Defending champions Mumbai Indians have company. The Delhi Capitals and the Royal Challengers Bangalore are snapping at their heels. All three have 10 points each from seven games as IPL 2020 reached the halfway mark of 28 games.
The Kolkata Knight Riders are in the fourth spot, followed by the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Rajasthan Royals. Three-time winners Chennai Super Kings are struggling to keep their heads above the water at one slot above the basement team Kings XI Punjab.
As the second round of matches starts with Chennai clashing with Hyderabad, let’s us look at how the eight teams have performed so far.
The four-time champs are strutting like they own the IPL. So comprehensive have been Mumbai’s wins that they would have to slip really badly to lose the title. After two early losses, Mumbai have powered away. What’s significant about their victories is the way each player has contributed.
Skipper Rohit Sharma’s not playing badly, but not consistent enough. That allows Suryakumar Yadav to unfurl a sublime array of strokes as he anchors first and accelerates later. Mumbai have utilised the powerplay effectively with Quinton de Kock leading the way. When Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard don’t get to face too many balls, you know that the Mumbai batting’s been brilliant.
With Trent Boult, James Pattinson and Jasprit Bumrah leading their attack, Mumbai are never short on wicket-taking options. Leg-spinner Rahul Chahar and left-armer Krunal Pandya don’t allow too many liberties in the middle overs.
The Delhi Capitals have had a fine run after the loss against the Sunrisers Hyderabad. But that was before they ran into the Mumbai juggernaut. Yet, on current form, they should saunter into the playoffs.
The standout feature of their victories has their incisive attack, where pacers Kagiso Rabada and Nortje Anrich have hurried the batsmen into false strokes. Spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel don’t just restrict runs; they are genuine wicket-takers.
There are plenty of batting riches, but there have been occasional headaches as well. India openers Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan make good use of the powerplay, and Shreyas Iyer has played a steady hand. The final flourish has been secure in the hands of Marcus Stoinis and Shimron Hetmeyer. But Rishabh Pant’s injury has upset the team’s balance.
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE
The Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore have been the most improved side. After a couple of scratchy wins early on, there was a wobble. They have put that behind them with some emphatic wins. Some changes to the side have helped too, particularly the bowling which’s been a problem in the past.
Bangalore’s resurgence coincided with Kohli’s return to form. And with AB de Villiers in resplendent touch, Bangalore’s batting has blossomed. Aaron Finch hasn’t been consistent, but young Devdutt Padikkal’s strokeplay has covered that shortcoming. The batting has been so good upfront that late middle-order remain untested.
Sri Lanka’s Isuru Udana has lent solidity to the bowling, and the left-armer looked good even in the slog overs. Chris Smith has added more teeth to the attack, where Yuzdvendra Chahal continues to weave his magic. Washington Sundar doesn’t give too much away.
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
Four wins from seven games reflect the inconsistency of the Kolkata Knight Riders. They have had some tremendous victories, but the bad losses underscore their inability to hit the stride regularly. Unless they strike some rhythm, the gains of the past week could be lost.
No team has tinkered with the batting order as much as Kolkata. That’s partly due to skipper Dinesh’s Karthik’s poor run with the bat, although he did strike the ball superbly against the Kings XI Punjab. Shubman Gill has been consistent and Rahul Tripathi’s run up a couple of good scores, but he’s yet to be given a regular slot. Eoin Morgan has had a few profitable outings, and Andre Russell’s best is yet to come.
The absence of Sunil Narine, whose action has been reported, will hurt their bowling, especially at the death. Shivam Mavi has wreaked havoc in the powerplay, and Varun Chakravarthy’s been a spinning success in the middle overs. But we are yet to see the full impact of Pat Cummins, the most expensive buy this season at $2.1 million.
This is a side that punch above their weight. After two initial losses, the Sunrisers Hyderabad have revived their campaign with some well-fought wins. But that won’t land them a place in the playoffs. There are a talented bunch, but inexperience seems to get the better of them on occasions.
The batting is top-heavy with skipper David Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Manish Pandey and Kane Williamson coming in that order. There’s in lies the problem too. An early collapse makes them vulnerable although young Priyam Garg and Abhishek have come good.
The injury to India seamer Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has been a significant setback since they now have to rely on a talented but inexperienced pace attack. Leg-spin sensation Rashid Khan alone is not enough to win matches. If they have to beef up the attack with Mohammad Nabi, they will have to drop Williamson. A tough decision, given the fragility in the middle order.
Rousing wins and miserable routs. That’s been the story of the Rajasthan Royals. Two heady wins gave way to abject defeats. It’s almost as if they forgot how to win. But Rahul Tewatia and Riyan Parag have hauled them back to the winning trail with the win against Hyderabad. It remains to be seen how they will respond to the newfound confidence.
Four opening pairs in seven games reflect muddled thinking. With a batsman of Jos Buttler’s quality at the top, it shouldn’t difficult to figure out the top four batting order. The run-droughts of captain Steve Smith and Sanju Samson have pegged them back, but the arrival of Ben Stokes should give them more solidity.
Jofra Archer’s has been single-handedly carrying the Rajasthan attack. Tewatia and Shreyas Gopal carry out the leg-spin duties with mixed fortunes. The rest of the bowling hasn’t been much of a threat.
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS
What’s happened to the Chennai Super Kings? Two wins in seven matches is hardly a record befitting a side that have never finished below fourth in IPL. True, they have lost Suresh Raina and Harbajan Singh, but they have the depth to overcome the loss of two good players. They now win big but also lose very badly.
Faf du Plessis is perhaps the most consistent batsmen in the league now. And Shane Watson can be at his destructive best. As a pair, they got going only in one game, and the Rajasthan Royals suffered at their hands. When the starts have gone wrong, the middle order seems incapable of damage control, let alone accelerate. Skipper MS Dhoni’s struggles haven’t helped either.
Chennai are bowling well, especially after Karn Sharma replaced Piyush Chawla. Upfront, Deepak Chahar and Sam Curran shoulder the attack well, and Shardul Thakur has revelled in the slog. But batting will determine their progress from here.
KINGS XI PUNJAB
Just one win so far tells the story of the Rajasthan Royals. That win came in their second match of IPL 2020. Since then, nothing has gone right for them. When a team uses 18 players in seven games, you get an idea of how badly they are struggling.
It’s difficult to put the finger on Rajasthan’s troubles. KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal are a formidable opening pair, and Nicholas Pooran is a fantastic stroke player. But they have been shortchanged by Glen Maxwell’s poor batting. If Maxwell can do a Stoinis, Rajasthan will be in much better shape.
Ravi Bishnoi bowls leg-spin with a maturity beyond his 20 years. He and Mohammed Shami have been skipper Rahul’s main bowlers. Young Arshdeep Singh had a good game too. But they need more firepower to lift themselves from the bog they are in now.