Who’s likely to win IPL 2020? It’s difficult to answer although 40 games have been completed. The next 16 games will decide the four playoff spots. The Delhi Capitals and the Royal Challengers Bangalore seem to have sealed their berths, and the Mumbai Indians could join them at 14 points if they beat the Chennai Super Kings on Friday night.
All this could change if the favourites slip and allow the rest to catch up. The Kolkata Knight Riders sit on the fourth place in the points table, and they sure looked shaky in the last few matches. So the fourth spot is still up for grabs. But then, this is cricket. In another week, the points landscape could be drastically different. Therein lies the appeal of the Indian Premier League.
Meanwhile, let’s look at how the eight teams fared when play stopped in Game 40.
The Shreyas Iyer-led Delhi Capitals are on the top of the heap. They are super talented and are easily one of the most balanced sides in the tournament. But their inconsistent batting has piled pressure on bowlers who have struggled to defend sub-par totals. Shikhar Dhawan’s brilliance, where he scored record back-to-back centuries, masks Delhi batting frailties. Prithvi Shaw’s early form has deserted him, and Rishabh Pant looked rusty after returning from injury. Only Iyer looked good, but he too failed on capitalise on the starts.
Marcus Stoinis has pulled them out of the woods in the early games. Last week, his innings were cut short early, and that resulted in low totals. And that has paved the way for defeats despite the incisive spin of Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel. Kagiso Rabada hasn’t had the same impact last week, and Daniel Sams is no Anrich Nortje.
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE
The Royal Challengers Bangalore are the most improved side this year. An early wobble gave way to more confidence and consistent performances as skipper Virat Kohli ran into form. Whenever they looked to be trouble, AB de Villiers was at hand to steer them to impossible wins.
Can they win? This Bangalore side is good, having fixed some fatal flaws. Very often in the past, their splendid batting has been undermined by poor bowling, which tends to leak a lot during the slog overs. The arrival of Chris Morris and Isuru Udana has helped, and Navdeep Saini’s yorkers are hitting the targets.
The defending champions have been strutting like champions. Make no mistake, Mumbai Indians are a formidable team. A balanced one and perhaps the strongest on paper. But they do tend to skid — especially their batting, despite some sterling performances by Quinton de Kock and Suryakumar Yadav. The bowling has been top class, where paceman Jasprit Bumrah and leggie Rahul Chahar stood out last week.
Mumbai have only used 13 players, which is indicative of a settled combination. Also, that underscores the form of players. Most changes have necessitated by injuries or rest to the players. Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pandya haven’t had the chance to be at their blistering best. And that says how well the batting’s been clicking.
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders have been an enigma. Some excellent wins have been interspersed with a few abject defeats. Then there was the captaincy change when Dinesh Karthik handed over the reins of Eoin Morgan, a good move given the experience of the English skipper. But Kolkata’s batting woes start at the top. Loss of wickets in powerplay brings pressure on the middle-order where only Morgan has gathered runs with any consistency.
Andre Russell’s form and injury have been a worry. Sunil Narine hasn’t been seen since the umpires have reported his bowling action. He’s been cleared to bowl. The fact that Kolkata played a match without Russell and Narine since 2012 reveals their troubles. And that has reflected in the results. The bowling has looked sharp since Lockie Ferguson came on, but batting remains unpredictable. Still, they are firm contenders for a playoff spot, if they don’t mess up the rest of the games.
The biggest worry for the Sunrisers Hyderabad is their inability to close out games. And such losses hurt badly for a team that punches about their weight. The arrival of Jason Holder has brought better balance to the side, and a rejigged batting order worked well against the Rajasthan Royals.
The form of Manish Pandey and Vijay Sharma is encouraging, especially since their stalwarts David Warner and Jonny Bairstow have struggled on occasions. Holder’s wicket-taking ability is an asset to the side which is heavily dependent on leg-spinner Rashid Khan. The narrow losses and the negative run rate will work against their qualification for the playoffs.
KINGS XI PUNJAB
No-hopers at one point, the Kings XI Punjab have turned around their fortunes and have emerged as a dark horse in the tournament. Punjab too have come off second best in close encounters, which pushed them towards the bottom of the points table. Chris Gayle’s induction worked wonders as skipper KL Rahul’s anchor role didn’t affect the run rate any longer. And with Nicholas Pooran’s occasionally showing glimpses of his incredible talent, Punjab have started to win regularly.
The batting resurgence has helped them in chases, while the bowling remains secure in the hands of pacer Mohammed Shami and young leggie Ravi Bishnoi. Another youngster Arshdeep Singh has been a good find for Punjab. With the team pulling together well, they could be in the mix for the race to the playoff slots.
The Rajasthan Royals have four world-class players, but they lie in one spot away from the basement. That’s simply because the team haven’t worked together as a unit. Jos Buttler has been superb with the bat, but he’s hasn’t had much support with Ben Stokes, Steve Smith and Sanju Samson failing to contribute regularly. They have had good starts since Robin Uthappa was moved up, but the rest have failed to build on it.
Jofra Archer has been marvellous upfront, his red-hot pace fetching early wickets. But the rest of the bowling have hardly been incisive. Shreyas Gopal and Rahul Tewatia have been doing the containing job well, but they need bowlers to prise out wickets when the going gets tough. Technically, they may still have a chance to make the playoff, but it’s difficult to see them winning regularly enough for that.
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS
The fall of the Chennai Super Kings has been the talking point of IPL 2020. Several times in the past, they have made a mockery of the moniker Dads Army. The experience of star players brought wins and titles, but the tired legs seem to have run their course. They did win big in a couple of matches but lost several others by a mile. Faf du Plessis was the only consistent batsman, while Sam Curran revelled with the bat and ball.
Starts have been a problem, and the pressure from the powerplay percolates to the middle-order which doesn’t have the power to accelerate since Mahendra Singh Dhoni hasn’t hit peak form. So only Ravindra Jadeja looked to power on, while Kedar Jadhav has been a passenger. The bowling has been good with Deepak Chahar’s excellent show, but batting remains a grave issue. They have a mathematical chance to make the grade but lack the consistency to do it.