The annual carnival that started on April 9, amid the uncertainties pertaining to the dreaded virus and its impact in India, reached the halfway mark with the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 completing 29 games on Sunday and each franchise competing at most 7 games. Hence, the tournament has more or less illustrated the teams well en route to the playoffs. There have been few constants from last season, few have thrown a surprise and the remaining look to hang in there as the final phase of the league stage awaits. And before the competition resumes on Tuesday, we take a look at all the eight teams and how they have fared at the mid-season mark.
1) Delhi Capitals: With six wins in eight games, the only second team to play more than seven so far, Delhi are at the top of the table and stand probably just two wins away from reaching the playoffs for the third consecutive season. They lost their skipper Shreyas Iyer at the start of the tournament and the veteran R Ashwin midway through the first month, but under the new captain Rishabh Pant, Delhi have been dominant this season. The return of Axar Patel overshadowed the loss of Ashwin, while the bowling attack has been bolstered by the comeback of IPL legend Amit Mishra. But the stand-out factor for Delhi has been their imperious opening combination of Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw along with the emergence of pacer Avesh Khan.
Their only two blips this season have been a one-run defeat to RCB and when Jaydev Unadkat rattled the top order with the new ball in Mumbai. But with the kind of form that Delhi are in now, they are all certain to make the next round of the competition.
2) Chennai Super Kings: Few would have truly predicted CSK's marvellous return to their imperious best. On paper, heading into the season, CSK were written off, having made fewer changes to their core lineup that scripted their forgettable 2020 season in the UAE. But CSK being CSK, they backed their players, a mantra that captain MS Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming have adopted over the years, has been key in their journey to 10 playoffs qualification, including three IPL trophies. And all seemed to have worked out perfectly for Chennai, who stand second with five wins and two defeats.
Chennai have also managed to identify their best XI, using only 13 players as of now - one being a condition-based change in Lungi Ngidi replacing Dwayne Bravo, and the other being due to the injury of Moeen Ali which allowed them to bring back Imran Tahir into the lineup.
The addition of Moeen at No.3 has been an absolute delight for CSK, providing them with both stability and power-hitting. CSK have also been the best side in the death overs, scoring at 13.02 runs per over, courtesy of Sam Curran and Ravindra Jadeja.
3) Royal Challengers Bangalore: For a moment, RCB seemed to look invincible this season, having won their first four games in a row, which included finishing the Chennai leg on an unbeaten note. The addition of Glenn Maxwell to the middle-order, which seemed completely reliant on AB de Villiers, the batting depth with the inclusion of Dan Christian and Kyle Jamieson, and the unheralded Harshal Patel, who has picked 17 wickets in seven games this season, have collectively handed RCB the third spot in the points table.
But since CSK ended their juggernaut, RCB have managed only a solitary win, of a narrow one-run against Delhi, in the next three games. The Maxwell impact had ended for RCB - in Chennai he scored 176 runs at a strike rate of 149.15 and thereafter added only 47 runs in four games at a strike rate of 120.51. So was for Harshal - in Chennai he picked 9 wickets at 5.74 runs per over and thereafter picked 8 more at 11.74 runs per over. Besides, Virat Kohli hasn't had an impactful start as an opener, scoring only 198 runs in 163 balls.
RCB do have the ability, as shown in the earlier part of the season, to turn things around and make the playoffs once again.
4) Mumbai Indians: Six months after their dominant run to a record-extending fifth IPL title, Mumbai Indians have failed to emulate and display that same level of preeminence. Their death-overs batting has faltered, barring that masterful knock from Kieron Pollard. Ishan Kishan, who hit the most sixes last season and on the back of which he made his international debut for India, struggled for form and was eventually dropped to strengthen their pace attack when Mumbai reached Delhi. And in bowling, Mumbai Indians have faltered with the new ball, picking just 4 wickets in the PowerPlay. Trent Boult, who picked an astounding 16 wickets last season in the first six overs, managed just one wicket this season.
But a change in venue has definitely changed Mumbai's fortune. In the sluggish Chepauk conditions, Mumbai lost three of their five games, with their middle-order gasping for breath. But in Delhi, they won both their games with opener Quinton de Kock finding rhythm and Pollard pulling of the innings of a lifetime. Mumbai will only hope that the momentum continues in the second half of the league stage.
5) Rajasthan Royals: The most unfortunate team this season has been the Royals - lost Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer to an injury, while Liam Livingstone and Andrew Tye left for home amid the concerning COVID conditions in India. And in a bid to fill the gap, Royals largely looked at their domestic pool - Manan Vohra struggled as an opener and hence Yashasvi Jaiswal was brought in, Shreyas Gopal as a tactical move against RCB failed miserably, Shivam Dube was forced to play as a No.4 and only put together 145 runs at a strike rate of 117.9 and Kartik Tyagi, who played brilliantly against SRH, missed his first six games.
Yet, Rajasthan have managed to keep themselves alive, if not completely, with three wins in seven games and standing fifth in the table. And with the teams that presently stand behind them - a struggling Kolkata Knight Riders, a bruised Sunrisers Hyderabad and a KL Rahul-less Punjab Kings, the Royals sort of have an outside chance of making the playoffs.
With Sanju Samson showing some consistency with his hat-trick of 40s, Chris Morris and Mustafizur Rahman troubling the batters with slower deliveries and Jos Buttler's return to form, Royals will be hoping for a turnaround in the second phase of the league.
6) Punjab Kings: Just when things seem to get only a little, just a little, right for the Kings, Punjab lost KL Rahul to appendicitis. Besides consistency being consistent for Rahul, strike rate surely hasn't stayed "overrated". He remains a slow starter, but his strike rate in the middle overs spikes to 148. But with Rahul out for at least a couple of games, Punjab's batting will look unbalanced unless they look to rejig the lineup with Chris Gayle opening with Mayank Agarwal and Dawid Malan coming in at No.3. Ravi Bishnoi's late addition and Harpreet Brar's superb show against RCB have provided some relief to the PBKS dug-out, but it is still early days for both the franchise and the players.
7) Kolkata Knight Riders: With the kind of batting lineup that KKR comprise, one expects better outcomes, but the openers have struggled to score, Eoin Morgan has been misfortunate and Sunil Narine has no defined role in the batting lineup. Rahul Tripathi has been the only consistent performer in that lineup and KKR should look to play him as an opener (as a PowerPlay strike rate of 144). KKR have also struggled with the ball, recording the second-worst economy rate, after Rajasthan Royals, this season, with Narine, who has only played four games, being the stand-out performers while the Lockie Ferguson-less pace lineup has failed to make an impact
Unless a major overhaul in the lineup for the impending high-scoring Bengaluru conditions, the fate of KKR is likely to remain the same.
8) Sunrisers Hyderabad: Everything about the Sunrisers have been painful and frustrating this season. The issues that troubled them in 2020 remained the same - primarily being their lack of batting beyond their top-order overseas three. And in addition to losing their key players to injury, SRH have managed to win just one of their seven games, the worst-ever start to their IPL campaign. And all the pain and frustration led the management to press the panic button as SRH dropped David Warner from the playing XI, in a bid to rejig their batting lineup. Unless something miraculous, a wounded SRH side is unlikely to make a comeback in the second half.