The IPL – how is it shaping up so far?
Remarkably, we are already almost a third of the way through the latest edition of the IPLs regular season, and the standings are starting to take shape. The Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad appear, at least at this stage, to have established themselves as the best two teams in it, but there are plenty of other sides who would take umbrage to that, and there is plenty of time for the status quo to change. Lets take a look at how each side is tracking having played around four games apiece.
A pre-season favourite to take out the title, Sunrisers Hyderabad have proved why they were so highly rated heading into the tournament. David Warner has reminded Australia and the world of why he should be a walk up start to the team, scoring 264 runs at a strike rate of 161.96 in his four games, including a blistering unbeaten century against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Jonny Bairstow has put up similar numbers, while with the ball it's been Mohammad Nabi doing most of the damage, boasting the incredible numbers of six wickets at an average of 5.33 and an economy rate of just 4.00 four games into the tournament. They find themselves sitting on top of the ladder, and are well placed to challenge for a second title.
Kings XI Punjab
Kings XI Punjab were last in the betting odds heading into this year's tournament, but they have so far proved their doubters wrong with three wins from their first four games. Chris Gayle has looked dangerous at the top of the order with 139 runs in four innings at a strike rate of 165.47, while Sam Curran has impressed in just two games, picking up six wickets in that time. Unfortunately, much of the discussion around the team surrounded captain Ravi Ashwin's mankadding of Jos Buttler, an incident which left a sour taste in the mouths of many fans around the world. Kings XI Punjab are unlikely to be locking horns with the best of the best come the business end of the season, but they have outperformed expectations so far, and even a finals appearance would be a gallant effort considering how they were rated prior to the season.
Chennai Super Kings
The reigning IPL champions, CSK headed into the 2019 season with high hopes, and haven't disappointed so far. Their fourth game of the tournament saw them suffer their first loss, but despite that they look like one of the teams to beat. MS Dhoni has been dismissed just once while accumulating 119 runs, but it's their bowling which has been the most impressive. Three of their frontline bowlers – Imran Tahir, Deepak Chahar and Ravindra Jadeja – have conceded less than six runs per over, while Harbajhan Singh has gone for just 6.25 in his two games. If they can continue to bowl in this manner and with a batting lineup as dangerous as they boast, it's difficult to find a case against them being favourites to take out the tournament.
Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR seemed like a team likely to challenge for a finals position but unlikely to push for the title, and thus far they have done little to dispel that assessment. Having played just three matches, they find themselves at 2-1, suffering their first and only loss in a super over against the Delhi Capitals. While their batting has been sensational their bowling has left a little to be desired. Andre Russell has scored 159 runs at the extraordinary strike rate of 248.83, Nitish Rana has 132 at 159.03 and Robin Uthappa has 113 at 136.14, but with ball in hand, all seven players who have bowled have conceded at least 8.5 runs per over – not exactly a recipe for success. Their batting suggests that they are capable of competing with anyone on their day, but their bowlers' form as a collective will need to change if they are to match it with the best.
The first team to have played five matches, the new-look Delhi Capitals find themselves in fifth place in the standings. After winning two of their first three matches, which included a couple of hugely impressive innings' with the bat, they have lost two on the trot to drop down the ladder. Rishabh Pant and Prithvi Shaw have been dangerous with the bat, each going at a strike rate of well over 150 and having scored over 140 runs each, while new recruit Shikhar Dhawan has scored runs, but not at the rate he is capable of. With the ball Kagiso Rabada has been their best, but there have been too few bowlers capable of putting the brakes on the opposition run rate. At this stage, a finals appearance is certainly a possibility, but anything further than that may be a stretch too far.
The Mumbai Indians have split their four matches so far two and two, but impressively took out the tournament favourites in the Chennai Super Kings by restricting them to just 133 from their 20 overs. New recruit Quniton de Kock has been impressive with the bat, averaging 28.5 at a strike rate of 139.02, but most impressive has been the depth of talent in their batting ranks. Their top seven run scorers are all striking at over 130, and this consistency of run scoring has held them in good stead. Jasprit Bumrah has been dangerous with the ball, taking four wickets and conceding just 7.02 runs per over, but with the exception of Jason Behrendorff – who has played just one match – the rest of their bowling lineup has conceded closer to nine runs per over. Given the depth of talent in their batting lineup and the presence of the likes of Bumrah and Lasith Malinga, however, they do still appear to be a team capable of finishing towards the top of the table.
Finalists last season, the Rajasthan Royals were always going to need to get off to a good start to the season given the likely departure of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and potentially Jofra Archer to international duty partway through the season. Unfortunately for them, their first three games saw them fall painstakingly short in consecutive run chases, before they got on the board with a win against RCB in their fourth game. Sanju Samson has been impressive with the bat in his two games while Jos Buttler has had a couple of impressive innings', but Steve Smith has disappointed so far while Ben Stokes has had limited opportunities with bat in hand. With the ball, Shryes Gopal has done all the damage, claiming six wickets at an average of 11.16 while conceding just 5.58 runs per over. They have been unlucky to lose as many games as they have, and with a number of their star players likely to leave them soon, it's difficult to imagine them challenging for a spot in the finals, let alone a championship.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Boasting probably the two best short form batsmen in the history of the game in Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, it's somewhat surprising to see Royal Challengers Bangalore languishing in last place without a solitary victory from their four matches. Even more surprisingly, it's been their batting lineup which has been primarily responsible for the losses – twice they have failed to bat out their 20 overs, scoring just 70 and 113 runs on those two occasions. De Villiers has scored just 93 runs, 70 of which came in one innings, while Virat Kohli is averaging 19.5 and striking at less than 100. Yuzvendra Chahal has been impressive with the ball with a league leading eight wickets in four games, but the load has been left to too few and RCB find themselvse in a hole from which it will be difficult to excavate themselves.
Nearly a third of the way into the season, the best are beginning to separate themselves from the rest, and the standings are beginning to take shape. There are surprises at both ends of the ladder, but the presence of CSK and Sunrisers Hyderabad at the top will shock nobody. At this stage in the tournament they appear to be the two teams to beat, but there is plenty of time for teams towards the bottom of the standings to turn things around, and teams at the top to stumble. Stay tuned.