Decoded: What lies ahead in IPL 2021

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17 Sep 2021 | 02:21 PM
authorSomesh Agarwal

Decoded: What lies ahead in IPL 2021

How can the shift in venue and change in personnel affect each side

IPL 2021 stopped at a note when it was on the verge of becoming predictable. At least on the qualification front. There was a gulf between the top and the bottom four sides on various aspects and thus the points table too.

However, past evidence suggests that even when played in one go, there can be a difference in momentum in the teams between the first and the second half. A team looking well placed in the first few games suddenly loses steam and struggles to make it to the playoffs.

This time, the variables have increased. There is a change in venue, change in personnel for most sides, no room for a false start and also the fact that the form gathered during the first half will count for very little. So let us see how these factors can affect the sides.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

RCB were on a roll to begin with. Winning the first four games on the trot, they achieved something that no other team ever could. Then came the characteristic heavy defeats interspersed by a narrow win against Delhi. 

Due to five players pulling out for various reasons, RCB had to make the most personnel changes for the second half. Tim David comes in for Finn Allen, George Garton for Daniels Sams, Dushmantha Chameera for Kane Richardson, Wanindu Hasaranga for Adam Zampa and Aakash deep for Washington Sundar. All of them are like-for-like except for Sundar, whose all-round abilities are niche in India. 

The highlights of their season was Virat Kohli opening the batting, Glenn Maxwell clicking in the middle-order, Harshal Patel sprinting miles ahead than any other pacer on wickets and at times playing with only three foreign players in the XI. All these will be under scanner when they resume their campaign in UAE. 

Take one innings of 72* against Rajasthan out of the equation, Kohli was among the under-performing openers. Neither one of his other six innings came at a strike rate of 115+. His overall IPL strike rate in UAE is lower than compared with India. With no other tested opener in the side, the experiment will continue. So all eyes are on him when the tournament resumes.

Maxwell is RCB’s leading run-getter in the season so far. But he had a torrid IPL 2020 in UAE when he could not hit a single six throughout the season. Based on those numbers neither he nor RCB might fancy the move to UAE.  

Coming to Harshal, his numbers nose-dived as soon as the tournament moved to the wickets with more pace than the track in Chennai. The good thing for RCB is that they have added bowlers like Garton and Chameera who have pace, an attribute that worked well in IPL 2020. Even Navdeep Saini might have a bigger role to play than what he did during the first half. His inclusion might allow them to play a hitter in Tim David.

 

Even with the wholesome changes, there might not be a big impact on their playing XI. Sundar being the only regular player missing out.

Rajasthan Royals

Coming to the side that had to make the second-most changes to their squad. Rajasthan once had all the best Englishmen in their ranks. Now they are left with none. Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes missed the first half and will continue to do so. Even their best batsman, Jos Buttler, opted out leaving their chances in tatters. The Aussie pacer Andrew Tye will also be missing the remaining season.

As for replacements, Evin Lewis comes in for Buttler. As a positive, he is currently in the form of his life. Others coming in include Glenn Phillips who is also a potential opening option, the number one T20I bowler Tabraiz Shamsi and the West Indies speedster Oshane Thomas.

They will also have Liam Livingstone back in the mix after missing the first half. He has been in great touch at the international and domestic level since. 

It was Chris Morris who carried the team with the ball and at times with the bat too to earn them three wins in the first half. He found able assistance in Chetan Sakariya and Mustafizur Rahman who ensured that Rajasthan pacers were the most economical in the first half. However, the lack of pace for the latter two will be put to test in UAE.

 

Leading the side, Sanju Samson proved to be uncharacteristically consistent. Without Buttler, he will have a bigger role to play. 

Lewis or Phillips in for Buttler and Livingstone in for David Miller, based on the current form will be the key changes to their XI at the get-go. They might find it tough to make space for Shamsi.

Punjab Kings

Punjab are one of the two sides who have played eight games so far, winning only three of those. They are also one of the few sides who would have been grateful when the IPL stopped. Their skipper and the crux of their batting line-up KL Rahul was out due to injury for an indefinite period. Their overseas recruits for whom they spent a fortune failed to live up to the hype.

Now, Both Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith are out and the replacement pacer is another Australian Nathan Ellis who recently bagged a hat-trick against Bangladesh. In a surprising move, the other player to come in is Adil Rashid. Surprising because Punjab already have Murugan Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi in the mix. Hence an overseas leggie doesn’t make a lot of sense.

With Punjab, a lot of things did not make sense even in the first half. Lack of all-rounders made the inclusion of Moises Henriques mandatory but he often batted out of position. They even took the field without five proper bowlers at times. There were too many collapses. As a result they struggled to set up targets in the first innings. A key in UAE where sides batting first won 23 of the first 30 games last year.


The last of the additions is Aiden Markram in place of Dawid Malan. This too is not a significant value add even on paper. But Punjab had little to choose from with the last-minute opt-out. Coming to the sides that have made one change each.

Delhi Capitals

Delhi is the other side to have played eight games. With six wins, they sit pretty at the top. Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw raged havoc in the first half while others chipped in now and again.

Coming to the remainder of the season, Shreyas Iyer is fit and back. Although the reigns of the side will continue to be with Rishabh Pant, who did not enjoy the conditions in UAE in 2020 but is a different player now.

The return to UAE will also mean the reunion of the South African pair of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje. They raged havoc in 2020 but the latter did not feature even once in India earlier this year.

In terms of changes, the Australian left-arm pacer Ben Dwarshuis comes in for Chris Woakes. From far-off, this move seems casual. But, Delhi had limited choices given only players who put their name in the auction for this year are eligible for replacement.

Iyer coming back implies Delhi might not need Steve Smith in the middle-order. That will open up an overseas spot for Nortje. 

Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad

Kolkata and Hyderabad are the two bottom-placed sides and will face a do or die situation in every game. Unlike a few other underperforming teams, Kolkata have not made wholesome changes to their squad in the past couple of years. Earlier in the season, they played seven games with only 14 men. Only Chennai played with fewer.

Their biggest issue in the past two seasons has been the inability of their batsmen to stick around. They have the lowest balls per wicket record since IPL 2020. They will have to rely on the same bunch to pull off a miracle now.

The change in their squad has been the inclusion of Tim Southee in place of Pat Cummins. Though Southee might match Cummins’ credentials with the red-ball, T20 is his weakest format. But the unavailability of Cummins might instead lead to the inclusion of Lockie Ferguson in the XI who might be a value add. Do you remember his amazing spell and the subsequent Super Over against Hyderabad in 2020?

Coming to Hyderabad, this has been a rare bad season for them. David Warner has always been the lynchpin so the roof came tumbling down when he lost form earlier this year. Now they have lost Jonny Bairstow who was their best batsman in the first half. 

The addition to the team has been that of Sherfane Rutherford who is another experiment in Hyderabad’s tryst with finding an all-rounder. But, a bigger boost for them will be if T Natarajan gets fit to play again. Warner, skipper Kane Williamson, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Natarajan, Jason Holder and Wriddhiman Saha had a stellar season in UAE in 2020. They have nothing to lose in the remaining games.

Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians 

First up Chennai before we move to the defending champions. Chennai would have been the least happy of the teams with the stoppage. They were on a roll at least with the bat and now the IPL moves to the UAE, the venue that has not left them with happy memories.

There have been no changes to their original squad but Josh Hazlewood is back after opting out earlier this year. Lungi Ngidi was not at his best and this gives MS Dhoni an additional option.

A concern for Chennai would be the fitness of Faf du Plessis who has been afflicted by injuries lately, the latest being a groin strain. His unavailability might make Chennai continue with experiments and maybe try Sam Curran or Ambati Rayudu as an opener.

Chennai would have something they did not in 2020, the presence of two left-handers and prominent ones at that in Moeen Ali and Suresh Raina. Good for them that they do not have to hurry to identify a perfect XI for the conditions.

The defending champions have their house in order with a complete squad in place. However, with three losses under their belt in the first half, they cannot afford to start slow in the remaining games.

The biggest concern for them would be the form of Hardik Pandya who has averaged 14.8 in T20s this year. But they would also be encouraged by Ishan Kishan’s returns in UAE last year when he returned as their highest run-getter.

Both Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult have fond memories of the Arab nation from the 2020 season but, Mumbai would have to be quick to settle on the third pacer between Marco Jansen, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Adam Milne. Something they could not manage in the first half.

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Chennai Super Kings vs Mumbai IndiansIndian Premier League, 2021Mumbai IndiansChennai Super KingsKolkata Knight RidersDelhi CapitalsSunrisers HyderabadPunjab KingsRajasthan RoyalsRoyal Challengers Bangalore

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