In a competition like the IPL, attaining success in the first place is generally difficult, but sustaining the same excellence for an extended period of time is usually near-impossible. Fairytales don’t last, dreams tend to crash and, often, individuals end up dwelling too much on the past.
With the new season less than a week away, there are, unfortunately, a bunch of players for whom a reality check is imminent. These players can be split into two categories. The first category involves those for whom IPL 2020 performance was just an anomaly, and the second, those who are still in the honeymoon period of their cricketing career, yet to encounter the harsh realities of a cut-throat competition like the Indian Premier League. Be it Paul Valthaty, Manvinder Bisla, Jaydev Unadkat, Andrew Tye, Mayank Markande, Corey Anderson or Deepak Chahar, the IPL, over the years, has seen myriad players receive reality checks and this season is bound to be no different. Ahead of the new season, we look at the over-performers from each franchise in IPL 2020 who might struggle to replicate their heroics come the new season.
Trent Boult: 25 wickets at ER 7.97
Now it goes without saying that Boult, with age, has gotten better and better and is a bowler currently at the absolute peak of his powers. But it is almost inevitable that he will endure a much quieter IPL 2021, for his showing last season was an outlier; he considerably over-performed. IPL 2020 was only the second instance of Boult scalping more than 10 wickets in a season but while it is certainly undeniable that he was a much-improved and evolved bowler last season, his showing for the Kiwis post IPL 2020 does hint that maybe, just maybe, Boult just had ‘one of those seasons’ where he could do no wrong. In 7 T20Is post IPL 2020, Boult has just taken a wicket a game at an average and economy rate - 31.42 and 8.14 - considerably worse than his IPL tally. And yes, a good chunk of these games were played on bowler-friendly wickets. Of course it is entirely possible that Boult might maul teams once again this season - Mumbai just have this luck, don’t they? - but surely he’d have fared far better in the T20Is had he, like many people are suggesting based on his IPL 2020 numbers, turned into this invincible being in the shortest format?
Ishan Kishan: 516 runs @ average 57.33 and SR 145.76
We’ll admit it - this is a controversial take. Kishan is a superstar in the making and IPL 2020 does look like ‘the season’ that will be looked back upon, in a decade’s time, as the two months which gave India its next star. But let alone this season, it will be near-impossible for Kishan to replicate the kind of IPL 2020 he had for a few years’ time. To put Kishan’s IPL 2020 numbers into perspective, he scored more runs than Kohli, de Villiers, Warner, Morgan and Steve Smith having played one game FEWER than the aforementioned five. Not only that, he did so by striking at 145.76, a figure bettered by only de Villiers in the Top 10 run-getters last year. And he outscored AB by 62 runs, having played a game fewer and having been moved up and down the order. Just to reiterate how utterly ridiculous Kishan’s showing last season was, even Kohli, an accumulator with a far lower SR, has bettered his IPL 2020 average of 57.33 just once in his entire career - in 2016 where he notched up 973 runs. Sure enough, Kishan might end up playing a handful of impactful knocks this season, but it is almost a given that his numbers will take a hit.
Chennai Super Kings
Ruturaj Gaikwad: 204 runs @ average 51.00 and SR 120.71.
Ruturaj Gaikwad played just 6 games in IPL 2020 but by the end of the season, fans, CSK fans in particular, couldn’t stop raving about him. He finished his season with scores of 65*, 72 and 62* and this remarkable end to the campaign saw his stocks skyrocket. Understandably, heading into the new season, expectations are reasonably high. However, it would be wise to tone them down. As well as Gaikwad did, it was, still, at the end of the day, just three knocks. It is also worth noting that, by the time he started flourishing, CSK were already knocked out of IPL 2020, meaning all of his knocks came in a ‘nothing to lose’ situation. Not taking anything away from Gaikwad, but he still has a long way to go. Teams will be more aware of his strengths and weaknesses now and it is also to be remembered that he will be entering IPL 2021 on the back of a tame SMAT 2020/21, where he averaged 18.80. Gaikwad is undoubtedly good and is prodigiously talented, but let’s not put him on a pedestal - yet.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Washington Sundar: 8 wickets at ER 5.96
After spending two years - rather harshly - warming the bench, IPL 2020 saw Washington Sundar prove his worth to skipper Virat Kohli. So impressive was Sundar last year that his showing in the IPL eventually translated into him becoming a mainstay in both T20Is and Tests (Who’d have thought?). But don’t be surprised if he struggles a bit this season. We saw England show the world in the recently-concluded T20Is that Sundar is no immovable object - his went at 8.90 in the series and conceded 0/65 off his last 5 overs in the series - and, in many ways, he did lose his fizz in quite a few games even in the second half of IPL 2020. The off-spinner went at just 4.91 in the first 7 games of IPL 2020 but this figure rose to 6.79 - still excellent, make no mistake - in his last 8 games in IPL 2020, in which he had an ER of over 7 in half the matches. Should Sundar not add more skills to his armoury, IPL 2021 could turn out to be a season to forget for the 21-year-old.
Devdutt Padikkal: 473 runs @ average 31.53 and SR 124.80
This is the boldest and trickiest call we’ve had to make. That Padikkal over-performed last season isn’t up for debate; no one has the rights to outscore Kohli and de Villiers in their debut year. Not at the age of 19, at least. And he is coming on the back of a monster Vijay Hazare season, where his lowest score was 52 (!!!). But despite it being evident that Padikkal is a batsman born to score tonnes of runs, he just might struggle to do so come IPL 2021. Last season the youngster was exceptional in targeting the right match-ups - left-arm spin, leg spin and medium pacers - but there’ll be more questions asked of him this season. Padikkal struggled immeasurably versus both express pace and off-spin last season and teams will invariably target him with the same. They also know that he is someone who struggles to shift gears, and has the tendency to get bogged down, hence there’ll be conscious ploys to tie him down in the powerplay, the phase where he’s the most effective at. It’ll require an effort and a half from Padikkal to match how well he fared in IPL 2020.
Shikhar Dhawan: 618 runs @ average 44.14 and SR 144.73
No one - and we can say this with authority - would have had Dhawan scoring 618 runs last season but such was the outrageous run the veteran went on, particularly in the second half of this season. And that is precisely why he is in this list; what happened with Dhawan in IPL 2020 was an abnormality. A four-match stretch in the second half of the season saw Dhawan notch up 333 runs (54% of the season tally) and, in the season, he bettered his career IPL average by 10 and career IPL strike rate by 18. Like Boult, strong showings in the T20Is that followed IPL 2020 would have gone a long way in convincing the world that Dhawan had transformed into a monster T20 batsman, but in the 4 T20Is he batted post IPL 2020, the southpaw struck just 85 runs at an average of 21.25 and SR of 113.33. This inconsistency - or, rather, going by his track record, ‘normality’ - in fact made an appearance towards the fag end of IPL 2020, as his last 7 scores read 6, 0, 0, 54, 0, 78 and 15. So, at best, expect a ‘Dhawan season’ from Dhawan this time around. What do we mean by that? Ummm, some 400-500 runs at a 127-ish strike rate.
Marcus Stoinis: 352 runs @ average 25.14 and SR 148.52
Delhi were arguably one win away from Marcus Stoinis being crowned the Man of the Series in IPL 2020; that is how good he was. He won matches with both bat and ball at important moments and carried himself like a Greek God. But yes, there is a good chance that we might not see that Stoinis this season; maybe probably ever. Sticking to his primary skill, batting, it was as a finisher where Stoinis thrived last season but, ironically, it is in this role that the Aussie has disappointed throughout his career, be it in 50 or 20-over cricket. For Australia, Stoinis has struck at just 139.4 batting at 5,6 and 7 and all his success in the BBL has come as an opener. It is the same reason why, by the times the do-or-die knockout games beckoned, Delhi pushed him up top to get the best out of him. With Shaw back in form, and with Smith added to the set-up, it is unlikely that Stoinis will get to bat up top this season, so, should history not let us down, there is every chance that the Western Australian might go back to being a dud down the order. Only time will tell, but it won’t be blasphemous to assume that, for Stoinis, IPL 2020 was an outlier.
Mayank Agarwal: 423 runs @ average 38.5 and SR 156.1
The only reason Mayank Agarwal’s IPL 2020 is not being spoken about enough is because he had a partner who out-did his madness. 424 runs at an average of 156.45 is, make no mistake, as good as it can get for any batter in a T20 set-up. The problem for Mayank is that it will be an excruciating task to replicate what he managed last season. The strike-rate of 156 - which is ridiculously high - can yet be matched, but to replicate the same consistency whilst striking at such a high rate would be next to impossible. 7 of Mayank’s first 8 scores in IPL 2020 read 89, 26, 105, 25, 26 and 56 and 45, and in each inning he boasted a SR over 130.0. He wasn’t just racking up the runs like a Padikkal or a Rahul, he was genuinely and thoroughly impacting matches. Perhaps there is every chance that Mayank might finally breach the 500-run barrier this time around, but there is a one in hundred chance of him creating the same impact. Mayank’s IPL 2020 is a truly unappreciated, one-of-a-kind season.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Varun Chakravarthy: 17 wickets at ER 6.84
Varun Chakravarthy was a meme prior to the start of IPL 2020 but by the end of the season he, apart from proving all his doubters wrong, ended up earning himself an India call-up. He took 35.41% of all KKR wickets last season and his ER of 6.84 was only bettered by two other spinners, Rashid Khan and Axar Patel. But that’s where the problem lies for the ex-architect. He was, much like Kishan, so mind-bogglingly good last season that it would require a ginormous effort to get anywhere close to that tally. Fitness concerns have meant that he has not played any professional cricket since last season and the fact that he is a mystery spinner - who tend to be less threatening and effective with every passing year - compounds his problems. A drop in numbers is inevitable, but he could yet end up having a season that will be considered elite.
Rahul Tewatia: 255 runs @ SR 139.34 and 10 wickets @ ER 7.08
To date, there is no explanation for what Tewatia managed to do last season. He batted, bowled and fielded like a literal god and had the presence of a T20 veteran that had won a dozen titles playing at the highest level; it was, arguably, the most enchanting breakthrough season in the history of IPL. But that’s all in the past now. Going forward, he will be judged by how he backs up his 2020 season. The question is: can he replicate or better what he did last season? Theoretically, of course, it is very much possible. His numbers - 255 runs and 10 wickets - are well within reach and a good, all-round season will ensure that he catches up. But, practically, it will require a herculean effort from Tewatia to match his IPL 2020 impact. He single-handedly won the side two games with the bat and carried the team in the middle-overs with his nifty leg-spin. He made opponents fear him and, within the span of a few matches, earnt the reputation of being a three-dimensional superstar who ‘makes things happen’. You can never rule it out, but it’ll be difficult for this lightning to strike twice.
T Natarajan: 16 wickets @ ER 8.02
Arguably the greatest story in IPL history, T Natarajan, in just six months’ time, has scaled heights he would never have imagined even in his wildest dream. The left-armer has gone on to represent India in all three formats, has been a part of the side’s greatest ever Test win and is now pretty much a lock in the WT20 squad. But this honeymoon period coming to an end in IPL 2021 cannot be ruled out. For someone who bowled exclusively the big overs, Natarajan’s ER of 8.02 last season was outrageous. But there have been signs, most recently in the England white-ball games, that have indicated that the left-armer is far from impregnable. Yorker, as attested by several greats of the game, is a high-risk option which is incredibly arduous to nail. That this delivery is Natarajan’s USP proves that he is no normal bowler, but the biggest challenge for the 29-year-old will be to maintain the relentless consistency. The margin of error while executing yorkers, particularly in this era, is non-existent, and while did an exceptional job last season by tormenting the batsmen by landing the ball in the blockhole consistently, to replicate the same this season might just not be feasible. Won’t be too surprising if he indeed ends up enduring an ordinary season.