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Jumping to conclusions | Observations from the first week of IPL 2020

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What have we learnt from week one of IPL 2020?

@ IPL T20

Jumping to conclusions | Observations from the first week of IPL 2020

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Anirudh Suresh

09/25/2020

What’s the point of being a sports fan if you’re not going to jump to conclusions? IPL 2020 might have overseen just six matches, but given all teams have played at least once, we, here at SportsCafe, look at the rights and wrongs of all eight franchises and list out potential areas of improvements.

Chennai Super Kings

What they got right

The inclusion of Sam Curran. Contrary to popular thought, the younger Curran, with his cutters, change of pace and angle, has proved to be mighty effective in UAE conditions. Not only has he been CSK’s best bowler, but, thanks to his cameos with the bat, he has, in fact, been CSK’s best player. Fair to say he’s made himself undroppable. 

What could be their long-term problem

Two areas: The middle-order and their spin department. Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav as potential finishers in 2020 feels like a stretch and between Chawla and Jadeja, while they can contain the runs, there aren’t just enough wickets.

How can it be fixed

The lack of bench-strength with the bat means that the only solution for CSK is to zero-in on their combination and define roles for their batters clearly; using Sam Curran as a pinch-hitter every match won’t be feasible. In the spin department, the inclusion of Imran Tahir seems like a must. That might, however, require them to sacrifice a batsman to accommodate an extra Indian seamer. 

Mumbai Indians

What they got right

The decision to open with Rohit and the move to playing two overseas pacers. They could so easily have been tempted to play the extra batsman in the form of Chris Lynn, but they stuck to their age-old formula of stacking up their pace battery, and rightfully so.

What could be their long-term problem

The No.4 conundrum and, subsequently, Saurabh Tiwary.  Yes, Tiwary fared ‘okay’ in the first two games, but whether investment on a batsman who has a career T20 SR of 120 will be worth it remains to be seen. Ensuring both Pandya and Pollard get enough time to get their eyes in will also be a stern challenge.

How can it be fixed

There is no solution to the Pollard/Pandya quandary, for when they come in will depend on the match situation, but they would go a long way in making their expectations from Tiwary clear. Right now it feels like he is just there, unsure of what exactly his role in the side is. A more straightforward solution, of course, would be to draft in Ishan Kishan

Kolkata Knight Riders

What they got right

Pretty much nothing, really. Perhaps the inclusion of Shivam Mavi. Barring that, game 1 felt like a complete miss.

What could be their long-term problem

Plenty. The feasibility of Sunil Narine as an opener, the batting positions of DK, Morgan and Russell, the potency of their spin attack, the inexperience of their Indian seamers, the incompetence of Pat Cummins at the death. 

How can it be fixed

Unless everything magically falls into place, it is hard to see KKR excel this year. Unlike the other teams, they have one too many problems to deal with it. Perhaps, for starters, DK should start using Cummins with the new-ball and finalize his own batting position. He should also, on top of that, quickly take a call on the Sunil Narine experiment. 

Sunrisers Hyderabad

What they got right

Not a single thing. The only team in the competition who got absolutely everything wrong. 

What could be their long-term problem

The lack of potency in their pace attack, the inexperience and lack of firepower in the middle-order and the over-reliance on Warner and Bairstow. 

How can it be fixed

Playing both Sandeep Sharma and T Natarajan seems like an outright no-no, so perhaps, for starters, they can bring in Khaleel and/or Kaul. Nabi needs to be a permanent fixture in the side and the big-hitting Abdul Samad, too, needs to be drafted in. Given they already have three accumulators in the form of Warner, Shankar and Pandey, they also need to do away with young Priyam Garg who, again, does not have enough firepower to threaten sides. 

Rajasthan Royals

What they got right

Opening with Smith and making him the captain. Opening the batting meant that Smith had enough time to get his eye in without feeling guilty of eating balls at crucial junctures of the game, and he rotated his bowlers to perfection despite having a seemingly average attack at his disposal.

What could be their long-term problem

Their bowling minus Archer and their finishing with the bat. Rahul Tewatia overperformed versus CSK, something that won’t happen every game, and the overall puissance of their bowling, barring Archer, will be a major concern in the long run. Uthappa in the middle-order might also prove to be a problem child. 

How can it be fixed

Buttler will ‘need’ to bat in the middle to make up for the inability of the other middle/lower order batsmen to take down attacks. Given RR already have Smith, Jaiswal and Samson, bringing in Manan Vohra as an out-and-out hitter in the middle-order, in place of Uthappa, is also something that the management will need to consider. On the bowling front, injecting more pace - be it in the form of Kartik Tyagi or Varun Aaron - might just be the need of the hour. The addition of Stokes, too, will certainly help the side. 

Delhi Capitals

What they got right

Their selections. Added firepower in the areas where they were lacking last season - second seamer and primary spinner; both Nortje and Ashwin were valuable and smart additions - and did not tinker too much. 

What could be their long-term problem

The top-order. Rishabh Pant’s brilliance bailed the side out many a time in each of the previous two editions but, despite looking strong on paper, a top three of Shaw, Dhawan and Hetmyer, practically, might not be the most effective option. There has been no evidence to suggest that Hetmyer can be a run-accumulating destructive force, nor do both Dhawan and Shaw possess the ability to ‘really’ turn up the heat towards the end. DC sure do not want to find themselves stuck in a situation where they’re looking at Pant and/or Stoinis to fire every single game to get them to a decent total.

How can it be fixed

Prithvi Shaw had an SR of 133.71 in IPL 2019, not high enough in a team which already has two accumulators in the form of Dhawan and Iyer. The team would, thus, need him to go for broke from ball one. Another option would be to open with one of Hetmyer or Stoinis, although opting for the latter would mean taking away fizz from the lower-order. Giving a run-out to Harshal Patel - either making him open like he did for Haryana or utilizing him as a finisher by sending Stoinis up top - might also be a feasible option. 

Kings XI Punjab

What they got right

Dropping Gayle and opening with Mayank Agarwal; utilizing 3 overs of Mohammad Shami up-front. 

What could be their long-term problem

Defining the roles of all middle-order batsmen, including Maxwell and Pooran; bowling at the death. 

How can it be fixed

As things stand, none of Maxwell, Pooran, Sarfaraz and Nair know what their role in the middle-order is. Due to his one-dimensionality, Nair might find himself out of the team sooner rather than later, but one cannot help but think that Maxwell, Sarfaraz and Pooran at 3, 4 and 5 could be the way forward for Punjab. Maxwell batting at 3 not only would give him more time but will also more often than not ensure that he faces a vast majority of spin bowling, something he loves to take apart. It will also, as a result, allow Pooran - who has shown he is not the shrewdest against quality spin - to face less balls from the slower bowlers and more of the pacers. With respect to death bowling, Punjab will have no option but to give Jordan an extended run; he is, by and large, their best death bowler, one bad game won’t change that. They will go a long way in having Jordan and Cottrell bowl 4 of the last 5.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

What they got right

Opening with Finch and Padikkal. 

What could be their long-term problem

Batting and bowling at the death - their Achilles Heel.

How can it be fixed

Morris coming back ‘might’ make things better, but, unfortunately, the harsh reality is that, unless Saini delivers a 10/10 game after game, RCB will struggle at the death. There is no fix to it. The batting, on the contrary, can be taken care of and must be maximized to its full potential. Given RCB are stacked up top, and given Sundar is not bowling overs anyway, RCB would be better off drafting in Gurkeerat for the off-spinner and giving the gloves to him. What this would also do is enable them to get rid of Philippe and bring in Moeen Ali. As things stand, this RCB side is crying for Moeen - he is, by some distance, their best and only finisher. And well, Kohli and AB need to bat 3 and 4. Full stop. 

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