IPL is back in the homeland after a quick turnaround. Every year we expect the craze to die but it just gets bigger. Especially, during these tough times, when people might need a bit of solace. With such a quick turnaround time for this season, things seem to be running smoothly so far. The matches have been exciting as usual and the teams continue to fight their way to the playoffs. We are midway into the tournament and there is a clear distinction in the team performances so far. While some have drastically improved compared to the last season, others haven’t found their groove yet. The teams currently in the top 4 have looked far better than the bottom 4 teams.
CSK is back. Chennai Super Kings was mocked last season for their performance and the average age of their squad. They have turned around their season and how, top of the table. Definitely the most improved team this season. Without any major overhaul, the team has found their long lost form and are firing on all fronts. With a solid opening pair, batting depth, multiple bowling options and one of the greatest captains at the helm, the team looks exuberant.
RCB has had their best-ever start in the history of IPL and especially performed well in the bowling department this season. Indian bowlers have been exceptional led by Purple Cap holder Harshal Patel. The batting department as usual is still heavily dependent on AB de Villiers. Yet the usual stars have chipped in at the right moments. Especially Maxwell who is reviving his form this season. The RCBians would hope that the team finally breaks the drought this season.
Delhi Capitals has been consistent as well like last season. Dhawan and Shaw’s opening pair have amassed huge totals for the team this season. With a new captain Rishabh Pant, the team still looks dangerous. The middle-order needs to be more consistent for the team to go far in the tournament. The bowlers as well haven’t looked as lethal as the last season. Still halfway to go, they can surely build upon the current momentum.
The defending champions are the most balanced team on paper. Mumbai Indians flexed their muscles in the recent run chase against CSK. They are not to be underestimated despite the inconsistent start. The team has struggled to score big at times but have managed to defend those scores. They are still the heavy favourites to defend their title but they would want to be in the top 2 positions in the table heading into the playoffs.
Rest all the teams have struggled to find any rhythm this season. Punjab Kings’s fortune hasn’t changed a bit even after rebranding the franchise. KL Rahul has managed to stay amongst the run-getters currently holding the Orange Cap. This team has somehow taken the wrong page from RCB’s book except for the fact that none of the players besides the openers has chipped in anything significant.
Sunrisers Hyderabad has only managed to win a single game so far. It looks like the Kedar Jadhav curse has shifted from CSK to SRH. They have sacked Warner as their captain and appointed Williamson as the leader for the remaining season. Their bowlers and middle-order have struggled to do their part. SRH team has always been the underdogs who manage to defy the expectations without glamorous star players. They have a tough road ahead with a do-or-die situation in every match they play. They need to find the right combination of international players before it’s too late.
KKR and Rajasthan Royals have a similar story this season. It’s not the lack of star power but the lack of intent. None of the players has stepped up, captains have looked clueless and the team morale has been extremely low even before stepping on the pitch. Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer’ season-ending injury has also been a major setback. The teams haven’t shown any signs of improvement as well and they surely look like heading towards another early exit. The road to the playoffs has seemed to hit a dead-end and they can only look to spoil the fun for other teams.
COVID’s second wave is wreaking havoc in the country dismantling the healthcare infrastructure. When the fans would have expected to witness IPL in person this year, the situation has taken a complete U-turn. It is a similar viewing experience as the last season in UAE without a bio-bubble. The teams are travelling to different cities for their matches amidst the massive surge in COVID cases leading to additional risk.
A few players have opted out of IPL mid-tournament for their family’s and personal safety. Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa of RCB, Andrew Tye and Liam Livingstone of RR and Ashwin of Delhi Capitals have returned home. Furthermore, Kane Williamson and Trent Boult would withdraw from the tournament a bit early to join the New Zealand squad for the Test series against England. With mid-season transfers, RR and RCB would look to replenish their squad with the help of other teams. They might not get the ideal replacements but can still look to rest their star players in worst-case scenarios. For those who aren’t aware, mid-season transfers are only valid for players who have played fewer than 3 matches and these players can’t participate in the matches against their home teams.
Many viewers have called for the cancellation of IPL citing social and moral responsibilities. While the stars of this game might not suffer from this move, IPL is the only career opportunity and provides financial security to many youngsters and aspiring cricketers. While IPL is viewed from an entertainment perspective, it is a business that employs a lot of people behind the stage. In the second half of the tournament, we can expect more nail-biting moments and upsets. While the heavyweights would like to cruise through the remaining fixtures, underdogs can always rain on their parade. Regardless, we wish the tournament goes on smoothly without any hiccup and we get to enjoy some great cricket in these tough times.