The use and misuse of the Batting Powerplay has given birth to a lot of opinions as to how they should be used. Fans of particular teams have devised, in their heads, strategies fit for that particular team in respect of optimal use of the Batting Powerplay.
We have seen in the past that Batting Powerplay is a double-edged sword. As much as it can destroy the bowling team if the batsmen get it right, it has also had the effect of completely annihilating the batting team also. It's weird then to think that it was brought into play to help the batting teams.
Batting powerplays were introduced to bring a bit of excitement in the middle overs of an ODI game, which sometimes tend to just drift along. However, they have been used, more often than not, towards the end overs of the batting team's innings. So the purpose for which they were introduced has not really been served. But irrespective of that fact, most people would agree that it has brought a different kind of excitement into the game.
Personally, I eagerly look forward to the batting powerplay every time in an ODI just to see how will the batting team use it. It is a potent weapon... of mass destruction as well as self destruction!
I searched a lot on Cricinfo and other cricket related websites, but I couldn't find a good database of Batting Powerplay scores till date. Batting Powerplays were first introduced in October 2008, and since then more than 250 ODIs have been contested. Even if we were to consider "non - no result" ODIs played between the top-8 sides only, there are still 171 ODIs to be considered. I really couldn't afford to create a database of my own for 171 matches!
So what I have done in order to analyse the Batting Powerplay is picked a few innings that I can remember at random. I know it is not a scientific method, but from memory, I have picked a four cases each of mass destruction and self destruction during the Batting Powerplay.
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There is another reason why I think that batting powerplay is better off taken before the 'slog overs' commence. If it is taken during the slog overs, the batting team is enabling the main of bowlers of the bowling team to bowl in the batting powerplay as well as the slog overs. When it is taken earlier, the main bowlers will be forced to come into the attack earlier and as a result, they will have lesser number of overs available to bowl at the death. So even if the batting team manages just about 35 - 40 runs during the batting powerplay taken at the mandatory ball change but keep their wickets intact, they are giving themselves a chance to attack the lesser bowlers when they come on to bowl later.
Moving on, I think it would be right to recognise Case A and Case H as exceptions. In respect of Case A, Albie Morkel is a rare talent... and that was a rare innings at the MCG even in respect of a rare talent! As for Case H, choking is a complex phenomenon to explain... and that particular night, South Africa redefined the word 'inexplicable'!
Here is another piece of observation... the average strike rate of batsmen in the first four cases is 109.28, while the average strike rate of batsmen in the last four cases is 70.38. Again this does not prove anything... but it does strengthen a belief that I have held for long. I have been of an opinion that where the batsmen have been consolidating an innings, they should play a few shots and gain a bit of momentum before opting for the batting powerplay. I believe that batting powerplay should not be looked at as a tool of completely changing the game's momentum... rather, it should be considered a tool of increasing the momentum that the team has already gained!
In each of the cases B, C and D, the batsmen at crease have hit a combined total of more than 10 boundary shots at least (19. 14 and 17 respectively) in their innings up until then. Whereas in cases E, F and G, these figures stand at 4, 4 and 2. This reiterates my opinion that a bit of momentum should be in hand before one goes for a batting powerplay.
Some may say that this is not a question of momentum, but a question of being set at the crease. But I believe that even a set batsman can get out during the batting powerplay if he goes for something too drastic. Just as warm up exercises are necessary before a strenuous workout, the same principle applies in respect of gathering a bit of momentum before going for a blast.
A lot of times we have seen batsmen going at run rates of 4 or 5 (Cases F, G, H) before they take batting powerplay. Suddenly then they look to score 40 - 50 runs in their next 5 overs by playing a few airy hits. If they don't come off, they get out or the ball ends up being a dot. Somehow, dot balls in batting powerplay overs put more pressure on batsmen than dot balls in regular overs. And once the pressure is built, there is bound to be an explosion - one way or the other!
It would be interesting to get you opinions in this regard, because batting powerplays make for an interesting case study. Please do comment about your conclusion, opinions, other matches and incidents that you may recall and if you have any statistics, please do let me know from where can I get them. If I have a good statistical database of batting powerplay data, then I might be able to do a more detailed study and analysis of this concept in future.