IPL 2021: Tactical tweaks, combination troubles and potential roadblocks

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18 Sep 2021 | 07:13 AM
authorShubh Aggarwal

IPL 2021: Tactical tweaks, combination troubles and potential roadblocks

One thing each franchise can do differently to do better in the second half of IPL 2021

Royal Challengers Bangalore

It has been a different season for RCB. A good different that is. The skipper Virat Kohli’s perennial words before every season, “We have a balanced squad this year” actually holds a lot of weight. Yet, there is one area where they appeared a touch lost in the first half. 

With Kohli moving up to partner Devdutt Padikkal at the top, the number three slot opened up. They didn’t move AB de Villiers given his brilliant form in the slog overs in the 2020 edition. They didn’t give it to Glenn Maxwell either. The reason was they wanted to split up their high-impact players. As the matters stand currently, Rajat Patidar has played four innings at three with Shahbaz Ahmed and Washington Sundar playing one knock each. In the first five games, they had a different number three every game. In the last two, they sent a clear message that Patidar will hold that position. 

It is a great opportunity for a promising youngster but it is also a move with little upsides, provided Patidar’s approach to build an innings is similar to that of Kohli. If he fails, then Maxwell is in early. If he gets in, it limits the number of balls for not one but two superstars. 

RCB’s last match before season suspension was an eye-opener. After Padikkal’s early departure, Patidar was involved in a stand of 43 runs with Kohli, but it came off 46 balls. At Maxwell’s arrival (with de Villiers to follow), the asking rate was already 11. The question is, do you want your star players to start their innings under pressure?

RCB’s approach suggests that they are eyeing the number three slot as a bridge between their Indian starpower at the top with the overseas firepower in the middle. Hence, that slot should not hold a lot of weightage in terms of a lost wicket. It is perfect to try someone like Harshal Patel whose batting prowess has been underutilized in IPL.

Since 2018, Harshal has a batting average of 27.7 while striking at 159.8. A lot of these runs have been made opening the batting for Haryana. In that same match against Punjab, Harshal smashed 31 runs from 13 balls, including two sixes. Any success for him at three will also reduce the pressure of run-scoring for his batting partner as well. 

Will RCB dare to pull the rabbit out of the hat or do they continue with the conventional approach? 

Mumbai Indians

Generally smooth operators in every facet of the game, MI struggled with their third seamer, or the second overseas seamer, in the first half. In Match 17 they played only three overseas players and suffered a heavy 9-wicket defeat. 

Heading forward with the same squad, it is an area of concern for the defending champions. However, there is one dynamic change. With the T20 World Cup looming closer, Hardik Pandya might be available to bowl which was not the case in the first half. He might only deliver two overs but it can still cover up for an underperforming third seamer. It is the only dynamic shift concerned with international cricket and thus holds a few interesting prospects.

Kolkata Knight Riders

“If you can’t change a man, change the man,” said a dejected KKR head coach, Brendon McCullum after a 7-wicket thumping at the hands of DC. The statement opened the door to a bunch of exciting possibilities in an underperforming team. What did McCullum actually mean? Was he hinting at the youngsters or taking a shot at the experienced pros who were not delivering.

Unfortunately, we never got to know that. KKR did not play a game after that. More than four months have passed since then. What is the mood in the KKR camp? Do they change the man? Or do they give them another go? Seventh on the points table, they have little time to react and we can’t wait to watch what approach they turn up with. 

Delhi Capitals

Shreyas Iyer and Ravichandran Ashwin’s return allow DC to field their best possible XI. However, the indifferent form of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje makes one wonder if their best XI on paper is indeed their best XI. 

The Rabada-Nortje combination was brilliant for DC in 2020. But Rabada missed his yorkers consistently in the first half and it has been the same with him for South Africa this season. Nortje missed the first half due to Covid. His current international form has been better than Rabada but even he has taken the occasional beating.

DC will pair them up at the season resumption. But if their current form supersedes their potential impact, do DC have their options open to drop Rabada? Who comes in since Chris Woakes has withdrawn his name and the other overseas options include Tom Curran and Ben Dwarshuis, none of whom have trustworthy credentials in the league. 

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Whatever SRH touched in the first half collapsed to debris. The situation became dire when skipper David Warner was stripped off of captaincy and dropped from the side. As the second half approached, one of the most intriguing aspects about SRH was if  Warner gets another chance The picture became clearer when Jonny Bairstow pulled out, opening the spot for Warner’s return. However, one can still not rule out the possibility of Jason Roy getting the preference over him.

A more severe headache for SRH lies in the middle-order. From number four onwards, they were clueless with their approach. While it remains to be seen who gets the nod as the all-rounder between Jason Holder and Mohammad Nabi - a decision subjected to the conditions - SRH must look to utilize Rashid Khan’s batting expertise more efficiently. 

A boisterous character with the bat, Rashid has exhibited his fondness for big strokes as  a T20 globetrotter. This year, his average is mediocre but the strike-rate is an injection of momentum - 154.7. Hence, he can be used as early as at number three or anywhere in the middle to let him do his thing. 

There is only one catch with Rashid. He should be lined up against pace as he averages nearly 21 at a strike-rate of 189 against them. The numbers come down to 3.5 and 73.4 versus spin. 

Chennai Super Kings

After a bumpy ride in 2020, a couple of minor tweaks set CSK’s engine in motion in the 2021 season. They were the smooth sailors with little to worry about. However, a stern eye underlines a potential glitch - fast bowling. A pace attack comprising Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Sam Curran and Lungi Ngidi is not the most ideal for T20 cricket. Consequently, CSK are the joint-most expensive pace unit. 

This blemish was engulfed by the CSK spinners (least expensive at 6.3) and their batsmen in the first half. Knowing CSK, they will start with the same composition but if it doesn’t work again, they may opt for two overseas seamers, along with Sam Curran. One amongst Moeen Ali and Faf du Plessis may have to make way. 

Du Plessis has been brilliant for CSK but since he doesn’t offer anything with the ball, he is the ideal candidate to make way for an extra seamer. CSK possess the deepest batting arsenal - up to number 10 - adding more rationale to this move. We might see CSK opt for this straightaway given de Plessis’ injury. Amongst all these combinations, Imran Tahir may continue warming the bench irrespective of the conditions. 

Punjab Kings and Rajasthan Royals

Such are the combinations in these two squads, irrespective of what tactics they embrace, it will raise eyebrows. They plug one gap, the other opens up. 

For PBKS, it is about choosing between a strengthened pace attack or playing two impact spin options in Fabian Allen and Adil Rashid. There lies like-for-like Indian options for both Rashid and Allen in Ravi Bishnoi, Murugan Ashwin and Harpreet Brar. Hence, as strange as it sounds, Nathan Ellis and Chris Jordan add more value to this side which is already struggling with returns in the death overs. 

RR have a number of options for every slot - Evin Lewis or Glenn Phillips as one of the two openers, Liam Livingstone or David Miller in the middle-order, Mustafizur Rahman or Tabraiz Shamsi for the second overseas bowling spot. The last of these will depend on the conditions. They can also opt to pick three out of Lewis, Phillips, Livingstone and Miller while playing only Morris as the overseas recruit in the bowling department. That will be a case of going for the kill with the bat but will weaken their bowling resources. 

It will be interesting to see what combination these two sides field to begin the second leg. 

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Indian Premier League, 2021Royal Challengers BangaloreDelhi CapitalsKolkata Knight RidersChennai Super KingsMumbai IndiansRajasthan RoyalsPunjab KingsSunrisers HyderabadVirat KohliHarshal PatelGlenn MaxwellAB de VilliersBrendon McCullumKagiso RabadaAnrich NortjeFaf du PlessisRashid KhanDavid WarnerHardik Pandya

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