The first half of Indian Premier League 2022 is over and there has been no dearth of entertainment from the richest T20 competition in the world. With major squad changes after the mega auction and the addition of two new teams, there has been plenty of action on the field to dissect.
Rather remarkably Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings – the two most successful IPL teams in history – have struggled the most, while Gujarat Titans have won six of their first seven matches to sit at the top of the points table. Sunrisers Hyderabad have turned things around from two defeats and won their last five matches, while Kolkata Knight Riders have lost their last four.
At this point, the race to the playoffs is intense as the season half of the season picks up pace.
IPL points table after 38 matches
Here’s a look at some of the big talking points from the first half of the season:
Chahal, Kuldeep step up
Yuzvendra Chahal found a new team in Rajasthan Royals and the leg-spinner has played a key role in his team’s success. He is the leading wicket-taker so far in the season – 18 wickets from seven matches with an economy rate of 7.28.
The 31-year-old has bagged the only hat-trick of the season. His five-for against Kolkata Knight Riders helped RR win arguably the best match so far this season. Chahal usually operates in the middle overs and skipper Sanju Samson relies greatly on him for breakthroughs.
Kuldeep Yadav has also had an impressive campaign. The left-arm wrist spinner, who didn’t get much game-time at KKR in recent seasons, has been backed by Delhi Capitals as one of their strike bowlers.
Kuldeep also spoke about the conversations with Ricky Ponting and Shane Watson while lauding Pant’s role from behind the stumps.
The 27-year-old, with 13 wickets from seven matches, is fourth on the list of highest wicket-takers. He has bowled in important moments for DC and played with a lot more confidence. In what was redemption of sorts for him, Kuldeep took a four-for against KKR to help Delhi register a big win.
If there is one Indian youngster who has gained the most attention so far in the season, it has to be Umran Malik. The right-arm tearaway pacer has been a breath of fresh air with his fiery pace. Sunrisers Hyderabad showed faith in the 22-year-old by retaining him and he has responded with 10 wickets from seven innings.
Clocking speeds of over 150 kmph on a consistent basis, Malik has earned praises from a number of legends. Coach Tom Moody has said that SRH want to use him as a strike bowler and he has the license to attack without getting worried about going for runs.
Former South Africa pacer Dale Steyn, who is the fast bowling coach of SRH, has been one of the most vocal supporters of Malik’s talent.
“It’s great to see someone run in and bowl 150 kmph. Very often we try and create guys to make them more aware like change your pace, do this and that. But I think Umran is out and out raw. It’s great to just let him loose and do what he does, which is great because you don’t want to change people and block him off too much,” Steyn told Star Sports.
DK, the finisher
Nearly 18 years after making his international debut, Dinesh Karthik is still going strong. The right-hander has been one of the standout batters this season and played a significant role for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Used as a finisher in the side, DK has had to fill in the shoes of the great AB de Villiers and he has stepped up to the challenge in style so far. The right-hander has scored 210 runs in eight matches with an average of 105 and a strike rate of 200.
Karthik’s unbeaten 44 off 23 against Rajasthan Royals and unbeaten 66 off 34 off against Delhi Capitals helped RCB emerge victorious on both occasions, with him winning the player of the match awards.
“I must admit I have a bigger goal,” Karthik had said after the match against Delhi. “I have been working really, really hard. Sometimes people don’t believe it. But my aim is to do something special for the country. This is part of the journey. I have been doing everything I can to be part of that Indian team. This is one step in that direction.”
Buttler, Rahul shine
Jos Buttler has smiled his way to the top of this season’s batting chart with three sparkling centuries for Rajasthan Royals.
The softly-spoken Englishman has been a bowler’s nightmare with 491 runs in seven matches to take Royals into the top four of the 10-team table.
His latest 65-ball knock of 116 against Delhi Capitals puts him in with a chance of chasing Virat Kohli’s 2016 record of 973 runs in a season and four centuries as well.
Meanwhile, KL Rahul too has sparkled at the top of the order. The Lucknow Super Giants captain has scored two centuries so far this season, making this the first-ever IPL season where two batters have hit multiple tons.
Rahul has played a key role in his team’s success at the top of the order and amassed 368 runs in eight innings. He is second, behind Buttler, on the list of highest run-scorers. The right-hander has a strike-rate of 147.79 which is a key improvement from previous seasons, something that could be credited to the brand of cricket Lucknow are playing under the Andy Flower-Gautram Gambhir combo in the think-tank.
MI’s record low, CSK’s lack of spark
Mumbai Indians and defending champions Chennai Super Kings have won nine of the 14 IPL titles since the league was launched. But the powerhouse teams are languishing at the bottom of the standings with Mumbai winless and Chennai managing just two victories from eight.
Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma has bemoaned his sides batting form (including himself) regularly, and most recently, after the latest loss to Lucknow Super Giants when failing to chase down 168. But it is their bowling that has looked toothless for nearly the entirety of the tournament so far, with all the pressure on Jasprit Bumrah to deliver. With opponents more than happy to play out those four overs most nights, the rest of the bowling unit hasn’t been able to click.
The result has been the worst start to any season by any franchise in the history of the league.
Fans have backed a turnaround and Rohit has acknowledged their “faith and undying loyalty to this team so far”.
The men in yellow, on the other hand, have struggled to get going in the Jadeja era. While MS Dhoni has provided some moments to rejoice with the bat in hand, and there was one epic batting performance against RCB, the theme of the season has been one of batting troubles, lack of bowling bite at the death and fielding mishaps.
Titanic debut for Gujarat
IPL debutants Gujarat Titans have the team to beat this year so far and sit on top of the table with six wins out of seven matches.
All-rounder Hardik Pandya has led from the front with 295 runs and four wickets with his pace bowling.
Afghanistan spin wizard Rashid Khan has also shone with the ball, and a match-winning batting blitz, while South African David Miller made an unbeaten 94 to stun Chennai.
Gujarat have also shocked two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders and former India opener Wasim Jaffer called them a “surprise package”.
Umpires get Pant fuming
Delhi Capitals skipper Rishabh Pant almost called his batsmen from the field to protest against an umpire’s call against Rajasthan Royals during an ill-tempered match last week.
The drama happened on the third ball of the final over when Obed McCoy bowled a high full toss that Delhi believed should have been called a no-ball for being above the waist.
Pant and assistant coach Pravin Amre, who walked on to the pitch, were both fined 100% of their match fee. Amre was also suspended for one match.
Umpiring controversies are not new to IPL. Mahendra Singh Dhoni walked onto the field in 2019 to protest at a no-ball call and was docked 50% of his match fee.
But for this season, it feels like DC are at a point where they need to forge some good performances on the field against the run of play otherwise the playoffs will be slipping away very soon.
Kohli, Rohit struggle
The former India captain and current India captains have not had the best of times.
Virat Kohli has been struggling with arguably the worst slump of his stellar career after two successive golden ducks for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Kohli has managed just 119 runs from eight matches so far.
Even during the relative lean patch for him in India colours, the prolific run scorer was contributing useful knocks without going big. (No international century for more than two years, in case you had missed the memo). But this patch in the IPL has seen him struggle to get going. Disbelief after dismissal, a wry smile and a dejected walk back to the pavilion have been familiar sights for “King Kohli” this IPL season.
Rohit Sharma, too, has struggled for runs as Mumbai Indians have had a horrid season, losing their first eight matches to sit firmly at the bottom of the points table. The right-hander has managed just 153 runs in eight innings and has a strike-rate of 126.44. Mumbai, who have won the IPL a record five times, have struggled on every front and their skipper’s personal form has only added to their troubles.
Form is temporary, can these two batters show their class in the remainder of the season? Their fans will certainly hope so.
(With inputs from AFP)