Just a few months ago, the Mumbai Indians cruised to their 5th IPL crown when they methodically dismantled the Delhi Capitals in the final. Thus, at that juncture, despite the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the globe, plenty felt that normal service had resumed.
Not just because the Mumbai Indians had triumphed again, but also because they had been significantly better than each outfit. Prior to it though, there were plenty of surprises, which seems a tad paradoxical considering the dominance MI exerted during IPL 2020.
To put things into perspective, Chennai Super Kings, for the first time ever, missed out on the top four, whereas the Sunrisers Hyderabad notched up another play-off appearance.
The Delhi Capitals, meanwhile, continued their resurgence post their rechristening, coming within touching distance of a maiden title. Royal Challengers Bangalore, on the other hand, overcame their wretched 2018 and 2019 IPL spell to reach the knockout stages.
Thus, with most of the aforementioned teams strengthening themselves during the IPL 2021 auction, newer storylines are expected to blossom come the start of the upcoming IPL edition.
Consequently, with only a handful of days remaining, the time seems ripe to start deciphering where the teams might end up, post the end of the IPL group stages.
While the aforementioned is a task filled with peril, considering the annual twists and turns the IPL provides, it is certainly something one can indulge in.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at how the league table could shape up during the round-robin phases.
IPL 2021 Predictions
#8 Rajasthan Royals
In 2020, Rajasthan Royals began like a runaway train as they blitzed past the Chennai Super Kings and the Kings XI Punjab (Punjab Kings now) at Sharjah. However, akin to expectations, the Royals wilted when they shifted base from Sharjah. Unsurprisingly, they nosedived and the only reason they found themselves in the hunt for a play-off spot was due to their exploits in Sharjah.
Thus, with most Indian venues offering a vastly different proposition in IPL 2021, the Royals could find it tough to replicate the belligerence that had become synonymous at Sharjah.
Additionally, there is uncertainty over Jofra Archer’s availability, with the fast bowler recently undergoing surgery. Even if he recovers from the hand injury, there is a cloud around his right elbow – a knock that has troubled him for a while now.
Essentially, the above means that the bowling burden has fallen solely on Chris Morris, who was acquired by the Royals to partner Archer, rather than being the leader himself. Now, though, along with relatively erratic bowlers of the ilk of Jaydev Unadkat, Kartik Tyagi, Rahul Tewatia and Shreyas Gopal, he will simply have to find a solution.
The batting looks a lot more solid, considering the presence of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, both of whom could be unleashed in tandem at the top. Sanju Samson is also a match-winner in the middle order, even if consistency hasn’t been his greatest friend.
However, slightly lower down, they might have a few problems. While Rahul Tewatia captured the imagination in IPL 2020, it would be naïve to expect him to be the Royals’ middle order dasher for the entirety of the season.
Similarly, Manan Vohra, Riyan Parag and Shivam Dube are capable of brilliance. Yet, each seems to lack the pedigree to do so frequently.
The other major worry for the Royals is the inexperience of Sanju Samson – the captain. Post the release of Steve Smith, the Jaipur-based franchise opted against naming either of Buttler or Stokes as captain, meaning that Samson has the responsibility of ending the Royals’ IPL drought.
While he might have the talent (much like his batting) to come through unscathed a few times, it would seem far-fetched to envision him leading the Rajasthan Royals to a play-off spot.
#7 Kolkata Knight Riders
Last season, the Kolkata Knight Riders rummaged through a couple of captains before eventually zeroing in on Eoin Morgan. That it came after Dinesh Karthik had again failed to prove his worth as a skipper, only highlighted KKR’s cluttered approach.
This time though, they have installed Morgan at the helm from the outset, hoping that the Englishman can sprinkle a bit of gold dust. In fact, plenty are eagerly waiting for KKR to play a brand of cricket that is similar to England’s white ball teams, which are led by Morgan.
Yet, to expect it to materialize, that too in conditions that aren’t as conducive to stroke-making, might just be beyond them.
To place things into context, KKR will play eight games in Ahmedabad (five) and Chennai (three). Both venues have, previously, shown a tendency to be a tad sluggish, with six-hitting not coming to the fore as often.
Additionally, on such surfaces, the bowling attack grows in importance. Not just because it becomes a potentially defining tilting scale, but also because it relieves pressure off the batsmen.
To that end, KKR might find themselves in a curry, with each of Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Prasidh Krishna and Shivam Mavi having a propensity to leak runs. Kuldeep Yadav and Sunil Narine, too, have fallen off a cliff recently, meaning that KKR’s fortunes could hinge singularly on Pat Cummins’ fortunes.
Furthermore, Varun Chakravarthy’s fitness has been called into question lately, with him missing out on an international debut. While some bounce back from such set-backs excellently, it remains a venture into the unknown, for he hasn’t endured such heartbreak before.
Having said that, KKR still boast the likes of Andre Russell, Shubman Gill and of course, Morgan, thereby casting them as a side that can blow any IPL opposition out of the water.
If they can do it for an entire season, is another matter altogether.