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Fast Bowlers: Do They Have the Edge in the 2020 IPL?

Rajasthan Royals' Jofra Archer
Rajasthan Royals' Jofra Archer
©BCCI/IPL

Since the first edition of the Indian Premier League in 2008, the world’s best cricketers have had a platform to battle against each other.

Throughout the competition’s history, the likes of Amit Mishra, Lasith Malinga, and Piyush Chawla have registered record-breaking numbers, cementing their statuses as icons of the IPL. Heading into this year’s competition, predictions forecast that the pitch conditions would better favour spin bowlers. So, let’s take a look at whether that’s proving to be the case. 

Leading the Way in 2020 

At the time of writing, pace bowlers are asserting their authority on the IPL’s top-order batsmen. According to the purple cap rankings, Kagiso Rabada tops the charts with 19 wickets in nine matches, averaging 14.42 with an economy rate of 7.68, as per myKhel. Behind the South African fast bowler are three other non-spin bowlers, in the form of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Jofra Archer, respectively. By comparison, the highest wicket-taking spin bowler in 2020 after nine matches, Yuzvendra Chala, sits fifth in the race for the purple cap with 13 wickets, the same as Archer. 

Interestingly, the direction that the tournament has gone in contrasts significantly from the pre-competition expectations. According to The Quint, the long boundaries and sluggish surfaces were thought to be advantageous conditions to spin bowlers, particularly during the powerplay and death overs. As things stand, it’s fair to say that pace bowlers have exceeded all expectations. Rabada’s contributions have seen the Delhi Capitals establish a two-point lead after nine games, with Space Casino pricing them at 5/2 to win the IPL come the end of the season, as of October 21st. 

Should This Have Been Predicted? 

Of course, it’s unwise to ignore the impact that the pitch can have on bowling conditions, particularly for those who rely on pace and late changes of direction. Since 2008, only two spin bowlers have ended the campaign as purple cap winners. In 2019, Pakistan’s Imran Tahir took the crown with 26 wickets in 17 matches, while Pragyan Ojha also won the prestigious award in 2010 with 21 wickets in 16 games.

 

In the history of the IPL, non-spin bowlers also lead the way concerning the tournament's highest wicket-takers. To date, Lasith Malinga holds the record with 170, ten ahead of Amit Mishra. Regarding spinners, the best return comes from Piyush Chawla, who’s taken 156 wickets, according to the official IPL website. 

Concerning the league’s record innings, fast bowlers also have the advantage. Although Adam Zampa managed six wickets from 19 runs in May 2016, Alzarri Joseph has enjoyed the most fruitful innings of any IPL bowler, taking six wickets off 12 runs. 

A Surprising Turn Up for the Books 

Although there’s still plenty of cricket to be played, as we enter the closing stages of the league phase, fast bowlers have thus far managed to get the better of the sluggish surface more so than spinners. Although the conditions were unlikely to be favourable for all bowlers anyway, the competition’s history and records lean towards another period of pace-orientated superiority.

©Cricket World 2020


Dawid Malan reflects