After the second week of the IPL, Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians are neck and neck at the top of the table, level on points. In the opposite end of the table, the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore are struggling at the bottom of the table with just 1 win from 5 matches.
Here’s a quick review of the second week of the IPL.
Positive: Bowling attack
DD boast the lowest bowling average, strike rate and economy rate of all teams this season. That Chris Morris, Pat Cummins, Zaheer Khan, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami and Shahbaz Nadeem would be an excellent bowling attack is not really a surprise but it is certainly the major positive for DD.
If their top order batting can continue to perform as it has done they will be a tough team to beat with that attack. The form of Nadeem, whose economy rate of 4.90 is the best in the league, has added an extra dynamic to their otherwise pace-heavy set of bowlers.
Negative: Karun Nair’s form
Last season, Nair was DD’s top run-scorer with 445 runs. So far this season he has scored 4 (3), 0 (3) and 21 (27) extending a lean run of form since his Test match triple century against England that has not seen him scored more than 28 in thirteen innings across all formats.
Tactical Tip: Bat Rishabh Pant higher
Pant has been DD’s star batsman so far this season, scoring 141 runs at a run rate of 10.19 runs per over. His innings against KKR on Monday was just the latest demonstration of his ability. With Nair struggling for form at number three, DD lacking firepower at the top of the order and boasting plenty of it lower down, a promotion for India’s most exciting batting talent is overdue.
Positive: Dinesh Karthik
Last season, GL had the lowest run rate among all teams in the death over phase. This season they have the third best and that is largely due to the form of Karthik who has scored 128 runs at a run rate of 8.70 runs per over – 70 of those runs, at 9.99 runs per over, have come in the final five overs. If Karthik can maintain such form and with Dwayne Bravo to return, GL could resolve a major problem area from last season very effectively.
Negative: Indian seam bowling
Last season GL’s bowling was led brilliantly by Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni and Ravindra Jadeja, who all conceded runs at less than 8 runs per over. This season, the only GL bowler going under seven is AJ Tye, while the remainder of the attack is conceding runs at 9.91 runs per over.
Tactical Tip: Maintain batting stability
GL have been changing their batting combinations and orders too often in their opening four matches. They need to decide on their preferred personnel and order and stick to it for a couple of matches at least to allow players to become familiar with their roles. Right now the instability in selections and order is making it hard for their batting power to cover for their weak bowling in the absence of Bravo.
Kings XI Punjab
Although KXIP’s bowling at the death has been really poor, their bowling in the first two phases has been excellent. Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma are both superb Powerplay bowlers who bowl full, looking to take wickets, but maintain a tight enough line to remain economical.
KXIP have the lowest economy rate in the Powerplay among all teams. The performances of Axar Patel and KC Cariappa have also been particularly pleasing. KXIP spin bowling appeared to be their major weakness coming into the season but Axar and Cariappa have soothed concerns for now.
Negative: David Miller’s form
Although the form of Manan Vohra at the top of the order has lessened KXIP’s reliance on their overseas batsmen, they remain integral to the success of their season. While Hashim Amla and Glenn Maxwell have both looked in good form, David Miller has not, scoring 83 runs at a run rate of 6.22 runs per over.
It is now 36 matches and 33 innings since Miller last scored a T20 fifty. In that time he has averaged 16 runs per innings. While his IPL pedigree may earn him another match the pressure on Miller is increasing.
Tactical Tip: Trust Natarajan
KXIP’s major weakness so far has been their death bowling – which he been the most expensive among all teams this season. In Natarajan, KXIP have a bowler signed precisely because of his strength at the death but he was dropped after two matches and four overs, none of which were bowled in the final phase. He deserves another chance.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Positive: Manish Pandey
Pandey has lent stability and power to KKR’s middle-order just when they needed it most after losing Andre Russell and then Chris Lynn. Pandey has scored 221 runs at a run rate of 9.00 runs per over. In the death over phase, he has scored 95 runs at a run rate of 12.66 runs per over.
The form of Pandey, which has bolstered the batting, has allowed KKR to pick Colin de Grandhomme as a replacement in the team for Chris Lynn. de Grandhomme offers batting and bowling and sees KKR adopt the overseas balance of two all-rounders and two bowlers that has served them so well in recent years.
Negative: Seam bowling
The difference between KKR’s seamers – economy rate: 9.56, and their spinners – economy rate 7.05 – has been stark. Not only have overseas imports Chris Woakes and Trent Boult struggled, but so too has Umesh Yadav. KKR will need their seamer’s form to turn around because the spinner cannot be relied on to continually bail them out; especially on a relaid Eden Gardens pitch that is expected to provide assistance to the fast bowlers.
Tactical Tip: Persist with the pinch-hitter
Whether it is Sunil Narine as was tried v KXIP and SRH, or de Grandhome as was tried v DD, KKR should persist with a pinch-hitter at the top of the order. It is a low-risk, high-reward strategy for any team.
Positive: Nitish Rana and the Pandya brothers
Historically, MI have been a team that have relied heavily on Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh and their four overseas players. This season things are different because of the continued emergence and excellent form of batsman Rana and the all-rounders Krunal and Hardik Pandya. The three of them are new-age cricketers: versatile, powerful and fearless. They take very close to MI having a complete T20 team.
Negative: Top order
Perhaps the only weakness in MI’s team right now is their top order. Although Parthiv Patel has played a couple of colourful innings this season he remains a weak link in terms of the scoring rate in an otherwise powerful team. Jos Buttler meanwhile has looked good, three times reaching 20 but not once passing 36. MI will hope Rohit Sharma’s unbeaten 40 versus GL turns his form around.
Tactical Tip: Don’t drop Buttler
Given Buttler’s inability to convert some starts there has been some speculation that Buttler’s position in the team is under threat. If it is, it shouldn't be. Buttler is one of the best ball-strikers in world cricket and could become MI’s very own AB de Villiers.
MI’s management have shown a lot of faith in Buttler in the past and now, with MI on a winning streak, they have an opportunity to play him into form. If he was to come good he could transform MI into title challengers to title favourites.
As written in this column last week, when Ambati Rayudu returns to fitness he should replace Parthiv in the team and Buttler take the gloves.
Rising Pune Supergiant
Positive: Bowling performance v RCB
RPS’ defence of 162 against RCB was one of the best bowling performances in recent times in the IPL. Not only did RPS defend a score for the first time but they did it by setting a new record for the lowest score defended at the Chinnaswamy against RCB.
The intelligence, skill and character shown in that bowling display is hugely encouraging for the remainder of the season. The emergence of Shardul Thakur, who has had two good performances since coming into the team is significant: RPS desperately need an Indian seamer they can rely on.
Negative: Dhoni’s form
Dhoni has scored 61 runs at a run rate of just 5.22 runs per over so far this season. His run rate is the lowest of all players to have faced 70 balls so far the season. While RPS have another powerful hitter in Ben Stokes, the poor form of Dhoni is exposing RPS’ shallow batting depth and is also likely to be forcing their hand in the selection of Dan Christian ahead of Lockie Ferguson and Adam Zampa.
Tactical Tip: Bat Manoj Tiwary ahead of Dhoni
A player of Dhoni’s calibre cannot be written off but he is as likely to find some hitting form and consume fewer balls doing so batting in the final few overs of the innings, below Stokes and Tiwary, who displayed awesome power v RCB.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Positive: Samuel Badree plays
After RCB took the positive step of adjusting their overseas balance to two batsmen/all-rounders and two bowlers in the first week, they went a step further this week by selecting Samuel Badree as one of the two bowlers.
RCB appeared reluctant to pick Badree due to the presence of leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal in their team but against MI Badree showed RCB why he simply has to play. He is one of the best T20 bowlers in the world, particularly in the Powerplay, and if RCB’s batting can fire he will win RCB a lot of matches inside the first few overs of the opposition’s run chase.
Amazingly, after the brilliance of RCB’s batting last season, their batting this season has been their major weakness. So far this season, RCB have the lowest batting average and lowest run rate among all teams having managed scores of 172-10, 157-8, 148-4, 142-5 and 134-9.
RCB have been unsettled by injuries but they have not helped themselves by making regular changes to their team, overseas balance and batting order. So far this season they have had five different opening partnerships.
Tactical Tip: Pick Travis Head
A significant reason for the struggles of RCB’s batting has been the poor form of Chris Gayle and Shane Watson. RCB do have another overseas batting option in their squad: Head, and he should be given a run in the team.
Positive: Bhuvneshwar Kumar
SRH’s attack leader is enjoying a fantastic season. He is currently the leading wicket-taker with 15 wickets and is averaging just 7.20 runs per wicket, 8.64 balls per wicket and 5.35 runs per over. His brilliance, particularly at the death, where he has taken nine wickets at an economy rate of 5.44 runs per over, means no total is not defendable against a superb SRH attack.
Negative: Batting Powerplay
Only one team have a lower run rate in the Powerplay than SRH. Since the start of the 2016 season, Dhawan has scored at just 6.42 runs per over in the first six and given the SRH’s weak lower and middle order David Warner, even more aware of his importance to the team after last season, has appeared reluctant to attack wholeheartedly – his Powerplay run rate this season is 7.62 runs per over.
A couple of low scores for Moises Henriques and Yuvraj Singh has left SRH’s batting looking weak. Fortunately against KXIP, Warner battled through and SRH bowled brilliantly, but they can’t always rely on that to happen. It was encouraging to see Naman Ojha make a significant contribution in that match.
Tactical Tip: Try a pinch-hitter
Given that SRH’s middle and lower order is relatively weak, SRH could really benefit from trying a pinch-hitter like KKR have with Narine and de Grandhomme. Promoting someone like Bipul Sharma – whose career run rate is 8.56 – alongside David Warner could give their Powerplay batting a boost and inadvertently strengthen their middle order by moving everyone down one position.