Game within the game – matchups in the league

May 03, 2023 11:17 PM IST

Teams do in-depth studies to decide on the spin matchups in IPL. The perceived approach works a lot, but they also do not work when it comes to certain players.

Matchups’ is a buzzword in T20 cricket today. Here, we take a look at spin matchups so far in IPL 2023 – how some teams and players conform to matchup perception, and how some don’t.

Chennai, Apr 30 (ANI): Chennai Super Kings Ravindra Jadeja celebrates the dismissal of Punjab Kings Atharva Taide in the Indian Premier League 2023, at MA Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai on Sunday. (ANI Photo/ Digital Restriction) (Chennai Super Kings Twitter) PREMIUM
Chennai, Apr 30 (ANI): Chennai Super Kings Ravindra Jadeja celebrates the dismissal of Punjab Kings Atharva Taide in the Indian Premier League 2023, at MA Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai on Sunday. (ANI Photo/ Digital Restriction) (Chennai Super Kings Twitter)

Perceived spin ‘matchup’

The table shows that, generally, having a batter facing their ‘preferred’ finger spin matchup (with the ball turning in) is worth roughly one run per over purely on an economy rate basis. Both the right- and left-handed batters score at the same rate when facing leg spin, perhaps an indication of how common leg spin is in the modern game and the development of right-handed batters to counteract it.

CSK - Trio of false left-handers

Despite this information, why aren’t teams persisting with a left-right batting combination throughout the innings? That’s a question many may have when looking at the construction of the CSK batting unit, with left-handers Devon Conway, Moeen Ali and Shivam Dube often batting together. Surely, bowling an off-spinner is a clear win for the other team?

The answer is that all three – Conway, Moeen and Dube – don't conform to the widely accepted ‘matchup’ way. Despite being left-handers, all three are capable hitters of off-spin bowling with Conway and Dube also possessing impressive averages alongside a good strike rate.

Whether this is by design or coincidence, the result is CSK scoring at 9.49 runs per over when facing off-spin. It is the third fastest in the competition, despite left-handed batters facing 64% of the deliveries from off-spin. CSK have, in a way, turned a perceived losing matchup into a winning one and may continue to do so unless opposing sides catch on.

RR - Masters of manipulating and ‘taking down’ your matchup

Kumar Sangakkara’s Royals side currently rank second in terms of scoring rate for batters when facing their ‘preferred’ spin type, for both right-handers facing off-spin and left-handers facing left-arm spin. The Royals side possess Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson, two of the most destructive batters in the world when facing off-spin. However, we often don’t see them together, with young left-handers Yashasvi Jaiswal and Devdutt Padikkal used to split them and manipulate the ‘matchups’ and ensure opposing teams don’t have an easy time using their finger spinners. The Royals have had a left-right combination at the crease 77% of the time this IPL, comfortably the highest figure in the league.

In contrast, Royal Challengers Bangalore (28%) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (34%) have had minimal left-right batting combinations so far, making it easier for bowling teams to plan for and limit matchup opportunities for their batters, who, looking at their scoring rate rankings, often don’t take them on anyway.

Spinners have own matchups too

Another factor at play is whether the bowler ‘conforms’ to the perceived spin ‘matchup’. Some bowlers such as Rashid Khan and Matheesha Theekshana have a very limited difference in economy rate when bowling to right or left-handers.

Others such as Moeen Ali, Axar Patel and Krunal Pandya have a clear matchup lean, going at over 2 runs-per-over more against their perceived ‘weaker’ matchup, and will need to be carefully managed by their bowling captain.

Some bowlers don’t conform to the perceived ‘matchup’ at all. Sunil Narine is noticeably better against right-handers and Ravi Bishnoi’s googly makes him a better matchup to left-handers than right-handers, a contrast to other leg spinners on the list.

Despite being more expensive to right-handers, Varun Chakravarthy takes a wicket every 19 deliveries to right-handers compared to every 29 deliveries against a left-hander – wickets are also a factor in play here.

There is a lot more to spin ‘matchups’ than the right- or left-handedness of the batter or bowler - throw in a variety of pitches, game state and lopsided boundaries alongside some of the questions asked above when considering what each matchup may entail during the remainder of this IPL.

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