Phewww!!! IPL 2017 is almost at its mid-point, and what a tournament it has been. With Mumbai leading the charts and, to everyone’s surprise, RCB struggling at the bottom of the pile, it has one exciting half to come. Centuries, five wicket hauls, hat-trick, injuries – the tournament has already seen it all.
In fact, the tournament has also seen a century and a hat-trick effort go futile, as the opponent won, despite extraordinary efforts of Amla and Badree, respectively. What the tournament could see more of, is Lynnism, and Gayle storm (unfortunately, no Bravo dance – since he has confirmed his absence).
Now, let’s see how each team has fared till now:
Mumbai has been the perfect chaser of this IPL season. Out of the 8 matches played, they have won 5 matches batting second. No matter what total they were chasing, the team reached it in style (except one against RPS where they reached close, but could not making the winning runs). They have been lucky with the toss 6 out of 8 times, and each time they elected to field – i.e. played to their strength.
One player who has proved to be an asset for the team is Nitish Rana, who has been a consistent scorer for them. Having said that, the Mumbai players really complemented each other, whenever the need arose.
The only player who has been struggling is Rohit Sharma, but he also showed signs of form in the last match with RPS. There is no doubt that MI will be in the top of the chart to reach the qualifiers
Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR is one of the teams which is looking good for the qualifiers. The good part about the team is that, if one player does not perform with the bat, another does (Gambhir, Uthappa, Pandey, Pathan deserve mention).
And now with Narine able to showcase his talent with the bat, a risk that has paid off for KKR, they might not miss Chris Lynn too much.
In the last match vs Bangalore, KKR has also proved their bowling finesse. KKR have Nathan, Sinul and Kuldeep who can get good support from Umesh and Colin De Grandhomme. If I am KKR captain, I would be apprehensive of playing Woakes (bowling average of around 9.3; above 10 if we exclude RCB match) too much, and would not play Trent Boult. KKR is set to give a stiff competition to Mumbai Indian for that top Position
Sunrisers’ David Warner and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have already shown phenomenal performances, supported by Henriques, Dhawan and Rashid Khan. SRH is one of the few teams that have won more matches batting first, which is a testimony to their exceptional bowling attack, that can defend low totals as well. SRH’s depends on Bhuvi to continue his wicket taking streak, with support from Rashid Khan.
Their top 4 batsmen (Warner, Dhawan, Henriques and Kane) are match winning players. A bit of concern is their middle order.
Deepak Hooda and Naman Ojha continue to give dismal performances. Even Yuvi, has not been impressive with the bat, except for in the first match. Thus, the match in which the top 4 do not perform, SRH is likely to stumble. It would be interesting to see if SRH try Eklavya Dwivedi, instead of Ojha, for a few matches.
Kings XI Punjab
I had predicted in my last BSC article that Kings XI Punjab’s bowling may come to haunt them. Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened in a few of the games (KKR chasing 170 and MI chasing 198 got to their totals easily enough). The only exception was their last match against Gujarat Lions.
Most of the bowlers – Mohit, Sandeep, Stoinis and Aaron, have an average of 8.9 and above. While Cariappa and Patel can contain runs, they can only do as much, with no support from the other end.
To move ahead, Kings XI needs to make their batting line up even stronger, as they would not be able to do much in the bowling. Not sure why Guptill has not played even a single match in the first half of IPL. Also, Wriddhiman needs to get his focus right, as he has not contributed much (67 runs in 6 innings) so far. While they have shown some resilience, Kings XI tend to falter in crucial matches. I do not foresee them hitting the final four this year as well
Rising Pune Supergiant
Lately, with Dhoni impressing with the bat again, RPS batting order has become stronger. However, they are struggling to find a bowler who can help contain the opponents in case their batting order fails. While they have done it once with Ben Stokes and Shardul Thakur, but would they be able to do it consistently, is a big question. No wonder they have tried so many bowlers and have rotated around 20 players in their matches. RPS should continue their solid performance with the bat.
Rahane & Stokes would also need to up their game and give more performances, akin to their stint against MI. Dan Christian and Imran Tahir need to continue their performances with the ball.
All they need is Jaydev or Shardul coming up with a few exceptional performances to win matches. Captain Smith is out to prove a point, and what better way to do this, than to reach the final four
Delhi Daredevils have the capability for high scores (205 against RPS and 188 against Kings XI Punjab). However, they are stumbling completely when it comes to chasing the totals.
In all the three matches where DD has done second batting, they failed to reach the finish line, even against MI, who had posted 142 runs.
DD might need to bring Pant and Morris higher in the batting order, and avoid playing Aditya Tare who has continued to fail with the bat. It would be interesting to see more of Nadeem (vs Amit Mishra), who has taken a wicket in each of the three matches he played, with an economy rate of 4.9 runs per over. To bring variation, DD could try CV Milind, who has shown great mettle in domestic T20 (48 wickets in 27 matches).
Gujarat Lions are struggling to contain the score made by the opponents. They have had teams making 200+ against them, and chasing down their posted total in 15 overs (KKR chased 183 in 14.5 overs and Sunrisers chased 140 in 15.3 Overs).
It is perplexing that Gujarat Lions are so inclined towards Raina and Dwayne Smith bowling, while keeping their main bowlers from completing their full quota.
Why would one not give the ball to Nathu Singh (2 overs, 7 Runs and 1 Wicket) and prefer Smith who gave 18 runs in an over? I am sure they are missing Bravo, but to start with, they can have more of Nathu Singh. Also, they should probably have Munaf Patel in place of Dhawal Kulkarni in the team.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Nothing seem to be working for the injury ridden RCB, this season. With Gayle failing to impress, and ABD lacking consistency, pressure is piling up on Kohli. This was very evident in the last match, where RCB scored the lowest total in IPL (ironically, on the anniversary of their highest IPL total landmark, 4 years ago). In that abysmal display, no one in the batting order scored runs in double digits. Of course, RCB still has the potential to zoom to the top, as they did last year.
They need a non-Gayle strategy, that focuses on Travis Head. Also, they might consider sitting Mandeep Singh out – Sarfaraz Khan or Sachin Baby would be a better option.
It would be a miracle if RCB moves to the qualifiers; I would not waste my money by betting on them.
So, at halfway along the leagues, it seems that the four that would make it to the top are:
Kolkata Knight Riders
Rising Pune Super Giant
The dark horses in this series, that may still rock the boat, are Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab. RCB has the muscle power, and just needs to wake up to it. Punjab are this year’s ‘almost there’, and with a few lucky strokes and consistent performance, can upset a set team.
Needless to mention that T20 is a very unpredictable form of Cricket. We have seen teams rising from the bottom, to reach the finals, before. Would the same happen this year? Stay tuned!