Baffling team selections, an all-time-great individual performance, a Super Over, a snoozefest - the third weekend of IPL 2021 had everything. With the Mumbai and Chennai legs coming to a conclusion, we look back and discuss important talking points from the three weekend encounters.
Rajasthan Royals vs Kolkata Knight Riders
Could RR giving Shivam Dube the license finally unlock the all-rounder?
Believe it or not, Saturday was just the second instance of Shivam Dube posting back-to-back 20+ scores in the IPL. Part of it is because he’s been constantly moved up and down the order, and equally also because he’s struggled at the highest level. But these last two knocks have provided a glimmer of hope - that Dube could finally turn into a fine utility batsman in the IPL. Versus RCB, coming in to bat at 18/3 in the fifth over, Dube unleashed a counter-punch that rattled his former side. Then in the very next game versus KKR, he once again showed signs of taking the game to the opposition, despite the execution being off. For someone who is a prodigiously clean striker of the ball, Dube’s unremarkable strike rate and passive approach in the IPL has belied logic, but, as many have expressed unequivocally, the KKR and the RCB games, where he backed his instincts and committed to taking the spinners down, were the best he’s ever batted at this level. Yes, Dube could sometimes come off as a hack, and yes his technique is susceptible, but there is no reason why, even with limited ability, he cannot turn into a middle-overs enforcer whose primary job is to dismantle spinners. Early days, but, at the moment, it does feel like RR have finally found a way to effectively utilize the southpaw.
Why not use Andre Russell at 3?
It speaks volumes of KKR’s shambolic management that a suggestion that first started doing the rounds in 2019 has continued to be a hot topic of debate in 2021. But really, what is stopping KKR from sending Russell to bat at #3? That the Jamaican is wasted down the order goes without saying but in the current muddle state that the side, particularly the batting, finds itself in, batting Russell at #3 would be a nothing-to-lose punt. Rahul Tripathi has done a commendable job at 3, but he simply is not a batsman who has the ability to take the game away from the opponent. Sending Russell at 3, regardless of the game situation, would not only give him more time to size up the opponent and inflict damage, but would galvanize the innings, make the opponents anxious and potentially completely disrupt the opposition’s plans. The downside, of course, will be losing the Big Jamaican early, but surely KKR would be better off Russell outrightly failing, rather than him not getting a chance to make an impact?
Chennai Super Kings vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
Time to make Tahir a permanent fixture in the side?
Tahir is a Chennai cult-hero so the fact that he made just three appearances last season understandably upset a large chunk of the fanbase. But in his first outing this season yesterday - which was rendered possible by an injury - Tahir made a case for him to be a permanent fixture in this side. Bowling in tandem with Jadeja, the 42-year-old, with his quick and skiddy leg-breaks, kept a tight leash on the RCB batters and choked them in good ol’ CSK fashion. His figures of 2/16 were mighty impressive, but what was evident was how much his control liberated Jadeja to do……. well, Jadeja things. Now with CSK shifting base to spin-friendly Delhi, it is hard not to imagine that Tahir has made a case for him to be a starter. Who he replaces will be the question, but given Dwayne Bravo’s impact this season has been non-existent, it feels like a no-brainer move for the Super Kings to fix Tahir’s place in the side. The South African’s inclusion will add more dynamism to the spin-unit but, crucially, will provide Dhoni with a wicket-taking, leg-spinning option in the middle-overs.
Skipper Kohli needs to start taking pressure off AB and Maxwell’s shoulders
It’s been the pattern for a year or so, hasn’t it? Kohli plays a pretty good knock, we rejoice thinking that he is ‘back to form’ but then he backs the ‘back to form’ knock with an inexplicably bad inning. Despite the unbeaten 72 he scored versus RR, Kohli simply has not done enough this season. It wouldn’t have mattered had RCB boasted ludicrous batting depth like MI or CSK, but with the side essentially operating with four batsmen, it is imperative that Kohli keeps delivering consistently. Each of the first three games were won by one - or both - of Maxwell and de Villiers and thus they’re inevitably bound to suffer a mid-season dip. Padikkal, too, has won a game for the team and started Sunday’s clash off immaculately, so it’s really Kohli who is yet to arrive to the party. RCB are skating on thin ice having put all their eggs in the Kohli-AB-Maxi-Dev basket, so an inconsistent season from the skipper will hurt the side immeasurably and perhaps dash their title hopes.
Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Delhi Capitals
Not just lack of quality, SRH are a victim of their management's incompetence
At times you look at the distraught faces of the likes of Warner, Williamson, Bairstow, Rashid and feel for SRH. But then you immediately check what the management did tactically and go, “Oh well, they deserved to lose it.” The DC game was one such contest where you couldn’t help but be appalled by the management’s decisions. Dropping Manish Pandey for a game to ‘send a message’ was fine. But in a team that is already deprived of quality and experience, what made Bayliss & Co. think that a rookie, Virat Singh, would fare better?
Not just the selection calls, mind you. What on sweet earth was Vijay Shankar doing batting at 8? He was better equipped to rotate strike and hit boundaries than both Virat Singh and Kedar Jadhav, yet the management sent Shankar to bat below Rashid Khan, despite him playing a fine hand in the Mumbai clash (his previous innings). Sunrisers are not blessed with a great Indian core, but baffling decisions made by the management are exacerbating the side’s problems.
Shimron Hetmyer needs to sit out the Ahmedabad leg
With Delhi shifting base to Ahmedabad, adding an out-and-out enforcer is the need of the hour which means that the management will have to find a way to fit Anrich Nortje in. But while a section have been left visibly upset by Steve Smith’s strike rate - despite him boasting the third best SR of all batsmen, yesterday - it would make logical sense for the side to do away with Shimron Hetmyer. In each of DC’s last two games Smith, despite not kicking on and scoring big, has added some much-needed solidity that the side lacked in the second half of the last season and the first two games of this one, serving as an upgrade on Rahane and a like-for-like replacement for Shreyas Iyer. There is a case for one of Hetmyer or Stoinis to be promoted but the fact remains that both batters are unproven #3 batsmen at the IPL level.
With Ashwin pulling out, and with the batting unit looking settled, DC could seamlessly transition into Ahmedabad by dropping Hetmyer for Nortje and bringing Lalit Yadav back in Ashwin’s place. The move would add firepower to both batting and bowling and also provide Pant with an off-spinning option.