Kohli's 'low' placing in new T20 Index is not an insult... there's more to it than meets the eye

The Player Performance Index for the first time bundles batsmen, bowlers and allrounders in together to formulate a ranking order, while weighting is given to the context of matches, the strength of tournaments and the quality of opposition


Virat Kohli is 13th in the Player Performance Index ratings

Excuse me?!

The general reaction to Virat Kohli’s ranking in the all-new T20 Player Performance Index has been understandably blunt.

Rated the third best batsman in the shortest form of the game by the ICC, the India captain has a legion of admirers, not just in his home country but all over the world, and they want to know just how their idol can possibly sit behind the likes of Shane Watson and David Willey.

"Indian skipper Virat Kohli has been setting new standards in cricket with his bat. Every time Virat enters the ground, he seems to be either shattering the records or is on the verge of breaking one,” rattled The Statesman, as if personally offended by the fact Kohli has only made it to 13th place.

"But one will be shocked to know that Virat has not even made it is the top 10."

It’s easy to react subjectively to the rankings; Kohli is the most prolific white-ball batsman on the planet over the past six months, after all, even if he returned a pair of meagre scores in the T20 series in South Africa.


Kohli was not at his best in 2017

But those who criticise the Player Performance Index for failing to promote him to the top of the order have yet to fully grasp the algorithm that produced such a result.

The Index for the first time bundles batsmen, bowlers and allrounders in together to formulate a ranking order, while weighting is given to the context of matches, the strength of tournaments and the quality of opposition. And every competition - from international bilateral series to the Ram Slam - is given due attention.

Kohli, for all his brilliance in ODI cricket over the past year and his total domination of the Indian Premier League in 2016, has hardly been at the peak of his powers in the shortest format since the start of 2017.

In fact, in last year’s IPL he was 23rd in the list of highest runscorers, having managed just 308 runs at an average of 30.8 and a strike rate 122.22. Of the 22 men above him, only one - Steve Smith - scored his runs slower.

2016: 973 runs, HS 113, ave 60.81, s/r 152.03, 4 100s, 7 50s, 38 sixes, 56.3% win rate
2017: 308 runs, HS 64, ave 30.8, s/r 122.22, 0 100s, 4 50s, 11 sixes, 20% win rate

That his franchise - Royal Challengers Bangalore - flopped so badly will also have had a small influence, given the Index’s algorithm takes into account team performances as well as individual displays.

Those who believe Kohli’s relative lack of T20 action outside the IPL and international duty will have punished him in ranking terms are also wrong; over the course of the three-year period upon which the Index is compiled he actually comes in as the fourth best batsman.

At the end of 2016, had the Index been publicly available, his fans would have seen their hero on top of the pile, just as they expect him to always be.

But the algorithm accounts for three years at once and incorporates many more criteria than runs, average and strike-rate.


The India captain is the fourth-best T20 batsman over three years

Activity rate (the percentage of balls faced where at least one run is scored) and boundary strike rate (the percentage of balls faced hit for four or six) also play a major role in determining the outcome. Even tournament victories play a part, and in the past three years the India skipper has not lifted silverware once.

At the end of all that, 13th place is no slight on Kohli anyway.  

Among out-and-out batsmen, only David Warner, who topped the IPL batting standings in 2017 with 641 runs at an average of 45.79 and strike-rate of 141.81, Chris Gayle and AB De Villiers occupy places above him.

To be ranked so highly among all T20 cricketers the world over, despite having endured a mediocre 12 months by his own, Himalayan standards, is an indicator of his greatness, not an insult.



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