So much of the onus falls onto batsmen in Twenty20 cricket. The shorter format is geared towards big hitting, enormous totals and an avalanche of boundaries. So sometimes, you do feel a little bit sorry for the bowlers.
But for those bowlers in the very top bracket, T20 cricket and the IPL are an environment in which they can flourish. As batsmen look to take risks with an expectancy to score runs quickly, the canniest operators can put their opponents under pressure, vary their deliveries accordingly and subsequently help themselves to a host of wickets.
The best stage to showcase these talents on is the IPL, so what bowlers have been making an impression in this tournament? Is it those that bowl with blistering speed? Those that bowl with unnerving accuracy? Or adaptable players that can tailor their styles for varying conditions and different batsmen?
After the Chennai Super Kings beat the Delhi Daredevils by eight wickets on Monday, here’s your comprehensive guide to the best bowlers in the competition so far, including the most wickets, leading figures and most prolific strike-rates.
All statistics are courtesy of ESPNcricinfo.com:
Here are the top wicket takers in the competition so far:
|IPL 2014: Top Wicket Takers|
Two players sit joint-top of this particular category and one is certainly a surprise, with 42-year-old veteran Pravin Tambe one of joint-leading wicket takers.
The Rajasthan Royals’ leg-spin bowler has been both prolific and economical in the competition so far, troubling batsmen with his variation and bounce on the turning sub-continent pitches.
The uncapped bowler became the first man to bag a hat-trick in this year’s competition, when he snaffled the wickets of Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan and Ryan ten Doeschate in the Royals’ ten-run victory over the Kolkata Knight Riders:
By no means a household name, Tambe has been a model of consistency with the ball. After failing to take a wicket in his first match, he has taken 12 wickets in the five since. Here he is with the purple cap, awarded to the leading wicket taker in the tournament:
Alongside him with 12 wickets is Mohit Sharma of the Chennai Super Kings. The 25-year-old has been very impressive in this tournament so far, taking some key wickets at vital points for his team. Most recently, the wicket of Kevin Pietersen for a first ball duck in Chennai’s win over Delhi:
The wicket of Pietersen moved the Indian international alongside Tambe atop of the standings, although you expect the former will begin to move clear very soon. The veteran is a capable bowler, but it’s difficult to see him maintaining this kind of form for the entirety of the competition.
Hot on their heels are some big names, too. Sunil Narine of the Kolkata Knight Riders is a very astute bowler, as is Sharma’s Chennai teammate Ravindra Jadeja. They both trail the leaders by one wicket and given their skills, are more than capable of pushing up the standings.
Here are the best figures accumulated in an innings so far:
|IPL 2014: Best Figures|
|Ravindra Jadeja||Chennai Super Kings||Kolkata Knight Riders||4/12|
|Lakshmipathy Balaji||Kings XI Punjab||Sunrisers Hyderabad||4/13|
|Mohit Sharma||Chennai Super Kings||Mumbai Indians||4/14|
|Sunil Narine||Kolkata Knight Riders||Mumbai Indians||4/20|
|Pravin Tambe||Rajasthan Royals||Royal Challengers Bangalore||4/20|
Jadeja was both economical and penetrative in Chennai’s victory over the Kolkata Knight Riders, picking up excellent figures of 4/12 from his four overs.
The Indian international is a burgeoning all-rounder, but his work with the ball has really stood out in the IPL. He is a versatile bowler, capable of altering his pace, trajectory and spin to put real indecision in the mind of the facing batsman.
In the four-wicket haul against Kolkata, he took dangerous wickets too, snaffling Robin Uthappa early on before blitzing through the Knight Riders’ middle-order.
Here are the best bits of his match-winning performance from that day:
With figures just one run worse off, Lakshmipathy Balaji has the second best numbers in an innings after his 4/13 for Kings XI Punjab in their win over Sunrisers Hyderabad. Sharma, Narine and Tambe have also notched four wickets in a single innings, for runs of 14, 20 and 20 respectively.
It’s no surprise that the bowlers who have the most wickets are also some of the most economical. Restricting the flow of runs in this shorter format is vital in building pressure and these aforementioned bowlers all seemed to have mastered that particular art.
Top Strike Rates
Here are the best strike rates in the tournament so far:
|IPL 2014: Top Strike Rates (Minimum of Three Games Played)|
The most prolific bowler currently in terms of strike rate is Kings XI Punjab’s Sandeep Sharma. A bowler’s strike rate takes runs conceded out of the equation, measuring how many balls on average it takes for a bowler to take a wicket.
Sandeep, at 20 years old, is still something of an erratic, raw talent. But when he does get it right he can be superb. He’s a peculiar bowler, because he typically puts the ball in the right areas, as noted here by Mohandas Menon:
But he still goes for runs due to the odd rank delivery, which batsmen will typically swat to the boundary.
If he can cut out those lapses, then Sandeep can go on to become a premier bowler on the world stage. The Punjab man has a comfortable buffer atop of these standings, and trailing him is another young bowler looking to make good on his talent, Varun Aaron. The 24-year-old has taken plenty of wickets, 10 in all, but has also been a little too generous with his concession of runs.
Some familiar names round off the top-five in this category, but it’s certainly one to keep an eye on. Especially when looking to identify prolific, young bowlers capable of taking plenty of wickets.