Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Who is the best finisher in ODI cricket?



In the 4th ODI of the recently concluded CB Series, when faced with a task of chasing 13 runs in the last over, MS Dhoni, with his nerveless batting, delivered one of the most sensational victories for India. In doing so, he re-established the fact that cricket might be a team game but the difference between victory and defeat can sometimes be the skill of one man – the finisher.
A team’s opening batsmen might make a big score and the bowlers might squeeze the opposition out of the game but in close games, it’s the performance of a finishing batsman that defines the end result.
In a big game that is heading towards a close finish, one that is too close for comfort for those with a weak heart, the man in the middle must be one with a cool head. Amidst all the pressure, he must be able to assess exactly what approach is required and which bowlers he should attack. If he’s batting with the tail, how much can he trust them? Which bowlers can he expose them to and for how long?
A prime example of a man with a reputation to finish off games for his team was Michael Bevan. He was recognized for this role in the 90s. Alongside him were some other top players, such as Ranatunga, Harris, Thorpe, Azharuddin and Salim Malik. Inspired by this elite group of players, it seems the current crop has taken the standards of finishing games to an even higher level. Some examples include: Dhoni, Raina, Hussey, Klusener, Razzaq, deVilliers, Matthews, Morgan, the list goes on.
Dhoni’s innings in the CB Series re-ignites the argument: who is the best finisher after all? We, at CricketingMinds, researched various finishers, the types of innings they’ve played and put together an analysis on 4 of the best finishers of this era – Bevan, Dhoni, Klusener and Hussey. This time, it’s upto you to decide who the best finisher is, we’re just gonna put up the numbers.
A deep look into the statistics shows that there are varius types of innings, a ‘finisher’ can play. A specific criteria was formed to categorize a particular innings as a “finisher’s innings”.
TYPES:
Below are the different types under which a finisher’s innings can fall under:
  • Man of the match: These finishers got the Man of the Match for their performances, suggesting how their batting won their team the game. Example can be Dhoni’s finishing act in the 2011 World Cup final: Match    
  • Type 1 – the almost worthy man of the match: These finishers played a Man-of-the-Match worthy performance but did not get it due to some other player’s performance. An example is Michael Bevan’s brave performance while chasing the English total with the help of Andy Bichel, in this game: Match 
  • Type 2 – quick-fire innings to finish: These finishers came in with a few overs left to bat and with a quick Strike Rate (relative to the team) they played a quick innings and did the job: Example is Dhoni’s quick-fire 28 off 13 balls which proved enough to make India win by 7 runs: Match 
  • Type 3 – played second fiddle: played an essential innings by supporting another batsman (who is going strong), or took lead to finish off a small amount of runs required. Michael Hussey’s innings of 25 to chase 42 runs when he came in, is an example of this: Match
  •  Type 4 – normal finish: a finisher’s innings which satisfied the criteria but did not come under any of the above categories. Example can be Lance Klusener's 28 runs in the South African innings: Match   
CRITERIA:
Here are the criteria established for an innings to be called a “finisher’s innings”:
When his team bats first:
  • The team wins or the result is a draw 
  • Stays not out or gets out with 2 overs to go
  • Scores at least 25 runs
When his team bats second:
  • The team wins or the result is a draw
  • Stays not out
  • Scores at least 25 runs
NOTE: The criteria might appear harsh on some counts but here is the justification:
- A batsman plays a finisher’s knock when his team loses, does not account for a team win and so losses (and matches with ‘No Result’) are excluded. (Matches which were draws are included)
- There are cases where batsmen got out in the 48th over while batting first and playing good innings – a threshold had to be formed and that is where the line was drawn.
- There are cases where the batsman scored a useful score which is less than 24, but there are too many cases where the value of the performance is arguable, so it’s better to discount those.
- The strike rates were not a consideration since Bevan and Klusener belong to a time where the teams never saw scores 400 whereas in these recent times, to which Dhoni and Hussey belong to, the average strike rate of batsmen matters a lot more, relatively speaking of course.
THE FINISHERS:
Here is a look at the players in contention:
Michael Bevan: The first man to be known as the “Finisher”, Bevan’s speciality was his ability to score quickly and occupying the crease, getting his team out of tense situations. He was a run-machine who was one of the first batsmen to end his ODI career on an average of 50+, the biggest reason being his 67 not outs in 196 innings. One of the most classic innings he played came in the World Cup 2003, in the match against England when Australia, needing 205 to win, were down at 135/8. He ended up scoring 74 not out, and with the help of Andy Bichel chased the target down with 2 balls to spare.
Here is the shortlist of the innings which fulfilled the criteria: Bevan's shortlist
M.S.Dhoni: The Indian captain, in the recent series, just highlighted the fact that he truly is one of the best ‘finishers’ of modern times. Ability to score quickly in high pressure situations and maintaining a cool head, a feature which has also sets him apart from other captains is what makes Dhoni special. In 2005, Dhoni launched himself on to the international scene with a scintillating 148 against Pakistan. His first true finisher’s knock came against West Indies where he scored a fantastic 28 off 13 balls from number 7 to get India to a good total and the outcome of the match was that India won by 7 runs. However the best innings came in the World Cup final 2011 when he scored 91 not out to lead India to a World Cup victory in 28 years.  
Here is the shortlist of the innings which fulfilled the criteria: Dhoni's shortlist
Lance Klusener: The man of the series of World Cup 1999 might have failed in the semi-finals back then, but he by then had established himself as one of the best finishers lower down the order. Batting at the death, with the tail on most occasions, Klusener played some amazing innings at number 8 and 9 to win South Africa crucial matches. One of these special innings came in World Cup 1999, against Sri Lanka (the defending champions back then), when Klusener, coming in at 115/7 at number 9, scored a quick 52 not out on a difficult pitch to set Sri Lanka a competitive target of 200.  
Here is the shortlist of the innings which fulfilled the criteria: Klusener's shortlist
Michael Hussey: When Hussey arrived on the international scene, it seemed as if he was another version of Michael Bevan for Australia. He rarely showed any signs of feeling pressure and managed to squeeze out runs consistently without throwing his wicket away regardless of the situation. Unlike Bevan, Hussy also established himself in Test cricket his mental toughness seemed to have strengthened his ODI abilities as well. Having earned the nickname Mr Cricket, he was a late bloomer for cricketing standards as he started his career quite late.  This didn’t stop him from maintaining an average of around 50 and playing some memorable innings making Australia win matches. Unlike Bevan, Hussey has also been able to clear the rope quite consistently – Bevan hit a lone 21 sixes in 196 innings, whereas Hussey has hit 73 sixes in 146 innings. Although Hussey’s best finisher’s knock was undoubtedly in the T20 WC 2010 semi-final, scoring 60 off 24 against Pakistan, he has also played some wonderful ODI innings.
Here is the shortlist of the innings which fulfilled the criteria: Hussey's shortlist

ANALYSIS:
Overall
Player
Innings
Finisher
%
Michael Bevan
196
39
19.90
M.S.Dhoni
181
38
20.99
Lance Klusener
137
20
14.60
Michael Hussey
146
33
22.60

 This table compares how many innings each batsman has played and how many made through the short list. Bevan leads with 38 innings, but given M.S.Dhoni’s spectacular form recently and the amount of matches is likely to play in the future, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Dhoni will overtake Bevan in the number of innings. An astonishing fact is that the highest ratio lies with Michael Hussey who, as per this, plays a true finisher’s knock every 4.56 innings. Does that tell us the complete story?
To get a more complete picture, let’s look at how many of these ‘finisher’ innings were played while the team was batting first and how many were played while chasing:

Team batting
Player
Batting 1st
Batting 2nd
Michael Bevan
25
14
M.S.Dhoni
16
22
Lance Klusener
10
10
Michael Hussey
23
10

 
Based on the table above, it’s safe to say that Dhoni reserves his best for games in which he can finish off not just the innings, but the match itself and lead his team to victory. The most important performance of his career came in a situation where his team needed to chase a big score and in the grandest stage of all, the world cup final. Dhoni also has the highest average (amongst test playing nations in ODIs with the minimum qualification of 500 runs) when chasing as seen here. On a different note, it seems that left handers were more successful batting first. Hussey is a prime example in this case, and he also has the highest overall average amongst finishers. 
There is a variety of innings a finisher can play and some might be more special than others. Let us take a look at the number of performances which won each one of them a Man of the Match award:


Man of the Match Innings
Player
Innings
MOTM
%
Michael Bevan
39
6
15.38
M.S.Dhoni
38
13
34.21
Lance Klusener
20
9
45
Michael Hussey
33
7
21.21

Given that different aspects of a good finisher are highlighting the qualities of different batsmen, it’s no surprise that Lance Klusener manages to stand out in this list. Dhoni might have the most Man of the Matches amongst the batsmen; Klusener has the best ratio when he’s on song, a characteristic which earned him 9 Man of the Match awards in 20 innings.
However, some might say winning the Man of the Match award is still not be adequate to show the finisher’s contribution to his team’s victory. Someone else might have scored a hundred but the finisher would have hit a six of the last ball to seal the game under pressure.        
Let’s look at the number of innings played by each finisher with respect to the types defined earlier:
NOTE: Characterizing types does not make one innings more special than the others – a finisher plays according to the situation and in different situations, different innings can win matches.


Finisher Criteria Type
Player
Type 1
Type 2
Type 3
Type 4
Michael Bevan
12
11
6
4
M.S.Dhoni
13
2
9
1
Lance Klusener
4
3
3
1
Michael Hussey
9
7
9
1
  
Type wise innings as percentages of total ‘finisher’ innings:
  
Finisher Criteria Type %
Player
Type 1
Type 2
Type 3
Type 4
Michael Bevan
30.77
28.21
15.39
10.26
M.S.Dhoni
34.21
5.26
23.68
2.63
Lance Klusener
20
15
15
5
Michael Hussey
27.27
21.21
27.27
3.03

Dhoni has the highest ratio of playing innings which are almost worthy of being a Man of the Match innings. All players have a decent “Type 1” percentage over 20%. However when there are 5 overs left to bat, Bevan and Hussey would be the most desirable. One reason why Dhoni has just 5% is because a lot of his ‘finisher’ innings ended up turning into “Type 1”. To explain it further, a characteristic of Dhoni is that he sometimes comes up the order to bat in certain situations. Hence he ends up playing a much more important role. If a team needs some calm batting to chase down and someone needs to pace the team’s innings, Hussey or Dhoni would be the best choices to play a “Type 3” innings.
Another noteworthy parameter is the number of innings each batsman played from different batting positions.
NOTE: For a finisher’s role, batting positions 3 to 9 were considered.

Batting Position Wise
Position
Bevan
Dhoni
Klusener
Hussey
3
1
4
1
0
4
9
4
0
3
5
3
12
1
9
6
23
14
5
13
7
3
4
2
8
8
0
0
9
0
9
0
0
2
0

 There are a few things we can take from this table:
- Bevan’s expertise can be seen at number 6, a position which gave him the recognition of being called “The Finisher”. Bevan, in this interview also stated the level of importance he gave to staying not out and being there till the end as the No. 6 batsman - a reason for which he is successful. - Hussey, who came after Bevan, has however adapted himself to the positions 5 to 7.
- Dhoni’s versatility can be seen by him getting at least 4 innings at every position from 3 to 7 – more centered on position 5 and 6.
- Klusener is the best option to have at number 8 – a lot of his ‘finisher’ knocks coming from down the order.
Unlike some of our previous articles, we don’t have a solid conclusion as to who the best finisher truly is. There are no set criteria for what defines a finisher, but here at Cricketing Minds, we’ve done our best to quantify this trait. Each player in this list has his own strengths and in one way or another can claim to be the best in the world at what he does.     

18 comments:

So what is the conclusion? Or is that up to the reader?

Bevan was the best. I say this because for me a batsman coming in at number 6 position in every team in Odis has the finishers role and Bevan has successfully played a finishers role most of the times (according to your research)
Dhoni is next especially because of his excellent wc final innings
Though I believe the game was pre decided at the highest level (yes I'm saying cricket game is corrupted from top to bottom )
- in fact with all due respect to kohli, I feel the CBseries game between India Sri Lanka was fixed (the tied game)
Yet I'm a diehard cricket fan. And I continue watching this corrupted game.

Why would you pick Klusner ahead of Yuvraj or Miandad or de Villiers? How can you justify these 4 batsmen that you've picked for your analysis?

@Anonymous

It was difficult to give a concrete answer since the criteria we defined could still be tightened further - we just could not justify how we can do that.

Its an open discussion - and so suggestions would be great.

@Anonymous

We would actually agree to that comment because out of the 4 batsmen, Klusener is the known basher - the other 3 are of the type who can work around the ball and score quickly like that. Klusener is up there purely because of his reputation and being recognized for this basher's role.

Out of the options you gave, AB DeVilliers I feel stands a chance of being on this list but we went for the most reputed finishers.

Good analysis! I like the different approaches taken to discuss this and I was also going to point out that Klusener might not even belong to this category but you addressed that in the comments.

For me its MSD who stands out. Being captain, keeper and also performing the role of a finisher and also playing one of the best innings in a cricket world cup final, he totally wins this, even over Bevan.

Dhoni is acting hero in cricket. Good captain ship I agreed.i seached Trade Printer Related

You can add Misbah to this list after today!

Misbah is dumb and can't play. He is the worst finisher... Playing risky scoop-shots when its not necessary and letting Pakistan down

One more biased indian article about Dhoni.....why do you guys forget Dhoni's failure outside subcontinent pitches, he has failed time and again outside subcontinent, he has a technique that works only in subcontinent, to be called as the best finisher, the batsman should be capable of playing anywhere in the world not just flat home pitches. Bevan, Klusener, Hussey all have played well under all conditions, all the pitches round the world. Also, the standards of bowling in Bevan or Klusener's time were way better than today's bowling standards, to add on, boundaries have been shortened, no help to bowlers these days. Dhoni will the last on my list or any intelligent unbiased cricket fan's list

sir, plz get his numbers in last england and australia ODI series' before commenting on his failures abroad. He has finished some close games there. And u r to witness it again in the champion's trophy. No other indian captain has played so wel under pressure as dhoni did. And in the 4 persons compared above, only dhoni is a captain. Its easy talking... Bt doing is nt that easy

This is good discussion about the cricket series.Thanks...
Cricket overseas

I disagree with u......dhoni in 2011 odi series in eng against eng.....he won d man of the series award by being scored unbeaten scores throughout d tournament.....dont talk without knwing records.....i agree misbah s d worst worst finisher......

Dhobi is the best among all

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For my point of view MS Dhoni is the best because as a captain your responsibility is bigger then other player's

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