The tenth edition of the Indian Premier League has reached halfway stage and while Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders have looked the two best teams by some margin, there’s some serious grappling expected for the third and fourth slot.
Rising Pune Supergiant’s rise and Sunrisers Hyderabad’s issues with illness and injury have opened up the league further. Delhi Daredevils looks like one win away from finding momentum and Punjab isn't too far from stitching a couple of wins together.
Gujarat Lions is the only team that looked fairly strong on paper before the tournament, but haven't managed to create any momentum thus far. Let’s have a look at a few trends emerging in this year’s IPL.
Bowlers Are Ruling This IPL
The common thread in the top two teams in the league is their depth in the bowling department. Both MI and KKR have resisted the temptation to play an extra batsman for a bowler.
Whenever they made changes to their playing XI, they made sure that they fielded five bowlers with an all-rounder to take care of someone having a bad day.
In the early years of T20 cricket, most teams thought that packing the team with batsmen was the key to success but that’s changing now.
In a T20 game, there are only 120 balls per innings and therefore, a team seldom requires the services of more than six batsmen but irrespective of how good a side’s bowlers are, a team needs five bowlers in every game.
Young and Slightly Lesser Known Indians Coming to the Fore
The absence of some of the big stars was expected to dampen the spirits of this season, but it has provided some of the younger ones an opportunity to stand up and get noticed.
Mumbai Indians’ Nitish Rana has done so well that the team’s captain Rohit Sharma has to make peace with batting at number four, for it’s not possible for him to move his team’s best batsman this season, lower down the order.
The same is the case with Pune’s Rahul Tripathi. He has not just hit form from the outset but also, is now being seen as a more dangerous batsman than his opening partner Ajinkya Rahane.
Basil Thampi and Mohammed Siraj are the two quick bowlers who have impressed one and all, and it won’t be surprising if both start featuring in India-A teams soon.
Umpiring in the Spotlight
Umpiring is at its best when it goes relatively unnoticed. The moment it becomes the central part of discussions around a tournament, one knows that it hasn’t been of very high standards. This year’s IPL has seen some really ordinary umpiring, which in turn has raised the issue of the standards of homegrown Indian umpires.
In the match between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians, the duo of CK Nandan and Nitin Menon didn’t notice the fact that David Warner took strike in the next over after hitting a boundary off the last delivery of the previous over.
Even in the match between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders at the Wankhede Stadium, when the same umpires were on the ground, Rohit Sharma was given out LBW, after clearly inside-edging the ball onto his pads.
It’s not that overseas umpires haven’t erred but it’s also a fact that Indian umpires have erred more often. Even since the BCCI started covering every first-class game with six stationary cameras, the umpiring standards have improved in the domestic circuit but the ordinary standard displayed by the few handpicked (who are supposedly the best Indian umpires) in the IPL shows that there are still miles to be covered.
The ambience of the ground, the pressure of the game and the stature of the players involved have the potential to influence the decision-making of the on-field umpire. World class umpiring is necessary to make the tournament world class and currently, the umpiring standards are bringing down the league’s stature.
Champions Trophy on the Mind?
Interestingly those players who are in line for selection for India’s Champions Trophy squad are the ones who are shining in this tournament. KKR’s Manish Pandey's brilliant run must have served as a timely reminder to the selection committee.
And with both RCB’s Yuzvendra Chahal and KKR’s Kuldeep Yadav doing well, it will be interesting to see who gets the nod.
SRH’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar has all but sealed his place along with MI’s Jasprit Bumrah. While the focus is on making their respective teams win the IPL, there's an intriguing story playing out in the side.
Visit The Quint’s IPL 10 site for more.