One of the longest IPL seasons in history that spanned close to 70 matches is on its last leg, with four games left to play in the competition. As always, the race for the playoffs went to the wire and now just four teams are still standing. Gujarat Titans, Rajasthan Royals, Lucknow Super Giants and the Royal Challengers Bangalore have survived the league phase and will fight it out for the IPL title.
Here, we take a look at what worked for these teams and analyze some of their concerns as we move into the business end of the tournament.
Gujarat Titans have been the surprise package this season as they have massively exceeded expectations by not only qualifying for the playoffs but also topping the points table. Making their debut in the IPL this season, the Gujarat Titans have racked up an astonishing 10 wins from the 14 games that they have played in, amassing 20 points in the process.
Their biggest strength this season has been their bowling core of Mohammed Shami, Lockie Ferguson and Rashid Khan. Shami, being the premier Indian seamer in the side, has led the pace attack brilliantly. While he has been a constant threat with the new ball, it’s his exploits at the death that have stood out. Shami has picked up 18 wickets, 11 of which have come in the powerplay and he has been conceding a respectable 9.55 runs per over at the death.
Rashid Khan, who was a draft pick at 15 crores, is proving to be worth every penny as he has continued his form from Sunrisers Hyderabad to the Gujarat Titans. After initially struggling for wickets in the tournament, skipper Hardik Pandya used him in the slog overs to good effect as Rashid picked up 8 wickets at 6.18. This meant that Gujarat are the only team to concede at under 10 runs per over at the death, while their pacers have picked up 25 wickets in the powerplay as well.
The finishers, including David Miller, Rahul Tewatia and Rashid Khan, have pulled off a couple of heists this season. The trio combined to score 429 runs at a strike rate of 180 at the death this season.
Even though they finished at the top of the table, Gujarat’s weaknesses are apparent. They have lacked a solid No.3 to control the innings, with Vijay Shankar completely out of touch. Shubman Gill has been inconsistent, with 6 single-digit scores to go with his four fifties. Hardik Pandya’s form has dipped in the 2nd half of the league phase as the Gujarat skipper has scored just 118 runs in his last 7 games.
Rajasthan Royals were one of the pre-tournament favourites to qualify for the playoffs and they haven’t let us down with some explosive performances with both bat and ball. Their biggest strength with the bat has been the form of Jos Buttler, who is single-handedly carrying the batting line-up. Buttler is leading the run-scoring charts with 629 runs at an average of 48.38, scoring three hundreds.
Contributions from the rest of the batting group, including Shimron Hetmeyer, Sanju Samson and Devdutt Padikkal, have helped the Rajasthan Royals put up totals in excess of 200 regularly. From a bowling perspective, the spin twins – Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravi Ashwin – have been terrific. The duo have a combined 38 wickets this season, making them the most successful spin attack in the competition. Interestingly, Chahal has picked up the highest number of wickets at the death with 14 at an economy of 8.56.
Coming to their weaknesses, Buttler’s form will be a huge cause for concern for the Royals. After a blistering start to the season. Buttler has scored just 138 runs at 19.71 and at a strike rate of 111 in his last 7 games. The form of pacers Prasidh Krishna and Trent Boult has been indifferent this season. Rajasthan has the least successful pace attack this season with 46 wickets and are also conceding more than 11 runs an over at the death even with Chahal’s heroics.
Lucknow Super Giants
The other team who is making its debut this season has also impressed, with the Lucknow Super Giants qualifying for the playoffs. What has worked well for them this season is the opening combination of Rahul and de Kock, who occupy the 2nd and 3rd positions in the run-scoring charts. Both openers have combined to score 1039 runs at an average of 43.75. They have accounted for close to 47% of runs that LSG has scored this season, signifying their importance to the team.
Their bowling attack has been decent as well with the likes of Avesh Khan, Mohsin Khan, Jason Holder and Dushmanta Chameera. Avesh Khan has been brilliant in the 12 matches he has played so far, claiming 17 wickets at an average of 22. Holder and Chameera have been good in patches, while Mohsin Khan has been a revelation for LSG.
Leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi hasn’t delivered like LSG would have hoped for, picking up 12 wickets at 34.25. Their main area of concern is one which was supposed to be their strong point going into the tournament. LSG bought a plethora of all-rounders to beef up their middle-order with the likes of Stoinis, Krunal Pandya, Deepak Hooda and Jason Holder. Of those, only Deepak Hooda has been successful this season, with some useful knocks at No.3. Hooda, along with the openers, has scored 65% of the team’s runs, highlighting the lack of runs from the middle order. Ayush Badoni started brightly but tapered off, while Marcus Stonis has been a real disappointment.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
RCB did just enough to sneak into the playoffs, managing 8 wins from their 14 games. Unlike yesteryear, Bangalore have managed this on the back of a solid bowling attack with the likes of Josh Hazlewood, Harshal Patel and Wanindu Hasaranga. Hazlewood has been brilliant with the new ball, picking up 15 wickets at 20.73.
Hasaranga has been the wrecker-in-chief in the middle overs with 17 wickets, which has helped RCB become the best performing side in the middle overs with 45 wickets. Dinesh Karthik has performed the role of a finisher to perfection, scoring 287 runs at a tournament-high strike rate of 191.33. His exploits at the death have been nothing short of sensational as he has scored 213 runs at a strike rate of 215 in that phase.
Their major concern would be the form of talisman Virat Kohli, who has endured a miserable campaign. Virat has scored 262 runs at a strike rate of 117 this season, his lowest tally in a decade. He looked comfortable during his match-winning innings of 73 against Gujarat, which would give RCB fans a boost. Du Plessis has also blown hot and cold this year, which meant that RCB is the 2nd worst scoring team in the powerplay this season. Their powerplay woes continue with the ball too as RCB have taken the least number of wickets in this phase.