IPL teams often splurge on a bowler who is capable of consistently hitting speeds in excess of 140kph. But are such express bowlers really effective in Indian conditions? Apart from Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell McClenaghan, Chris Morris, Mitchell Starc - who had one good season - and Nathan Coulter-Nile, who was effective largely only in Kolkata last season, none of the others have made an impact consistently. Bowlers like Adam Milne, Tymal Mills, Matt Henry, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott, Kane Richardson, Mitchell Johnson, Sean Abbott, Varun Aaron and Chris Woakes - to make several - have failed to justify their high prices.
Eden Gardens is the only pace-friendly venue in the IPL at the moment, so while it might make sense for Kolkata Knight Riders to invest in speed for their home games, the other franchises might do well to exercise restraint while bidding on high-speed bowlers. They could be purchased for smaller amounts and played largely in the few games when conditions call for the extra yard of pace. Shorter boundaries, batting-friendly pitches, bigger bats and night games have them rarer in the IPL.
Do you remember Swapnil Asnodkar, Paul Valthaty, Ashok Menaria and Sudeep Tyagi? They had one really good IPL season, and no others. One-season wonders are fairly common in the IPL and the challenge for the teams is to not get carried away by them in the auction. Historically, only a few players do well across two or three IPL seasons. Hardik Pandya had a great 2015 but a woeful 2016, and came back strongly in 2017. Similarly, Shreyas Iyer had a good 2015 and a poor 2016.
Over the previous three IPLs, only ten international batsmen - AB de Villiers, Ajinkya Rahane, Gautam Gambhir, Brendon McCullum, David Warner, Rohit Sharma, Robin Uthappa, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina - have scored in excess of 300 runs each season at a healthy average and strike rate. Similarly, only eight bowlers - Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dwayne Bravo, Axar Patel, Chris Morris, Mitchell McClenaghan, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma and Yuzvendra Chahal) have been among the top wicket-takers list across all three seasons with good economy rates and strike rates. And though the likes of Rahul Tripathi, Nitish Rana, Washington Sundar and Ben Stokes did extremely well in 2017, history says that they might be hard pressed to have it as good in 2018. The franchises might want to watch out for that.
Left is right
Why did Tymal Mills get such a high bid - sold for $1.8 million - in the 2017 auction? Supply and demand. There aren't that many left-arm quicks around internationally, and far fewer in Indian domestic cricket. Having a left-arm seamer who can swing the ball adds variety to the attack, especially because most Indian batsmen would not have faced too many quality left-armers in domestic cricket. As a result, these bowlers go for more money than others. Starc, McClenaghan and Mustafizur Rahman are some overseas success stories, while Ashish Nehra, Jaydev Unadkat and S Aravind have done well among the Indians.
Data reveals that these fast bowlers are better used as wicket-taking options early on than to contain. Most left-arm pacers over the last three seasons have good strike-rates but only five have an economy below eight per over. Trent Boult, Mills, Mitchell Johnson and McClenaghan went for a lot of runs, while Aniket Choudhry, T Natarajan, RP Singh and Pradeep Sangwan failed. Franchises need to mindful of picking bowlers who are capable of providing the team with early breakthroughs, or at the back end with their variations.
Unless they are Sunil Narine or Rashid Khan, overseas spinners have not had a major impact in the IPL. Only a handful have had match-winning performances in the league - a specialist overseas spinner has been Man of the Match in only 14 IPL matches. Narine won six of those awards, Shane Warne four, and Rashid Khan twice in his maiden season, which is a special performance.
Apart from Imran Tahir - briefly in 2017 - no other overseas spinner has made any sort of impact consistently over the last few seasons. The likes of Adam Zampa, Ish Sodhi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Samuel Badree and Akila Dhananjaya are perhaps best suited as back-ups, rather than a first-choice overseas player. Franchises could choose to spend more prudently on overseas spinners, and pick up domestic spinners to do the job.