The IPL story is ongoing as you read this update. More twists can be expected since the time of writing, 30th April, and some of the leadership board would change. But the sense of the game so far is captured in these columns, as the saga of IPL 23 continues.
Half way there, the Indian Premier League is at its exhilarating best in its 16th season. Lots of shocking outcomes, the points table it witnessing a muddled middle with a log jam that’ll only be separated through the NRR, but MSD is back where he belongs as CSK are yet again the table toppers despite all the injuries, un availabilities and inexperience in the bowling department.
It just has to be Incredible Premier League that keeps evolving its avatar on a yearly basis. The 16th edition commenced with the awe inspiring inaugural ceremony in Ahmedabad followed by the rather exciting season opener match-up between the CSK & GT.
Just on the stroke of the thirteenth game, as the 16th edition of the IPL was in cruise control mode, it yet again spewed out an all-out last over entertainer when Rinku Singh blasted the five sixes in a row to stun the current IPL champs, Gujarat Titans at home. I’d like to slide by a small fact : it was a duel that saw a forgotten hat trick by Rashid Khan in the very same game as well.
Let’s delve further and let’s surface some key revelations this IPL. There’s been much talk for years about the IPL being the tournament where talent meets opportunity. Let’s dissect how the IPL has actually turned out this year by deep dredging on some key strategies, key moments and what lies ahead in the second half of the IPL.
So, is the Impact Player a real winner? Which teams have used the rule the best and the worst?
The Impact Player rule has been new, innovative and used in many ways this IPL by all the ten teams. Some strategies have been straight forward, however some of them have left many scratch their heads. Captains during the toss also seem to hold the cards to their chest till the end.
The best Impact”ful” Calls taken;
Kolkata Knight Riders have used the Impact Player in the very best way as per how the statistics stack up. We have in the past seasons seen Venkatesh Iyer contribute with bat and ball both. However, KKR has used him to nicety as a pure batsman and he has exploded almost each game with the bat scoring as ton as well this season. With the ball Suyash Sharma has been used as an impact player who has got a bag full of wickets. One has to say that KKR does have a fabulous think tank in Abhishek Nayar & Chandrakant Pandit. In particular we have seen each player crediting Nayar for their performances through out this IPL.
Along with KKR, we have seen usage of the Impact Player rule by RCB & MI to make sure their key players can afford not to take the field in order to rest their bodies to last the entire duration of the IPL. This was very well used in the case of Faf Duplessis (RCB) and Rohit Sharma (MI) as well. Worked very well for them too.
It may not come as a surprise to anyone, but definitely worth highlighting the fact that the Delhi Capitals have the likes of Ricky Ponting, Sourav Ganguly, Shane Watson at their coaching disposal, but have taken some very erratic and whimsical calls. Its not about the dismal performances of their chosen impact players, but rather the strange strategic decisions taken. Aman Khan, Khaleel Ahmed and Sarfraz Khan have been some very erratic calls made.
With so much money paid to innumerous players, which players have been the Top Value of Money Purchases thus far?
It’s said that majority of the battle is won at the auction table itself. It’s not much different this year as well. There is enough proof of that at the half way stage in this 16th edition as well. Let’s have a quick look at the best “value for money” picks at the Auction table.
Let’s Decode Dhoni on why CSK sits at #1 half way through the tournament!
With CSK not only acing it on the auction table, it is very important to note that MSD has been at the top of his Captaincy skills on the field as well. Without Ben Stokes as a part of his armoury, he is leading the inexperienced CSK young brigade with impeccable direction. Behind the stumps he is coordinating the bowling orchestra with absolute perfection.
Let’s try to decode MS Dhoni’s strategy in what is likely to be his farewell season. Let’s not forget he has won an IPL last time around for the CSK with what was called the “Dad’s Army” with majority of the players who were past their prime in the game.
MSD’s Young Brigade comes good!
This time around it’s the newbies along with an unlikely veteran who’s provided the cutting edge for CSK. What remains constant is Dhoni’s fiery strategic guidance. Every player seems to have a role and they’re responding to MSD like everyone in the past has. We all expected Devon Conway, Moeen Ali, Ravindra Jadeja & Ruturaj Gaekwad to go well on a consistent basis. It’s actually when the unexpected have come good and are the match winners. Let’s have a look at some of the names that have made a big impact;
- Ajinkya Rahane : Best Strike Rate in the Power Play (SR : 200+) and remains Not out in the first 6 over too. Batting at a fair click too. He has completely re invented his batting intent.
- Shivam Dube : 236 runs at an average of 33. Amazing to see him deliver when it matters.
- Tushar Deshpande : 14 Wickets and Joint highest Wicket Taker so far.
- Akash Singh : Creating impact within the powerplay and is doing a Deepak Chahar sort of role for MSD.
- Matheesha Pathirana : The U19 Sri Lankan bowler hasn’t even been looked into by the SL board as yet in detail.
However, MSD has had deliver the crunch death overs relentlessly against top International players. He has given a return of under 5.7 runs per over in all his spells combined. That is his role.
So, like almost every other year, why is DC clinging to the wooden spoon? What makes the DC tick in the wrong way to occupy the 10th spot?
Before the introduction of LSG and GT, the Delhi Capitals occupied the eighth spot more frequently than any other franchise. They did move from that spot, but this time to the Tenth. One wonders that with the likes of Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson and Sourav Ganguly in the think tank, how is this even possible. But, its not about inducting heavy weights that will insure a great IPL season.
Delhi is primarily batting with the one pure batsman only this entire IPL – David Warner. While Warner is scoring Heavy at a good average, his strike rate is of major concern at a paultry 117 only. He’s scoring 50’s in every alternate outing, but is playing the anchor role awaiting someone along side to launch rockets in the crowds. Unfortunately, there’s been too many failures around him including the likes of Mitchell Marsh, Sarfraz Khan, Yash Dhull, Manish Pandey and of course the big one : Prithvi Shaw.
The sole shining light within the DC camp is Axar Patel. Whether with the bat or the ball, Axar Patel is creating magic. In the Arun Jaitley Stadium at home, Axar is fantastic with both skills and is batting at a Strike Rate of above 150 this IPL. Bad decision making to not send Axar up the order and control the middle order is hurting DC. It’s almost as though the think tank is adamant in sticking to Axar being a bowling All Rounder and slotting in at the No. 7 slot come what may. Bottom line Axar is worth his weight in gold for the DC.
Lucknow Super Giants and its curious case of KL Rahul!
A team that’s been there and thereabouts within the Top 4 through-out this edition of the IPL, while its captain is fighting form in the first seven games.
Let’s give you an interesting insight on KL Rahul. LSG’s totals this season are reflective of KL Rahul’s form. Surprisingly, when KL Rahul scores more than 20 runs LSG seems to struggle in putting a reasonable score on the board. Here are the scores thus far when KL scores more than 20 runs in any game;
127/5 (16 overs) / 159/8 / 154/7 / 128/7
Well, it’s the complete opposite when KL Rahul scores 20 or less for LSG this year;
193/6 / 205/7 / 213/9 / 257/5
It’s also interesting to note that at the half way mark with seven matches done, KL Rahul is the Highest run scorer for the LSG with 262 runs. What’s worrisome is that these runs are coming at a strike rate of just 113 as opposed to his LSG colleagues Kyle Mayers (SR : 150) and Nicholas Pooran (SR : 185).
From a captaincy perspective, KL Rahul been only just about average in decision making whether it comes to pressure cooker scenarios. The field sets have had a lot to be desired. The initial decision of not playing Quinton DeKock at all within the IPL 2023 has worked thus far since Kyle Mayers has come good thus far. However playing 10 bowlers in a game against Punjab Kings left raised a lot of eye brows. Stalwarts like Amit Mishra & Krunal Pandya bowled a total of three overs in the game, whereas Ravi Bishnoi bowled four overs alone. Lots of whimsical on field decisions leave us wondering if KL Rahul’s conservative batting approach is rubbing on to his style of captaincy as well.
Currently, it is Kyle Mayers, Nicholas Pooran and to some extent Marcus Stoinis who are binding the team together and providing the real core. Will LSG finish in the Top 2 for an easier chance to reach the final only time will tell.
So, have the IPL billion dollar babies delivered this year?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sam is an ex-cricketer having played for Singapore U23’s and at a semi professional level in England in the 1990’s. He is a cricke-preneur working on the online & offline space in partnership with stalwarts such as Mickey Arthur.