With IPL 2021 postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19, most fans are left wondering how to spend their evenings. There were strict protocols in place with bubble integrity managers to monitor players and report on any potential breaches and measures to counter any adverse situation during this year's tournament.
Yet, on May 3rd, the news broke that the IPL bio-bubble had burst despite all the precautions, with Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier testing positive from the Kolkata Knight Riders camp.
This was followed by another report that three non-playing members of the Chennai Super Kings contingent – CEO Kasi Viswanathan, bowling coach L Balaji and a member of their maintenance staff were found to be Covid-19 positive after the latest round of testing on May 2. Additionally, five members of Delhi’s Arun Jaitley Stadium groundstaff had reportedly also tested positive.
The BCCI was left with no option but to postpone the tournament, keeping in mind the health and safety of their players. While there is no doubt that this was the right decision, some teams might be looking at this as a missed opportunity to get their hands on the coveted trophy. Yes RCB fans, we're looking at you right now after your team's wonderful start to the season.
While it is still unclear what decision the BCCI will make with regards to the IPL, rumors of the tournament shifting to just one city also seem like an unlikely solution for now. Nevertheless, the IPL did grace us with some wonderful cricket until the halfway stage of the tournament. The race for the orange cap was taking shape, with some magnificent batting performances on show.
On that note, let's take a look at the top 5 run getters of the tournament so far.
#1 Shikhar Dhawan (Orange cap holder in IPL 2021)
Dhawan leads the race for the Orange Cap with 380 runs to his name in eight innings so far at a strike rate of 134.27 and an average of 54.28. He came into this year's IPL a player reinvented as he had adapted his game to become more attacking against the spinners early on in his innings. The southpaw did so by shuffling across his stumps on numerous occasions, which unsettled not only the spinners but also the pacers.
Dhawan started off his IPL 2021 campaign with two man-of-the-match performances in the first three matches. With an impressive 85 runs off 54 deliveries, striking at a rate of 157.41, he led his side to a thumping victory against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in their first game.
After a tame outing in the second match against the Rajasthan Royals (RR), where Jaydev Unadkat ran riot with the new ball, Dhawan bounced back in scintillating fashion against the Punjab Kings (PBKS).
The destructive opener delivered another man-of-the-match performance with a blistering 92 off 49 deliveries to help his side chase down 199. He hit 13 fours and 2 sixes, and went a strike rate of 187.76, narrowly missing out on a well-deserved century.
Noticeably, Dhawan played the anchor's role and let his young partner Prithvi Shaw take charge in the following games. His 92 was followed by a few subdiued innings of 45(42), 28(26), 6(7), 46(47), in the following games.
In the final game for his side before the suspension, Dhawan led his side to victory with an unbeaten 69 off 47 deliveries against PBKS, to take the lead in the Orange Cap in IPL 2021.
#2 KL Rahul
The Punjab Kings skipper suffered a minor setback in his IPL 2021 campaign as he missed the last match of his side with an apendix injury, which was set to keep him out for a couple of weeks. He started off his campaign in an engaging game against RR, where he led his side to a mammoth total of 221-6, with a 50-ball 91. PBKS then suffered a spanking at the hands of CSK, in a game in which the captain was forced to drop anchor, something he's been criticized for recently.
Rahul had a topsy-turvy IPL 2021 campaign throughout, much like his side. Inexplicably, the Indian batsman put up good scores in alternate innings. The string of scores in that timeline were 61(51), 4(6), 60(52), 19(20), before finally delivering another explosive innings off an unbeaten 91 off 57 deliveries.
Rahul's approach can be justified by the results of the game. Of the four times KL crossed the half-century mark, three times his side ended up winning. The ability to play eye-catching strokes and switch gears have been his strong suit and he tries to anchor the innings for his side before going gung-ho in the death overs.
KL Rahul aggregated 331 runs in seven matches he played in the IPL in 2021, at a staggering average of 66.20 and a strike rate of 136.21. The postponement of the tournament will give him another chance to regroup and improve his chances of retaining the Orange Cap if the tournament resumes at some stage.
#3 Faf du Plessis
The veteran South African had the worst possible start to this season's IPL campaign. Faf was dismissed for a 3-ball duck in his first game against DC, in which CSK were hammered by Dhawan. However, in their second match against PBKS, Faf du Plessis got the opportunity to play himself in. With a measly target of 107, an unbeaten 36 off 33 deliveries to see his side over the line was enough for the opener to find his form in this IPL campaign.
What followed was a dream for the CSK camp. The Proteas batsman was back to his aggressive best as he blitzed his way to a 17-ball 33 in the next match, giving a glimpse of the repertoire of shots in his locker. Faf then delivered a clinical batting performance against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), with an unbeaten 95 off 60 balls.
In the next three matches, the opener racked up scores of 50(41), 56(38), and 56(38) and has been a key element of a thriving CSK side. With 320 runs in IPL 2021 so far at a healthy average of 64 and a strike rate of 145.45, the South African would have fancied his chances of bagging his first Orange Cap this season with the form he was in, if it wasn't for the postponement.
#4 Prithvi Shaw
Delhi Capitals had one of the strongest Indian opening partnerships at their disposal in this year's IPL. The experienced Shikhar Dhawan's young partner Prithvi Shaw has also thrived in the tournament. After struggling in the recent past, Shaw made some changes he has made to his technique, which he publicly acknowledged. He worked on these changes with his batting coach, Pravin Amre.
The youngster's hard work bore fruit in this curtailed IPL season as he stands in fourth place in the race for the Orange Cap. Shaw started off his campaign with a blistering 72 off 38 deliveries against CSK. Questions about his inconsistency have been raised previously, but the Mumbai lad seems adamant to change that perception.
Although Shaw had a couple of low scores in the IPL this season, one thing that had stood out was his intent to score runs throughout the innings. In the eight matches he played, Shaw registered a 30-plus score five times. The standout innings came in the most recent match against KKR where Shaw wrecked havoc with six boundaries in the first over against Shivam Mavi. He became only the second batsman to achieve that feat in the IPL, following another Mumbaikar, Ajinkya Rahane.
Shaw averages significantly less than the names above him on the list, at 38.50 but his strike rate is a staggering 166.48. The youngster is also second on the list for the maximum fours hit this IPL season with 37, second only to his opening partner, Dhawan (43).
#5 Sanju Samson
There are few better sights in cricket than Sanju Samson batting in full flow. The Kerala wicket keeper-batsman has made a name for himself over the years in the IPL, but achieving consistency in his performances has been his achillies heel.
The Rajasthan Royals captain put on a show in his first IPL match this season against PBKS with a dazzling 119 off 63 deliveries in a losing cause. Samson picked up the man-of-the-match award for his valiant knock as his side fell agonizingly short of a mammoth target of 222.
Questions about his inconsistency reared their head yet again as the skipper scored only five runs in his next two matches. Since then, Samson had scored 21(18), 42*(41), 42(47) and 48(33) showing signs of improvement.
However, with the ability that Samson possesses, one would want him to convert these starts into a big score. Something he has failed to do of late. With the injuries in the RR side this IPL season, the responsibility lay on the shoulders of the youngster to get his side over the line in many situations.
Despite his struggles, Samson averages a healthy 46.16 at a strike rate of 145.78, but the numbers don't tell the entire story. With the talent and confidence he possesses, Samson would want to find more consistency. A good run for the Orange Cap may just rekindle his international career.