Dubai: High drama, heartstopping action and adrenaline-fuelled run-chases. That’s what the Indian Premier League promised. The first 40 games in the UAE had all of that and more. Three Super Overs in a day and four maidens in a row were UAE specials.
As the IPL 2020 heads to the business-end of the 56 games before the playoffs, we take a look at the 10 takeaways.
Chennai Super Kings had a great fall
The Chennai Super Kings are a marquee team. Which is why their endless struggles have been greeted with amazement. Spin was the initial worry. When that was fixed, the batting gave away. Faf du Plessis was the lone exception. Everyone else struggled to perform consistently. Demoralising defeats followed each win, and that was something alien to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side.
Three-time champions Chennai never finished below the fourth position. That may change since they are dawdling at the basement of the points table. Maybe, it’s time to inject some fresh blood into the Dads Army.
Resurgence of Royal Challengers Bangalore
Virat Kohli seemed sure that IPL 13 would be the season of the Royal Challengers Bangalore. That was before the games began. Bangalore began with a couple of losses but soon hit the winning trail with Kohli rediscovering his touch. And whenever Bangalore were in trouble, AB de Villiers performed miracles.
For a team that fared poorly in the last three editions, Bangalore’s rise has been a highlight. The weaknesses in the bowling unit have been repaired with the arrival of Chris Morris and Isuru Udana. Navdeep Saini’s yorkers have been handy at the death, the Achilles heel of Bangalore. Yuzvendra Chahal continues to be Kohli’s trump card.
The pace pack breathes fire
The pace bowlers love the bit of life in the UAE pitches early in the innings. They have been bending their backs and firing deliveries at speeds above 140 kmph. Anrich Nortje of Delhi Capitals consistently clocked over 150 clicks and bowled the fastest delivery in IPL against the Rajasthan Royals with the speed radar showing 156.22 kmph.
Jofra Archer of Rajasthan was the first show that sheer pace could work in the UAE. He hurried the batsmen into making mistakes. Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins, Robert Pattinson, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami worked up a tidy pace and were rewarded with wickets.
The rise of the young brigade
Ravi Bishnoi, Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kartik Tyagi, Arshdeep Singh and many others have lit up the league with sterling spells. Most of these players have represented the India Under-19 squads. But here they are jousting with the big boys of world cricket. And they held their own on the strength of their skills. That augurs well for Indian cricket.
Most of them are bowlers. But Riyan Parag, Priyam Garg, Abhishek Sharma, Abdul Samad and other batsmen have come good on occasion, but they lack consistency. That will come with experience. Only Yashaswi Jaiswal and Rituraj Gaikwad have been disappointing, but then they didn’t get enough opportunities.
AB de Villiers, the superman
When other batsmen struggled to score on slow pitches, AB de Villiers plays with such freedom that makes everyone believe he’s superman. How else will you describe his incredible 33-ball 73 against the Kolkata Knight Riders? He repeated the feat when Bangalore faced a tough asking rate against Rajasthan. De Villiers responded with a hat-trick of sixes, and the match was in the bag.
De Villiers’ escape acts are legendary. We see them every year in the IPL. And each year it becomes more and more breathtaking. This year they have helped Bangalore climb the charts. Kohli must be hoping for an encore in the playoffs.
Shikhar Dhawan turns the clock back
Shikhar Dhawan, the senior Delhi Capitals opener, seems to have turned the clock back with the way he had been batting so far. It’s no mean feat to emerge as only the first batsman in the IPL to score back-to-back centuries, while he is the fifth member of an exclusive 5000 runs-plus club in the league. Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and David Warner are the others to have reached the milestone.
Now 35, Dhawan who is one of the seniormost members of the Men in Blue, seemed to be in fine touch and also showed a hunger in trying to bat deep - keeping the scoreboard ticking all along. He has already made a case to be in the flight for Down Under for the white ball series.
Iyer, India’s next white ball captain?
The Mumbai batsman, only 25, has grown in leaps and bounds ever since he was thrust upon the captain’s role of the Delhi franchise midway in the 2018 season when Gautam Gambhir stepped down. Rebranded as Delhi Capitals since last year, the team made the play-offs after a long gap last year and are looking as one of the title-contenders this year.
Iyer is a perfect example of maintaining a mature head on his young shoulders, and has not aloowed the pressure of captaining an IPL side affect his batting so far. It may not be long before the Indian team management starts looking around for a successor to Virat Kohli, now 31, to captain the white ball teams and Rohit Sharma – now already 33 – may not be too keen.
The Delhi captain, hence, looks a perfect choice for the future. Are the Indian selectors listening?
Rahul the run-machine
The ongoing IPL has seen KL Rahul the batsman at his best for Kings XI Punjab, though the same cannot be said about his captaincy. With four league games still to go (till the eve of Saturday’s double header), he has already scored 540 runs including a century to be the owner of the Purple Cap - and was a class act with a mixture of aggression that this format demands and delightful cricketing shots.
The pressure of captaincy in IPL has often taken it’s toll on the batting form of some of the best in the business, but Rahul shouldered it admirably. The team had been showing some signs of improvement to be still in the running for a shot at the fourth spot in the play-offs, with the inclusion of Chris Gayle in the middle order and a semblance of consistency in the team selection. Good luck to ‘KL’ for the rest of the campaign.
Relay catches as an art form
Glenn Maxwell and James Neesham combining to take a relay stunner at the boundary rope? Or Ravindra Jadeja flipping one back for Faf du Plessis to complete the catch of Sunil Narine? If ‘relay catches’ on the boundary line had captured the imagination once in a while in the previous editions of IPL, they have almost become routine in this edition - thanks to the supreme athleticism of the players who have taken fielding to an art of the living dangerously this time.
Most of the teams have been practising the drill of a fielder flipping over the ball to a teammate backing up if he is in danger of tipping over the boundary line - and this has paid rich dividends in terms of completing catches which were unthinkable in the past. The other dimension had been some of the finest fielders of the game putting their bodies on the line to stop certain sixes and fours - trying watching the Nicholas Pooran or Mayank Agarwal one.
Increased TRP ratings
The TV viewership of IPL 2020 had shown a remarkable increase for a number of reasons. If the complete absence of cricket for nearly six months had whipped up the apetite of the fans, IPL offered the most easily accessible, fresh entertainment. In it’s opening week, the T20 league has delivered 269 million viewers – a 15% growth in the viewing minutes compared to 2019.
As per the BARC-Nielsen Edition 12 – IPL 2020 report, the opening match performance between Mumbai Indians versus Chennai Super Kings garnered a viewership of 52 million impressions - 29% higher than 2019 and watched by 158 million viewers (21% higher than 2019).
Not just the viewership but the advertising volume has also seen a spike. As per the data, the total advertising volume for IPL 2020 opening week is 15% higher than 2019 opening week. The growth witnessed in ad volumes across all the matches.