing Impact . This, and greater consistency overall, gave him a higher impact than Dhawan.

In fact, even Dhoni registered a higher batting impact than Dhawan for these same reasons, despite an even lower runs tally (237). His 85 off 76 balls against Zimbabwe and before that an unbeaten 45 against West Indies, from 78 for 4, both came in tough circumstances.

These three are followed by Virat Kohli on the Impact list of Indian batsmen.

India’s highest impact bowlers, for a matter of record, were Umesh Yadav (among the highest impact five bowlers in the tournament), Mohammed Shami and Ravi Ashwin. Mohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja pulled their weight too.

6.
INDIA’S LOWEST IMPACT PLAYER WAS AJINKYA RAHANE

Those who remember Rahane’s superb 79 off 60 balls against South Africa would be a bit appalled by this. But sadly, he had the highest failure rate amongst specialist Indian batsmen (57%). He had chances against Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh but failed to convert them. Though he got a good start against Australia, he could not transform that to a substantial innings.

Another way of looking at this is – despite being the lowest impact player for India, he still produced one of the more memorable Indian performances in the World Cup – that’s how strong this Indian team is, in terms of potential. Not for nothing did we find before the World Cup began that this was the highest impact Indian team to ever play in a World Cup.

India’s highest impact players in the tournament were Umesh Yadav, MS Dhoni and Md Shami.

Mohammed Shami: Highest impact bowler of the tournament before the knockouts began.
Mohammed Shami: Highest impact bowler of the tournament before the knockouts began.

7.
THE HIGHEST IMPACT BATTING PERFORMANCE OF THE TOURNAMENT WAS NOT A DOUBLE CENTURY

Neither Gayle’s 215 nor Guptill’s 237 ended up as the highest impact performance of the tournament. It was AB de Villiers’ scintillating 162 off 66 balls, as South Africa made 408 and dismissed West Indies for 151.

Curiously, the highest impact batting performance in the 2011 World Cup also came from de Villiers and even more curiously against West Indies, when he made an unbeaten 107 in Delhi. That was higher impact than the most famous innings in that World Cup, Kevin O’Brien’s 113 off 63 balls against England, but AB did not get that billing, as he probably won’t here either.

Guptill’s 237 was the next highest impact performance, against West Indies as well.

Interestingly, Brendon Taylor’s 138 off 110 balls in a team total of 287 registered the third-highest impact in the tournament. India won that match with some fight from Raina and Dhoni in the end. Taylor had walked out at 13 for 2 previously, which had become 33 for 3, before producing the highest impact batting performance of the match, which included 15 fours and 5 sixes. Predictably, he did not get the Man of the Match award for this.

 James Faulkner: Marginally a higher impact batsman before the WC started but flipped spectacularly in the final.
James Faulkner: Marginally a higher impact batsman before the WC started but flipped spectacularly in the final.

8.
THE MAN OF THE MATCH AWARD DID NOT GO TO THE HIGHEST IMPACT PLAYER 40% OF THE TIME

There needs to be some debate about this in the cricket world. On an average, about 43% of the time in limited overs cricket around the world, the highest impact player and the Man of the Match is not the same. Usually it is because of this flawed idea that the award needs to go to a member of the winning team. But also because sometimes a player accomplishing a statistical landmark (a century or a five-wicket haul) gets disproportionate attention without keeping the match context in mind. Or because a high octane performance near the end of the game induces amnesia in the judges as to what really constituted the full match.

In this World Cup, this happened 40% of the time – in 19 of the 48 completed matches in this tournament, the highest impact player was not given this award. It is not about Impact Index or any independent analytics system, the case here is to examine the constituent of the matches more closely to get fairer results.

Not much can justify Grant Elliott not getting the Man-of the-Match award in the final – his 83 off 82 balls stabilizing the situation from 39 for 3. True that Faulkner’s 3-36 stopped New Zealand in their tracks in the later stages but Elliott’s performance made this at least a match that went the distance.

Ironically, Elliott’s much more sensational unbeaten 84 off 73 balls (including a second-last ball six) got him the award. However, the highest impact player of that match was Corey Anderson, who had taken 3 of the 5 South African wickets to fall, bowling at a tough time near the end (and giving away a few extra runs) and had also scored a crucial 58 off 57 balls (from 149 for 4) to give Elliott valuable support.

 Steve Smith: Only batsman in WC history to play 3 consecutive potential tournament-defining knocks.
Steve Smith: Only batsman in WC history to play 3 consecutive potential tournament-defining knocks.

9.
DARREN SAMMY ABSORBED THE MOST PRESSURE AMONGST ALL TEAMS

Weaker sides often end up being forced to absorb the pressure of falling wickets. The better batsmen amongst them even manage to do so (like Samiullah Shenwari of Afghanistan, Amjad Javed of UAE and Brendon Taylor of Zimbabwe). It is thus interesting that a West Indian batsman absorbed the most pressure in the tournament (minimum 5 innings).

The most prominent example was against Ireland (walking in at 87 for 5 and scoring 89 off 67 balls), a match West Indies ended up losing despite setting a target of 305. Against India, he walked in at 87 for 5 and scored a patient 22 to help take West Indies to 182, a match they lost too.

Brendon Taylor’s is the most interesting name here – he did not fail even once in his 6 outings (the only batsman in this World Cup who played more than 5 matches and had a 0% failure rate) and produced some high impact performances, one particularly memorable. All of this made him the third highest impact batsman of the World Cup, a jaw-dropping achievement, given that he did not get the benefit of big match performances at the knockout stages, as many others did. It is tragic that he has had to quit international cricket after this due to the financial constraints of playing for Zimbabwe.

Trent Boult:  Only two of his 22 wickets were of lower-order batsmen (nos. 9 to 11).
Trent Boult: Only two of his 22 wickets were of lower-order batsmen (nos. 9 to 11).

10.
SOUTH AFRICA DID NOT PLAY THEIR HIGHEST IMPACT BOWLER IN THE SEMI FINAL

For some inexplicable reason, South Africa did not pick Kyle Abbott against New Zealand in the semi-final. Despite taking 9 wickets in 4 matches (all top/middle-order) wickets, and despite being their highest impact bowler in the tournament till then, he was dropped in favour of Vernon Philander. Abbott was, in fact, so high impact in the tournament that he comes up the fifth highest impact bowler if we keep 4 matches as the minimum (which we normally don’t) despite playing just one knockout game.

South Africa were well set to make 350-plus in that match with AB de Villiers and du Plessis on song and they were terribly unlucky with the rain (perhaps even more than in 1992), which reduced their most productive overs substantially.

Philander managed 0-52 in 8 overs thereafter. It might have cost South Africa the World Cup.

11.
BANGLADESH’S HIGHEST IMPACT PLAYER WAS NOT MAHMUDULLAH

Bangladesh produced some quality cricket in this World Cup and showed signs of being a genuine force in the future. No one impressed more than their batsman Mahmudullah, who scored back-to-back centuries against England and New Zealand. While he was easily the highest impact batsman from his team, he was the third-highest impact player.

The highest impact player from Bangladesh was Mushiqur Rahim. He was the second-highest impact Bangladeshi batsman and the wicketkeeper, thus qualifying as an all-rounder.

Shakib Al Hasan was the next highest player – producing a genuine all-round impact . In fact, despite Rubel Hossain’s heroics, Shakib was Bangladesh’s highest impact bowler, and fourth highest impact batsman.

Both Mushfiqur and Shakib had a failure rate of 17% in the tournament, while Mahmudullah’s failure rate was almost double at 33%.

That is the obvious advantage the dual skill players have in a limited overs format. The tournament’s highest impact all-rounders were Glenn Maxwell, Kumar Sangakkara and Zimbabwe’s Sean Williams (who is remarkably also the twelfth highest impact player of the tournament).

 Shakib Al Hasan: Bangladesh's highest impact bowler and fourth-highest impact batsman.
Shakib Al Hasan: Bangladesh’s highest impact bowler and fourth-highest impact batsman.

12.
THE MAN TO HAVE THE HIGHEST WICKET-TAKING IMPACT IN THE TOURNAMENT IS A SCOTSMAN

Josh Davey of Scotland took 15 wickets in the tournament in 6 matches. Not a single one of them was a lower-order wicket. This included scalps like Kane Williamson, Corey Anderson, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Tamim Iqbal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Shane Watson.

The Associate nations produced some good cricket, as was most evident from some of the individual performances that emerged during the tournament. Perhaps this is a better indicator of development of cricket in these countries than the performances of entire teams which is much harder to accomplish without a proper first-class structure and enough international exposure.

In the end, this has been deemed to be the most “popular” World Cup ever, in terms of pure viewership. That probably happens with every new World Cup (except perhaps 2007). Sadly, the cricket was a little more predictable eventually to be the most memorable ever. A new format in 2019 might help make that aspect better.

 
Jaideep Varma/ Soham Sarkhel
Caricatures- Vasim Maner