The Covid-19 pandemic continues to throw up unexpected challenges for the IPL. If it was moving out of India and playing in bio-secure bubbles in 2020, now it's a move away from home venues for every franchise. In a first for the tournament in India, IPL 2021 will not have a single team playing a match at their home grounds, not even in the playoffs. Most IPL teams have evolved specific squad compositions keeping in mind they play seven games at a venue that is familiar to them each season, but now all of those plans will have to be revised. Teams will also play several matches at a stretch at the same venue - another first. Here's a breakdown of each team's schedule, how not playing at home could affect them, and what they need to do to counter that.
Chennai Super Kings
Five matches in Mumbai - April 10-25
Four matches in Delhi - April 28 - May 7
Three matches in Bangalore - May 9-16
Two matches in Kolkata - May 21, 23
Of all the teams in the IPL, the Super Kings have used home advantage to best effect. They have built a squad that will win, more often than not, at Chepauk, with spinners and canny fast bowlers who know how to exploit the surface. When they played at neutral venues in the UAE, it affected the Super Kings' style of play. In 2019, their spinners took 62 wickets at an average of 19.66 and an economy of 6.76. In 2020, their spinners took just 20 wickets at an average of 40.15 and at an economy of 8.51. The Super Kings are playing ten matches at venues that are very batting-friendly and tough on spinners. The average economy rate for spinners in Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata in T20s since 2018 is close to 8.0 per over, and the average first-innings score is 175. If MS Dhoni's side have to improve on last season's showing, they need to adapt and find alternative ways of winning. Playing more than half their games in Mumbai and Bangalore also means their batting strategy might need tweaking, with an emphasis on going hard earlier because a total in the region of 160 likely won't be enough there.
Three matches in Mumbai - April 10-18
Two matches in Chennai - April 20, 25
Four matches in Ahmedabad - April 27 - May 8
Five matches in Kolkata - May 11-23
The Capitals have a core of players who are well suited to take advantage of a variety of conditions, but they might have liked a few more games in Chennai considering they have a strong spin attack, with R Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Axar Patel. With their remaining games being in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Kolkata, the Chennai games are likely to be the only ones where they can consider going in with all three of those spinners, and they'll have to rely on their quick bowlers for the rest of tournament. Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada started with a lot of fire in IPL 2020, but tailed off towards the end. Managing their workloads is something the Capitals will have to pay close attention to, given their five games in Kolkata at the end, the venue that has the best strike rate for fast bowlers, 18.5 (none of the others have strike rates below 20) in all T20s since 2018. The Capitals might need to keep their focus fluid: start with batting dynamism in Mumbai, bring the spinners into play in Chennai, get a mix of everything in Ahmedabad with a batting tilt, and finish with pace bowlers leading the way in Kolkata. An interesting challenge awaits new captain Rishabh Pant
Kolkata Knight Riders
Three matches in Chennai - April 11-18
Two matches in Mumbai - April 21, 24
Four matches in Ahmedabad - April 26 - May 8
Five matches in Bangalore - May 10-21
The Knight Riders will play a bulk of their games in Bangalore and Ahmedabad. With Eoin Morgan as the captain, they are likely to follow a strategy similar to that of England in white-ball cricket. The venues they are playing at tie in nicely with a philosophy of focusing on six-hitting too. The Chinnaswamy Stadium, with its short boundaries, has proved to be a happy hunting ground for KKR, who have won five of their last six games there. As for Ahmedabad, Morgan has just led England in five T20Is at the new stadium, which should augur well in terms of tactics and familiarity. What the Knight Riders will miss are the helpful conditions for pace bowlers that Eden Gardens offers. The likes of Lockie Ferguson, Pat Cummins and Prasidh Krishna may not get the same bounce and carry in Bangalore or Ahmedabad. So while their batting looks sorted for the conditions they'll face, they may want to evolve alternative bowling plans and combinations.
Five matches in Chennai - April 9-23
Four matches in Delhi - April 29 - May 8
Three matches in Bangalore - May 10-16
Two matches in Kolkata - May 20, 23
The Mumbai Indians might have turned their home venue into a fortress, but they haven't become the most successful side in the IPL by winning only at home. Mumbai have most bases covered for whichever venue they find themselves in. At first glance, five consecutive matches in Chennai to start with might seem to work against them, given Chepauk's famously spin-friendly surface and Mumbai's relative lack of spin-bowling firepower, compared to their batting and their pace line-up. But the record says different: Mumbai have greatly enjoyed playing at Chepauk, and their last loss at the venue came back in 2011
. They've beaten the Chennai Super Kings in their own den five consecutive times now, stretching back to 2012 and including two wins in 2019. So while there is no denying that the team finds something extra when playing at home, the quality and depth in the side suggests that the changed schedules will affect them the least. They end their campaign with three matches in Bangalore, followed by two in Kolkata, which could be an ideal way to tune up their batting and pace bowling with an eye on the knockouts.
Three matches in Mumbai - April 12-18
Two matches in Chennai - April 21, 23
Four matches in Ahmedabad - April 26 - May 6
Five matches in Bangalore - May 9-22
The Punjab Kings have never consistently had a home ground - in previous seasons, they have played in Pune and Indore in addition to Mohali. Playing at neutral venues is not new to them. Crucially, though, this time eight of their games are going to be played at venues that suit boundary-hitting more than others. For a Kings batting line-up firing on all cylinders, that suits them just fine. They start their campaign in Mumbai and finish in Bangalore, which gives them the opportunity for both a strong start and a strong finish. In Mumbai and Bangalore, a boundary is hit every five balls, while the figure for Chennai and Ahmedabad is around seven balls. The likes of Nicholas Pooran, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Chris Gayle are well placed to make use of the smaller boundaries. From a bowling perspective, the Kings have invested in 140kph-plus quicks and swing bowlers who could use the conditions in Mumbai and Ahmedabad effectively, with fast bowlers striking once every 20 balls at these two venues. Overall, the Kings don't need to tinker with their tactics or approach, because the new schedule might actually work out better for them than the traditional home-and-away games.
Five matches in Mumbai - April 12-24
Four matches in Delhi - April 29 - May 8
Three matches in Kolkata - May 11-16
Two matches in Bengaluru - May 18, 22
In IPLs past, whenever the Royals played in Jaipur, they found something extra, which led to the Sawai Mansingh Stadium being labelled their fortress. From IPL 2008 to 2013, they won 29 out of 38 matches at the venue. They subsequently didn't play there for four years for a variety of reasons, before returning in 2018, but it wasn't the same: since then, they have won eight and lost six matches at the venue. They will start their campaign in the batting-friendly environs of Mumbai, where pace bowlers have also found some nip early on. But the Royals will be without their primary weapon, Jofra Archer,
making it a tough start for them. Archer is expected to miss at least the first four games, and possibly more, which leaves only Chris Morris to carry the attack. The Royals start with five matches in Mumbai and move to Delhi for four matches, marking a shift in bowling strategy from pace to spin, since Delhi is the second most favourable venue for spinners after Chennai, with a spin economy rate of 7.15 and a spin strike rate of 21.6. The Royals might struggle with the bowling in Delhi too, since their spin contingent lacks the pedigree and depth of the other sides. The change in schedules from the home-and-away format, coupled with Archer's injury, might hit the Royals harder than most others.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Three matches in Chennai - April 9-18
Two matches in Mumbai - April 22, 25
Four matches in Ahmedabad - April 27 - May 6
Five matches in Kolkata - May 9-23
The batting friendly conditions at the Chinnaswamy Stadium have meant the Royal Challengers' bowlers never really made the kind of impact their batsmen did in past seasons. However, last year the bowlers played an important role, revelling in the bigger grounds in Dubai and in Abu Dhabi. This time around, they will have to figure out a way to make best use of the venues and their resources. Their finishing stretch is in Kolkata, which their batsmen might enjoy. Ahmedabad and Chennai are relatively tough places to bat, with average first-innings scores of around 155, while in Mumbai and Kolkata it is closer to 170. Just like with Morgan and KKR, Virat Kohli's familiarity with the Ahmedabad stadium after leading India in the T20I series there should offer the Royal Challengers some tactical nous. Overall, they don't have to change too much in their tactics, apart from picking the right bowling combinations based on venues.
Five matches in Chennai - April 11-25
Four matches in Delhi - April 28 - May 7
Three matches in Kolkata - May 9-17
Two matches in Bengaluru - May 19, 21
With one of the best attacks in the league, the Sunrisers rely on their bowlers to win them matches. They do have some batting firepower at the top, but bowling has always been their strongest suit. Their first nine matches are being played in Chennai and Delhi. Both these venues are favourable for spin. In the last three years, spin bowlers have gone at 6.3 and 7.1 runs per over there, while the average first-innings scores have been 156 and 160 respectively. This suits the Sunrisers' style of play, as they have excellent players of spin in David Warner, Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey and Jonny Bairstow, and three top-notch T20 spinners in Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi. If the pitches do slow down, SRH could have a successful first half without altering too much of their strategy.
Gaurav Sundararaman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo. Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor