Whose T20 World Cup is it Anyway?

Chart A: Comparative Batting & Bowling Statistics of Semi-Finalists

The dust has settled and we have the four semi-finalists in the T20 World Cup. And after a few days of upsets and nail biting finishes, the four semi-finalists are West Indies, England, New Zealand and India. South Africa, who many would have expected to make it to the last four were eliminated in the round robins. Upsets like these are not uncommon in sports and in the T20 format, probably more frequent than in the 50-over ODI format. Now, the question is whose world cup is it anyway? And does a team possess significant advantage over the rest of the field. Having watched each and every game and analyzed quite a significant amount of data, I would say that at this stage, it’s still very competitive and it could be anybody’s crown. I think it is probably worth analyzing the performance of the four teams that are in the semis and evaluate their relative strengths.

In my last blog just prior to the inaugural match of the T20 World Cup, I had performed some analysis on the performance of the players who are in the individual squads based on games played since 2014. I appended the performance in the tournament for the players from the four semi-finalist squads and calculated the composite statistics (see Chart A).

Chart A: Comparative Batting & Bowling Statistics of Semi-Finalists
Chart A: Comparative Batting & Bowling Statistics of Semi-Finalists

There are a few points that I would like to make. These are:

  • First of all, the batting performance of the Indian team has been sub-par which is quite evident from the dramatic drop in the batting average in T20 world cup games as compared to the historical average. Such deterioration in batting average resulted in some challenges for the Men in Blue. However, performance of a team has to follow the laws of averages and reverting to mean is natural. I expect that ‘reversion to mean’ would mean that the Indian batsmen would perform much better in the knock out stages.
  • The English side has shown remarkable improvement in its batting abilities. Against the Proteas, they chased down a mammoth total and scored well against West Indies and Sri Lanka. Three of their batsmen Joe Root, Jos Butler and JJ Roy have scored close to 400 runs. Also, please note that England is the only team whose strike rate has gone up during the world cup games.
  • In bowling, New Zealand’s performance stands out. As compared to pre-world cup stats, the economy rate of the Kiwis has been almost 1.6 runs better in this world cup. In the 20 over game, that means 32 runs for the opposing team. Also, amongst the semi-finalists, the Kiwis have taken the maximum number of wickets (30 wickets in 4 games; Santner and Sodhi with 9 and 8 scalps respectively).

Based on the batting and bowling performances, let me analyze the relative advantages of the teams in the two semi-finals.

First Semi-final with will be a cracker of a game with New Zealand having marginal advantage
The first semi-final between New Zealand and England will be very competitive and the result could swing either way. In terms of batting strength, both the teams are even (see Chart B). New Zealand though has an advantage in bowling and, if Santner and Sodhi continue to spin the ball, England could face some real challenge. In the end, marginally better bowling could make the difference in this game. On the other hand, England are playing at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi where they have already played two games – one against Afghanistan and the other against Sri Lanka. In the game against Sri Lanka, Rangana Herath started with a wicket maiden but England eventually scored 27 runs in his next 3 overs. So in this semi-final, it will all depend on whether the English batsmen can neutralize the Kiwi spinners.
Chart B: Comparative Analysis of the Teams in the First Semi-Final
Chart B: Comparative Analysis of the Teams in the First Semi-Final
My forecast is that it will be a close game. I have modelled the runs that could be scored in the semifinals based on factors like batting average, batting strike rate, economy rate of the blowing team, the depth of batting as measured by the standard deviation of runs scored by various batsmen in a team, match location, etc. This model has relatively good accuracy and in the recent world cup games, I was able to predict the scores within 5-10 runs in about 14 of the 20 games in the round robin stage. Based on this model, the expected score for the team batting first is presented in Chart B.
Second Semi-final: India has the advantage
The second semi-final will be played at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The wicket at Wankhede has behaved well and the matches at this location have been high scoring. I do not expect that trend to change. Based on my analysis, India has the advantage in this game both in batting and bowling (see Chart C).
Chart C: Comparative Analysis of the Teams in the Second Semi-Final
Chart C: Comparative Analysis of the Teams in the Second Semi-Final
One factor that is to India’s advantage as well as disadvantage is ‘Virat Kohli’. It’s no surprise that India’s batting is heavily dependent on Virat. Of the 505 runs scored by India in the 4 world cup games, Virat has scored 184 and that accounts for 36% of the runs. If we add Dhoni to this mix, 51% of the runs have been scored by these two players. In the two games – against New Zealand and Bangladesh, when Virat did not score as much, India had trouble. Again, as I said before, eventually, things revert to the mean and by that count, I would expect that the other batsmen in the Indian contingent will fire in the semis.
What determines the winner in the world cup games?
I took over wise data for each game and analyzed several factors to understand if they can predict the winner. These factors along with their predictive power, as statistically measured by Gini Coefficient are outlined below in Chart D.
Chart D: Relative Importance of Factors in Determining the Winner in WC T20 Games
Chart D: Relative Importance of Factors in Determining the Winner in WC T20 Games
There are a couple of interesting observations from this analysis:
  • Runs scored in overs 11 and later have more predictive power in determining the winner that the runs scored in power-play. That would obviously mean that it is important to preserve wickets so that the team can take chances and score faster in the later overs.
  • It is not surprising that wickets taken between overs 7 and 10 and between 15 and 20 have high predictive power for the same reason stated in the prior bullet point.
  • Runs scored in power-play and wickets taken or lost in power play are not as important as one might think. In other words, in T20 games, morning may not show the day. A good example is the Australia – India game where the Aussies scored 59 runs in power play for the loss of 1 wicket as compared to the Indians who scored 37 runs for the loss of 2 wickets. The Aussies were slowed down by some good bowling by the Indians and they lost the game with 5 balls to spare.
I hope the two semi-finals are exciting and I promise to write a blog before the finals.

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