By Jaideep Varma and Jatin Thakkar
This is the projection we had made through Impact Index for all 9 IPL teams before the tournament began. With the quintessential contempt and derision that can be experienced best in the comments section of most prominent Indian websites, we were laughed out of the ballpark with our knowledge, sanity and parentage questioned without inhibition.
Many of those people comprehensively made the same mistake many "experts" in the mainstream media kept making too - that of mistaking good performances in ODI cricket as proof that of great potential in T20 cricket too. The truth is that there are many more players whose performances in the two formats do not have the same impact than those whose do - Brett Lee and Virat Kohli are good examples - both are outstanding ODI players but mediocre T20 players (capable of an outstanding performance in T20s too once in a while - and Lee has two series-defining performances to his credit too - but nowhere near as consistent as they have been in ODIs).
Also, the fact that "high impact players" are not players only seen in the IPL is typically disregarded by a strange chauvinistic mindset that seems oddly prevalent in large numbers in India.
There have also been player absences - national duty for a few key overseas players, injuries to some of those available.
These factors, and player form cycles, as also the notion that sample sizes of these matches are not very high (an incorrect notion actually) should make the whole business of projecting/predicting in a format like this seem foolhardy.
And yet, at the halfway stage - of the 5 teams we had put as the highest impact teams, 4 are actually in the top 5 of the points table - CSK, KKR, DD, RR - for matches up to 25th April. There have been some interesting departures - PW and KXIP particularly, and it is interesting to examine their reasons and attempt a projection for the final stages too.
So, here is an overview of why the teams may have fared as they have:
Chennai Super Kings
Always been slow starters in the IPL (a Dhoni speciality). Murali Vijay and S Badrinath have not hit their stride yet. Michael Hussey has been away (in the West Indies). Still, after a bad start, they have again begun their ascent. Their hunger will perhaps determine how far they go.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Impact Index had put chasing down as one of their strongest characteristics as a team. Interestingly, 3 out of their 4 wins this season so far have come while chasing (with high impact chaser Gambhir in action twice here). As a team, they have all-round strengths, but not specialist high impact - which gives them definite stability but also perhaps robs them of an X-factor which is often needed in knockout games.
Impact Index had identified them as a very strong batting side - 3 of the highest impact batsmen so far in IPL 5 are from here. And David Warner hasn't even joined them yet. Conversely, their identified weakness in bowling has been well covered up by Morne Morkel - how long that can continue for is the big question, of course.
The highest impact IPL player of all-time Shane Watson - hasn't even joined them yet (doing duty in the West Indies). We identified them as the team with the highest impact overseas players - Hogg and Hodge have lived up to that consistently. Dinesh Chandimal strangely hasn't played enough.
Kings XI Punjab
The side that has suffered the most from the absence of key players. One of their 3 highest impact players - Adam Gilchrist, Azhar Mahmood and David Hussey has always been missing for them - first, Mahmood with visa problems, then Gilchrist with injury. Thus diluting the biggest identified strength - Strike Rate IMPACT, which is the batting hallmark of both Gilchrist and Mahmood. Unfortunately, their biggest weaknesses have also been borne out - a high failure rate in both batting and bowling and a poor bench strength.
Tendulkar's loss as a batsman has been a blow (his impact in IPL is particularly high even if not in all T20 cricket). Their identified weakness of not enough high impact players has been borne out. However (just as Impact Index had pointed out here), Ambati Rayudu has been a consistent high impact batsman - which is still surprising a lot of people.
Their identified weakness as the most sluggish batting unit has been borne out (despite Shikhar Dhawan's performances). Inexplicably, they have not played their highest impact player Daniel Harris sufficiently (bizarrely played one match), whether out of ignorance or injury is still not clear. Another of their 3 high impact players - Darren Bravo, has been away on national duty. Sadly, they have looked out of it.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Their billing as the lowest impact batting unit as per Impact Index has not been borne out, thanks to Gayle having a near-miracle year again and AB deVilliers' consistency thus far - but their batting otherwise is actually very iffy. Kohli has been expectedly inconsistent (as he always has been in this format) as has Dilshan. Their identified bowling strength of Economy IMPACT has not come into play because Vettori and Muralitharan (the latter has played just 4 matches) have not bowled at tandem often enough - which may have been their biggest mistake so far (with Gayle and de Villiers being so consistent, perhaps Murali for Dilshan would bring the best balance in the long term). Impact Index had found that they had the lowest impact bunch of Indian players and that is clearly hurting them the most in IPL 5.
A low impact side which has impressively overachieved thanks to the X-factor of its captain (and thanks to their identified quality of being the side with the capacity to absorb the most pressure in this IPL). Ganguly has inspired extraordinary performances from Ryder, Smith, Uthappa and Samuels (and produced one outstanding performance himself, much like Dinda and Thomas). However, given the overall low impact of the team unit, they are likely to run out of steam (if they haven't already) - but just in case they don't, that would be one of Ganguly's greatest career achievements.
For more information, please go to www.impactindexcricket.com