Hardik Rohit
Hardik Pandya has been facing the fans' ire since he left Gujarat Titans to rejoin Mumbai Indians. Image Credit: SPORTZPICS/IPL

Dubai: The Indian Premier League Season 17 has got off to a predictable start with no real surprises. After one round of the richest franchise league, the notable feature remained that all home teams have managed to keep their fans happy. In a long competition like the IPL, it’s important for home teams to have a winning momentum and collect those crucial points in familiar conditions.

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A welcome change is the pacers are calling the shots with the two-bouncer rule introduced this season, which is keeping the batters guessing. New Zealand pacer Trent Boult showed the way by shaking the confidence of young left-hander Devdutt Padikkal with a perfect bouncer that hit the helmet grill and repeated it against KL Rahul.

“It is just the first game and I’m not going to make too much out of it or over-analyse,” Rahul said.

Batters on two minds

Rajasthan Royals paceman Sandeep Sharma welcomed the rule change in the Twenty20 league that has largely been a batsmen-friendly format with bowlers allowed only one short-pitched delivery every over, including in international games, but the Indian cricket board tweaked the rule to level the playing field at this year’s IPL. The change was successfully trialled during India’s domestic T20 tournament.

“I think the bowlers get some help with this,” Sandeep told reporters after Rajasthan beat Lucknow Super Giants by 20 runs in their opener on Sunday. “Earlier, batters were able to predict where the bowler would bowl if he had used his one bouncer already. It would be easier for the batters.

“But with two bouncers, the batsmen are also in two minds that there’s still one bouncer left for the bowler to use.”

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Uncomfortable with short delivery

West Indies batter Nicholas Pooran, whose unbeaten 64 went in vain during Lucknow’s unsuccessful chase of 194, also backed the rule tweak.

“It’s a good rule. Especially when a guy comes in to bat, it’s effective. If someone doesn’t like the short ball, you can pepper him with a couple of them,” Pooran said.

“But in saying that, we as players and bowlers need to do our homework as well. Some batters, like the short ball as well,” the West Indies batter added.

Rahul underwent concussion protocols after being struck on the helmet by Boult but the Lucknow skipper did not dwell too much on the rule or his team’s loss.

Key talking points after first round:

Rishabh Pant

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The Delhi Capitals skipper has completely recovered from a near-death car crash and he showed that he hasn’t lost any of his sublime touch with a quickfire 18 with two boundaries. It might not be a big score by Pant’s lofty standards but he has ticked all the boxes as he also managed to stay in the middle for close to 20 overs while fielding and showed that he is back in his stride.

Hardik Pandya booed

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Former Gujarat Titans skipper returned to his erstwhile home ground in Ahmedabad for Mumbai Indians’ opener against the Titans but was booed heavily. The 30-year-old all-rounder has been the subject of debate and has been heavily trolled by both Mumbai and Gujarat fans. While the Gujarat fans are upset with his departure after guiding the team to title in their debut season in 2022 before losing to Chennai Super Kings in the final last year, MIPaltans are not able to reconcile to the fact that Pandya returned to unseat their favourite skipper Rohit Sharma, who has given the Blue and Gold jersey five titles when he was at the helm.

Sanju Samson in a new role

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Rajasthan Royals skipper Sanju Samson showed that he is ready to adapt his game to the needs of the situation. The right-hander didn’t gift his wicket away and remained unbeaten on 82 to give the Pink Army a big total, which they defended, despite some jitters. Samson needs to continue playing in similar fashion to maintain his consistency and give his team the much-needed boost.

Ramandeep Singh's cameo

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The little-known Punjab batter produced an explosive knock to take the Kolkata Knight Riders past the 200-run mark in their opener in Kolkata. The 26-year-old, who was part of the Mumbai Indians squad, made sure that he gets off to a perfect start this season, scoring 35 off just 17 deliveries that included four sixes. In Ramandeep, Rinku Singh and Andrew Russell, Kolkata Knight Riders possess dangerous finishers that could help them get big scores consistently.

Umesh Yadav back in the swing

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The veteran pacer had lost out on his place in the Indian team after failing to get back his rhythm while coming back from an injury. But Umesh made the most of the chance that came his way after Mohammed Shami was ruled out of this IPL due to injury showed that he still has plenty to offer with a brilliant final over where he got two wickets to give Gujarat Titans a narrow win. Had Wriddhiman Saha held on to a tough catch off the inside edge of Rohit Sharma, Umesh’s bowling analysis would have read much better. However, this performance should give him the confidence to bounce back this season.

Anuj Rawat in good touch

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The young left-hander showed that he has the capability to take the pressure on his shoulders to give Royal Challengers Bengaluru a fighting chance in the opener against Chennai Super Kings on Friday. Coming in at 77 for four after the loss of Virat Kohli’s wicket, Rawat stitched together a 95-run partnership with Dinesh Karthik. He also kept well to stake his claim as the permanent wicketkeeper for Bengaluru.

Sai Sudarshan shines

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The Tamil Nadu all-rounder extended his impressive domestic form in the IPL to produce a match-winning effort for Gujarat Titans at home on Sunday. Sudarshan had produced a career-best knock of 96 off 47 balls in a losing cause during last year’s final against his hometown franchise, Chennai Super Kings. The 22-year-old played a cautious knock to give his team a respectable score on a difficult wicket and grabbed the Player of the Match award in the first game of this season.

Naman Dhir shows plenty of promise

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The 24-year-old batter showed glimpses of his talent by scoring a 10-ball 20. Though the knock was short, the ease with which he played his shots showed that he could give more worry for his rivals during the rest of the season. Dhir also pulled off a stunning diving catch to terminate the knock of Rahul Tewatia, who was threatening to take the match away.

Ruturaj Gaikwad’s captaincy

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The 24-year-old Chennai Super Kings opener was thrust into the limelight on the eve of the opener after skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni vacated his throne for Gaikwad to take charge in his sixth year after joining the team in 2019. The prolific run-scorer for Chennai handled the pressure to earn comparisons with his illustrious predecessor.

MI and RCB jinx continue

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Historically, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bengaluru have not won their season opener. The jinx continued this season with both these top teams suffering reversals at the hands of Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings respectively. Five-time champions Mumbai Indians have extended their dubious record by losing their 12th consecutive opening game of a season, while Royal Challengers Bengaluru has participated in the season-opening match four times, winning once against Mumbai Indians in 2021 and losing the three.