The Indian Premier League in the UAE has been a thrilling ride. After 56 games in 45 days, the four playoff spots have been decided. The scramble for qualification heated the competition. Barring the Mumbai Indians, the other three teams were not sure of their berths till the penultimate round of games. And the Sunrisers Hyderabad won their spot in the last match of the league. That is evidence of the sheer intensity of the contests.
As IPL 2020 heads into eliminators and qualifiers, we take a look at how the teams performed this year. Here’s our report card.
A stumble at the start jolted the Mumbai Indians. That setback at the hands of the Chennai Super Kings was soon put behind as they shifted gears swiftly to emerge the frontrunners. There were a few losses along the way but none that hurt their chances.
Player for player, four-time champions Mumbai are a formidable side. A batting order with plenty of fire in the form of Quinton de Kock, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard have stability provided by skipper Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav. Trent Boult heads a pace pack with Jasprit Bumrah and James Pattinson, all matchwinners. Leg-spinner Rahul Chahar has been a standout, ably assisted by left-armer Krunal Pandya, who can play the floater in the batting order.
The bench strength is so strong that they won some games without Sharma, and even had the luxury of giving a few games to Nathan Coulter-Nile. Yet, their changes to the squad were minimal, a sign of stability. The defending champions certainly are odds-on favourites to retain the title.
The depth of talent in the Delhi Capitals is undeniable. For such a young side, they have done remarkably well. But the inexperience showed when the chips are down. They tended to fold up under pressure. Delhi have won some good tight games, but there were abject surrenders as well.
Batting has been their problem all along. Prithvi Shaw’s early form helped, Marcus Stoinis covered the middle-order lapses at the backend, and Shreyas Iyer too had his moments early in the tournament. Shikhar Dhawan’s record back-to-back centuries were timely, but the cracks in the batting was visible. Ajinkya Rahane’s return to form will give them confidence ahead of the playoffs.
Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje are one of the best fast bowling pairs in IPL this year. And they have been very incisive. Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is another matchwinner, but Delhi were unlucky to lose leg-break bowler Amit Mishra to injury. The bowling has faltered only occasionally, but lack of runs to defend tended to undermine the unit’s efforts.
David Warner leads the most tenacious team in IPL 2020. The Sunrisers Hyderabad had to call upon every ounce of their fighting spirit in the do-or-die battle against the Mumbai Indians in the final game. A roaring victory saved them from elimination and placed them third in the points table.
Hyderabad had a horrible start, losing a winning game to the Royal Challengers Bangalore. They lost Mitchell Marsh to injury in the same match, and later their primary weapon Bhuvaneshwar Kumar too was felled by injury. Warner had to rely solely on leg-spinner Rashid Khan, but the rest of Indian medium-pacers rallied very well. Sandeep Sharma became a regular wicket-taker in the powerplay, while Natarajan’s accuracy with the yorkers helped in the slog overs.
The early batting troubles were resolved when Kane Williamson returned from injury, but the lower middle order mostly struggled. West Indian allrounder Jason Holder’s arrival brought more balance to the side, but put a strain on the overseas quota of four. The decision to drop the prolific Jonny Bairstow must have been painful, but that helped rediscover the batting talent of Wriddhiman Saha whose brilliant knocks steered Hyderabad to at least two crucial wins.
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE
The last three years have been a struggle for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. But skipper Virat Kohli was sure that this would be Bangalore’s season. The league hasn’t been easy as Bangalore had to toil for victories and on at least two occasions AB de Villiers had to produce his magic to rescue them.
Bangalore’s batting in the past tended to rely heavily on Kohli and De Villiers, but the exciting talent of opener Devdutt Padikkal helped in the powerplay, and he played the anchor on occasions. Aaron Finch could fire in the powerplay only sporadically, and that put the pressure on the middle order, where Kohli and De Villiers had to bear the brunt of scoring.
What transformed Bangalore this year was their bowling. The terrible death bowling has become tighter with Chris Morris and Navdeep Saini plugging away with yorkers and slower ones. Yuzvendra Chahal continues to be a gamechanger, and he’s delivered whenever Kohli has called upon his leg-spin and googly deliveries.
Bangalore are still a work in progress. They still aren’t a formidable side, but the playoffs are anybody’s game. So write off Bangalore at your peril.
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
Champions in 2012 and 2014, the Kolkata Knight Riders missed the playoffs by a whisker. But that’s the result of a campaign which’s largely been up and down. Emphatic wins were interspersed with huge losses and the leadership change midway through the tournament is a reflection of their turbulence. Yet, there was a calmness when Eoin Morgan took over from Dinesh Karthik, who produced a couple of superb knocks when he shed the weight of captaincy.
A fragile batting was Kolkata’s problem too. The powerplays tended to be a disaster and the pressure percolated down the order, where Morgan, Karthik and Andre Russell had to staunch the bloodshed and launch attacks as well. A tall order that resulted in below-par scores and poor chases.
The bowling can only be as good as a team’s batting. The most expensive buy of the season at $2.1 million, Pat Cummins was good with the bat but began to take early wickets only later in the campaign. Young seamers Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagakoti distinguished themselves with fine efforts, while Kolkata’s evergreen star Sunil Narine came good only in one game. Leg-spinner Varun Chakravarthy was a consistent performer, and Kolkata leaned heavily on him to get wickets. This is a side that needs to reassess their batting.
KINGS XI PUNJAB
KL Rahul is a leading run-getter in IPL 2020, yet his side failed to make the grade. That’s mainly due to a patchy performance, where some pedestrian bowling exacerbated the batting worries. They went into a tailspin in the early phase, when there was hardly any batting after the opening pair of Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. Nicholas Pooran’s cameos were spectacular but failed to steer Punjab to good totals.
Then came the second phase, where Punjab caught a second wind on the back on Chris Gayle’s big-hitting. Rahul’s tendency to drop anchor to aid a batting short on depth always slowed the scoring. Gayle’s induction changed all that. And with Pooran making a more productive contribution, Punjab struck a purple patch. Mohammed Shami began to get some pace backup from young Arshdeep Singh, and young Ravi Bishnoi took care of the middle overs with Murugan Ashwin. Punjab took down the fancied teams but were unable to sustain the run.
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS
The fall of the Chennai Super Kings was baffling. Or was it overdue? They are called the Dads Army for a reason, but they have thumbed noses at the critics winning three titles. Maybe the heat and humidity of the UAE caught them out. Never mind the absence of Suresh Raina and Harbajan Singh, Chennai’s failures stemmed from a mixture of bad batting and poor bowling.
When too many wickets are lost in powerplays, it’s a recipe for disaster. And the middle order lacked the quality to handle the demands of poor starts. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja struggled for runs in the early part of the competition, so the slog overs weren’t productive. Swing bowler Deepak Chahar shone throughout, so did young Sam Curran with his all-round skills. Piyush Chawla was a letdown, and Jadeja too was unable to find the right lengths consistently.
There were too many shortcomings. Far too many to succeed in such a high quality competition. Ruturaj Gaikwad’s excellent knocks late in the league showed that Chennai missed a trick or two in blooding youngsters. But then Chennai trust their Dads Army. It’s time to change that approach and start rebuilding.
The first champions of IPL are an enigma. Rajasthan Royals have four world-class overseas players, all capable of walking into any international side. Yet they ended up with the wooden spoon in the competition. The early wins gave way to some pedestrian performances, which cost them dearly. A late surge helped nurture playoff ambitions, but that was savagely scythed down by Kolkata in a crunch game.
Scorching starts were the feature of their first two wins when captain Steve Smith and Sanju Samson got Rajasthan off to flying starts. A sensational five-sixes-in-an over feat by Rahul Tewatia was pure magic, but not easily replicated. After that their batting floundered. Even the arrival of Jos Buttler didn’t help. Their fortunes were resurrected when Ben Stokes and Samson found their scoring touch only to fail against Kolkata.
Jofra Archer was sensational with his pace and bounce. He was a constant threat in the powerplay, but then he was a one-man demolition squad. Young Karthik Tyagi tried gamely, but the learning curve was steep. Tewatia did make his leg-breaks work in some matches, but Rajasthan never had enough runs on the board. Maybe, they should build a team, not a team stacked with stars.