Cricket Reviews

IPL is here! Some thoughts to ponder

IPL is back! The last season ended on November 2020 and here we are. It could be perceived as a cricket overkill considering the hectic international schedule as well as the bio bubble scenario. This season is given more importance especially by overseas players as the T20 World Cup is scheduled in India.

2020 Edition – The most competitive IPL of all!

The 13th edition of IPL was one of the most competitive among all the IPL seasons! The tournament which was originally set to commence on March 2020 in India was postponed to September 2020 in UAE because of the Covid Pandemic. Empty stadiums, Strict Covid-19 protocols did not deter the tournament from producing some riveting contests. This IPL witnessed excellent performances from many uncapped players and bowlers stood tall in a batsmen dominated game!

Some thoughts to ponder

1) Orange cap & Purple cap – Overhyped at times?

Runs and wickets have to be analyzed as per the situation and more importantly, its impact on the team!

Runs: It’s not always about how many runs you score, but what matters is whether you score as per the situation and how it benefitted the team.

Take for instance KL Rahul of Kings X1 (now rebranded as PBKS). One of the most visually pleasing player when in full flight. He won the Orange cap scoring 670 runs for the 2020 season. When you look at it as a stat, it’s very impressive! But, most of the matches where Rahul scored big, the team ended up losing and in the end, they failed to qualify. Yes, the conservative approach could be attributed to the brittle middle-order. Mayank Agarwal was more impactful for the team with a SR of 156.46, scoring 424 runs until he tapered away in the end, owing to the pressure of keeping up with the run rate.

Wickets: A tight spell of a bowler might lead to a batsman getting out of an average ball from a bowler who is less threatening. Bowling also is situational – Economy, creating pressure and yes, Wickets!

The recently concluded white ball series between India and England was a fine example where on batting paradise, bowlers made the difference. Thakur and Krishna were very good for India, but the underrated, Bhuvaneswar Kumar made all the difference. His stats were exceptional and a major reason why India edged out England and won the series.

 T. Natarajan – The Find of IPL 2020

A good left-arm seamer is a great addition to any team and India have been in the hunt for the same, since long. Natarajan made the cut to the Indian team after an impressive 2020 season. The one who reminded everyone that ‘Yorker’ is still the perfect weapon against batsmen.

Mid-season, during an IPL match, it was shown that Natarajan bowled 20 yorkers, whereas the second best was 7. It’s a tremendous feat by a then uncapped player considering the bowlers in show like Bumrah, Rabada, Archer etc. Most cricket platforms have the ‘most number of sixes and fours category’; it’s high-time they include the category of ‘Most number of Yorkers’ as well.

3) T20 is all about momentum

Too much chopping and changing (changing personnel, batting and bowling slots) hampers and pulls down the momentum of the team. Consistency, trust and belief in your players will make them feel secured, create unity, play without the fear of getting dropped and contribute more effectively to the team’s cause.

4) Team combination and a set core group is key

The difference between a good team and a team of good players is huge. A top-heavy batting line-up of superstars alone can’t win you matches – it could, maybe once in a while. MI and RCB are contrasting examples.

5) In a batsmen dominated game, Bowlers make the difference

Even though Cricket as a whole and more importantly, T20 are hugely in favor of batsmen, it’s the bowlers that wins you matches more often! All the successful sides will have good depth in both the departments. Many teams have made the mistake of stacking their line-ups with super star batters ignoring quality bowling options. Hence, they can’t even defend scores over 200. MI always had the perfect balance, but take SRH for instance. They don’t hit the limelight more often as compared to other teams. SRH is a team that has successfully defended low scores with their quality bowling line-up. RCB is a team that has always struggled because of their bowling and over dependence on Kohli and DeVillers.

6) Quality Indian Pool matters

Overseas superstars are important, but you can’t overlook the importance of a quality Indian pool. The teams who get the perfect mix of this always does well. MI, KKR (Under Gambhir’s captaincy) and CSK (During their prime) are good examples.

7) The Wrist-spin conundrum

From being regarded as the best players of spin bowling, India has really struggled against spin with many wrist spinners troubling even the seasoned players. The Kul-Cha combination seems to be fading off. A wicket taking spinner is crucial for T20 World Cup and the batsmen need to counter spin better. Team India should focus this season on ironing out these issues.

Let’s see how the 2 most successful IPL teams ever are positioned this season

Mumbai Indians: The Team to beat!

Without a doubt, the strongest ever IPL team! 5 IPL titles in 13 seasons is a terrific achievement! Mumbai Indians have a set core group and they hardly make any changes. Captained by Rohit Sharma, they play an aggressive brand of cricket which is possible by the depth in their line-up. Even when Rohit had an average season with the bat last year, their fringe players Suryakumar Yadav and Ishaan Kishan chipped in and scored almost 1000 runs for the team. Quinton de Kock gives them a quick start in the powerplay and after Kishan and Yadav, the 3Ps in Pollard and Pandya brothers form a powerful middle-lower order. Boult’s swing in the powerplay, Bumrah’s lethal Bouncers and Yorkers, Chahar and Krunal’s spin, form an equally potent bowling attack.

They definitely are the team to beat! But the neutral venues could bring in other teams and offer better fight.

Chennai Super Kings: Can the Old-Young formula work?

There used to be a time where many would pick MI and CSK to qualify for playoffs even before the start of the tournament. IPL 2020 was the worst ever season for CSK. Reality hit them hard and they had to think different perhaps for the first time. They had remarkable success with the old and young formula, but time has unfortunately caught up with some.

Of all the players, I am eagerly waiting to see the approach of Pujara when he gets the chance. For T20, even the players with sound technique are forced to adapt to a style which is completely alien to them, which at times, devalues the purity and skill present in Tests or even the ODI format – Murali Vijay is a fine example where his test game got affected.

The impact of Raina and Dhoni for CSK has been huge over the years, but it remains to be seen how they perform as they hardly play nowadays. Same applies for the likes of Bravo, Uthappa, Tahir etc. This season, CSK will have to play on fast scoring pitches as compared to the slow turners they prefer at home. If they adapt well and the heavyweights play to the level they are capable of, CSK will fly high!

To be Continued.

Image courtesy: Cricket Addictor , Public Domain

Have you read my thoughts on Cricket – The True Essence getting lost? Read here

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