After six long years, the IPL will return to the shores of the United Arab Emirates to reunite and reconnect with the Middle East and continue its love story with the transcontinental region. But, ahead of the tournament, why should all eight teams take an extended look at PSL 2019?
History was created in 2019 when an entire leg of the Pakistan Super League - rather than just the knockouts or the final - was played in Pakistan. The National Stadium in Karachi hosted no less than 8 PSL games in 2019, thereby organically paving way for the entirety of the 2020 edition of the competition to take place in Pakistan, for the first time in the tournament’s history. But while Karachi hosted 8 games of PSL 2019, 76% of the competition (26 of the 34 games) was, nonetheless, played in UAE, where the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) will incidentally be held.
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai and the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah - the designated venues for the IPL 2020 games - between them, hosted all 26 games and these matches happen to be the last top tier franchise matches to have taken place in the country.
So, given there is plenty of talk about the UAE surfaces being ‘slow’, and given there is plenty of talk about Chennai Super Kings being favourites for that very reason, we, here at SportsCafe, decided to delve deep into PSL 2019 and dissect each of the 3 aforementioned venues to see what the IPL teams can expect from these wickets when the tournament kicks off in under a fortnight. Will all pitches be dead slow? Will the wickets be good for batting? Will there be high scoring games? Will the wickets turn? Will it be a graveyard for fast bowlers? Well, let’s find out.
Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai
The Dubai International Stadium hosted more matches (14) than any other venue in PSL 2019 and thus it would be the ideal fit to get a decent idea of what the conditions in IPL 2020 might potentially look like, come the third week of September. The numbers from PSL 2019 for the venue are as follows:
Average first innings total - 143.14
After starting off with three 150+ team totals - 171, 183 and 155 - run-scoring fell off a cliff at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in PSL 2019. In the remaining 11 matches, teams scored over 150 just four times and there was a 78-all-out posted by Lahore Qalandars in the seventh match of the season to go along with six other totals of 140 or below posted by the teams. The average total dipped to 134.75 in the latter half of the season - in stark contrast to the 154.8 in the first half - thereby suggesting the wicket could play slower as the tournament progresses.
Highest 1st innings total - 183
Karachi Kings’ 183 in match 2 of PSL 2019 versus Multan Sultans turned out to be the highest team total in Dubai. That was the only instance of a team scoring 180 or more in Dubai in PSL 2019.
Success rate for chasing sides - 85.7%
A staggering 12 of the 14 games at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in PSL 2019 were won by teams chasing. Teams, in fact, in PSL 2019, chased totals of 150 or more successfully on 5/6 instances, thereby clearly proving that this is a venue made for chasing.
Lowest total defended - 138
The lowest total defended at the stadium was 138 and it was done by the Lahore Qalandars versus Karachi Kings. This was also, incidentally, one of the two instances of a team successfully defending a target at this venue.
Average opening partnership - 27.5
Opening partnerships at this venue were a bit meh in PSL 2019. Across 28 innings, opening stands of batting sides averaged a paltry 27.5 and there were, in fact, just four fifty-plus stands in total.
No of sixes per match - 9.07
There were a total of 9.07 sixes hit per match at this venue in PSL 2019. In fact, teams hit 10 or more sixes on five occasions in the first six matches and managed to repeat the feat just twice in the last eight - further indication to the wicket becoming slower with time.
Total wickets taken by pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 100
Average for pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 25.43
Total overs bowled by pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 341
Strike rate for pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 20.46
Economy Rate of pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 7.45
Total wickets taken by spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 51
Average for spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 24.72
Total overs bowled by spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 188.1
Strike rate for spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 22.13
Economy Rate of spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 6.70
The Dubai International Cricket Stadium surprisingly, as is evident from the stats, was by no means a ‘bad’ venue for pacers in PSL 2019. Not only did they bowl a lion’s share of the overs - 65% of the total overs - but they also managed to strike regularly whilst managing to keep the runs under check. An economy rate of 7.45 for quicks on flat wickets is very very good, if not great. The spinners, on the other hand, enjoyed a pretty fruitful outing, too, for they outperformed the pacers on all fronts minus the strike rate. The ‘economy rate’ column should indeed interest all IPL sides, for these numbers are an indication that spinners can be used to great effect to tie down batsmen in the middle overs. In fact, ranging from Yasir Shah to Imad Wasim, there were a plethora of spinners who opened the bowling. Here at the Dubai International stadium, spin can be a great weapon to choke batting sides and the numbers prove the same.
The Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah
The Sharjah Cricket Stadium hosted a total of eight games in PSL 2019, the second most after the Dubai International Stadium. While Dubai hosted the first and the third phases of the UAE leg, Sharjah oversaw phase 2 of PSL 2019, hosting matches 8-15.
Average first innings total - 161
Sharjah was, by far, the best batting wicket in the entirety of PSL 2019 and the venue saw teams batting first cross the 150-run mark on 5/8 occasions (62.5%). However, like Dubai, this wicket, too, slowed down with time as while teams batting first averaged 167.75 in the first half of the season, the number dropped down to 154.25 towards the second half, in which teams posted scores under 150 in 3 of the 4 matches.
Highest 1st innings total - 200
Sharjah was host to the only 200-plus total in the entire Dubai leg of PSL 2019. This occurred in the match between Multan Sultan and Lahore Qalandars and that was the third game of PSL 2019 played at this venue.
Success rate for chasing sides - 75%
Like Dubai, Sharjah, too, was a chasing ground in PSL 2019. Teams chasing won six of the eight matches played at this venue and Lahore Qalandars, in fact, chased down 201 versus Multan Sultan in one of the games. IPL captains reading this, you know what to do!
Average opening partnership - 21.18
Opening stands in Sharjah were a mare. There was just one partnership over fifty - between James Vince and Umar Siddiq - in eight matches (16 innings, that is) and minus that one stand, teams averaged 13.6 for the first wicket across the other 15 innings.
No of sixes hit per match - 7.87
Despite the average first innings total being 161, Sharjah was not a great venue for hitting sixes - not at least in PSL 2019. An average of just 7.87 sixes were hit per match and even this number was skewed by two games in which a total of 27 sixes were hit. Excluding those two matches, an average of just 6 sixes were hit across the other six matches at this venue.
Lowest total defended - 153
Teams that posted first-innings totals under 150 in Sharjah - it happened thrice - ended up on the losing side every single time. The lowest total defended at this venue in PSL 2019 was 153, by Peshawar Zalmi against Karachi Kings. So this gives us a rough idea about ‘par scores’ on this wicket; fail to score 150 and you’re basically as good as done.
Total wickets taken by pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 68
Average for pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 25.5
Total overs bowled by pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 210.5
Strike rate for pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 18.60
Economy Rate of pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 8.21
Total wickets taken by spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 20
Average for spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 34.75
Total overs bowled by spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 101.5
Strike rate for spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 30.55
Economy Rate of spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 6.81
Clearly, the Sharjah wicket, in PSL 2019, was not an ally of the pacers like Dubai. Pacers did strike at a better rate as compared to Dubai, but they conceded runs at a rate almost 1.00 higher. When it comes to the spinners, meanwhile, these numbers make it crystal clear that the slower bowlers had no role to play as ‘wicket-takers’, but were invaluable when it came to curtailing the run flow. An Economy Rate of 6.81 at a venue with an average first innings total of 161 is extraordinary and this is definitely a statistic that every IPL could would need to be looking into. Using both part-timers and specialists as choking-machines might be a ploy that might work wonders.
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi
Finally we come to the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, which hosted a total of four games in PSL 2019. Basically, the final phase before teams zooted off to Pakistan. Now four games might be a sample size too small, so it is important to not read too much into these numbers.
Average first innings total - 146.75
Abu Dhabi, in PSL 2019, was a mixed bag. Of the 4 games it hosted, the first and the last games were high-scoring encounters, whilst the two in the middle were extremely low-scoring bouts. Indeed, a total of 20 IPL 2020 games will be played at this venue and so the wicket might behave inherently different, but from the four matches that were played in PSL 2019, it’s clear that this wicket doesn’t - or at least didn't, in PSL 2019 - drastically slow down like the other two.
Highest 1st innings total - 180
Quetta Gladiators posted the highest total at this venue in PSL 2019, which was 180. It, interestingly, came in the very last match of the Dubai leg of the tournament, but given the two games prior to this saw teams posting totals of 118 and 124, there’s not much to read into, here.
Success rate for chasing sides - 75%
Mirroring both Sharjah and Dubai, Abu Dhabi also turned out to be a paradise for chasing teams. Chasing sides won three of the four matches played at this venue in PSL 2019 and the only instance of a team defending a target was Quetta defending 180 against Islamabad.
Average opening partnership - 24.5
The rather weird nature of this venue saw teams post 50+ opening stands in the first and last innings played here in PSL 2019, but, overall, the number still turned out to be very mediocre.
No of sixes per match - 9.25
A healthy 9.25 sixes were hit per match at this venue in PSL 2019 and 14 and 16 sixes were hit respectively in the first and the fourth games of the Abu Dhabi leg. This is definitely a number that will encourage all big-hitting sides in the IPL. Abu Dhabi does look like a much better ground for six hitting than both Sharjah and Dubai.
Total wickets taken by pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 37
Average for pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 20.35
Total overs bowled by pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 107.2
Strike rate for pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 17.40
Economy Rate of pacers at this venue in PSL 2019: 7.03
Total wickets taken by spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 12
Average for spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 29.83
Total overs bowled by spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 49.3
Strike rate for spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 24.75
Economy Rate of spinners at this venue in PSL 2019: 7.30
So, although the sample size might be negligible, there is clear evidence from this data that this wicket was far more favourable for pacers than it was for spinners. Not only was the pacers’ ER of 7.03 the best amongst the three venues, but here, they also had a rate significantly better than that of the slower bowlers - unlike the other two venues. For the spinners, Abu Dhabi looks like a venue where they might need to attack - and not just look to contain - and you suspect all IPL teams would be closely looking at this data.
IPL might be a significant upgrade to the PSL, but, nevertheless, these numbers do provide some interesting insight - insight which IPL teams can certainly use to get a rough idea of how each venue ‘might’ play out. From what we can interpret, pace will, undoubtedly, play a vital role in these conditions and, contrary to the popular notion, sides stacked with spinners might just not be runaway favourites to win the tournament. Wickets might be on the slower side, yes, but six of the top seven wicket-takers in PSL 2019 being pacers - and, along with that, the dismal opening partnerships - suggest that the quicks might dictate terms far more than what everyone anticipates. One thing is clear, though - there is no way that a captain is NOT opting to chase after winning the toss.