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IPL

Why not Stirling?

Written by: Prithvi (Puneite_)

India’s biggest festival is about to start in a week’s time. Last month, 2 days of high intensity, action packed drama of IPL 2022 Mega Auction came to an end in Bengaluru with 204 players finding a bid. Out of which 137 were Indian players and 67 were overseas. The franchise owners were on a spending spree and splurged crores while fiercely competing with their counterparts in a quest to build their best sides. A mind boggling amount of 551.7 crores was spent by the 10 franchises.

Teams do look complete, but there is a piece missing in some cases. As a result of auction dynamics and purse remaining, teams often fail to sign adequate backups and reserve players for specific positions and skill sets. Injuries are inevitable in a cricketer’s career. In years past, we have often seen franchises use a substantial portion of their budget to sign 2-3 players and build their team around them, but then their entire plan falls apart if the player gets injured or pulls out of the tournament for another reason. The bio-bubble fatigue has been a big concern over the past two years. Players now value their mental well-being rather than spending two months in luxurious cages. There have been a number of cases of players skipping tournaments and opting for rest. The IPL has not been immune to this phenomenon too. Jason Roy and Alex Hales have withdrawn from IPL 2022 due to the same reason. They were signed by Gujarat Titans and KKR at their base price, respectively.

67 overseas players found a bid in this year’s auction. But there was one notable name missing from the list who found no bidders – Paul Stirling. In an 8-team tournament many Indian players, both young and experienced, occupied the top 2 positions of every team alongside international players like Butler, Gayle, QDK, Bairstow, Lewis, and Faf. But it’s quite astonishing when a player of Stirling’s calibre does not receive a bid in a 10-team affair despite having superior numbers than many of his counterparts. But it doesn’t end here. Stirling is not even considered as a viable replacement after the two openers pulled out.

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It has become increasingly apparent over the years that franchises hesitate to sign players from small international teams. There’s no denying reasons why franchises prefer proven international stars over global T20 “specialists” or Associate talents (there have been a few exceptions), but Stirling’s omission from the IPL is disappointing nonetheless. Gujarat Titans, in this case, have done a better job by signing Rahmanullah Gurbaz as Jason Roy’s replacement. In addition to being a hard hitting batsman, Gurbaz is also a talented wicketkeeper. He is prolific in the T20 format having scored over 1600 runs at a strike rate of 151.8. He has made an immediate impact in leagues around the world by scoring good knocks on his debut in the BPL and the LPL. On the other hand, KKR have signed Aaron Finch, the captain of the Australian limited overs side. This will be Finch’s 9th IPL team. Aaron Finch is a terrific performer in T20Is and for his BBL team Melbourne Renegades, but he has not been able to make a mark in the IPL. He has a record of 2005 runs with an average of 25 and 127 SR. That’s not too impressive for an opener who has played 87 matches. Furthermore, Aaron Finch’s T20I form over the last 2 years has been unsatisfactory. Since the beginning of 2020 he has averaged 27.8 with an SR of 124 and only scored fifty 4 times in 30 games. His struggles against pace were quite evident in the T20 World Cup.

That begs the question: would Paul Stirling have been a better choice as a replacement for Alex Hales at KKR. Paul Stirling ended this year’s PSL with 200 runs from 6 games at a strike rate of 176.9. How does Paul Stirling differ from other batters? Paul Stirling bossed the Powerplay and had the best strike rate. He recorded 172 runs at 191. His ball per boundary ratio was 2.8.

According to the Cricviz Analyst, since the start of 2015, he strikes at 148 in the Powerplay. There have been more than 200 players to face 450+ Powerplay deliveries in that time and Stirling’s strike rate is the 17th highest. He has reached fifty 8 times in the Powerplay in T20s, which is most by a batter after Chris Gayle (10) and David Warner (9). In a T20I against West Indies, Stirling’s 67 is the highest individual score in the Powerplay in the history of T20 Internationals.  Having made his debut in 2008, Stirling has a stellar record in the T20 format with 6751 runs at an SR of 143. He is also a handy off-spin bowler with 74 wickets to his name in the format. Another area which puts Stirling ahead is his ability to play spin. In all T20s and T20Is, he has scored 381 runs against right arm leg break at an impressive SR of 156. And against left arm orthodox, he strikes at 139.6 with 922 runs.

Paul Stirling has quite a bit to offer as a T20 batsman, ticks almost every box and it doesn’t make sense why IPL franchises have not sought his services yet. The big team bias in the IPL must end soon and we should see more players from small teams and associate nations showcase their talent in the biggest T20 league.

Complete List of Odds of all IPL Teams

Mumbai Indians – 5.50

Delhi Capitals – 6.00

Chennai Super Kings – 7.00

Royal Challengers Bangalore – 8.00

Punjab Kings – 8.00

Kolkata Knight Riders – 9.00

Rajasthan Royals – 10.00

Lucknow Super Giants – 11.00

Gujarat Titans – 13.00

Sunrisers Hyderabad – 21.00