From outsmarting opponents by putting data to great use to inexcusable blunders to masterstrokes to questionable selections to flabbergasting choices, the first two weeks of IPL, from a captaincy of POV, has given us everything. So with 18 games done, it is only fair that we grade each captain.
Overview: Inarguably and indisputably the best captain of IPL 2020. That Delhi are second has a lot to do with Iyer’s tactics and street-smartness. His mantra? Simple: back the players to execute their role in the side, and don’t overreact on the basis of a couple of performances.
The good: Iyer’s management and marshalling of his bowlers has been exceptional - both pacers and spinners have had freedom and have thrived under him due to their roles being well-defined. Most importantly, though, he’s changed the fourth and fifth bowlers in compliance with the conditions, something that has helped Delhi a great deal.
The bad: Delhi, at times, have not been flexible enough with their batting order. Iyer sending himself in at 3 or 4 in every game might not be ideal for the side.
Overview: Good start. Has taken more good decisions than bad, has been quick to identify weak links and has made smart personnel changes to add more dynamism to the team.
The good: Kohli’s new-found trust for Washington Sundar, and boundless support for both Devdutt Padikkal and Saini have been commendable. Not hitting the panic button early has also been a breath of fresh air; not quite an RCB trait, that.
The bad: Unlike Iyer, his rotation of bowlers have been questionable, and it almost cost the side the Mumbai game. The over-performing top-order has protected the lower middle-order, and there is a gaping hole over there that remains unaddressed.
Overview: Subverted expectations in terms of results, although there’s an asterisk over the credibility of the same due to the Sharjah factor. Overall not great, but definitely not bad, either.
The good: Has shown sempiternal trust on the younger players, who have in turn thrived under his leadership. Seems to also have cracked the code to get the best out of Jofra Archer; has utilized the pacer almost perfectly.
The bad: Team selection has been questionable, as has the approach with the bat outside Sharjah. Over-reliance on top-three not addressed, middle-order composition a disaster waiting to happen and too much faith in washed-out veterans - Unadkat, Uthappa - proving detrimental to the side.
Overview: Has given away the vibe that he’s sometimes had his broth spoiled by too many cooks, but, nevertheless, has shrugged off outside noise and has marshalled his troops with positivity. Tactical astuteness has been poor, but man-management, particularly when it comes to Indian players, has been world-class.
The good: The first captain to crack his best XI. His ruthlessness with respect to team selection - Nagarkoti for Warrier; persisting with Charkavarthy ahead of Kuldeep - has been refreshing and he seems to have the whole team working as a collective unit. Seems to have injected positivity into the whole side.
The bad: Tactical decisions, at times, have been baffling. The stubbornness to open with Narine, still not knowing how to utilize Dre Russ, misusing Morgan and not having figured out his own batting position have all hurt the side immeasurably. The tendency to not learn from mistakes has been worrying, so has his awfully thin returns with the bat.
Overview: Right up there with Iyer as the best captain of the tournament, granted he’s had the best side in the entire competition at his disposal.
The good: Impeccable handling of the pacers, particularly in terms of knowing exactly when to use who. Fair to say no one quite expected James Pattinson to out bowl and outperform Bumrah, but Rohit’s captaincy paved way for the same. Also, regardless of conditions, backing the team’s strength to defend totals - something which franchises have refused to do.
Overview: Has done reasonably well with the cards dealt to him, and has been unlucky with injuries. Body language suggests he knows his side is too green to be competing with the big guns.
The good: Like Smith, has shown immeasurable faith in youngsters - to be honest, not like he has any other choice - and has allowed them to blossom game after game. Has used his trump card, Rashid Khan, to perfection and has also looked to maximize the team’s strengths - batting first, defending targets and stacking up the top-order - rather than plaster the weaknesses.
The bad: Seems to have little idea as to what the best team combination is, and seems to be batting conservatively due to the fear of exposing the brittle middle-order. Has also struggled to manage all pacers outside of Bhuvneshwar and Natarajan.
Overview: Perplexing. No other words. Just perplexing.
The good: Not much to speak of, barring the faith with the ball he’s shown in Curran, and the general loyalty he’s shown to the core members - the latter paid off versus KXIP. Has also been unblemished by outside noise and has continued to do things his own way.
The bad: Unhealthy faith on serial under-performers who are neither match-winners nor bring value to the side (read: Jadhav and Vijay), questionable tactical decisions - promoting Jadhav in big chases as well as under-utilizing Sam Curran with the bat, not promoting himself when the situation demanded - hesitancy to trust youngsters and his own lack of intent and puzzling approach with the bat.
Overview: One word to summarize leadership - inexperience.
The good: Has thrived as captain and has taken batting to the next level, and has not allowed defeats to deflate the team’s performances. Has tended to start every match with a clean slate, leaving behind the highs and lows from the previous matches.
The bad: Too many, way too many. Has not shown enough trust in players - Jordan being the prime example - has made hideous tactical decisions - not least the one to throw K Gowtham the last over versus Mumbai - and does not seem to have a plan. He has let inexperience seep through in crucial junctures and has not been a proactive fielding captain. Also, has consciously batted a tad too conservatively due to lack of trust in middle-order.