IPL 2021 came to a halt at around the halfway mark. Each team played at least seven games while Delhi and Punjab played eight.
After 29 games, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore flew ahead of the pack and had one foot in the playoffs. At the time of interruption, the others were fighting for the one spot available at number four which currently belongs to the Mumbai Indians.
With the Indian Premier League set to resume from September 19th, here is a rundown of where does each side stand and how the absence of a few players might affect them:
Delhi Capitals: 1st, 12 points in eight games
After finishing runners-up in IPL 2020, Delhi Capitals were a further improvement in 2021. With six wins, they are at the top spot as of now but have played a game extra than others in the top half. The biggest positive for Delhi this season has been the form of their openers. Shikhar Dhawan continued from where he left off in the last IPL while Prithvi Shaw was at his best in the season. He was also the number one ranked batsman at the halfway mark in our rankings.
In the middle-order, Rishabh Pant and Shimron Hetmyer were in decent form while Marcus Stoinis did not have much to do. With the ball, Avesh Khan was a find and is currently the joint second-highest wicket-taker with 14 scalps. His economy of 7.7 is the best after Jasprit Bumrah (7.1) and Mohammed Siraj (7.3) among pacers with 20+ overs in the competition. They would hope that he recovers from the finger injury in England well in time before the IPL.
Coming back after recovering from COVID, Axar Patel provided them with balance. As a result, they did not miss Ravichandran Ashwin a lot. Ashwin should be available when the season resumes.
Two concerns for them were the form of Kagiso Rabada and the role of Steve Smith. Smith and Stoinis might not be available if the Aussies decide to skip the IPL due to other tours or workload concerns. But, their regular skipper, Shreyas Iyer will in all likelihood be fit to take charge again and occupy Smith’s spot. Stoinis’ absence might hurt but can allow them to play Anrich Nortje as a proper bowling option instead.
They need two more wins to assure a playoff spot, but their eyes would be on the top-2. They can take heart from the fact that they are the only team to have competed in all games, even in the ones they lost.
Chennai Super Kings: 2nd, 10 points in seven games
In the suspended season, the difference between the collective strike rate of CSK batsmen and that of the next best team was 12.7. That is how extraordinary Chennai were with the bat. They did so by rejigging their batting order which allowed the free-stroking players like Moeen Ali more freedom to play their strokes. They won five games on the trot and lost to Mumbai in a nail-bitter before the season came to a halt.
With no significant overhaul in their bowling department in the auction, their bowlers (both spinners and pacers) were the most expensive. Now, if the players from England opt-out, Chennai will be without Moeen and Sam Curran, two of the trump cards in MS Dhoni’s pack. It will add to their worry that both of them were utility players – a rare breed – with the ability to bat at any position and contribute in all departments.
It would be interesting to see the approach CSK adopts when the season resumes.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 3rd, 10 wins in seven games
Bangalore began as a juggernaut with four wins on the trot. With the presence of Glenn Maxwell, their XI looked more balanced than ever before. Harshal Patel proved unplayable in the death overs with his variations on the helpful Chennai wicket. Kyle Jamieson was a good addition while AB de Villiers continued to be at his genius best.
Then came a string of three games that made their fans and experts question a lot of things. Like they usually do, when Bangalore lost, they did it by a big margin, against Chennai and Punjab. In between the two, came a one-run victory against Delhi.
Now when the season will resume, they might have to do without a few players, more importantly, Glenn Maxwell and Daniel Sams which will again dent the balance of their side. This might give them a chance to play Finn Allen but he will have to play out of place unless Virat Kohli decides not to open.
Mumbai Indians: 4th, 8 points in seven games
It must be demoralizing for the teams in the bottom four that their competition for the one available spot, as of now, is with Mumbai.
Mumbai struggled in their first few games on the slow surface at Chepauk, winning only two of those. After moving to Delhi, their batting numbers improved and with Kieron Pollard playing a match-winning knock, they ended the suspended season with the second-highest chase in IPL against Chennai. Taking a liking to the small ground in Delhi, they comfortably beat Rajasthan as well in the game earlier as well.
One issue that refused to go away was wickets from their pacers. Mumbai’s pacers were the worst after those from Sunrisers on wicket-taking ability.
Unlike last season, Mumbai struggled to find their best XI and could not nail down on a third pacer to assist Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult.
Another headache for Mumbai was the form of Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya. Kishan has scored some runs playing for India recently but Hardik continues to look off-colour. Without any major dependency on players from England and Australia, they are unlikely to face personnel issues when the tournament resumes.
Rajasthan Royal: 5th, 6 points in seven games
Despite losing two of their most important players in Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes, Rajasthan Royals were able to keep their hopes alive. Chris Morris was the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament so far. With the bat, he won them a game against Delhi early on. Collectively, their pacers were the joint-most economical along with those of Mumbai.
With the bat, the biggest issue for them was at the top of the order. They scored runs at a pace slower than most others and lost wickets most frequently. However, Jos Buttler was back among the runs after his first T20 hundred in their last game and Yashasvi Jaiswal was an improvement over last year. However, with players from England not likely to participate, the situation for Rajasthan will be dire than all other teams. Especially considering that they need five more wins in their remaining seven games to reach the safe haven of 16 points.
Punjab Kings: 6th, 6 points in eight games
Punjab Kings struggled to find their best XI. After earning their third win in their seventh game against Bangalore, Punjab seemed in the reckoning for the playoff spot. But, the equation became difficult after their loss to Delhi in what was the last game of the suspended season.
Their biggest issue was identifying an approach up top while batting first. Their run-rate of 6.9 in Powerplay was the lowest. They had the three lowest first-innings scores against their name, one each at each of the three venues they have played at.
The Punjab spinners have done a good job with an economy of 7.1. But, along with Sunrisers, they have looked tactically the weakest unit, pushing players to bat out of position or not playing five proper bowlers at times. If the English and Australian players skip the IPL, their bowling attack will take a hit due to the absence of Jhye Richardson (their most expensive buy), Riley Meredith and Chris Jordan.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 7th, 4 points in seven games
Among the sides in the bottom half of the table, Kolkata Knight Riders were unique. Despite being one of the most underwhelming teams of the tournament, they fielded only 14 different players in seven games. Only Chennai Super Kings played fewer (13).
Losing a wicket every 17.4 balls, Kolkata batsmen were the least consistent in IPL 2020. At the halfway mark this year, that number is down to 16. Batting was not the only issue for a side reeling at the seventh spot. With an economy of 9.1, their pacers were the most expensive while their spinners, with a balls-per-wicket record of 30.5 were second-worst after Rajasthan (81).
A frustrated Brendon McCullum, KKR’s head coach, exclaimed after their loss against Delhi “If you can’t change a man, change the man”. But with minimum action during the auction this year, Kolkata did not have a lot to choose from. Moreover, they might have to deal with the absence of their skipper Eoin Morgan, Pat Cummins and Shakib Al Hasan when the season resumes.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 8th, 2 points in seven games
The Sunrisers have made it to the playoffs every year since 2016. However, their campaign did not take flight this season. Plagued by injuries early on, they lost the services of T Natarajan after two games. While Bhuvneshwar Kumar missed out two games as well.
But, the biggest issue for the Hyderabad franchise came up top. David Warner was not 100% fit and was not at his explosive best in this season. To accommodate an all-rounder – which they desperately needed for balance – Sunrisers relieved Warner off his captaincy duty and handed the baton to Kane Williamson.
Playing their first five games in Chennai did not allow their rookie middle-order to get among the runs. While Delhi has so far proved to be a nightmare for their renowned bowling attack. With 38.7 balls per wicket, their pacers were a distant worst.
To garner any hopes of qualification, they will have to win every game when the season resumes. They might have to do this without the availability of Warner and their best batsman: Jonny Bairstow.