The start of the Indian Premier League was a breath of fresh air to the international cricketing circuit after the pandemic had erased half the year's calendar.
This season has been more exhilarating as compared to the previous few seasons. With the end of the game between Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Kolkata Knight Riders, the competition has reached its halfway mark. We now have enough data to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of all the teams.
So how have the eight teams fared so far? Let's go over the statistics, starting from the bottom of the table, and rate their performances in four key areas of the game.
1) Kings XI Punjab
Captaincy and Decisions: 4
Best performer: KL Rahul
Though they started the tournament on a positive note, Kings XI are now back to their usual problems. Their fielding has been average, and their batting has looked great only when the two star performers KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal have performed. Though both are in contention for the Orange Cap, the rest of the batting performances have been dull (with the exception of a few occasional strikes from Nicolas Pooran).
Their bowling has been mediocre too. The performances of Mohammad Shami and Ravi Bishnoi have been impressive but inconsistent. The team will need more steady performances from Sheldon Cottrell and Chris Jordan in order to bounce back.
Kings XI's captaincy and team selections have left the fans baffled, especially with Chris Gayle not playing in any match so far. Though Rahul has been scoring runs, his slow starts have often put pressure on the tailenders.
With a shaky middle order, unimpressive bowling display and mediocre game plan, it's hard to imagine the Kings making it to the playoffs this year.
2) Chennai Super Kings
Captaincy and Decisions: 3
Best Performer: Sam Curran
Chennai Super Kings, the most prolific side in the history of the tournament, have baffled everyone with their tepid performances. Their batting is no better than Punjab's; barring one match where they blew Kings XI out of the water, they have been underperforming.
Faf du Plessis has played his share of good games, and the inclusion of Narayan Jagadeeshan over a clueless Kedhar Jadhav seems like a good decision. However, with the middle order lacking ammunition, Chennai's batting order looks like a pale shadow of its former self.
Their bowling has been slightly better. Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar have had their share of high and lows, but Curran has put on a decent show.
Chennai has arguably the worst fielders amongst all the teams, and it seems like the higher average age of the squad is taking its toll. MS Dhoni looks like a troubled version of his past self and Stephen Fleming has seemed restless throughout the tournament, which is something out of character for both the stalwarts.
Logic-defying decisions like persisting with Jadhav, tinkering with the middle order, and benching Imran Tahir have not worked out for them. Though the fans are still hopeful of a fairytale ending like the one they had 10 years ago, Chennai doesn't look like it will be holding one of the top four places on the IPL table.