Anticlimactic Twist To An Absorbing IPL-2020, KXIP And RR Eliminated!


IPL-2020 has been one of the most absorbing versions ever given very different terrains in the United Arab Emirates, its three stadiums being Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. Dubai is almost similar to the Indian flat tracks inducing high scores while the pitches in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah are on the slower side, both rather helping the bowlers yielding mostly modest scores, more than 200 runs very rare. That IPL 2020 is so absorbing is clear from the fact that only a couple of matches to be played in the final stage of the league, only one team has officially qualified for the play-offs and it is still not clear which three of the five teams would finally join MI there. Of course, Dhoni’s CSK had already been officially eliminated from the tournament, along with KXIP and RR as of today.

 

We had maintained in our earlier IPL piece that thanks to the slowish nature of the pitches the struggle between the bat and the ball was keener, and therefore, we were having many hard-fought humdingers. Besides, we also said that the Indian win-toss-and-chase strategy had been almost neutralized here which was a healthy sign for competitive cricket. However, things have changed dramatically in the final week of the league stage.

 

We are seeing now active application of the Indian strategy, that is to say, win toss and choose the option of chasing a target, and this has been paying off. In several crucial matches we are getting used to watching the toss-losing side batting first and making perfect mess of a target, with at least 2/3 bowlers, both spinners and pacers, of the rival sides creating havoc.  Yesterday we had seen a perfectly balanced side RCB making just 120 runs batting first against SRH and another top side DC setting a pathetic target of 110 runs against MI. In earlier matches we saw CSK and RR easily chasing down competitive targets set by KKR and KXIP respectively. In all these matches and in a few more the winning sides have consistently been the ones winning the toss and then opting to chase. Such has been the importance of the toss that all these matches ended as thoroughly one-sided affairs, adding an anticlimactic tinge to an otherwise absorbing tournament.

 

The most spectacularly disappointing victims have been RCB and DC, two top teams who amassed 14 points each more than a week back, and since the last one week had been unable to win just one match to proceed to the play-off stage. DC has lost last four games on the trot while RCB lost three. Of course, at least one of them would still make it to the play-offs. The struggling first and then resurging, Team KXIP had done all the hard work to amass 12 points and needed to win at least one of the remaining two matches. They lost both: against RR on 30th October and against CSK today.

 

Funnily enough, CSK, after being eliminated from the tournament, has become a sort of kingmaker, preventing two teams from entering the play-offs: eliminating KXIP today and almost doing the same defeating KKR (on 12 points for a long time) on October 29. To the question as to why this strategy is evolving the answer is not forthcoming. The common theory is that pitches are slowish okay, but dew is affecting the bowlers of the toss-losing side and helping the chasing side score with greater ease.

 

The lament is the probability of either KKR or KXIP winning those matches that would have given them at least 14 points each had they won the tosses and chased. Of course, we cannot cry too hoarse for KKR, because the team has been suffering from an unpredictability of the West Indies type, non-performance of key players, change of team leaders and a classic saga of strategical mistakes. Then the two teams of RR and SRH that had been performing indifferently are surging at this late stage, RR is gone today, but SRH is still in the fight.

 

As we go on talking about the anti-climax of one-sided matches, we just have had a reversal of our own theory in the tough match between KKR and RR today in Dubai. As per the set strategy RR decided to field first after winning the toss. Through the usual series of fits and starts KKR finally managed to set an imposing target of 192. Then they entered the battlefield like charged Royal Bengal Tigers and made an attacking RR totter getting half of the side out in less than five overs. The rest just lingered on, the match turning out to be entirely one-sided, but neutralizing the set pattern. KKR won the match by  60 runs in 20 overs and earned 14 points to be in the fourth position, their only concern at the moment being a low net run-rate (NRR). RCB and DC also have low NRRs while SRH has a much higher one.

 

Now we need to wait two more days for the final line-up. Today, RR and KXIP are eliminated. Tomorrow’s RCB Vs DC match would ensure one of them reaching the play-off with 16 points while the last league encounter between SRH and MI on 3rd November would be important only for the former as the latter is already the number 1 in the play-off line-up. We might be having 2 or 3 teams locked with 14 points each and in that eventuality NRR would decide the qualifiers. So, absorbing yes, but the one-sided matches are always disappointing. And we fervently hope that the win-toss-and-chase strategy does not influence the play-off matches. The first Qualifier is to be played in Dubai on 5th November, the Eliminator and the second Qualifier in Abu Dhabi on 6th and 8th November while the Final will be played in Dubai on 10th November. 

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