The right captain, a mix of data and intangibles, and avoiding bias – recency or emotional type
It’s IPL auction week and the generic term “auction dynamics” will be used a lot. But the most important part of this dynamic is the bidding strategy. A good bidding strategy translates to success – Delhi Capitals is a good recent example. After struggling through the first decade of the IPL, the Capitals invested heavily in a strong, young Indian core at the 2018 mega auction, which helped them qualify for the playoffs the past three seasons. consecutive. Likewise, Sunrisers Hyderabad believed in compiling a strong bowling attack, mainly Indian again, and this helped them to be a contender for the playoffs. Multi-time champions, Chennai Super Kings have always invested in experience and succeeded. What you do at the auction determines whether you will always end up on one of the top teams.
We look at the basics needed to build a strong team at auction.
Choose the captain. Then empower the captain. MS Dhoni believes experience is a key ingredient in winning critical situations, and he has a team that has delivered that. There have been instances of franchises picking a team and then picking a leader. The captaincy adapted to the force could be difficult. R Ashwin at the Punjab Kings in 2018 2019, and Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith at the Rajasthan Royals are some of the examples in recent years where players have been bought at auction and then made captains. Unlike test cricket, T20 is not won on skill alone but on how certain decisions are made dynamically. It’s important not to be predictable and to always be one step ahead of the opposition. Sometimes making fewer obvious mistakes is enough to win over an opposition, which a leader like Dhoni repeatedly does.
Leadership in the IPL is not just about results, but also involves dealing with many decision makers outside of the cricket ecosystem. This could mean picking a player into the squad for marketing purposes, convincing owners once the season has started why a particular XI was selected, or backing a player who is out of shape. In the case of some franchises, the captain must answer to several decision makers. In the event that the equations do not match, the relationship is bound to break as has happened many times with several franchises.
Bias is a huge factor in an auction. It could be recency or it could be emotional. It’s human nature to favor one player over another, but it could pose a challenge at auction. One of the biggest challenges is consciously managing bias, especially when it comes to high-level decision makers. We’ve seen enough evidence that recency bias is a huge failure. Almost all of the BBL rookies over the past few seasons have failed the IPL. Some recent examples include the Australian band of Ashton Turner, D’Arcy Short, Riley Meredith, Jhye Richardson. Likewise, a quick century before the auction might raise the price by a few crores, but is that a smart buy? None of these purchases were very beneficial in the end.
A neutral perspective for each pick based on a few metrics such as: how googly is the batter playing? How’s his first ten-ball strike rate? Can he play the sweep shot well? How does a bowler handle a wet ball? How many variations does a bowler have? These factors could go a long way. There needs to be a balance between data usage and cricketing instinct/experience. The game still hasn’t reached a stage where the size of contextual samples is sufficient for machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide an advantage. Trusting techniques and the ability to counter certain situations is more vital than blindly relying on strike rates, averages, economy rates, or whether the player is on the top run-getters/wicket list -takers. Bowling with a wet ball in Wankhede in April is very different from bowling in Australia or the Caribbean. Again, it is the scouts who must relay the correct information to the coaches, who in turn must convince the person lifting the paddle.
Choose the right players
Skills remain the main filter when building a team. While there’s always a wish list for every role, it’s just as important to look at factors other than gameplay strengths that might make a franchise a good fit for a player. Understanding where the player stands in terms of goals and role is paramount. For example, Krunal Pandya is a capable all-rounder, but is he best when his brother Hardik is in the squad or would he be better off on his own? Understanding a player’s background is just as important, and that’s where a good scouting network comes in handy.
Gaurav Sundararaman is a senior statistics analyst at ESPNcricinfo. Prior to that, he worked on auctions with analysts for various franchises and worked with RCB on the IPL auction in 2015 and consulted for the West Indies World Cup men’s team in 2016.
Gaurav Sundararaman is Senior Stats Analyst at ESPNcricinfo