Delhi Mumbai
Lalit Yadav and Axar Patel of the Delhi Capitals celebrate after beating the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League 2022 at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on March 27, 2022. Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL

Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore are feared franchises in the Indian Premier League. Chennai and Mumbai are multiple winners, while Bangalore have always been a glamorous side despite a barren cupboard. So the losses in their Season 15 openers came as a surprise.

Regular IPL-watchers would say that these sides tend to be slow starters, and they get better as the tournament wears on. More than the losses, it was the manner in which they lost that requires scrutiny. Actually, these are not losses but well-deserved victories for the less fancied.

The Kolkata Knight Riders may be last year’s losing finalists, but champions Chennai were expected to win on the sheer weight of history and strength of the squad. Their core was largely unaffected by the mega auction. Yet the CSK were unable to field their best team: key allrounder Moeen Ali was in quarantine, and spearhead Deepak Chahar is out of the action with an injury.

Tale of Dhoni, Jadeja and Shreyas Iyer

A new captain didn’t help. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is still around, but it will take time for Ravindra Singh Jadeja to find his feet. A loss on his captaincy debut may not be ideal for Jadeja, but it’s not a setback. The CSK have staged comebacks from hopeless situations in the past.

The CSK were upended by a Kolkata led by a new captain who had plenty to prove, especially since Delhi ignored his leadership credentials. Shreyas Iyer led Kolkata so well that Eoin Morgan’s absence was never felt. Iyer did not just ring the bowling changes brilliantly, he also steered them to the target with some responsible batting. The win makes the KKR one of the teams to watch.

Perennial favourites Mumbai Indians will fume over their attack’s inability to defend a competitive total against the Delhi Capitals. Spin support for leggie Murugan Ashwin was sorely felt, and Trent Boult wasn’t around to provide early breakthroughs. So the hopes of adding to the five IPL titles could be in jeopardy.

Delhi’s thrilling chase of the Mumbai score should burnish their credentials. It could be early days in the IPL, but the positive approach was refreshing even when they were six wickets down. There was a ruthlessness to it. The ruthlessness epitomised by Lalit Yadav and Axar Patel makes Delhi serious contenders.

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The Punjab Kings showed that they have come of age. A target of more than 200 can be daunting. Punjab of the past would have fallen short after a spirited chase. But not the side led by Mayank Agarwal. It is packed with brave batsmen, and they will be bolstered further when Jonny Bairstow joins them. But their toothless bowling will be a source of worry.

So is the case with the Royal Challengers Bangalore, who couldn’t restrict Punjab under 200. That laid to waste a thunderous knock from the new captain Faf du Plessis and a productive stand with former captain Virat Kohli. Mohammad Siraj’s brain-fade in the slog and Daniel Sams’ expensive spells will give RCB plenty to ponder for matches ahead.

Three IPL games may be too early to read into the form of players and teams. Yet they gave adequate pointers to the teams’ potential. The mega auction has shaken up the squads, and it will take a few games to strike the winning combinations. Many teams are awaiting their overseas players, and the teams will wear a different look when they join in a week or two.

So wait a little longer to pick your winners. There will be plenty more surprises in store. Hold to your seats. This IPL will be a rollercoaster ride.