West Indies are the champions of the world in T20 cricket, once again (and, fantastically – for both sexes).
For the second time in three tournaments, the Caribbean islanders came together, put aside their internal political problems and beat everyone (except Afghanistan) who stood in their way.
Unfortunately, I was at work for the final and missed what sounds like a thrilling end to a fantastic tournament. England pushed West Indies right until the death despite being short on runs, and it took a special final four balls from Carlos Brathwaite to separate the two sides. Brathwaite wasn’t called up initially, but an injury to Kieron Pollard gave him the chance to hit Ben Stokes for four consecutive sixes and wrestle the tie away from England.
Apart from my obvious personal disappointment at England losing, I must congratulate the West Indies – it is no less than they deserve. The ICC has since announced their team of the tournament, which includes 6 finalists.
Besides the obvious typo (Jos Buttler is not Indian!), I can’t grumble about the side. Maybe having just two West Indian faces is a little harsh, however it underlines what a team effort they put in. The English representatives all certainly deserve their places, Roy and Willey have come of age, Buttler and Root have underlined their status as superstars.
There’s one thing, though, which I noticed straight away.
The side doesn’t have a captain.
Virat Kohli is listed as the official captain, however it was MS Dhoni who led India during the tournament. And, this got my thinking. I knew Eoin Morgan had a poor tournament, and Darren Sammy didn’t do much either, so just how bad a tournament was this for the captains?
The first thing I did was look up the stats. After checking all the captains were batters (at the very worst, each are considered all rounders), I decided to take a look at the batting averages for each of them. Graph 1 shows this.
However, this graph doesn’t tell the true story. Looking at that, it looks like Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews and Dhoni had great tournaments. But, that simply isn’t true. The reason for that is a technical point about how batting average is worked out. Batting average is officially the number of runs scored divided by the number of times they have got out. So, for Dhoni, who only got out once all tournament, his batting average simply equals the number of runs he scored. Obviously then, this is greatly skewed in the favour of the later arriving captains.
Over the course of a test, or even one day, career, this can be negated. The better batters will stay in and not lose their wicket as often, so that deserves to be taken into account. However, that argument falls short over a small tournament like this one. So, to remove this anomaly, I took the runs scored and divided it by number of innings batted. The table changes massively, as Graph 2 shows.
Again, Mathews is top – but this can be accounted for with his fantastic innings against England, albeit in a losing cause. Even then, Mathews is the one captain who bucked the trend of the tournament. He was his countries star man, he was the go to guy, he was the shining light in a poor Sri Lankan side.
For the rest of the nations, Graph 2 shows that the 2016 edition of the World T20 was not one for the captains. Morgan and Sammy, the two captains of the finalists, had averages of 11 and 2.67 respectively. Clearly, for men of their quality, this isn’t good enough. The highest average is 38, the average of the averages is 17.73. That won’t be pretty reading for the captains.
But then, is this really surprising? T20 captaincy isn’t about being the star man. If it were, then Root and Gayle would captain the finalists. There is more to T20 captaincy than scoring runs (or taking wickets – I still find it fascinating that there isn’t a single specialist bowler who captains in the shortest format. At the end of the day, bowling is how you win a T20 match, so you’d think they’d step up), captaincy is about being clever and having the right fielders in the right places.
In test matches, you have a general field that won’t change much throughout the match. There will be minor changes for certain batters, and spinners tend to have more men around the bat, but the formula tends to stays the same.
It’s certainly not the case as you get to the shorter formats. You can change the field every ball, the first phase place fielding restrictions upon you and the final phases sees your best fielders being out on the boundary, conserving rather than attacking. You need more of a gut feel, there’s no time to see how a plan works, and you need to be thinking three or four overs ahead of where you are. That isn’t necessarily something the star player can do, in fact it’s something that will likely detract from their discipline (and, maybe right there, is why specialist bowlers don’t captain T20 sides).
So, it’s for that reason that Faf du Plessis and not AB that captains South Africa, it’s why Dhoni captains India, and not Kohli. Look at the sides that did pick their star players: Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan (Sri Lanka: Mathews was the star man when the tournament got going, but initially Lasith Malinga would have had that title – he was also the official captain). All exited at the group stages, all performed well below expectations. Kane Williamson is New Zealand’s brightest talent, but in T20 Martin Guptill is the star man. T20 is a format designed to be captained by the best thinkers, and the most ambitious, the coolest and the calmest. Being in good form is simply a bonus.
So then, maybe this was a tournament for the captains. Darren Sammy is rightly being praised from all corners of the media for bringing a politically divided set of countries together, while Eoin Morgan transformed how a nation thinks about one day cricket. Arguably, the two of them had more to prove than anyone else on that list above. And arguably, both of them proved more than anyone else in the tournament.
Whether you think captains need to play well or not is irrelevant, the tournament was a joy to watch from start to end, is the most spectator friendly and commercially viable of all cricket tournaments and so it baffles me that we will have to wait four years for the next one.