An analysis on how the best bowling side and the best batting side for each season have fared over the years. The objective is to find out how balanced or skewed an ideal squad should be and which aspects the managements should invest more in. This is the first part of the analysis which focuses on how crucial it is to have one of the best bowling sides in the tournament.

The Indian Premier League started with a bang, with Brendon McCullum going berserk and scoring a blitzkrieg 158* off just 78 balls; a clear indication that bowlers were going to have a tough time surviving in the tournament. The batting dominance at the beginning is evident from the fact that 3 of the first 4 innings in IPL had 200-plus totals.

However, as the tournament progressed over the years, teams began to use their bowlers more efficiently, franchises started investing big in bowlers instead of going all-out for big names in batting and now teams like SRH have shown how a well-balanced bowling unit can get you the success.

SRH have been quite successful after they formed a bowling-heavy side and they have been one of the best bowling sides in the IPL in the last 5 years. But does being the best bowling side in the tournament guarantee success? Let us see how the numbers stack up:

Parameters used for Ranking Bowling Units:

  • Relative Economy – Economy rate of a team as compared to the combined numbers of all other teams in the season (lesser is better)
  • Relative Bowling Average – Bowling Average of a team as compared to the combined numbers of all other teams in the season (lesser is better)
  • Relative Strike Rate – Strike rate of a team as compared to the combined numbers of all other teams in the season (lesser is better)
  • Relative Wickets per Innings – Wickets per Innings of a team as compared to the combined numbers of all other teams in the season (greater is better)

Runs per Innings conceded and opposition Batsmen Strike Rate had a high Correlation value (>90) with Economy rate. Hence these parameters are not used to avoid repetition.

[Score for each parameter = 1- (Rank in the parameter/Total teams)]

Best Bowling side is determined by the cumulative scores for all four parameters.

Season-wise Best Teams as per Each Parameter and their Tournament Rankings:

best economy
  • In 9 out of 12 seasons so far, the team with the best Relative Economy has reached the finals
  • Only twice has the team with best Relative Economy failed to reach the play-offs.
  • 50% of times the team with the best Relative bowling average has played in the finals.
  • Only twice has the team not reached the play-offs (2009 and 2018) even after having the best Relative bowling average
Best strike rate
  • 9 out of 12 times the team with best Relative strike rate has played the play-offs
  • However, the team with the best Relative strike rate has entered the finals only 4 times
wickets per innings
  • Only twice has a team with highest Relative wickets per Innings not qualified for play-offs
  • Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians narrowly missed out on a play-off spot in 2010 and 2018 respectively

How often have the best bowling Sides entered Play-offs and Finals?

best bowling in IPL
  • Every single year, one of the top two bowling sides has entered the play-offs and 7 out of 12 times, both the top 2 teams have reached the play-offs.
  • 9 out of 12 times, one of the two best bowling sides has played the finals.
best bowling side
  • Except for 2010 and 2018, the best bowling sides have reached play-offs (Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians in 2010 and 2018 missed out narrowly on a play-off spot)

Where do the Champion Teams rank in terms of Bowling Each Season

Bowling ranking
  • Except for 2011 and 2015, every winner was one of the top 4 bowling sides in the tournament.
  • 75% of times the winner is one of the top 3 bowling sides in the tournament.

From the analysis it is quite evident how being one of the top bowling teams in the tournament almost guarantees a play-off spot. The sides which do well surely have had an exceptional batting unit (which will be covered in the next part of the analysis). There should of course be a right balance in the team between the two departments, but what this analysis clearly shows is the fact that having a good bowling unit is certainly fruitful.

How having one of the best bowling units compares with having one of the best batting units will be covered in the subsequent parts of the series, which will give a clearer picture on which aspect is more crucial for success.