Haider Ali is threatening to take over as Pakistan’s batting darling. Babar Azam hasn’t really cracked Pakistan Super League as of yet. 2020 was supposed to be the breakout year but it is yet to happen. Haider Ali has come with a huge reputation and played like he owns the league. Head position straight, timing the ball like a dream, playing on both sides of the wicket, hitting pacers and spinners, by any measure, he is doing it all. He is yet to really nail that huge score but for a nation deprived of batting talent for much of a decade in white-ball cricket, we can’t be too greedy.
He has stuck to the role been given by the management. There is no self-doubt or insecurity about his place in the squad. Pakistan Super League squads are brutal when it comes to the selection of emerging players. The likes of Salman Butt and Bilawal Bhattis can be journeymen T20 players, but if an emerging player doesn’t deliver, he is dumped immediately. The progression is difficult, just ask Hassan Khan. So, credit to Haider and team management for instilling belief in him.
However, that is not the most interesting aspect. Here is why…
- 3rd ball smashed for six
- 2nd ball hammered for four
- 1st ball creamed for four
- 1st ball edged for six
In the four matches so far, the maximum number of balls Haider Ali has taken to hit a boundary is three. This is a supremely unique quality. Even the best of the best in T20s take a few balls or maybe an over to attack. Rotate the strike, settle in or get your eyes in, that is the idea.
This excellent analysis at DW sports shows that it takes an average batsman 15 balls to score as per the expected runs as per their model. So an average batsman spends 15 balls to get going. That sounds too high, doesn’t it? So further segregation is made with high-quality batsmen as per DW rankings. Top-rated batsmen reach that level in six balls. So in simple words, a top-quality batsman gets his eye in six balls and starts scoring at the rate expected of him in particular conditions and match situations.
Another factor that similarly points to batmen taking their time reflects from the average runs per over across the 20 overs. The DW analysis is from four years ago but still is valid because of its sample size and frankly, I don’t have software to do such an analysis. The chart shows that batsmen clearly take it ‘easy’ in the 1st and 2nd over of the innings. The average run rate in the 1st over is below six and in the 6th over is closer to 8. This is a clear difference in approach.
The backend of the power play is where batsmen try to charge. Hence, we often see the 1st over of an innings being bowled by relatively lesser bowlers. Often teams take punts with part-timers, hoping to get away with an over before the batsmen attack. This is why often Sohail Khan bowls the 1st over of the innings for Quetta and Mohammad Hasnain bowls the 6th.
It has been established that batsmen, whenever they come in and take a few balls to get. This applies especially to openers. Therefore, players who tend to go from ball one are worth their weight in gold increasingly. As data starts to influence selection more and more, we are seeing players picked based on these small numbers.
For example, in 2016, Cricinfo did a statistical analysis of international T20 cricket. In that first ten ball strike rates were analyzed. Shahid Afridi came out on top. Darren Sammy, Kusal Perera, Elton Chigumbura, Thisara Perera and perhaps surprisingly Kane Willamson made the list. It is safe to say barring Williamson to a degree, these other players were never really in the top bracket of the T20 players, at least for their batting.
Move forward two years, another Cricinfo statistical analysis came out regarding the IPL. The first ten ball strike rate list had Andre Russel, Chris Morris, Jos Buttler, Krunal Pandya, and Robin Uthappa in the top five. All these players are or have earned the big bucks with IPL franchises. Either they are retained or there is a bidding war for them.
It’s a unique skill not many batsmen have. Hence, T20 scouts all over the world are looking for such players. And a lot of these folks will be looking at the following CricViz chart.
The current HBL PSL season is the fastest scoring in history, so it is unsurprising to see this list of fastest 10-ball strike rates in an HBL PSL campaign littered with performances this season. Lynn currently heads the graph at a SR of 207! #PZvLQ #HBLPSLV pic.twitter.com/wkiUCeiaSE
— PakistanSuperLeague (@thePSLt20) February 28, 2020
Its early doors and small sample size, you might say. If Haider’s role in the side doesn’t change, he is likely to go hard from ball one. Given that he plays cricketing shots reduces the chances of dismissal to some degree. If he continues performing this role in the HBLPSL, great things beckon for the young man.
His ability to strike from ball one can make him a T20 Superstar. Misbah ul Haq would definitely be keeping an eye on him for Pakistan selection. But before that, a T20 franchise contract might come. Perhaps this is what Sammy promised him before the PSL started, a CPL contract.