With the IPL returning to India from the UAE, batters should look forward to playing on smaller grounds and the potential for dew. But fast bowlers could enjoy themselves as well, especially at the Wankhede Stadium. During the first half of IPL 2021, which was played in India, fast bowlers were dominant during the powerplay at this venue. As per ESPNcricinfo logs, in the first six overs, fast bowlers took 31 out of 33 wickets that fell here in 20 innings, the highest for all the seven venues last season.
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Remember Dhoni fussing about 7.30pm starts because of the dew factor? He felt that with dew usually setting in around 8pm, teams batting first were under pressure to score 15-20 extra runs in the Powerplay. To add to their challenge, teams bowling second in dewy conditions then had to also try and pick up early wickets. Dhoni hinted that the advantage was with the teams that bowled with a dry ball for the first 30-40 minutes of the match before dew kicked in. The 7.30pm starts were put in play to ensure matches didn't spill over past midnight, as had become the trend in previous seasons. The dew factor will be on the mind of teams this time around, too, when they go out to toss.
All four venues have short straight boundaries, measuring around 70 yards. Surfaces at all four venues are also known for good bounce and carry. The red-soil decks in Mumbai help the ball come nicely on to the bat. This means the par score could hover close to 170-180. Harshal Patel, IPL 2021's highest wicket-taker, believes bowlers can still dominate by using hard lengths on fresh pitches, as will be the case at all four venues. Harshal reckons another good strategy to counter the short straight boundaries would be to bowl very full and either at the heels of the batter or wide outside off stump. Why? To bring the longer square boundaries into play. However, teams will also need to keep in mind that one square boundary might be significantly shorter than the other; it is understood each of the four venues will use five pitches across the square to ensure all of them remain lively through the league phase.
Surfaces at each of the four venues have different characteristics. While the numbers are strongly stacked against spinners of every variety, it can't be denied that spin will eventually play a part, mostly from the second half as pitches begin to tire. In the first half, though, wristspinners who are quicker through the air are likely have an edge over traditional legbreak bowlers. So expect the likes of Rashid Khan and Ravi Bishnoi to prosper as compared to, say, Kuldeep Yadav, who has struggled with his pace variations lately.
IPL 2022 will unveil four new captains: Mayank Agarwal (Punjab Kings), Hardik Pandya (Gujarat Titans), Ravindra Jadeja (Chennai Super Kings) and Faf du Plessis (Royal Challengers Bangalore). Among them, only du Plessis has the been a long-term captain, at South Africa, but even he will acknowledge that leading a popular franchise like RCB is a different challenge. His predecessor Virat Kohli, a highly successful international captain, could not take the franchise to a title in nine seasons.
The IPL's expansion to a 10-team event will test the tournament's quality. The fluctuating auction prices for certain skillsets was the first indicator of the challenges of demand vs supply, with teams chasing the same set of players rather than looking for new ones. There is a possibility of frequent one-sided matches, which was the case a decade ago during the 2011 season when the IPL had 10 teams for the first time.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo. Gaurav Sundararaman is a Senior Stats Analyst.