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IPL 2020 & its head-scratchers – Part II

Last updated on 16 Nov 2020 | 10:23 AM
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IPL 2020 & its head-scratchers – Part II

A doff of the hat to the IPL 2020 pitch curators and how Ravindra Jadeja turned up the heat with the bat

IPL 2020 unravelled a few facets of the game, which changed the conventional notions. Here is the 2nd part of the article.

Part 1 here

Ravindra Jadeja, the finisher?

The man from Saurashtra is a bit of an enigma in Indian cricket; if you ask 5 different people, you are likely to get as many opinions on what they think about him. The answers are wide-ranging and I don't think even the Indian team management has been able to factor in his performances in different formats accurately. When Aristotle said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, he reserved it for Jadeja. Not only was he a philosopher but also a seer.

I am going to put my neck on the line and say that Jadeja is already one of the all-time great Indian all-rounders in Tests (the best ever at home) but an incredibly overhyped T20 player. The only element that can be unanimously agreed on is him being the best fielder in the world right now. But it is not the fielding that sets up matches for a team, it can be a great topping but definitely not the main dish. A player has to be good at either one of the two primary skills or reasonably adequate at both. 

For Jadeja the T20 player, bowling has been a slightly more attractive suit. Being dubbed a 'rockstar', till the end of IPL 2019, Jadeja averaged 24 with the bat at a strike rate of 122.7. With the ball, he averaged 29 at an economy rate of 7.6. I feel a bit like Dinesh Karthik facing googlies when I see those numbers, I just don't know what to make of it.

The 2020 edition was then going to be a big one for him because people in the cricket intelligentsia were starting to see through his numbers, especially the batting side of it. His bowling was expected to come in handy because of the big grounds but his batting remained a question mark. What panned out though was exactly the opposite.

With the ball in hand, Jadeja averaged 53 and conceded runs at a rate of 8.8 (the second-worst for any spinner after Piyush Chawla). With the bat though, Jadeja averaged 46 at a strike rate of close to 172 (the third-best for any batsman in the tournament with a minimum of 150 runs after Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya).

The breakdown of it is even more astonishing — against spin (the type of bowling he was supposed to take on), Jadeja scored at a strike rate of 80; against pace, the corresponding figure was 205. Jadeja's hitting against extreme pace was always considered suspect, but against deliveries above 135 km/h in IPL 2020, Jadeja scored 121 runs off 54 balls while being dismissed only once.

So, here we are with no clarity on what we are to make of Jadeja. He has pushed at the pull sign and pulled at the push in this IPL but luckily the door was a revolvable one and I guess the only thing that counts here is that he has found a new way in. 

Doff it to the curators

Way before the 2020 edition of the IPL took off, my desperation for watching live T20 cricket amidst the global pandemic forced me to go down the route of the Caribbean Premier League. In years to come, I expect people to put CPL 2020 right up there in the list of things that just made them go numb. I realized the effect it was having on me when one night I looked at my TV screen at 3.48 am and found out Barbados Tridents were 27/8 after 12 overs.

Now, I understand that the CPL gig was always going to be tough with 33 games to be played over only two venues, on tracks that are tired even on its best days. The idea of 60 IPL games in three venues (with only 12 of them in Sharjah), filled me up with dread.

Amidst all expectations that the tournament was going to be dominated by spinners and variation bowlers, it was actually the fast bowlers that really stood out with their performances and sheer pace: Jofra Archer, Jasprit Bumrah, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, and Mohammed Shami to name a few. The average run-scoring rate at Dubai was 8.2 runs/over, whereas the corresponding figure for Abu Dhabi was 8.1, Sharjah was of course the highest with 8.9.

If you compare it with the IPL 2019 venues, only Chennai and Delhi had lower scoring rates. In the 2020 CPL, Brian Lara Stadium had a scoring rate of 7.3 whereas Queen’s Park Oval was at 6.6. 

You can argue though that the slightly lower scoring rates in the UAE venues as compared to the Indian venues had more to do with the larger boundary dimensions rather than necessarily the slower nature of the pitches. As the tournament progressed, the pitches did show some signs of tiring but it is worth noting that Dubai hosted 26 games and Abu Dhabi 22.

Over the course of a normal season, every IPL venue sees only 7 games, and even in that brief duration, it starts showing signs of slowing down. What could have worked in the curators’ favor is the fact that they used five pitches each in Dubai & Abu Dhabi whereas Sharjah with only two pitches showed very evident signs of slowing down in the second half of the tournament. 

Despite all the limitations and the hot weather at the start of the tournament, the biggest MVPs of the tournament were the pitch curators who made sure that every skill got the best opportunity to prosper in what was undoubtedly the centerpiece tournament of the year. 

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