The 14th edition of the Indian Premier League resumes after four long months after the tournament had to be suspended in May owing to the bio bubble breach with increased covid-19 cases, and the race to find the winner of the IPL 2021 is underway once again.
After Mumbai Indians (MI) had sealed their fifth IPL title in 2020 quite comprehensively, this season had started off in a much more competitive manner in India. While the defending champions were in the fourth position of the points table when the tournament was halted mid-season earlier this year, the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) side was turning heads with five wins in seven matches.
A change in the host country from India to UAE and a four-month hiatus is bound to see the momentum change for some of the early title contenders. However, if the recent trend is anything to go by, the Indian Premier League trophy has been a four-horse race in the past few years.
Here, we take a look at those top four teams at the points table, as this IPL is seemingly shaping up towards the familiar few play-offs.
IPL points table 2021
|Position||Teams||Matches||Wins||Losses||Net Run Rate||Points|
|1||Delhi Capitals (DC)||14||10||4||0.481||20|
|2||Chennai Super Kings (CSK)||14||9||5||0.455||18|
|3||Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)||14||9||5||-0.140||18|
|4||Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)||14||7||7||+0.587||14|
|5||Mumbai Indians (MI)||14||7||7||+0.116||14|
|6||Punjab Kings (PBKS)||14||6||8||-0.001||12|
|7||Rajasthan Royals (RR)||14||5||9||-0.993||10|
|8||Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH)||14||3||11||-0.545||6|
With each IPL team playing 14 league matches before the playoffs begin and each win carrying two points each, the point range of 14-16 is normally considered to be sufficient for a side to seal a place in the playoffs. Hence, eight wins in 14 league matches normally do the job for IPL teams. However, teams can also qualify with lesser points as was evident in the IPL 2019, when SRH had finished fourth with just 12 points after 14 league matches.
Can Delhi Capitals be the winner of IPL 2021?
No team in the IPL has seen as fast an improvement as the Delhi Capitals. Since changing the franchise name from Delhi Daredevils in 2018, the team hasn’t looked back. Delhi Capitals have reached the playoffs in two consecutive seasons of the IPL since 2019 and were even the finalists last time. Sitting at the top of the points table midway into IPL 2021 makes them one of the prime contenders this season as well.
One of the biggest learnings from the Indian Premier League has been that a team is as good as its Indian core, and Delhi Capitals have managed to get it right in the recent past. Delhi’s best batsmen this season have been their two openers Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw, who have tallied 380 and 308, respectively. Both the Indian batsmen have three half-centuries to their names each, followed by their new skipper Rishabh Pant.
An injured Shreyas Iyer’s absence was largely expected to be a thorn in Delhi’s path in the first half of this season, but Ricky Ponting’s solid foundation and Delhi’s good team depth assured that the side kept soaring high. With the tournament shifting to UAE and Iyer returning from his injury, Delhi now has their maiden IPL title on sight.
Can Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) fight against all odds to be the winner of IPL 2021?
If there is another team in the IPL that has shown as much improvement as Delhi, it is Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). After spending a good time of the last decade as a perennial lower table franchise, Virat Kohli and Co. have finally found things going in their favour in the past few seasons.
While Kohli and AB de Villiers still remain the core of the side, it is again the rise of the Indian talents that are now propelling Team Bangalore towards the right direction in the tournament. The emergence of players like Mohammed Siraj, Devdutt Padikkal, Harshal Patel and more has stopped RCB’s overreliance on superstars.
IPL 2021 has seen Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Harshal Patel taking 17 wickets in seven matches with an average of 15. Patel also leads the purple cap race in the tournament. He is followed by Kyle Jamieson and compatriot Mohammed Siraj, who have nine and six wickets respectively.
In batting, while new import Glenn Maxwell has been in superior form, with 223 runs in seven matches, followed by AB de Villiers (207 runs) and Virat Kohli (198 runs), Padikkal has remained consistent with a tally of 195 runs in six matches.
What can further work in RCB’s favour is the change of IPL venue. Last season, when the tournament was held in UAE, RCB had ended the league stage in fourth place before losing to Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the eliminator. While Kohli and ABD were the heroes for the side then, the find of the season was Devdutt Padikkal with 473 runs in 15 matches.
With the IPL returning to the UAE for the second consecutive season, a stronger and more confident RCB side will be licking their lips. Another impetus for the Royal Challengers Bangalore side to become the winner of IPL 2021 will be the stepping down of Virat Kohli as the captain following this season.
Can Chennai Super Kings defy conditions to be the winner of IPL 2021?
No other team in the IPL has used India’s playing conditions as effectively and optimally as MS Dhoni, who has been synonymous with the Chennai Super Kings since the beginning of the tournament.
One of the biggest contenders for the winner of IPL 2021, Chennai couldn’t have started the season any better on Indian soil. After losing their opening match against Delhi Capitals, Chennai Super Kings went on to win five matches on the trot. They have even managed to win their first match of the second phase of IPL 2021 to record six wins in eight matches at a net run rate of 1.223.
Unlike Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore, Chennai Super Kings rely more on its experienced heads to get the job done. Only one of their top five run-scorers can be considered young – Ruturaj Gaikwad (284 runs) amongst Faf du Plessis (320 runs), Moeen Ali (206 runs), Ambati Rayudu (136 runs) and Ravindra Jadeja (157 runs).
While CSK boast of some brilliant Indian bowlers in Deepak Chahar, Jadeja, and Shardul Thakur, who have jointly scalped 22 wickets in eight matches, a shrewd MS Dhoni knows to bring out the maximum from his foreign players as well. The likes of Sam Curran, Moeen Ali, Lung Ndidi, Dwayne Bravo and Imran Tahir have contributed to 27 wickets in IPL 2021 so far.
However, despite the encouraging numbers this season so far, Team Chennai remains the farthest team to be in contention for the winner of IPL 2021. India hasn’t been the host country of the tournament in three previous seasons and Chennai hasn’t won the tournament on any of those occasions. While CSK had reached the play-off stages in 2009 and 2014 when the IPL was held in South Africa and the UAE respectively, the 2020 season saw the Daddy’s Army finishing second bottom of the table.
Though MS Dhoni & Co have started strongly in the UAE this time, with a 20-run win over defending champions Mumbai Indians, CSK are expected to mellow down in the coming weeks as other teams see more players returning to the fore.
Can Mumbai Indians be the winner of IPL 2021?
The team for all seasons and every playing conditions, Mumbai Indians are the only side to have won the Indian Premier League five times. Having been a silent spectator from 2008 to 2012, Mumbai Indians burst onto the scene in 2013 and have since won five of the eight editions.
The Indian Premier League has seen franchises using various strategies to lift the trophy. While Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad excelled in using home conditions to win the tournament, Rajasthan Royals, Deccan Chargers and Kolkata Knight Riders were propelled by exceptional captaincies by Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and Gautam Gambhir, respectively, who saw their sides to a title wins through great leadership.
For Mumbai Indians, the secret ingredient working for them has been their scouting system. In the likes of Hardik Pandya, Ishan Kishan, Jasprit Bumrah and others, Team Mumbai has always been the most talented T20 side of the tournament. Hence, a change of host country or playing conditions have hardly been a bother for the team.
However, what makes Mumbai Indians a top contender for the winner of IPL is not only their squad depth but also the favourable conditions in UAE. Last season had seen MI scoring the most number of runs in the least number of overs among all the other IPL teams as Rohit Sharma‘s men tallied 2378 runs in 262.2 overs. Team Mumbai’s bowlers had also conceded the second least number of runs – 2187 in 274.5 overs – in IPL 2020 after Sunrisers Hyderabad (2125 in 277.5).
Mumbai had reached the playoffs with 9 wins in 14 matches, and while this season didn’t start as smoothly, the team is widely expected to finish in the top four again. The pace-bowling friendly conditions in UAE suits Mumbai pacers Bumrah and Trent Boult just well and the team is expected to ride home on their piercing deliveries against most opponents.
Other contenders for the winner of IPL 2021
While Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore have started the IPL 2021 campaign strongly, the points table can rapidly change given half the season is still remaining.
Among the bottom of the table dwellers, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad remain hopeful of a comeback given their experience of winning the IPL title on previous occasions. After KKR had narrowly missed the playoffs last season owing to an inferior net run rate and SRH squeezing into the top four despite losing seven matches, the contenders of the winner of IPL 2021 is still far from decided.
More than the favourable conditions in the UAE, both KKR and SRH will have players, who had struggled for form in the first half of the season but now had enough time to get back on track. The likes of David Warner and Andre Russell are the few who will look to bounce backj after a slow start to the first phase of IPL 2021.
The Australian southpaw had tallied 548 runs in 16 matches last IPL that had propelled SRH to the playoffs with four wins in the last five matches. He was closely followed by Manish Pandey, Jonny Bairstow and Kane Williamson, all of whom found the UAE batting conditions suiting their strength.
For Kolkata, young Shubman Gill had starred in most matches last season alongside new skipper Eoin Morgan, both of whom had tallied over 400 runs in 14 matches. While the struggle of Russell in UAE conditions will be a worry for KKR, the Caribbean all-rounder is returning fitter this time to exude more positive vibes.
It is, however, the bowling attack that will carry the sting for both KKR and SRH. While the Orange Army had Rashid Khan getting the job done for them last season, with 20 wickets in 16 matches, Kolkata had mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy scalping 17 wickets in 13 matches.
KKR had also received a boost mid-season, last year, with Lockie Ferguson taking wickets for fun. This time with his Kiwi compatriot Tim Southee also in the fray, Morgan will likely go all guns blazing. SRH’s pace attack will be led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, with Sandeep Sharma and Thangarasu Natarajan also looking to work their charm after jointly taking 33 wickets between them last season.
A star-studded Punjab Kings team makes the prediction far more complicated in the 14th edition of IPL. Despite having never won the IPL, Team Punjab has always been unpredictable with the talent at hand and IPL 2021 isn’t expected to be any different. Like Punjab, Rajasthan Royals are also a side in transition with a new leader trying to get a grasp of things around him. Sanju Samson has already led his Rajasthan side to victories over opponents like Delhi Capitals, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad this season, and with a four-month break to find an alternative for Ben Stokes, the Royals must be more than ready with a masterplan for the second-half.
The IPL has always been a platform where T20 talents have found the perfect springboard to launch themselves to glory. And with the T20 World Cup 2021 starting in less than a month, the motivation will be doubled amongst players from all participating nations to prove their mettle over the next month.