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IPL 2017: Week in review

IPL 2017 is underway and defending champs Sunrisers Hyderabad are off the blocks. Here's a quick wrap of the all the action thus far.

Sunrisers Hyderabad has won two out of two so far

The much anticipated IPL 2017 is here and the action is coming in thick and fast. While the defending champs are off the blocks and looking confident, the others in the competition are warming up. 

Here’s a quick wrap of the week gone by. 

Sunrisers Hyderabad 

Played 2, Won 2, Lost 0. 

Results: WW

Positive: Rashid Khan

Rashid has already taken more wickets (5) in his first eight overs of this season than Sunrisers Hyderbad’s leading spin wicket-takers last year: Deepak Hooda and Bipul Sharma (3). He has bowled with control and skill, conceding runs at just 6.87 runs per over and varying leg breaks and googlies with regularity.

Negative: The fifth bowling option

Ben Cutting and Moises Henriques have conceded 96 runs in 9.4 overs and not taken a wicket across Hyderbad’s first two matches. While Bipul has also filled in well as the fifth bowler Hyderabad will be wary of the struggles of Cutting and Henriques. In closer matches than those they’ve had so far, a couple of expensive overs could be costly. 

Tactical Tip: Don’t change anything

Given the struggles with the ball of Henriques and Cutting, it might be tempting for Hyderabad to bring in Mohammad Nabi and have a look at him, perhaps in Cutting’s position. While it would be hugely exciting to see Nabi play, Hyderabad should be wary of changing things simply for the sake of doing so. Henriques and Cutting may have struggled with the ball but it’s only been two matches and they’ve done their job with the bat. Hyderabad have looked supreme so far; there’s no reason to upset that now. 

Kolkata Knight Riders

Lynn’s big hitting was on full display in the first game

Played 2, Won 1, Lost 1

Results: WL

Positive: Lynn

Lynn’s form in the CPL and BBL was already hard to ignore but Andre Russell’s absence robbed Kolkata of firepower and has forced them to rethink their prevailing strategy of two overseas bowlers and two overseas all-rounders that saw them select a specialist overseas batsman just seven times in their last 29 matches across the last two seasons. How Kolkata were going to accommodate Lynn was unclear with many suspecting he would slot into the middle order. 

Opening with him is an inspired idea. Lynn has historically struggled against spin so getting him in as early as possible when teams are keen to give the new ball to seamers suits his game. Secondly, while Kolkata are not a slow scoring team in the Powerplay, they may have had a creeping sense that Gambhir and Uthappa are not the pair to fully maximise the Powerplay as they get older and the game moves on. Lynn, with a career run rate in the bracket above them, is. 

Negative: Death Bowling

Kolkata has conceded 92 runs in the last four overs against Gujarat Lions (42-1) and 3.5 overs v Mumbai Indians (50-1). Against Gujarat, it was Trent Boult and Chris Woakes who were tasked with closing out the innings and although they bowled a handful of poor deliveries Dinesh Karthik played some clever shots. Against Mumbai, it was Boult and Ankit Rajpoot who bowled eight full tosses between them in the last 2.5 overs to help the home team over the line. 

Tactical Tip: Don’t be afraid to promote Sunil Narine

In Kolkata’s second match against Mumbai, with 3.5 overs to go, Chris Woakes walked in after Suryakumar Yadav got out. While Kolkata is understandably keen to entrust Woakes with responsibility and to give him the best possible chance to fill the Russell-sized hole in their batting order they should be wary of overlooking alternative options to achieve that objective. Sunil Narine has evolved into an excellent lower-order hitter recently and could be better utilised. 

Kings XI Punjab

Maxwell showed what’s he capable of in the game against Pune

Played 1, Won 1, Lost 0

Results: W

Positive: Glenn Maxwell

In his first game as Punjab captain, he led relatively well in the field and batted responsibly with the bat, seeing his side over the line. Punjab’s overseas players are critical to their season and Maxwell as their captain and middle-order lynchpin is the most important of them all.

Negative: Promoting Axar Patel

Punjab will have had a reason for promoting Patel to number four against Pune - perhaps it was to maintain a left-hand, right-hand combination, but in a small run-chase such as that one, it was arguably a risk that did not need to be taken. Patel ended up facing 18% of Punjab’s deliveries and scoring just 15% of their runs - chasing a slightly bigger total that could have been hugely damaging. There’s nothing wrong with being flexible but Maxwell and David Miller coming in below Patel when chasing a below par total seemed odd.

Tactical Tip: Open with Maxwell

Both Kolkata and Mumbai have elevated their star batsmen in Lynn and Joe Buttler to open the batting this week to take advantage of the fielding restrictions. Punjab could do the same with Maxwell who scored a rapid hundred for Australia when doing so against Sri Lanka. Opening with Maxwell would allow Punjab to select Miller and Eoin Morgan in the middle order, dropping Hashim Amla to make room for the Englishman. 

Mumbai Indians

Rohit Sharma’s strategy with the ball came in for criticism in the game against Pune

Played 2, Won 1, Lost 1

Results: LW

Positive: Indian power-hitting

Players like Nitish Rana and Hardik Pandya are the next breed of Indian T20 batsmen; not as classical as Manish Pandey and Lokesh Rahul but less refined and more powerful. Rana’s innings v Kolkata and Hardik’s v Pune and Kolkata were scintillating. Their form gives Mumbai arguably the deepest and most powerful batting order in the league. 

Negative: Bowling strategy v Pune

To have Jasprit Bumrah, Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan in the same team but to end up with Kieron Pollard bowling the last over is indicative of poor captaincy and planning. An additional over of Krunal Pandya could have been squeezed in earlier thereby giving someone with more death bowling prowess than Pollard the chance to defend 13 off the last.

Tactical Tip: Drop Parthiv

For a squad boasting as much batting power as Mumbai, it is peculiar that Parthiv Patel plays and opens the batting, as often as he does. Patel fails to capitalise on the fielding restrictions and leaves more work for the middle and lower order. Since the start of last season, he has scored runs at a rate of 6.08 runs per over in the Powerplay phase. Mumbai should promote Rohit to open with Buttler and pick another young batsman, perhaps new signing Krishnappa Gowtham in the middle and lower order until Ambati Rayudu returns to fitness. 

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