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Cricketing observations from the group stages of IPL 2020 ft. Anchors, Finger spinners and dreadful umpiring

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What did we learn from the group stages of IPL 2020?

@ IPL T20

Cricketing observations from the group stages of IPL 2020 ft. Anchors, Finger spinners and dreadful umpiring

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Anirudh Suresh

11/05/2020

Tournaments like the Indian Premier League are not just an opportunity for fans to get entertained but also to learn; learn something new. Across the 56 group games of the 13th edition of the IPL, learnings were aplenty, but we have decided to list out the five which have stood out the most.

The standard of umpiring is slumping to an all-time low

Soft signals being ignored and double-standards reflecting on decision making; Head-high full-tosses not spotted and not called no-balls; clear wides not being given and vice-versa; officials being bullied by players into reversing and re-checking decisions - Umpiring, sadly, has stooped to an all-time low in IPL 2020. Whilst there have been innumerable wrong on-field decisions, what’s demeaned the competition is ineptness of the officials to not sometimes even get the basics right. Judgement calls and blunders made with the naked eye can still be forgiven, but on more than one occasion Television Umpires arrived at wrong decisions despite thorough introspection. Two takeaways: one, cricket cannot survive without technology and two, there is no use of technology if the men operating it are going to be incompetent. 

Anchoring is overrated

Anchoring the innings in 2020 is overrated and let no one tell you otherwise. The word ‘anchor’ is just a subtle way of saying “Hey, don’t mind me. I’m going to play slow. Hit the boundaries for me, can you?”. All three of Rahul, Kohli and Padikkal - 3 of the top five run-getters - played a ton of ‘anchoring’ knocks that hurt that side more than it helped and same was the case with young Shubman Gill, whose ‘third gear’ approach almost always ensured KKR never got off to a brisk start. Mumbai, through their approach, have shown the way for the rest of the sides: never take the foot off the pedal, regardless of whether the score is 0/1 or 100/0. It is time that strike rate is deemed and considered a metric superior to average in T20 cricket. What use were KL Rahul’s 670 runs to Punjab again?

Captains are, well, not really captaining the side 

Are the designated captains actually skippering the side or are they just puppets following instructions from the dugout? Evidence from the group stages of IPL 2020 suggests that it might be the latter. From Dinesh Karthik - and later Eoin Morgan - having precisely zero control over decision making to Virat Kohli being told to hold-back AB de Villiers till over 16 due to ‘match-ups’ to Steve Smith being given a randomly-generated batting order, it has been coaches and analysts who have called the shots - at least for some sides - throughout the entirety of the competition. While data-driven inputs could see the sport, as a whole, evolve to the next level, captains being used as mere, robotic deployers of backroom tactics has been saddening to see. RIP to the “Trust the gut” ploy. It was fun while it lasted. 

Finger-spinners are on the verge of extinction - at least in the IPL

Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar - The complete list of conventional finger spinners who have played a ‘respectable’ number of games in IPL 2020. And precisely zero of the four have been trusted by skippers and managements to get the job done when under the pump. From each team boasting a flurry of finger-spinners not so long ago to having no more than four bowlers feature regularly in the entire competition, the dearth of conventional finger spinners in the IPL - and in T20 cricket, in general - has been damning. Franchises’ obsession with data-driven analytics, which tend to give the more attacking, wrist-spinners the upper hand, has meant that the conventional finger-spinners have largely been reduced to mere holders. Lack of mystery and captains’ (read: coaches’) reluctance to expose them to batsmen who they turn the ball into (off-spinner vs right-hander; left-arm spinner vs left-hander) has also meant that far too often, they’ve not completed their quota of overs, sometimes not bowling more than 1 or 2. A bad time to be a finger-spinner vying for an IPL spot - the trust in your breed is shrinking by the passing day.

The concept of ‘form’ counts for zilch in the IPL 

Perhaps this will be the last IPL where fans will fall for the trap of estimating a team’s strength based on players who “not so long ago were in the form of their life”. Glenn Maxwell entered IPL 2020 in the form of his life, literally - he ended up being the biggest ‘miss’ of the tournament. Aaron Finch and Andre Russell, too, entered the competition in fine nick - they looked like they hadn’t touched the bat for seven months. Shimron Hetmyer had a better CPL than Nicholas Pooran - he didn’t score half the number of runs as his compatriot. For some weird reason which no one seems to be able to decode, the universe of the IPL seems to be starkly different from that of international cricket; it does seem like you magically cannot transform your powers from one world to another. 

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