The IPL has produced quality cricket, outstanding performances and magic moments like the super exciting super over on Saturday night. This season, batsmen seem to be hitting longer sixes and teams think chasing 200 is not as daunting as it used to be.
But while the bar goes up subtly – in bowling and batting – the IPL has had its share of disappointments and blips. We look at some key trends where the script has deviated from the expected.
1. Out of Form Indian Superstars
The IPL is constructed to favour batsmen, but some Indian batsmen are absent, missing from the celebration.
Last year, Virat bossed the tournament like no one had ever done before. This season he isn’t no better than a superstar making a fleeting guest appearance. No wonder, RCB sank with amazing speed, like a space rocket that collapsed soon after the launch.
Virat's is not the only bat that has sadly gone cold. Rahane is yet to make an impact and even MSD's famed genius has come through only sporadically.
Equally disheartening is Yuvraj's lack of form, so unusual for a player of his class and experience. Rohit Sharma too is searching for form, his modest returns not matching up to his reputation.
The reason for this collective decline is difficult to find. Is it fatigue, considering most players have been on the road, living out of suitcases, during a very long international season at home? Or is it creeping complacency of the established, because neither contracts nor careers of senior players are at stake in the IPL?
2. Foreign Superstars Firing Blanks
Surprisingly, AB de Villiers – the top superstar – has had an unduly quiet IPL. The 360 degree megastar has failed to sparkle, presenting his fans only a fleeting glimpse of his extraordinary ability.
ABD is an absolute master of this format, so there is no clear reason to explain this batting slump. Except to suggest he came into this IPL somewhat underprepared having missed a lot of cricket due to injury.
The case of Faf Du Plessis is even more tragic. The SA captain is relegated to the bench, not given an opportunity to have a hit in the middle.
3. Non-Arrival of the Next Indian Bowling Hero
While many young Indian batsmen have made an impression, the wait continues for the arrival of the next exciting Indian bowling hero.
Every IPL team relies on a leg-spinner, but Rashid Khan owns that space. Young fast-bowlers are shouldering key roles by bowling in power plays and at the death and even the IPL emerging player of the year was awarded to Gujarat Lions’ pacer Basil Thampi.
4. Umpiring Howlers
Howlers and dodgy umpiring have been a recurring theme this IPL. And as the IPL is supposed to showcase India's domestic cricket this aberration is a major embarrassment. Going forward, this aspect of our cricket needs to be addressed.
5. Ordinary Catching
While the IPL immediately brings talent to the centre stage, it is equally quick and brutal in exposing flaws and mistakes. One glaring shortcoming till now is poor catching with easy chances being spilled in the deep.
Most times, young Indian players have dropped catches and misjudged misfits. The classic instance was when DD's Amit Mishra and Sanju Samson failed to catch Robin Uthappa's miscued pull of Rabada – a mistake that cost them the game.
Surprisingly, it’s not just inexperienced Indian players who are to blame. Even Virat Kohli, usually so safe on the boundary, dropped sitters he would otherwise catch in his sleep!
Is this viral illness of dropping catches a result of lights, momentary concentration lapse or a matter of nerves in a high pressure situations?
6. One-Sided Matches
In a 20-over format, the ultimate no-no is one-side walking away with the game and nothing is more uninteresting than a team surrendering without a fight. T20 cricket demands tight contests, close finishes, matches going down to the wire as in the GL- MI super over shootout.
That's why the RCB have been so utterly disappointing, losing games by wide margins, showing neither spirit or spunk, which is strange, considering the wealth of talent in their dugout.
They hit an all-time low against KKR – bowled out in less than 10 overs!
(Amrit Mathur is a senior journalist, former GM of the BCCI and Manager of the Indian Cricket Team. He can be reached at @AmritMathur1)