CricViz analyst Kieran Parmley looks at the latest goings on in the 2022 competition.
With nearly half the IPL season gone, the identity of the newly rebuilt sides are beginning to take shape following the mega auction – and they’re leading the pack. Can Lucknow and Gujarat maintain their early form through the remaining parts of the season, or will flaws in their side begin to cost them games – and what can other teams do to catch them?
Gujarat Titans – can they hide their fifth bowler?
Early league leaders Gujarat Titans have had a clear emphasis on being more of a ‘bowling heavy’ side in 2022 with four bowlers registering a positive Average Bowling Impact so far. Their batting has held up well despite the struggles of Vijay Shankar and Matthew Wade, with the likes of David Miller, Rahul Tewatia and Abhinav Manohar stepping up when required to fill the void alongside opener Shubman Gill and skipper Hardik Pandya.
There’s still work for the Titans to do on the bowling front though. Their frontline quartet of Rashid Khan, Lockie Ferguson, Mohammad Shami and the resurgent Hardik Pandya have combined to take 26 wickets with an economy rate of just 7.53 rpo – their remaining bowlers have taken 10 wickets between them with an economy rate of 10.63 rpo.
Titans made a combination change in their previous game, bringing in Alzarri Joseph to bolster their bowling attack, albeit in Hardik’s absence – whether this continues going forward and Gujarat Titans elect to go ‘all in’ on being a bowling heavy side remains to be seen. Should they revert back to their ‘preferred’ combination when Hardik returns could instead be a matter of how the skipper distributes his bowlers to allow them to protect the ‘weak links’ that defines their success moving forward.
Royal Challengers Bangalore – can their form continue without Rawat and Kohli producing?
The Faf du Plessis lead outfit are flying high at the moment and find themselves with five wins at the halfway stage of the groups, for the third season in a row. However, the troubling returns of their ex-captain Virat Kohli, as well as newly purchased Anuj Rawat, represent cause for concern.
This comes despite RCB scoring more than 180 in each of the three games in which they’ve batted first as well as falling short in one of their four chases so far, largely thanks to the outstanding form of Dinesh Karthik and those around him in RCB’s middle-lower order. The poor form of Kohli (19 average, 123 strike rate) and Rawat (18 average, 111 strike rate) has brought about poor Powerplay returns for RCB, only Sunrisers Hyderabad have scored slower off the bat in the Powerplay, with RCB scoring at just 6.02 runs per over while also losing wickets pretty frequently, reflecting in an Average Batting Impact in the Powerplay of -9.8 with SRH again the only side with a worse figure.
RCB could use their good form to continue with the current combination instead of being proactive in looking for alternatives but they’ll also be wary of becoming too reliant on their middle order for consistent returns – as high quality as the likes of Glenn Maxwell and Dinesh Karthik are, their roles are volatile and won’t fire in every game, whether or not RCB stick or twist could be key in their pursuit of a top two place this season.
Rajasthan Royals – will their big name batters continue their excellent form?
Jos Buttler is in the form of his life at the moment, carrying the Rajasthan Royals batting unit to four wins from six alongside Guyanese left-hander Shimron Hetmyer and Royals skipper Sanju Samson. Between the ‘big three’, they’ve scored 753 runs from 461 balls, averaging 53 at a strike rate of 163 – facing 63% of all deliveries faced by Rajasthan Royals batters so far this season.
With all three in excellent form, Rajasthan Royals’ current blueprint in terms of team combination suits them well despite Ravichandran Ashwin batting at No.7 – the added bowling quality of someone like Obed McCoy stepping into the lineup is arguably more valuable to the side at this stage than it would be to bring in an all-rounder to strengthen the batting depth. That being said, the Royals could be worried about the batting form of their remaining side in the case of Buttler, Hetmyer and Samson failing to continue their excellent form in carrying a shallow batting unit. Yashashvi Jaiswal was dropped from the side after just three games and Devdutt Padikkal is yet to fire despite being promoted to the top of the order – averaging 23 with a 122 strike rate after 6 games, Riyan Parag has also faced just 36 balls across the six games so far, expanding his role could also bolster the Rajasthan Royals batting unit. There are plenty of alternatives for Rajasthan Royals to look as a contingency plan moving forward, including returning Jaiswal to the lineup and continuing to lengthen the batting lineup by using Ashwin up the order, although questions remain as to whether or not this is a viable tactic moving forward, or if the ‘big three’ can keep up their form.
Lucknow Super Giants – will their left-hander problem haunt them?
KL Rahul’s Lucknow Supergiants sit on a positive record at the halfway stage in their campaign with four wins from seven games, although they did suffer defeat to Royal Challengers Bangalore in their last encounter.
The LSG batting lineup has been notably missing left-handed batting options following Marcus Stoinis arrival in place of Evin Lewis, with Quinton de Kock at the top of the order and Krunal Pandya at No.8 the only remaining left-handed batters and a flurry of six right-handers between them. A lack of left-handers is a concern for two reasons, one is ‘matchups’, with batters theoretically struggling to face the ball turning away from them, so much so that many sides now try to employ a left-right batting combination at all times to prevent ‘favourable’ matchups to a bowling side – the second concern, particularly in this tournament, is the lopsided nature of some boundary dimensions leaving a ‘short’ leg side to a left-right combination during each over, whereas a side with two batters of the same handedness can only access the short side every other over.
During their game against RCB, with lopsided boundaries in play and spinners Shahbaz Ahmed and Wanindu Hasaranga looking to turn the ball away from right-handers, LSG elected to promote Krunal Pandya to No.4 in their batting lineup to maintain a left-right combination with KL Rahul. Krunal’s promotion arguably brought reward, with returns of 42 runs off 28 balls before succumbing to the off-spin of Glenn Maxwell.
Whether the promotion of Krunal Pandya becomes a permanent option, and a consistently successful one at that remains to be seen but it is an alternative strategy Andy Flower’s side have up their sleeve to combat bowling units that will no doubt continue to target their right-hander heavy lineup with leg spin and left arm spin as the tournament progresses.
Sunrisers Hyderabad – will their spin attack cost them?
Sunrisers Hyderabad have had the luxury of Rashid Khan leading their spin attack for many years but following his somewhat controversial departure in the off-season, Tom Moody’s side have gone down a different route for their spin attack, with the finger spin of right-armer Washington Sundar and now left-armer Jagadeesha Suchith providing the front line options of their spin attack alongside Abhishek Sharma.
SRH have historically failed to identify good local spin options with Karn Sharma the last Indian spinner to register a positive Average Bowling Impact for a campaign, and that was way back in 2014. The lack of a leg spinner is also noticeable in a season in which leg spinners are somewhat leading the way when it comes to wicket taking with four leg spinners inside the top eight.
Williamson’s side are perhaps a bit of an outlier when it comes to their bowling combination but they do have good variety in their four-strong pace attack, Jansen and Natarajan provide left-arm options with Umran Malik adding high pace alongside the skill of Bhuvneshwar Kumar with the new and old ball, their attack covers most phases of the innings but will their success continue as pitches begin to wear and spinners come into the game more? Only time will tell.