‘He had a phenomenal T20I record’: How Rahul Dravid helped Rajasthan Royals find an explosive batsman
Despite a poor record in India, Dravid found a way to turn Hodge into this T20 specimen, who would go after the bowling in death overs, succeeding more often than not.Updated: Aug 04, 2020 14:12 IST
Rahul Dravid began his IPL career playing for the Royal Challengers Bangalore but it was his stint with Rajasthan Royals which people remember more fondly. After spending three seasons with RCB, Dravid switched to Royals ahead of the 2011 season and enjoyed a broader role at the franchise. Besides batting, Dravid served as mentor and had a larger role to play being part of the management.
Since Dravid came on board, Moneyball-like Royals started making smart buys. In 2011 and 2012, the Royals did not experience a memorable campaign, finishing sixth and seventh respectively, but the season after, the franchise locked a Champions League berth by finishing third. One of the more impactful players who was delivering for the franchise was Australia’s Brad Hodge.
“After RCB, I moved on to RR and I got into more of a captain-coach-management role and we were looking through a lot of data and stats. At RR, we were literally a Moneyball team. We had to compete with the top teams with 40-60 percent of the budget. It’s not easy in an environment where everyone has a lot of data and knowledge,” Dravid said on the Insights vs Insights panel discussion.
“One of the things we noticed was Brad Hodge... had a phenomenal T20I record in Australia and had probably played 5-6 IPLs, and had a very average or poor record in India. Once we looked at the data closely, we sort of realised why he was struggling in India. He was clearly a player who was very good against fast bowling, but wasn’t very good against, say, left-arm spin bowling and leg spin. But he had an incredible strength of being good against fast bowling.”
Hodge was never the explosive T20 batsman – like a Chris Gayle or an AB de Villiers. He pretty much came from the Dravid school of batting – an accumulator of runs, capable of being the batting pillar during an inning. Despite a poor record in India, Dravid found a way to turn Hodge into this T20 specimen, who would go after the bowling in death overs, succeeding more often than not.
“One of the things we looked at was, which is the position of the game where someone like Hodge will play only fast bowling, and we sort of looked at the last four-five overs where everyone brings their best death bowlers back into the game. We decided at that stage that we will buy him in the auction, and bat him in the last 5-6 overs in the match,” Dravid added.
“Hodge, as you know, is an Australian batsman who is really proud of his batting ability, and he is used to batting in the top three in Australia. He was obviously resistant to this when we told him initially. But then we were able to show him data, and his success against fast bowling, and how critical it was for a team like us [that] didn’t have the firepower – like CSK had [MS] Dhoni, MI had Kieron Pollard or RCB had an AB de Villiers.”
Hodge, who had spent the first three seasons of the IPL playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders and one for Kochi Tuskers Kerala did not have much to show for his efforts. From 19 matches, Hodge scored 476 runs for KKR, and 285 runs from 14 games for the Tuskers. But his fortunes changed when he jumped ships to the Royals, and across the next two seasons, scored 245 and 293 runs. He had a strike-rate of 140 and 134.40 in the two seasons respectively and played a crucial role in the Royals’ road to the Playoffs that year, averaging 41.85.
“In a team like that, we told him, ‘You are the best bet in the last five overs and here’s the data to show why you have been unsuccessful in the IPL and what we can do to help you become successful’.” “He scored much fewer runs than he would have if he batted at three but this gave us the best chance to get the best out of him,” Dravid said.