Feature

Half-time report: CSK and Titans fly, but mid-table logjam leaves everything to play for

With several teams stacked together on eight points, it's anyone's guess as to who will make the playoffs

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
27-Apr-2023
No team has broken away from the pack as we veer past the halfway mark of IPL 2023. There are a bunch of teams stacked together on eight points in a crowded mid-table even as Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans sit at the top. Here's a quick look at how each team has overcome the challenges they've faced.

Delhi Capitals

Played 7, Won 2, Lost 5, Points 4, Position: tenth
Challenges:
Top-order stability
The missing piece:
Rishabh Pant, who is recovering from multiple injuries following a car crash
How they've fared:
David Warner the white-ball destroyer is still finding his gears and Prithvi Shaw as an Impact Sub seems woefully out of form, returning a highest of 13 in six innings, with familiar questions raised around his handling of swing and pace. Sarfaraz Khan was given just one game to prove himself in a role - wicketkeeping - he was groomed to perform in Pant's absence but lost his place completely after two matches. He's back again after four games to shore up a misfiring batting line-up. Elsewhere, Mitchell Marsh's early unavailability due to his wedding led to a roulette with Rilee Rossouw and Rovman Powell coming and going. The chop-change is a reflection of the uncertainty in the camp as they fight near the bottom.

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Played 7, Won 2, Lost 5, Points 4, Position: ninth
Challenges:
Top order in a flux
How they've fared:
Mayank Agarwal has struggled and when he was shunted down the order against CSK, it seemed like an eerie rerun of his previous year with Punjab Kings. Abhishek Sharma has faced a similar fate, of being moved up and down while England's Harry Brook, signed to play a middle-order role, has come good as an opener only once in the five knocks he has played at the top. Meanwhile, lower down, Washington Sundar* has elicited debates if he should be batting a lot higher, especially in the CSK game where their right-handedness in the middle order played into Ravindra Jadeja's hands on a typical Chepauk deck.

Kolkata Knight Riders

Played 8, Won 3, Lost 5, Points: 6, position: seventh
Challenges:
Top order instability
The missing piece:
Shreyas Iyer, their designated captain, who is undergoing rehab following a back surgery in UK
How they've fared:
The 17 wickets they've lost are the most by any team in the powerplay this season. They had tried five different opening combinations in their first seven games. Against RCB on Wednesday night, they tried a sixth and had their highest opening stand of the season - 83 between Jason Roy and N Jagadeesan. Part of the reason for this chop and change has been due to injuries. Rahmanullah Gurbaz's niggle meant bringing in Jagadeesan and Roy's absence during the initial stages meant they tried a number of others up top - Mandeep Singh, Venkatesh Iyer, Gurbaz, Litton Das and Sunil Narine among them. Their win on Sunday night brought the promise of a more settled pairing at the top.

Mumbai Indians

Played 7, Won 3, Lost 4, Points: 6, position: eighth
Challenges:
Death bowling
The missing piece(s):
Jasprit Bumrah, who is out of the season, and Jofra Archer, who has featured in just two games so far to manage his elbow condition.
How they've fared:
They're feeling the absence of the Bumrah-Archer pairing that they hoped would give opponents sleepless nights. It's a gap they've plugged by using Arjun Tendulkar, Riley Meredith, Cameron Green and Jason Behrendorff. Since the win against Sunrisers, where Tendulkar defended 20 in the final over, they've conceded 200-plus in two losses. Kings ransacked 109 off their last six overs, while Titans managed 94. Mumbai are fast running out of options.

Punjab Kings

Played 7, Won 4, Lost 3, Points 8, position: sixth
Challenges:
Soft under-belly to their top order in Shikhar Dhawan's absence due to a shoulder niggle
How they've fared:
It looks among the weakest top-three on paper without Dhawan, who brings his experience of being able to anchor or explode based on situations. Matt Short has been inconsistent, Atharva Taide inexperienced and Harpreet Bhatia unable to force the pace despite getting starts. This has meant there's been an over-reliance on Prabhsimran Singh and the returning Liam Livingstone to fuel their starts. They can't wait for Dhawan to be back.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

Played 8, Won 4, Lost 4, Points 8, position: fifth
Challenges:
Overcoming the Rajat Patidar void
How they've fared:
It has been Faf du Plessis, Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell, or nothing. The overreliance on the big-three has become their biggest talking point yet again. When Rajat Patidar came in as replacement and set the stage alight by hitting the IPL's first century by an uncapped player in the playoffs, he brought with him the promise of being able to switch between being an accumulator and an enforcer. But in his absence due to a heel injury, Mahipal Lomror and Shahbaz Ahmed haven't been able to grab those opportunities. Shahbaz has managed scores of 2 and 2 at No. 3, while Lomror had scores of 26, 0, 7* and 8. On Sunday, just when it appeared as if he'd repay the faith, he was out for 34 in a steep chase.

Lucknow Super Giants

Played 7, Won 4, Lost 3, Points 8, position: fourth
Challenges:
Capitalising in the Powerplay
How they've fared:
Poorly. All said, conditions at home in Lucknow have been challenging. They've played on black soil decks that have aided turn and low bounce, where 150 and perhaps not 200 have been the order of the day. Yet, KL Rahul's powerplay approach continues to be a subject of raging debates. It was partly justified in a two-paced Jaipur deck last week, when he went slow and built a platform with Kyle Mayers to set up 154, which they defended superbly. But the same approach cost them a win and a place in the top-two at the halfway mark when he dropped anchor until the final over to make a 61-ball 68 only for LSG to lose by seven runs in a chase of 136, especially after needing 31 off 36 with nine wickets in hand at one stage. All said, Rahul's powerplay strike rate of 113.91 is the third lowest this season among batters who've faced at least 100 deliveries.

Rajasthan Royals

Played 7, Won 4, Lost 3, Points 8, position: third
Challenges:
Absence of an Indian finisher
How they've fared:
They invested heavily in Riyan Parag to play a finisher's role, but after meagre returns - 54 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 112 - it appears they may have begun looking elsewhere for the moment. Fortunately, they've found Dhruv Jurel. The 20-year-old was in their camp for the entire 2022 season as an apprentice, and when it appeared as if Royals may have erred in sending him ahead of the seasoned Jason Holder, Jurel let his bat do the talking on debut. Not even the prospect of needing 74 off 30 proved daunting enough as he smashed an unbeaten 15-ball 32 in an innings full of eye-catching strokes. The Royals lost narrowly, but Jurel did his credentials no harm. Since then, he's featured in five more games. In their most-recent outing against RCB, he was preferred over Parag and threatened another jailbreak in making an unbeaten 15-ball 34 in a chase of 189.

Gujarat Titans

Played 7, Won 5, Lost 2, Points 10, position: second
Challenges:
Finding an anchor in Kane Williamson's absence
How they've fared:
When Williamson damaged his ACL and limped off the field in their IPL opener, Titans may have yearned for someone to take over his role. They've found B Sai Sudharsan who has proven his capabilities in stepping up by leaving his imprint in a team full of explosive hitters. He's gotten off to starts in each of the five games, with the back-to-back half-centuries against Capitals and KKR being the standouts. His 176 runs in five innings have come at a strike-rate of 123.94.

Chennai Super Kings

Played 7, Won 5, Lost 2, Points 10
Challenges:
Inexperienced seam-attack after injuries to Deepak Chahar, Ben Stokes and Mukesh Choudhary
How they've fared:
Their bowling frailties could've been exposed but MS Dhoni has backed rookies Tushar Deshpande, Akash Singh and Matheesha Pathirana to do the heavy lifting upfront and at the tail end. At the halfway mark, they've repaid the faith. Deshpande has stepped up and has seemingly overcome a no-ball problem, while Akash has impressed with his zip and swing with the new ball. Deshpande has picked up 12 wickets in seven games and is only the second CSK player, after Ravindra Jadeja, in the top 10 charts for the most impactful bowler of the season.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo