Thought Leadership

IPL Player Trading: What could a mutually beneficial trade look like?


By Ben Marlow

October 11, 2022

Thought Leadership

Inspired by what you’re reading? Why not subscribe for regular insights delivered straight to your inbox.

There has recently been talk that the IPL is looking at implementing a new draft player trading system in place of the existing auction format. Naturally, we wanted to put our intelligence engine to work to identify three mutually beneficial and logical swap deals that could make sense for both teams in the event of a player trading system being introduced.  

In order to do this, we have utilised our ‘Win Probability Added’ (WPA) model, which quantifies the win probabilities for each team throughout the game, giving us the ability to measure the impact on the outcome of the match of individual player performances or team performances during a certain phase of the match, among other things. We applied WPA to this exercise as follows:

  1. Identified phases in IPL 2022 where teams were weak using WPA (E.g. CSK were losing on average 15% WPA when bowling at the death).
  2. Analysed that this is because they have lower-quality players rather than high quality players just happening to have a bad season. (E.g. DJ Bravo has historically been good, but no other player has generally had positive impacts at the death in previous seasons).
  3. Identified players with fewer than four appearances from other squads who have performed well in that phase since 2019 to help ‘close the gap’ (e.g. Nathan Ellis only played twice for PBKS but on average increases his team’s chances of winning by 5% at the death).
  4. Repeated this process to find a ‘match’ that is mutually beneficial for both teams and where squad rules on overseas players are not impacted. (E.g. Where PBKS needed a CSK player who didn’t play).

Below are three example swap deals that we believe would be mutually beneficial for both teams considering their performance in the 2022 IPL:

Benefit to Punjab Kings

  • PBKS struggled in the middle phase of the innings with the bat last season (-8.5% WPA). While PBKS have strong overseas options (Bairstow, Livingstone, Rajapaksa), their domestic middle order batters (Shahrukh Khan, Jitesh Sharma, Raj Bawa, Harpreet Brar, and Rishi Dhawan) had a negative impact in the middle phase of the innings.
  • Mandeep averaged +2.9% WPA in this phase in IPL 2019-20 playing for PBKS, meaning a return to the side would help close this gap for them without costing DC significantly having played fewer than 4 times for the team.

Benefit to Delhi Capitals

  • While PBKS struggled with the bat last season, Delhi Capitals (DC) were weak at the death with the ball (-6.2% WPA).  For DC, Nortje was good at the death, but other overseas options struggled. Mustafizur was -2.2% WPA last season, and Ngidi didn’t play, but has performed averagely at the death (0% WPA) since 2019.  DC’s Domestic bowlers were also below average at the death with Thakur (-2.6% WPA) and Khaleel (-3.7% WPA).
  • PBKS’s Ellis is good at the death, having averaged +5.1% WPA in that phase since 2019 but is surplus to requirements for PBKS given other bowlers in their squad – PBKS also have Arshdeep (+7.2% WPA) and Rabada (+4.8% WPA) who were excellent at the death in 2022.
  • Khaleel was very good for DC in the Power Play overs (+2.4% WPA) and middle (+1.8% WPA). Bringing in Ellis would allow him to predominantly focus his overs in that phase of the innings allowing DC’s bowlers to play to their strengths.

Rajasthan Royals Benefits

  • Rajasthan Royals (RR) team balance was precarious in 2022 – while Jos Buttler was able to carry them through the weakness of Ashwin at 7 followed by the 4 bowlers, this is something that they will need to improve through finding a strong all rounder.
  • To help with their team balance, all rounder Sean Abbott could replace Obed McCoy’s bowling in the middle, where he averages +1.7% WPA.
  • While Abbott does struggle at the death, averaging -3% WPA, which is an area where McCoy was very effective last year, this could be partly covered by shifting more of Ashwin’s overs to the death, where he averages +5.3% WPA.
  • Abbott also has a positive impact with the bat in both the middle (+1% WPA) and death (+3.5% WPA), and is only dismissed every 11.6 balls, compared to 7.9 balls for McCoy. This extra depth would take some of the pressure off the top order batting.

Sunrisers Hyderabad Benefits

  • From Sunrisers Hyderabad’s (SRH) perspective, they struggled with the ball, particularly at the death (-7.7% WPA) in 2022, and Saini has averaged +2.5% WPA since 2019 in that phase.
  • While Umran Malik (+4.5% WPA) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (+5.9% WPA) were good at the death last year, previously Malik has been more effective in the middle overs than at the death (+5.2% WPA v -5.7% WPA) and Bhuvi in the powerplay (+3.3% WPA v -1.9% WPA).
  • Additionally, Natarajan is often talked about as a strong death bowler for SRH, but he averaged -5.6% WPA last year and -0.6% WPA over the last few years.

Mumbai Indians Benefit

  • Mumbai Indians (MI) are believed to be prepared to release Pollard, given that they now have Tristan Stubbs and Tim David to cover their batting at the death.
  • Last season MI were weak in the middle overs with the ball (-8.6% WPA). Middle over specialists are crucial in T20 cricket, as shown by  Rashid Khan, Chahal, Bishnoi and Hasaranga all playing for the top 4 teams in the table last year.
  • Howell (+2.5% WPA) and Brar (+1.4% WPA) have both succeeded in the middle over phase since 2019. Both players would also represent an upgrade on Murugan Ashwin in this area (-0.5% WPA since 2019).
  • Howell and Brar are also both good enough to bat at 7 for MI; with Howell having a  +3.4% WPA and Brar a +4.2% WPA batting at the death.

Punjab Kings Benefits

  • PBKS struggled for balance in 2022, with their aggressive approach with the bat coming unstuck without having the required batting depth, they struggled throughout the middle phase of their innings with the bat with a WPA of -8.5% on average in the middle overs.
  • Pollard would fit their aggressive, six hitting heavy strategy (SR = 153) but also adds extra solidity with a dismissal rate of one in every 21.4 balls faced.
  • Pollard and Liam Livingstone can both bat in the top 7 and bowl 4 overs. In the middle overs, Pollard averaged +1.3% WPA with the ball in IPL 2022, and +1.2% WPA since 2019.
  • The only downside for PBKS signing Pollard is that he would be the 4th overseas player, alongside Bairstow, Livingstone and Rabada. This means Rajapaksa would miss out, despite an impressive IPL 2022, with +6.8% WPA in the middle overs) and Asia Cup. 

The introduction of a player trading system in the IPL would create an interesting new dynamic to the competition. As shown above, performance insights can help teams learn where their strengths and weaknesses lie and identify what potentially mutually beneficial trades could look like that could improve the fortunes of both sides. 

If you would like to learn more about our Performance Intelligence services, please contact Ben Marlow.

Related Content