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Indian Premier League 2019

CricViz: England’s IPL players evaluated – part two: The all-rounders & bowlers

by Ben Jones 8 minute read

The 2019 Indian Premier League season is playing host to an entire team’s worth of England-qualified players. Ben Jones casts his eye over the 11 Englishmen about to take to the stage, ending with the bowlers and all-rounders. Read part one, on England’s batsmen, here.

HARRY GURNEY – Kolkata Knight Riders

Off the back of a very successful BBL campaign, where he helped guide the Melbourne Renegades to an inaugural title, left-arm seamer Harry Gurney’s stock rose even higher when Kolkata snapped him up at the IPL auction. His canny collection of slower balls and variations has been honed over years of white-ball cricket and, as it stands, sees him placed as one of the leading death bowlers in the world.

Gurney has the double-edged benefit of not being in World Cup contention, meaning he can focus on applying himself to KKR’s cause for the whole campaign. He will be competing with Lockie Ferguson for the overseas bowler spot, an interesting contest given how different they are as bowlers; Ferguson’s raw pace is a fascinating contrast to Gurney’s change-ups, a contrast that should allow the KKR coaching staff to opt for either bowler according to conditions or opposition match-ups. Smart recruitment, and giving Gurney a strong likelihood of playing.

Chance of playing: 7/10

Chance of success: 8/10

MOEEN ALI – Royal Challengers Bangalore

Mixed in with England’s bounty of white ball stars, Moeen Ali can often be an afterthought. Whilst his bowling has become more appreciated (largely by association with Adil Rashid’s improved form), his batting is routinely relegated to the out-and-out slogging of the last few balls. Without question, this is an underuse of his talents. Since the start of 2017, Moeen Ali has faced 260 deliveries in T20 cricket, and of the 381 other players that have faced as many, only three have scored more quickly. RCB will be eager to make the most of Moeen’s hitting ability.

Given the undoubted presence of AB de Villiers as one of the overseas spots, the probable inclusion of Shimron Hetmyer and the likely need to include Nathan Coulter-Nile as an overseas seamer, Moeen will be fighting with Colin de Grandhomme and Marcus Stoinis for the overseas all-rounder spot. The clear differentiating factor that Moeen has from those two is that he is a spin option, which could be necessary if Washington Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal need more support on helpful surfaces.

While perhaps less valuable in a dressing room full of international stars, Moeen’s cricketing brain is an asset that could prove useful; his performance as Worcestershire skipper on Finals Day in the 2018 Blast was a masterclass in calm thinking in a pressurised environment. With some hot-headed characters in that RCB squad, Moeen’s calm could offer important balance.

Chance of playing: 7/10

Chance of success: 8/10

SAM CURRAN – Kings XI Punjab

In T20, Sam Curran’s value is still largely in his potential. Here is a man who has played T20 cricket for only two teams (Surrey and Auckland), never for his country, and is generally regarded by those who know him best as a red-ball specialist – a talented and rounded cricketer, but not yet a proven talent against top-class performers. Despite this, he has been made the flagship signing by a team in desperate need of inspiration, in desperate need of a hero.

It’s hard to ignore the amplifying effect that Curran’s superb performance in the Test series between England and India will have had. India’s entire cricketing culture watched Curran repeatedly take his side from the point of defeat to the point of victory. Regardless of his pedigree as a T20 cricketer, one can understand why an Indian side are willing to thrust their hopes into his hands.

As a batsman, Curran is less than explosive, with a career scoring rate of 6.31rpo in Surrey colours, though his work in Test cricket shows that he has hitting ability. However, his role/performance with the ball is more clarified; 48% of his career bowling has been in the powerplay, establishing himself as a new ball specialist. His strike-rate and economy in that period are both better than the average for games he’s been involved in, suggesting he is performing reasonably.

Equally, you have to commend Kings XI for being astute in which young player they have targeted – Curran definitely won’t be going to the World Cup, which improves his availability and his opportunity to improve over a season, an investment for the 2020 IPL.

Chance of playing: 8/10

Chance of success: 6/10

DAVID WILLEY – Chennai Super Kings

Since the start of 2017, 58% of Willey’s bowling has been in the powerplay. That is his role. His own economy in that period is almost exactly the same as the average for the games he’s played in, and his strike-rate slightly better than the average – he’s a decent option, but for a man who is almost exclusively used in this role, it’s not ideal.

For Chennai, he sits behind Imran Tahir in the overseas bowler spot, and has a 50/50 chance of leaving the competition midway through to head to the World Cup. As a result, it will be tough for him to get a game. However, he does possess a few key differentiating features. He offers a left-arm variation, which is valuable for strategic planning, and his batting is substantially better than Tahir’s, as is his fielding.

An opener for the Blast-winning Northamptonshire side, and latterly for Yorkshire, Willey has always been a mercurial hitter, but he has serious power with the bat that is probably still underutilised outside of the English domestic game. He scores at 12.13rpo through the leg side – none of the English representatives at this IPL can boast a faster scoring rate through that zone.

Chance of playing: 4/10

Chance of success: 5/10

JOFRA ARCHER – Rajasthan Royals

Of all the English-qualified players at the IPL, Jofra Archer has arguably the most intriguing campaign ahead of him. The debate around him has been tainted by numerous issues, longstanding and deep-rooted, relating both to ideas of national identity and to the concept of “earning your spot”. This debate has, more often than is ideal, been conducted by critics who have not watched quite as much of Archer’s T20 career as some others, and as such the arguments have been painted in broad, unhelpful strokes. Amidst this, it is easy to lose the fundamental point here – that Archer is brilliant.

Since he made his T20 in July 2016, playing for Sussex against Hampshire, only eight men in world cricket have taken more T20 wickets. Some will decry the hype around Archer’s potential World Cup inclusion as a passing fad, but his longevity is underrated. Sustaining his level of success for two-and-a-half years is not easy. Plenty of players arrive en vogue for six months, but fail under the pressure. Archer has not done that.

Yet this IPL, there will be plenty of English eyes on Archer’s performances. For Rajasthan, Archer plays that crucial double-role, one which echoes what he’d be asked to do in the England team – take wickets up front, and dominate the death. In 2018 he took more powerplay wickets than any other RR seamer, and had comfortably the best economy-rate of their regular death bowlers. Given the lack of real change to their squad, Rajasthan are likely to use him in a similar way in 2019; whilst a slightly disappointing BBL08 will have dampened expectation, Archer is still a classy performer capable of having a real impact on this IPL.

Chance of playing: 8/10

Chance of success: 8/10

BEN STOKES – Rajasthan Royals

After his MVP exploits in 2017, Ben Stokes had a quieter IPL season last year. With the bat, he passed 40 only once and struggled to hit top gear; with the ball, he went wicketless in eight of his 13 matches. While Stokes is a player who rarely goes long stretches without contributing in some manner, given his fielding and leadership qualities, his value as a player is still largely determined by the runs and wickets he provides. He will be eager to improve. Stokes’ batting struggles in 2018 were primarily against spin. He was dismissed every 11 balls he faced from the slower bowlers, unsustainable in a tournament with so many quality spinners. If he’s to succeed this year, he’ll need to address that.

As a bowler, Stokes has evolved into more of a middle-overs merchant than he had been; 45% of his deliveries since the start of 2017 have come in overs 7-15. That shift is reflected in his economy-rate of 7.71rpo in that time, indicative of him not bowling at the business ends of the innings, but even so – that is an excellent economy-rate. Given the make-up of the RR squad, one would expect the pitch to help seamers, and that could benefit Stokes.

Chance of playing: 9/10

Chance of success: 7/10

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