Over the past few days, a lot of chatter has revolved around how the IPL was allegedly the decisive factor in the 5th Test between India and England being called off.
Now, all of India’s UK-bound players have joined their respective IPL teams bio-bubbles, meaning that those murmurs have perhaps taken a back seat because, well, the biggest T20 competition in the world is a stone’s throw away.
Before the IPL was suspended in the summer, the Delhi Capitals showcased their extraordinary strength and marched to the top of the IPL 2021 points table. Chennai Super Kings, wounded after a dismal 2020 outing, looked close to their best too and solidified second spot.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore, on the other hand, defied expectations and were vindicated in the trust they placed in Glenn Maxwell, ultimately propelling themselves to third, just behind CSK on Net Run Rate (NRR).
Mumbai Indians, in consonance with previous editions, endured a slow start but did enough post the Chennai leg to bag a place in the top four, with the Punjab Kings (6th) and the Rajasthan Royals rounding off the top six.
The Sunrisers Hyderabad, rather uncharacteristically, were languishing at the foot of the table, whereas the Kolkata Knight Riders – another side plenty expected to compete for the title, giving them ample company.
However, the unexpected break has changed the dynamics of IPL 2021 quite a bit. Not only has the star cast been tweaked, the second half is slated to take place in the UAE and in conditions that are significantly different to India.
With just a few days remaining until the resumption of the IPL, the time could be ripe to delve into predictions and analyze where the teams, armed with new weapons in their arsenal, might finish come the end of the league stages.
#8 Kolkata Knight Riders
Over the past couple of years, the Kolkata Knight Riders have chopped and changed quite a lot. In 2020, Dinesh Karthik acted as the captain before that idea was shelved mid-way. Eoin Morgan was appointed in his stead and even though he wasn’t expected to effect an instant turnaround, plenty hoped for him to buck the KKR (recent) trend of mediocrity in IPL 2021.
Unfortunately, nothing of the sort materialized, meaning that KKR are the seventh-placed side at the moment. More worryingly, though, several of their components have begun coming apart from the seams.
Morgan – a vocal advocate of fearless white-ball batting, has seen his troops present the most circumspect and tentative version of themselves. Subsequently, KKR were unable to put up match-winning totals on the board, meaning that the burden fell on the bowlers.
Pat Cummins has opted out of the second leg of IPL 2021
In the first half, there were glimpses that KKR’s bowling line-up was adept at handling that challenge. Now, though, with Pat Cummins no longer available, Kuldeep Yadav hardly playing any competitive cricket, Harbhajan Singh being brought out of the cold storage and the likes of Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Prasidh Krishna and Shivam Mavi still to live up to their billing, they might find themselves in a massive pickle.
While they can still call upon Andre Russell, Karthik, Morgan, Shubman Gill and Sunil Narine – players who can win them one-off games, they seem to lack the cohesion and togetherness required to stitch together a string of victories in the IPL.
Apart from that, KKR will play 3 of their remaining 7 matches at Abu Dhabi – a venue that aids the spinners much more than Dubai and Sharjah. Though they have the spinners to exploit such assistance, their batting, as was the case at Chennai, might struggle to keep up with the opposition.
Hence, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if KKR hobble towards a last-placed finish and ring in the changes before the 2022 edition of the IPL.
You can also check out the IPL 2021 schedule here.
#7 Punjab Kings
During the initial stages of IPL 2021, the Punjab Kings looked like an outfit capable of throwing a spanner in the oppositions’ works. However, as time passed, they fell back to their old habits – habits that forced them to produce an insipid display, just days after being close to their best.
Consistency hasn’t always been the Kings’ closest ally and that particular element marred the first leg of their IPL campaign too. And, with three months having transpired since, there is not a lot to suggest that their fortunes will sway for the better. Not just because they are missing a few key players, but also because they seem to have the knack of crumbling when push comes to shove.
On paper, the Kings have enough batting might. Chris Gayle, Fabian Allen, KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal qualify as genuine match-winners. Apart from Mayank and Rahul, though, every other batter has blown hot and cold, meaning that the Indian pair has often had to drop anchor, which in a T20 contest, is hardly ideal.
On the bowling front, the Kings look comparatively weaker than they did in April/May. The Australian duo of Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith are not a part of the squad and while Adil Rashid has been added to the mix, the rest of the bowlers, namely Chris Jordan and Mohammed Shami, have a tendency to leak runs.
Additionally, the Kings, much like it happened in the first leg of IPL 2021, might find it hard to optimize their resources. During the aforementioned phase, they almost always played with either an extra batter or an extra bowler. Though Allen could help them with their balance, they just seem like an IPL outfit that lacks conviction – an aspect that could ultimately haunt them.
While that, in no way, implies that the Kings won’t be able to upstage any opposition in the IPL, it indicates that an IPL play-offs spot might just be out of their grasp again!