IPL 2021 returns after an abrupt pause. Fans are eagerly waiting to see their stars in action, and a lot has happened since the closure of the first leg. The IPL is now in the UAE, again, and the waysides will be a significant factor going forward.
The Delhi Capitals is currently on top of the table of IPL 2021. They won six out of eight and are two wins away from qualification. Their strengths have been the performance at the top. Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw are doing an incredible job upfront and have adapted well to slow conditions in Chennai. The spin attack looks good with Axar Patel in sharp form. Ashwin wasn’t as effective in the first leg and left mid-way, but returning to the Indian T20 squad will likely boost his confidence and bring him back to his best.
In UAE, Delhi depended on Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje to make a difference in UAE. The two pacers were beautiful and helped Delhi make the finals. Axar Patel and Ashwin were handy as well, giving Delhi a good bowling attack.
With Iyer back from injury, the side will get a further boost in the batting line-up. They will have a choice to make between Smith and Hetmyer, but the batting does look better at the moment. Avesh Khan’s form in the first leg will further boost them as they can add an extra pacer to their strong UAE arsenal.
Chennai Super Kings
Chennai is currently second on the table with five wins. They have looked much better in IPL 2021, but return to where they endured one of their worst seasons. This season, however, Chennai shedding their conservative approach and has batted with more intent at the top. Ruturaj Gaikwad, Faf Du Plessis, and Moeen Ali have been strong at the top, while Jadeja has finished the innings.
Last season, they had many injuries and absentees, which affected their progress in the season. Their conservative strategy involved them further. With Ali in the side and Suresh Raina back this season, they have a more potent batting line-up to tackle UAE.
The bowling looks strong with a handful of options, but with IPL 2021, back in UAE, the possibilities may be tested like last season.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
A line-up full of superstars and a handful of replacements leaves the Royal Challengers Bangalore with an intimidating line-up. They have T20 stars like Wanindu Hasaranga and Tim David in the squad as replacement players and Kohli, De Villiers, and Maxwell.
They have a handful of X-factor players, and selecting a playing eleven will be a happy challenge for the skipper, Virat Kohli. Last season, the bowling revolved around Yuzvendra Chahal and Chris Morris. Despite missing out on World Cup selection, Chahal will continue to be the key and hope to catch the selector’s gaze with a strong performance.
They lost players like Washington Sundar but are well placed to make the playoffs. Harshal Patel’s form may come as a concern, though. He was brilliant in the first leg, but his cutters can work in the UAE is yet to be seen.
The Mumbai Indians are fourth on the table and have gotten off to a slow start in the first leg. They had a tough time on the slow Chennai surfaces but found their feet towards the end of the first leg. Kieron Pollard was in magnificent form and single-handedly won the Mumbai Indians a T20 classic against the Chennai Super Kings.
Last season in UAE, the Mumbai Indians had a clear strategy. They packed their side with six-hitters and kept blasting through the innings. The batting was strong, and explosive hitters kept coming one after the other. They will probably stick to the same strategy, and with their batters in top form, things could get dirty for the opposition bowlers. The bowling will continue to revolve around Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult while seeking support from a third pacer. Hardik Pandya could return to bowling, and Chahar will be the leggie in the side.
The Rajasthan Royals were one of the unluckiest sides in the first leg of IPL 2021. They lost Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer early in the tournament. Later they lost Andrew Tye and will now be without Jos Buttler. The Rajasthan have bought in some replacement players, but their strategy of relying on certain match-winners will have to change.
The likes of Buttler and Stokes have been the key for Rajasthan, and to be without them will be a massive shot in the arm. Their bowling form, though, will encourage the Royals. Chetan Sakariya and Jaydev Unadkat have done well, while Chris Morris chipped in nicely. Mustafizur Rahman has also been in good touch for Bangladesh and could play a key role this season.
They will be without last season’s MVP, and the form of their spinners will be a concern for the Royals. The inclusion of Shamsi could provide another boost, though, as Tewatia and Gopal haven’t been as effective.
Over the last three seasons, Rahul, Agarwal, and Gayle have been the Kings’ backbone and will continue to be the backbone. However, a dream performance from Harpreet Brar will come as a boost, as the Kings can look at other players to support the openers in IPL 2021.
In the UAE, the Kings struggled early on in IPL 2021 and were on the brink of elimination before a dream comeback took place. Poor performances from Glenn Maxwell and Cottrell hurt them, while spinners like Bishnoi and M Ashwin helped Punjab stay in the hunt.
In 2021, the main challenge for Punjab will be Pooran’s form. He has struggled in the first leg and will need to find his touch if Punjab improves their middle-overs batting.
Kolkata Knight Riders
The Kolkata Knight Riders have one change from the first leg of IPL 2021. Pat Cummins is out, and Tim Southee comes in. They are currently seventh on the table, with just two wins. In the first leg, the spinners and aggressive batters like Russell and Rana looked good. Russell has been in brilliant form during the CPL, while Chakravarthy and Narine lead the spin attack.
Like last season, Chakravarthy could play a vital role in the place where he announced himself. After finding his name in the World Cup squad, Varun could be further boosted and come out as a dangerous bowler in the second leg of IPL 2021.
Challenges for KKR would be the performance of Dinesh Karthik and Eoin Morgan. Both haven’t been at their best in the first leg of IPL 2021, while Gill struggled as well. All three of them are vital members of the side, and their performance is essential in determining KKRs future in IPL 2021.
The Sunrisers haven’t got much to be proud of in the first leg of IPL 2021. They won a solitary game, dropped their captain, and fielded 21 players in the first leg of IPL 2021. They need to win all their games to give themselves a shot at the playoffs. Despite the struggle, Rashid Khan, Jonny Bairstow, and Williamson gave Hyderabad some stability. They will be without Bairstow now, and Warner will probably get another chance in the eleven.
Sunrisers will also be boosted by the return of Natarajan, who missed most of the first leg due to knee surgery. In 2020, the Sunrisers struggled with consistency early on but fought back brilliantly to make the playoffs for the fifth time in a row. They were down and out for most of the season, but performances from Natarajan, Saha, Warner, Holder, and Williamson helped them get back in IPL 2021.
They will need heartier performances if they get back and will have to find the right combination early on. Pandey’s and Shankar’s form will be crucial, along with Warner’s batting form.