Two Super Overs. A record chase. Some tight finishes. That’s been the story of IPL 2020 so far. And it has been every bit engrossing as the previous editions.
Rahul Tewatia’s fireworks for Rajasthan Royals came early last week, and Ishan Kishan’s rescue act followed that for Mumbai Indians (they lost in the Super Over). The rise of the young brigade of the Sunrisers Hyderabad held the promise of more heady stuff.
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Let’s look at how the teams performed the last week.
Note: The report card was written ahead of the doubleheader on Sunday.
The defending champions are yet to hit their stride. A comfortable win following a Super Over loss must have calmed the nerves of the Mumbai Indians. More importantly, the four-time winners have a settled playing XI and tweaks have been minimal.
The Ishan Kishan and Keiron Pollard show against the Royal Challengers Bangalore underscored that Mumbai are not heavily reliant on the top order. If skipper Rohit Sharma’s second fifty is a good omen, more runs and sixes from Hardik Pandya and Pollard in the business end against Rajasthan Royals should have sent shivers down the spines of their rivals.
But it’s been a miserable week for Quinton de Kock, who’s due for a big knock. The Mumbai bowling too has been steady, where Rahul Chahar’s leg-spin has proved to be incisive and restrictive.
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS
For a side eyeing their fourth IPL title, the Chennai Super Kings are in flux. They won the grudge match against champions Mumbai Indians in the IPL 13 opener. After that, little else has gone their way.
Three losses (two this week) have had captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni lost for words to describe the poor form. Except for Faf du Plessis, none of the batsmen has struck a purple patch. The starts have been appalling with Steve Watson unable to strike cleanly, and this has undermined their chase.
The bowling woes centre around the spin of Piyush Chawla and Ravindra Jadeja. Both hold no terrors for batsmen, and that has taken a heavy toll on the pacemen in the slog overs.
Chasing their first IPL title, the Delhi Capitals took a loss inflicted by the youth squad of the Sunrisers Hyderabad on their chins before bouncing back in a cliffhanger against the Kolkata Knight Riders in Sharjah. It was a big night for skipper Shreyas Iyer too. He got a bucketful of runs, and that will ease the batting concerns of Delhi for whom India openers Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan have been sterling form.
The pace and precision of Kagiso Rabada and Ainrich Nortje have kept the Delhi bowling afloat, although they went for runs in Sharjah. The return of Ravichandran Ashwin has provided depth to the attack.
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE
The Royal Challengers Bangalore want to be taken seriously. They want to be genuine title contenders. And Virat Kohli’s side took a massive step towards that with the demolition of Rajasthan Royals. The skipper racked up a fifty for good measure.
Openers Aaron Finch and Devdutt Padikkal have provided strong starts and AB de Villiers continues to be reliable as always. But the bowling has been their worry, where only Yuzvendra Chahal plays the lone winning hand. Navdeep Saini and Washington Sundar have weighed in well to ease Kohli’s concerns, yet the pain of allowing Mumbai Capitals back into the match when it was in their bag must be hurting. There lies a lesson for Bangalore.
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
The two-time champions have had a better week with an improved display. They may have lost the high-scoring thriller to Delhi Capitals, but there’s plenty of positives from that, including the gutsy display of Rahul Tripathi. The ruthless win over Hyderabad is an accurate display of their power and potential.
Young opener Shubman Gill continues to remind everyone what an exciting talent he is, but Sunil Narine’s woeful run needs to be nipped. The middle-order has been secure with Eoin Morgan and Andre Russell providing the thrust. Skipper Dinesh Karthik’s wretched form should persuade him to bat below Morgan and Russell.
Pat Cummins has been working up a tidy pace, but the man reaping the rewards is Shivam Mavi who has been hitting the lengths and seaming the ball around. Kamlesh Nagarkoti is young, but his left-arm medium pace holds the promise a good future.
KINGS XI PUNJAB
The Kings XI Punjab are an enigma. After the fine displays of last week, they have faded away. Two losses, one after posting an imposing total, will rankle them. Punjab have to get their act together to string a series of victories.
The batting revolves around the brilliant opening duo of KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, but there’s little else after that. Nicholas Pooran has threatened to score big, but the bigger disappointment is Glen Maxell. Indian fast bowler Mohammad Shami has kept Punjab in the hunt along with the talented leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi. Sheldon Cottrell has been excellent during the powerplay, but expensive in the later stages.
The Sunrisers Hyderabad are a side that have punched above their weight. Much of that credit should go to a bunch of young talents, who performed superbly through the week. With two wins, they have erased the bitter memories of the first week.
The induction of Kane Williamson brought more stability to a batting that was dependent of captain David Warner, David Bairstow and Manish Pandey as evident in their defeat of Delhi Capitals. When all three of them failed against the Chennai Super Kings, their young brigade showed up.
First Priyam Garg, 19, and Abhishek Sharma, 20, hauled them out the woods and later Abdul Samad, 18, bowled the last over against the mighty MS Dhoni in a match that almost went to the wire. Rashid Khan continues to their premier bowler, bowling tight overs to turn up the pressure.
The Rajasthan Royals had a forgettable week after the delirium of Sharjah wins. The failure of captain Steve Smith, Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson pushed Royals towards defeats against Kolkata and Bangalore. Rahul Tewatia can’t hit five sixes in every match. The steel in the middle order is missing, and it could cost them a playoff berth.
Only Jofra Archer threatened to take wickets, and spinners Tewatia and Shreyas Gopal has been mostly ineffective. Left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat, the star of previous IPLs, is a pale shadow of himself.
Hopefully, the arrival of Ben Stokes will transform the side. Or else, they will merely be also-rans. A sad plight for a side that won the first IPL.