There is an age-old saying in cricket that “catches win matches”, something that has long been accepted as a universal truth.
Certainly, dropping your opponent’s best batter or putting down a chance in a critical moment is a surefire way to sabotage the possibility of your team winning.
But whilst we celebrate the best batters and bowlers in the world, the art of fielding is undervalued and often ignored. Not since the late 1990s when Jonty Rhodes patrolled the point region for the South African national team has a player been selected primarily for their fielding above their ability with bat or ball – and specifically, in preference of another player who is known to be superior in either of those other skillsets.
For batters and bowlers there are traditional statistical performance indicators including average and strike rate. Players not performing at expected levels are critiqued and their value to the team questioned. The selection narrative is a big driver of clicks for cricket media.
No such valuation existed to assess fielding performance – what we refer to as the third discipline of the game. So, in order to drive a greater appreciation of fielders amongst the fans and highlight the contribution they make to a match, Sportradar collaborated with the International Cricket Council (ICC), to develop an objective statistical measure that could be applied to fielding performance.
To do this, objective analysis was required to determine what attributes make for a good fielder. Capturing the success rate of catches and run out attempts was obvious, but what of other fielding actions? It was agreed that the skill of throwing, the fielder’s ability to put pressure on the batters and runs saved were worthy of assessment when determining fielding performance.
An algorithm was defined giving weighting to specific fielding actions and backtested for matches played during the 2021 ICC Men's T20 World Cup in the lead up to the 2022 event held in Australia.
The algorithm calculates points awarded to players for taking catches, effecting run outs, good throws, saving runs and putting pressure on the batters. Conversely it deducts points from players for dropped catches, missed run out attempts, poor throws and conceding runs for their team.
Each of these fielding events are rated on their difficulty – for example, the taking of a simple catch is weighted less than a brilliant catch that had a lower probability of success.
During the 2022 Mens ICC T20 World Cup in Australia, Sportradar had an additional data journalist in venue to capture the shape of the field and fielding data points to further inform the algorithm.
By the end of the Super 12 phase of the tournament, the points were tallied to determine the most effective fielding teams and individual fielders.
Proving that catches do indeed win matches, tournament winner England was found to be the superior fielding team during the Super 12 phase of the tournament amassing twice as many points than 2nd ranked Pakistan. A significant reason for this was, extraordinarily,
England did not drop a catch (taking 26 from 26) during this phase of the tournament. England also rated elite for fielding pressure with a tournament high 25 pressure events.
So who is the best fielder in the world?
From an individual player perspective, Australia’s Glenn Maxwell (44 points) and England’s Liam Livingston (37) gave new meaning to the term ‘all-rounder’ with superior performances in the field. Maxwell took two catches, effected two run outs and performed a tournament-high eight pressure moments during this phase of the tournament. Interestingly, both players mostly fielded at deep mid-wicket for their respective teams – a known hot zone in T20 cricket.
Sportradar is excited to be at the forefront of sports analytics innovation in cricket. We expect elite teams to use these insights to inform team selection – especially in the T20 format where a few runs can be the difference between winning and losing – and to inform and assess fielding strategy. And for cricket fans, fielding ranking data will inform debate in pubs, loungerooms and commentary boxes worldwide.
Super 12 Rankings
Top 5 Team Fielding Ranking: England (215 points), Pakistan (115), South Africa (108), Netherlands (105) & New Zealand (102).
Top 5 Player Fielding Ranking: Glenn Maxwell (44), Liam Livingstone (37), Roelof van der Merwe (31), Glenn Phillips (30) and KL Rahul (30).
By Jarod Pickering, the Head of Cricket,
Sports Solutions at Sportradar.
Jarod was formerly of Cricket Austalia, Jarod has nearly a decade of experience leading the development of digital experiences for cricket fans. A participant of the game for over 20 years, he is now the coach of his
son’s Under 14 team helping inspire the next generation of cricketers. Sportradar is the official data supplier for the International Cricket Council. Rankings and insights courtesy of Sportradar’s Zac Goodchild, Event Service and Tournament Statistician, and Prateek Patil, Tournament Statistician.