Crickets and numbers go hand in hand these days. As the shorter white ball forms of the game become more and more influential in the way players go about their business on the pitch, things such as economy, run, over, and average rates have become increasingly important to get right.
However, few aspects of the true beautiful game have found themselves growing as much of an issue as that of a batsman’s strike rate. Discussed and scrutinised to death increasingly in all three formats of the game, here’s everything you need to know about strike rate, and why it matters these days.
What is Batting Strike Rate?
In short, a batsman’s strike rate is how many runs a player is scoring every hundred balls.
It is one of the best ways of measuring how well a batsman is reading the pitch and the bowlers, with a higher strike rate suggesting that a player has been able to utilise their scoring shots more frequently.
Batting strike rates are a modern invention of the game, only being introduced in the 1980s or so following the introduction of One Day Internationals (ODIs) and, unlike bowling averages, weren’t initially given much weight in the Test format. Traditionally, the most important average to a Test match batsman was their batting average (i.e. their ability to score runs without being dismissed), however, as the roles of Test match batsmen have diversified and more and more white-ball formats and tournaments have sprung up, strike rate has become a more and more crucial part of a batsman’s reputation.
What is a Good Batting Strike Rate?
As with anything in the world of cricket, the context behind a game, conditions on the day, and location of the ground are crucial in determining what quantifies a ‘good’ strike rate.
Generally speaking, a strike rate of around 50.00-60.00 is considered to be a fluent innings in Test match cricket. For reference, the ‘big four’ batsmen of Joe Root, the highest-rated Test batsman in the world currently, Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, and Steve Smith have average strike rates of 55.02, 51.14, 51.76, and 55.11 respectively.
In ODIs, the top three rated batsmen in the world according to the ICC, Babar Azam, Virat Kohli, and Rohit Sharma average a strike rate of 89.57, 93.17, 88.90 respectively, whilst in T20s, the shortest format in cricket, Dawid Malan, Devon Conway, and Aaron Finch boasts averages of 139.33, 151.11 and 150.24 respectively.
Why does Batting Strike Rate Matter?
The strike rate has increasingly become a point of pride for batsmen in the modern game, with it being as alluded to above a way of showcasing how fluent an innings has been in terms of scoring, progressing the game, and demoralising the opponents.
In the shorter forms of the game, a healthy strike rate is a symbol of a batsman being destructive at the crease and being able to take a run rate away from the opposition. For middle-order batsmen especially, whose roles it is to drive up the run rate and finish an innings off with as many scoring shots as possible, a healthy strike rate can carry a reputation and influence how an opposition captain organises their field, with the heavy-hitting players such as Jos Buttler, Glenn Maxwell or Hardik Pandya immediately forcing conservative fields when they stride out to the middle on the back of their impressive average.
In Test matches, it’s also become a way of highlighting just how fluently a particular batsman has played against all others. For example, in England’s Third Test win over India at Headingley, Rory Burns, Haseeb Hammeed, Dawid Malan, and Joe Root all scored half-centuries, however, whilst the first three names there all finished with a strike rate of 39.86, 34.87, and 54.86, the England captain’s rate of 73.33 shows off just how much more fluent an innings his one was in reality.
Cricket is a mentally draining experience at times, with morale ebbing and flowing with each session, so the value of having a batsman in full flow in the modern game cannot be overstated. It’s another tool in the modern batsman’s arsenal and can provide an extra dimension of a winning formula on top of just adding runs to a scorecard.