Deccan bowler Dale Steyn (R) is the fourth highest wicket-taker in this edition of IPL © Getty Images
Deccan bowler Dale Steyn (R) is the fourth highest wicket-taker in this edition of IPL © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

The fourth edition of the IPL has not have captured the excitement of the cricket-watching public quite the way previous editions did. However, it has thrown up some interesting trends that suggest that perhaps cricketers haven’t completely figured out Twenty 20 cricket yet.

 

I am putting down a few that I have come across.

 

1. Mountains of runs? Where are they? 

 

When Brendon McCullum tore into the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) bowling attack in the very first IPL match held in 2008, commentators excitedly declared that IPL would set new benchmarks for Twenty 20 cricket and may well produce the first twenty over 300. Subsequent matches seemed to suggest as much as 200-plus totals were posted over and over.

 

No such mountains this time. Delhi Daredevils posted 231 against Kings XI Punjab and RCB posted 205 against Punjab as well – only two 200-plus totals in this edition of the IPL. On seven occasions, teams posted totals between 180 and 200 and on five of these, the team batting first won. On an average, teams have scored 160-170 and ended on the winning side more often that one would expect.

 

Surprisingly, Deccan Chargers even managed to beat Kochi Tuskers Kerala by 55 runs, after scoring 129. Is 74 the lowest total in an IPL match? Haven’t checked, but must surely be in contention. So are scores going down instead of up?

 

2. Pace roars back

 

Three of the top four wicket takers in IPL4 so far are pace bowlers – Lasith Malinga, Dale Steyn and Albie Morkel. There is, however, only other fast bowler in the top 10 – Morne Morkel. Still, it may be time to do a rethink on the general notion that pace is a liability in Indian conditions. Bowlers who have mastered the yorker fare particularly well in Twenty 20 cricket because batsmen are forced to go for their shots at all times. And while Ishant Sharma has generally been inconsistent, he wrecked Kochi Tuskers with a match- winning five-wicket haul.

 

Looking at the performance of the top 10, though, it appears that spin is still a better bet to contain batsmen. The economy rates of the spinners, amongst the top 10 wicket takers, are significantly lower than that of fast bowlers. Surprising, considering how good Indians are supposed to be at playing spin. Maybe, it is just easier to help along a quick delivery on its way to the boundary. Maybe the new bunch is not as good at playing spin as Indians are, traditionally. Since Twenty 20 is won by runs and not so much wickets, you arguably still need good spinners in your line-up to win the IPL.

 

3. Low totals with wickets in hand

 

The subject of wickets brings me to the most baffling trend of IPL4. Teams have struggled to post huge totals, in spite of having several wickets in hand! On Saturday, Chennai Super Kings managed a miserable 114 – for the loss of just four wickets! They lost by the D/L method in a rain-affected match.

 

Mumbai Indians, too, posted 178 for four. A winning total it turned out to be, but it begs the question: Why wouldn’t you trade a few more wickets in return for maybe 20 more runs?

 

And it’s not just these two matches from Saturday. Deccan Changers against Kolkata Knight Riders – 169 for four.  Kochi Tuskers against Knight Riders – 156 for five. Mumbai Indians against Deccan Chargers – 172 for four. Mumbai Indians against Chennai Super Kings – 164 for four.

 

In none of these matches were the teams batting first punished for keeping half or more of available wickets in hand, but Mumbai Indians were against Kochi Tuskers. They scored 182 for two2 only for Kochi to chase it down with eight wickets and an over to spare!

 

Likewise, Chennai Super Kings posted 188 for four against Kings XI Punjab and lost. RCB against Mumbai Indians is the most baffling of all – 140 for four only for Mumbai Indians to make 143 for one in 18.3 overs!

 

It seems to me that the No 5 and No 6 batsmen in most teams aren’t getting enough to do and the middle order takes up too much time. Sure, in Twenty 20, too much time means 2-3 overs! Still, perhaps, batsmen need to be reminded that there is no time to play yourself in the IPL and every ball is a scoring opportunity. Heaven forbid if a team scores something like 130 for three in the final. Should they go on to lose, they would then regret not taking more risks while batting. Teams need to strive to utilize the available 10 wickets optimally and score as much as possible because a low or not particularly challenging total with several wickets in hand looks silly.

 

The above trends suggest that after three editions and a long way down the fourth, a winning formula for the IPL format has not yet been figured out. Perhaps, the next edition will not ensue bang after a World Cup and teams will have time to think through their strategies. And we shall then see which of these trends persist thereafter.

 

NB: Any other baffling trends you have noticed this season? Do write in.

 

(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake.)