81 was the most talked about number on the eve of the IPL final at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. Virat Kohli was 81 short from becoming the first man to score 1000 runs in an IPL season.

In a community obsessed with milestones, aggregates and averages this was hardly a surprise. Kohli had already been labelled as the best batsman of IPL 2016 – and that too by a country mile even before the first ball of the final had been bowled.

As it turned out, Kohli fell short of that 1000-run milestone and more significantly, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) fell short of the target set by Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the final.

Virat Kohli amassed 973 runs in 16 innings in the tournament at a staggering average of 81.08. He was by far the highest run-getter of IPL 2016.

In comparison, David Warner was the second-highest run getter of the tournament with 848 runs from 17 innings – a good 125 runs short of Kohli. He also averaged 20 runs per dismissal less than Kohli (Warner’s batting average was 60.57).

Kohli scored 4 hundreds while Warner had none.

Even Kohli’s strike rate (152) was marginally higher than Warner’s (151).

Meanwhile, the Romantics saw him as a more complete batsman who possessed a wider array of shots and was more flamboyant in his strokeplay than Warner.

So, the conclusion was obvious. Kohli was the best batsman of IPL 2016.

Even if we look more deeply, Kohli seems to be comfortably ahead. He scored a higher proportion of runs (in a match context) than Warner in the tournament. He  scored 33% of the total runs scored by RCB in the tournament as opposed to Warner’s 32% (of the SRH total)​.​

Kohli also had a higher Pressure Impact (absorbing the pressure of fall of wickets) owing to the consistent failures of Chris Gayle and the other openers at the top.

Where is there room for doubt then in Kohli being the most significant batsman of IPL 2016?

Here we go.

Big-match timing:

As much as the timing of his shots, the timing of Warner’s big performances were immaculate.

He produced two very high impact performances during the playoffs (93 not out in 58 balls against Gujarat Lions in the second Qualifier and 69 in 38 balls against RCB in the final) in the three knockout matches and didn’t​ ​​fail on any occasion.

Kohli, on the other hand, failed in the first qualifier and even though he scored 54 runs off 35 balls in the final, he failed to take RCB home when it mattered the most. Despite chasing, at which he is the best in cricket history in limited overs cricket.

This ability to rise to the occasion and perform in the big-matches is the main reason for Warner being a higher impact batsman than Kohli at the end of the tournament.

It is worth mentioning here that Kohli had a marginally higher impact than Warner till the beginning of the playoffs. But Warner’s performances in the knockout games took him ahead of Kohli and more importantly his team to victory.

Strike Rate Impact :

Their comparison in strike rate is a fascinating one. Kohli had a marginally superior conventional strike rate (152 compared to Warner’s 151), but it was actually the Australian southpaw who had a much superior Strike Rate Impact (scoring rate relative to match standard).

The reason is pretty straightforward. In the matches Kohli played, the par strike rate was 154 (Bangalore’s powerful batting line-up put up big totals but their weak bowling unit also took a hammering initially in the tournament). Thus, Kohli’s strike rate of 152, which despite being phenomenal by itself, was still slightly below par.

On the contrary and with a little help from their high impact bowling unit, the par strike rate in the matches Warner played in was just 134. Warner’s strike rate at 151 was considerably higher than the SRH match standard for the tournament. And thus he emerged as the third-highest Strike Rate Impact batsman of IPL 2016 after Krunal Pandya and Chris Morris.

Kohli’s Strike Rate Impact was phenomenal in the second-half of the tournament where he took on a much more aggressive role but his overall Strike Rate Impact in the tournament was still much lower than Warner’s. Once again, this is because Kohli scored at a rate much below the match standard in the first half of the tournament.

Consistency :

When it comes to overall consistency in the tournament, Warner again trumps Kohli. Warner failed with the bat in only three out of the 17 innings he batted in the tournament. Kohli, on the other hand, failed in four of his 16 innings.

Warner was well supported by his team’s bowling, which meant that his team did not have that added pressure of needing to score big in every match they played in or chase daunting totals. However, he still had to take primary responsibility for SRH’s batting as most of the other batsmen in the line-up kept failing.

Kohli, in comparison, had the support of AB de Villiers and Lokesh Rahul for the major part of the tournament and then Chris Gayle ​towards the latter stages.

The importance of Warner’s wicket​,​ therefore​,​ was not lost on the opposition teams and Warner himself had to play under that pressure almost throughout the tournament.

Kohli has had a phenomenal year in all formats and such domination in any format of the game (as Kohli’s in T20 cricket in the last few months) is unprecedented in cricket history. Particularly as RCB began a spectacular recovery and made up for a bad start by winning several back-to-back matches in the end of the group stages.

But when things evened out at the playoff stage, someone else stepped up more.

Curiously, what Warner did in this tournament is unprecedented too. He delivered consistently during the group stages and then in the playoffs as well. Never has any team been so dependent in any tournament on a single batsman and gone on to win.

Warner took that critical last step very well in the end, where Kohli faltered.





For the tournament Review, please click here.



Nikhil Narain/ Soham Sarkhel
Illustrations- Vasim Maner