Chennai Superkings openers Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis
Chennai Super Kings' openers Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis after reaching their half centuries against the Kings XI Punjab in the IPL 2020 game in Dubai on October 4, 2020. Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

When a team win by 10 wickets or 8 wickets, there’s enough reason to worry. The big wins are great. It buoys the teams and boosts players’ morale, but there’s a downside to it. We don’t know what lies beneath. How good is the middle-order? And the unknown can undermine teams as we have seen in IPL 2020.

Take the case of the Chennai Super Kings. They were struggling after an early win. That’s when Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis pulverised the King XI Punjab’s attack for a 10-wicket win. If that raised visions of a turnaround in Chennai’s fortunes, that turned out to be a mirage. When the openers failed, Chennai were unable to cope, and their batting failures have been the root cause of their worst performance in 13 years of IPL (Chennai were suspended for two years in between).

The Rajasthan Royals journey was different. They were off to a flier when captain Steve Smith and Sanju Samson battered the rival attacks in the first two games, one of which belonged to Rahul Tewatia. But once Smith and Samson started misfiring, Rajasthan fell off the cliff. By the time Stokes and Samson strung together an exciting partnership against the Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan’s chances of making the playoff had begun to look bleak.

KL Rahul, captain of the Kings XI Punjab, is the leading scorer in the tournament. He has given Punjab plenty of good starts with Mayank Agarwal, who has been the more aggressive of the two. Beyond the openers, only Nicholas Pooran’s produced some cameos. The fragility of the middle order was the primary cause of Punjab’s miserable run in the first half of Season 13. All that changed with the induction of Chris Gayle and Pooran too have begun to play some responsible knocks.

The worries of Sunrisers Hyderabad

For the Sunrisers Hyderabad, the batting revolves around skipper David Warner and Jonny Bairstow. One of them bats deep, fully aware of the lack of depth in the batting. The capitulation against the Royal Challengers Bangalore is a painful reminder of the tragedy that was reenacted in the game with Punjab on Saturday. In between Priyam Garg and Abhishek Sharma fashioned a win, and Manish Pandey and Vijay Shankar steered them home in another game. All their defeats stemmed from brittle batting.

The Kolkata Knight Riders too are bedevilled by poor batting. When their position on the points table was under threat, Sunil Narine and Nitish Rana tore into the Delhi attack with an imposing partnership. That turned out to be a false dawn as Kolkata returned to their wretched ways when the two failed. Captain Eoin Morgan and former captain Dinesh Karthik fired sporadically, and that wasn’t good enough. Kolkata’s chances of making the playoffs look to be in jeopardy.

What happened to the Delhi Capitals?

First, it was Prithvi Shaw, and then it was Shikhar Dhawan who launched the Delhi Capitals. In between, Marcus Stoinis rode to their rescue. In the early part of the tournament, Shaw and Dhawan were superb in the powerplay, allowing skipper Shreyas Iyer and Stoinis to build on the platform. When Shaw’s form dipped, Dhawan’s scoring rose with back-to-back centuries. Against Punjab, Dhawan struck 106, and the rest of the team contributed only 54. That’s how a good performance upfront masks the troubles in the latter half. The troubles paved the way for defeats when Dhawan failed in the last two chases. Delhi have to fortify their batting if they are to be a force in the playoffs.

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The problem and solution of the Royal Bangalore Challengers’ batting are in the hands of AB de Villiers. Whenever they have been in trouble, De Villiers rode in to take them to victories with some stunning knocks. Devdutt Padikkal’s good form is negated by Aaron Finch’s struggles in the powerplay, although the two gave them some good starts. Captain Virat Kohli’s returned to form ignited Bangalore’s rise to the top. Yet De Villiers remains their bulwark. When he fails, the rest of the middle-order seem to lose their way. So if you take out the top-four, teams can run through the Bangalore batting. Not a comforting thought for Bangalore supporters.

No such problems have visited the Mumbai Indians. Even skipper Rohit Sharma’s absence through injury hasn’t affected their batting. Quinton de Kock and Ishan Kishan take care of the powerplay; Suryakumar Yadav bats through any crises: Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard provide the late-order firepower. It has worked well. But they did lose. The latest loss was at the hands of a Stokes-inspired Rajasthan. Two were Super Over losses. The first against the Chennai Super Kings in the opener was the only one that resulted from a sub-par batting performance. That’s if you can call 165 a sub-par total. Want to catch Mumbai, go after their bowling.