By Jaideep Varma and Jatin Thakkar
Three teams have won the IPL so far - Rajasthan Royals, Deccan Chargers and Chennai Super Kings (twice). This is an attempt to find the common thread between these 3 sides, and try and examine what it possibly takes to win the longest competitive league in cricket history.
We use the Team IMPACT function to examine this - which is fundamentally the potential impact of each team based on the impact of each player that constitutes the team.
First, on a team level (and on a scale of 0 to 5), the four champions till date register these as their Team IMPACT numbers - Rajasthan Royals (2008) - 1.95, Deccan Chargers (2009) - 2.06, Chennai Super Kings (2010) - 1.96, Chennai Super Kings (2011) - 1.95. It is interesting that DC comes out the highest impact side amongst the four (despite being fourth at the end of the league phase in 2009) - and the other 3 teams had almost exactly the same impact.
Three out of the four times, we also found that the team with either the highest bowling or batting impact at the end of the league phase went on to win the tournament. This probably just proves that in a long tournament like this, even in the knockout phases, the strongest sides will prevail (so much for T20 and IPL being random). The interesting exception here was Dhoni's 2011 team - the defending champion - which performed erratically in the first part of the tournament and had a high failure rate. But they had two things going for them - one, no reliance on any specific players; a lot of players (8, to be precise) had an IMPACT of over 2, which eventually made the team a cohesive unit. Two, quite a few of those players were big match players - who relished the big occasion and were fully turned-on for it when the time came.
It is very curious that in all four previous years, the team with the second-highest Team IMPACT at the end of the league phase went on to win the tournament. All four years - so it is probably not entirely a coincidence. Hunger (and greater desire in that team - perhaps like the legendary Avis tagline suggested "When you're number 2, you try harder") does come up as an explanation, a feasible one too, or complacency of the highest impact team - whichever way you want to look at it. Peaking at the right time perhaps means something like this - keeping something extra in the tank for the final two laps. Big match performance is probably just that - as it certainly takes something extra, mentally and physically, to overcome the pressure of the big occasion and the additional effort that may be coming from the opposition too. Dhoni's team clearly had proven players in this respect - whereas Warne and Gilchrist, as captains of the other two winning sides, had the ability to inspire their team-members by getting out the best from the younger players (a key contributor) and also performing at their best in the big moments.
The highest impact players in a team usually are those who have usually have registered high impact in knockout games previously - the chances of them doing it again are reasonably high, especially if they have had sufficient time to get into the groove in the tournament.