The first week (more like 10 days) of IPL is done. We have seen the first doubleheader of the season yesterday and quite a bit of action in the 11 games played so far. We saw young players rising to the occasion, some not-so-young players showing that they are a class apart and the very tenets of T20 cricket being shaken. Starting with this article, I will chip in with my top 5 hits and misses of the week every Monday. Let us dive into this week’s entries then.

"The first week (more like 10 days) of IPL is done. We have seen the first doubleheader of the season yesterday and quite a bit of action in the 11…"

HITS OF THE WEEK

1. Uncapped wonders:

It all started with the first game itself. MI were 128/3 after 15 overs with Ishan Kishan and Hardik in the middle and Pollard to follow. A famed MI finish was on the cards. That is when Kohli unfolded his new death bowling plans. Three of the next 5 overs were bowled by Harshal Patel who had conceded 15 in his first. He started with a 7-run over which had Hardik’s wicket, followed it up with Ishan’s wicket in his next over going for just 4 in it and sealed off his spell with 3 wickets in the final over giving away just 1 run and finishing with incredible figures of 5 for 27. It was the first fifer against MI in 13 years. He carried on his good form in the next couple of games as well and is currently the purple cap holder with 9 wickets. While Harshal Patel stole the show, other notable uncapped players to have impressed in the week were Marco Jansen, Chetan Sakariya, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan, Nitish Rana, Rahul Tripathi, Deepak Hooda, Shahrukh Khan and Shahbaz Ahmed.

2. Comebacks of de Villiers and Raina:

Having retired from all formats of the game, de Villiers was back on the field after quite some time but it didn’t look like that, as he announced his comeback to competitive cricket with a 27 ball 48 in the opening game. If that was not enough, he followed it up with an even more astonishing 76 off 34 balls to take RCB to 204 on a Chennai wicket where 150 was defendable all through the week.

Raina is one of the biggest names in IPL history. His consistency in the league is second to none and his absence in 2020 was a huge blow for CSK. So obviously, all eyes were on him when he came out to bat against DC after CSK were reduced to 7 for 2 in their 3rd over. He joined hands with Moeen Ali and with some good counter-attacking batting, pulled CSK out of trouble. His fluent 54 off 36 was instrumental in CSK reaching 188. That Dhawan and Shaw made short work of the run chase is a different story altogether.

3. Dhawan magic:

Dhawan finished IPL 2020 brilliantly as one of the top run-getters of the tournament. However, with his white-ball future in doubt, all eyes were on him when he came out to start a difficult run chase against CSK alongside Prithvi Shaw who himself has been a man on a mission after having been dropped from the Indian squad. They both started brilliantly, complementing each other shot per shot and made CSK’s 188 look very easy. Dhawan finished with 85 off 54. He did a little better in another difficult run chase, this time scoring 92 off 49 against Punjab while chasing 196.

4. The Big Show:

Whoever has signed Maxwell in IPL has always waited for the Big Show to arrive but he had just not been able to click for any side thus far. A lot of experts believed that RCB was the place to be for him and that could make a difference in how Maxwell performs this season.

He eased into his role in the RCB batting line up with 39 off 48 and then followed it up with his first IPL fifty in a long long time with a 41 ball 59 against SRH and then topped it with a 49 ball 78 against KKR, getting successive IPL fifties only the second time in his career. His consistency and de Villiers’ brilliance have been the reasons why RCB has won their first three games of a season for the first time ever.

5. Magic of the Chahars:

The Chahars did not have a great 2020 with both failing to live up to their standards. The opening games suggested that they might have a similarly insipid 2021. However, first Rahul Chahar turned it around in the game against KKR in which his 4 for 27 took the wheels off a seemingly easy run chase and turned the game in MI’s favour. Three days later his brother Deepak found his new ball form as he rattled an in-form Punjab line up who were reduced to 26 for 5 in the 7th over. Four of the five wickets were taken by Deepak who finished with 4/13 in 4 overs. Rahul continued from where he had left and in the next match, his 3 for 19 played a big role in stopping SRH from chasing down 151. With 7 wickets, Rahul is at number 2 on the leading wicket-takers list.

MISSES OF THE WEEK

1. MI fail to get the big finish:

Over the years, the middle order of MI has developed a reputation of being very dangerous and taking the team to big scores, thanks to big finishers. The stage was set for the same in the first two games. Against RCB, Harshal Patel’s brilliance saw them scoring just 31 runs in the final 5 overs losing 6 wickets in the process. Against KKR, they faltered again losing 7 wickets for 38 runs in their last 5 overs as Russell picked up his maiden T20 fifer. So, the team against who nobody had picked up a fifer in 13 years, allowed two fifers in back-to-back games to begin the 14th season.

2. The KKR big guns failed too:

The other team which has a similar reputation when it comes to finishing is KKR. The trio of Russell, Karthik and Morgan is expected to do big things. While Karthik’s cameo of 22 off 9 against SRH proved to be game-changing and Morgan and Russell got some runs against RCB, Russell’s failure to fire with the bat like he is capable of has hurt KKR again. To do better than the last couple of seasons, KKR need at least two of these three to get the big finishes going. Barring the aforementioned knock of Karthik and 29 and 31 from Morgan and Russell respectively, the trio has had scores of 8 and 2 (Karthik), 5 and 9 (Russell) and 2 and 7 (Morgan).

3. The Death Specialist faltering:

Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been a lynchpin of death bowling for whichever team he plays for. His India comeback after the injury was pretty good, however, his IPL season has not started well and that has compounded the worries of SRH. In the 3 games so far, he has returned figures of 1/45, 1/30 and 0/45. Batsmen have somehow managed to find ways to get runs off Bhuvi and for SRH to do well in the season, he really has to hit the straps sooner rather than later.

4. The Chennai Choke:

The first game in Chennai saw RCB winning a last-ball thriller against MI as they chased 160 successfully. However, chasing became difficult after that at this venue, as teams faltered despite being in winning positions. SRH lost to KKR by 10 runs but they were chasing 188 which by Chennai standards is a big ask. But what happened in the next three games was bemusing. Against MI, KKR succumbed to 142/7 in 20 overs from a comfortable 104/2 in the 13th. They needed 31 to win off 30 balls with 6 wickets in hand but fell short by 10 runs.

In the next game, SRH were chasing 150 to win and were comfortably placed at 115/2 in 16 overs. Shahbaz Ahmed picked up Bairstow, Pandey and Samad in the next over and suddenly SRH lost the plot. They added just 28 runs in the next 24 balls and lost 7 wickets in the process to fall short by 6 runs in the end. MI did it again and so did SRH in the next match. This time, SRH were chasing 151 and were cruising along at 90 for 2 in the 12th over with the required rate just over 7. The next 50 balls saw them adding just 47 runs and losing 8 wickets as they lost the game by 13 runs.

5. 3 on 3 for SRH:

Having played all their games at Chennai, it was really strange that Warner continued to bowl first despite seeing that chasing was getting more and more difficult at this venue. To add to that, a struggle to find the right combination has hurt SRH a lot. And the result has been that they have started off the campaign on the worst possible note – losing 3 out of the 3 games so far. Going forward, they really need to find a way to include Williamson in the eleven, Bhuvneshwar to fire and the other Indian bowlers to contribute consistently.

The first 10 days of this season have really set the tone for things to come. The next week is going to be super fun as well and I am anticipating it to get tougher for me to pick the 5 hits and misses of the week going forward. Keep reading this space for more and do write in your hits and misses of the week in the comments section.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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