Gaurav Sundararaman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo
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The 2022 IPL has almost reached the halfway stage and there are some clear trends emerging. Retained players are performing below par, uncapped Indians are doing very well, bowling in the death overs is a struggle, and teams are reluctant to bat first after winning the toss. We dig a bit deeper.
Retained players struggling for form
At the end of 29 matches, a few franchises must be pretty disappointed with the performances of their retained picks. Moeen Ali for Chennai Super Kings, Mohammad Siraj and Virat Kohli for Royal Challengers Bangalore, Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard for Mumbai Indians and Axar Patel for Delhi Capitals are some of the retained players who have been below par. The likes of Abdul Samad, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Anrich Nortje are not finding a spot in the XI. Both Mumbai and Super Kings find themselves at the bottom of the pack probably due to the failure of these key players. In contrast, the players that were picked through the draft for the new franchises have had a good tournament so far. The two new teams are one and two respectively in the points table. The retained players often form the core of the franchise and their form would be vital as the tournament moves towards the business end.
Uncapped Indians thrive under pressure
There was some scepticism on how a ten-team IPL would affect the quality of the league. However, the league has thrived with some amazing uncapped talents showcasing no nerves. The likes of Jitesh Sharma, Tilak Verma, Dewald Brevis, Vaibhav Arora, Abhinav Manohar and Ayush Badoni have all seamlessly transitioned to the big stage confidently. In an eight-team IPL, these players may not have got enough game time but the larger pool has allowed these talents to flourish. The pitches and conditions have also been batting-friendly thereby helping these youngsters to be aggressive. Most of the above players have struck at over 150 in their first season and also have come in at difficult situations and performed. The overseas players seem to be the ones under pressure to keep their spots with more teams looking to back the Indian talent and not playing the full quota of overseas players. Mumbai have not played Tim David in spite of buying him for INR 8.5 crores at the auction. This season has already seen 11 instances of teams not using their four overseas players which is the most across all seasons after 29 games.
Win toss, bowl first
This season has witnessed a record-breaking 29 consecutive games in which the captains have won the toss and chosen to chase. In the last 12 games, the results have been spread evenly with teams batting first winning six and teams chasing winning six. Teams are just reluctant to choose to bat first irrespective of the way the results have gone. Teams are reluctant to go against the dew. Shane Watson, the assistant coach of Delhi Capitals in The Grade Cricketer Podcast said that it was impossible to predict when dew would set and when it would not. As a result the captains are not willing to risk the option of batting first and are happy to know what the target is to plan their innings.
Score big at the death
The death overs (17-20) run-rate of 11.53 is the highest so far across any IPL season after 29 games. This means teams are on an average scoring 47 runs in the last four overs. In most of the previous seasons, teams scored at an average of 10 runs per over in the death. The 2020 season in UAE and this current season are the ones in which the run-rate at the death has gone over 11.5.
Death overs bowling with dew and short boundaries have made it very hard for the bowlers to make an impact. As per ESPNcricinfo's logs, the yorker and short-of-good-length balls have given the best results. While the yorker length has gone just for 5.76 runs per over the short-of-good-length has gone for just 8.76 runs per over. But we have seen a lot of bowlers fail to execute the yorker with the wet ball. There have been 16 instances in which a bowler has conceded more than 20 runs in the last four overs. The traditional death bowlers have all struggled to maintain consistency in these tough conditions.
With a minimum of 24 balls bowled in the last four overs the likes of Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Dwayne Bravo and Mohammed Shami have conceded less than nine runs per over. Other death-over specialists - Mohammad Siraj, Prasidh Krishna, T Natarajan, Avesh Khan and Mustafizur Rahman - have all gone in excess of 10 runs per over. At this stage of the tournament, Gujarat Titans (8.41) are the only team that have conceded less than 10 runs per over in the last four overs. At the other end of the spectrum are Royal Challengers and Mumbai who have conceded in excess of 13 runs per over. The teams would be hoping for better execution in the death overs as the margin of error in this season is very less.
Slow off the blocks
While the death overs have resulted in the highest run-rate after 29 games, the powerplay has been a struggle for most batters this season. The run-rate in this phase of the innings by the batters is just 7.04 and they average 27.04. Surprisingly a number of batters are scoring at less than a run a ball in this phase. Out of the 17 batters who have faced a minimum of 50 balls this season, eight have scored at a strike rate of less than 110. This includes the likes of Faf du Plessis, Kane Williamson and Venkatesh Iyer. While the fast bowlers have dominated this phase by extracting whatever help they have got, the batters have not been able to break this pattern. With the pitches potentially getting slower as the tournament moves on, the powerplay phase may be the most important one from a batting perspective. It will be interesting to see if these players alter their approach over the next few games.