No home comfort in IPL this season
Only five of the last 18 games have been won by the home team. It has been a sudden change after eight of the first 11 matches were won by the home team.
On Wednesday, Rajasthan Royals arrived at their home ground, Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur, as table-toppers having won four of their first five games. But, to the disappointment of the local crowd, the pink brigade lost to Lucknow Super Giants by 10 runs.
By virtue of the upset win, LSG joined RR at the top of the table with 8 points. However, in their previous game, LSG themselves had lost to Punjab Kings playing at home on Saturday, the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium, Lucknow. Batting first, they didn't accelerate well and finished on 159/8, which PBKS chased down in the last over.
Traditionally, Chennai Super Kings’ success has been based on their ability to conjure up results at the M A Chidambaram Stadium. The MS Dhoni-led side has the best record at Chepauk, with an all-time record winning percentage of 72.7 at home. Their bastion has also been breached early this season with the Rajasthan Royals beating them.
There’s no other sport where the value of home advantage makes much of a difference as cricket. You pick the players as per the conditions and you can get the pitches tailormade for your strengths. And on most occasions, you have the crowd behind you, which can help charge you up.
But in a surprising trend, only five of the last 18 games have been won by the home team. It has been a sudden change after eight of the first 11 matches were won by the home team.
In Thursday's games, Delhi won a close encounter at home while Punjab weren't up to the challenge against Bangalore.
In Wednesday’s game, Sunrisers Hyderabad were beaten at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Uppal. It was a setback for the Hyderabad side. The 2016 IPL winners have the second-best win percentage at home – 65.9.
On Tuesday evening in the south derby, at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, RCB’s poor home record was stretched by CSK. On the short boundaries and fast outfield, they outscored the hosts.
At the Narendra Modi Stadium, Motera, on Sunday, Rajasthan Royals beat the odds to put across the best-balanced side in the tournament, Gujarat Titans. In the 2022 final, GT had blown away RR.
Home record tells the story
The importance of a good home record is not lost on IPL sides. They know if they aim to win it all, improving their win percentage at home will be the key.
The numbers tell the story: when Rajasthan Royals won the title in the inaugural season, they scored seven wins out of seven at Jaipur’s Sawai Mansingh Stadium to finish as table toppers.
In 2011 when Chennai Super Kings won the tournament, which was a 10-team affair, they won eight out of eight games at the home turf in Chepauk (including the final). Ditto for Mumbai Indians on their way to the first of their five IPL titles in 2013, winning eight out of eight games at the Wankhede Stadium.
In 2014, Kolkata Knight Riders won four of their four games at Eden Gardens (the early part of the tournament was played in United Arab Emirates).
In other seasons too, the home advantage factor had stood out. In MI’s title runs in 2017 and 2019, they won five of their seven home league games. In 2010, during CSK’s run to the title too four out of their seven wins in the league stage came at their beloved M A Chidambaram Stadium (one of the games finished in a tie before they lost in the one-over Eliminator versus Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings). When they were making a return to the tournament in 2018 after serving a two-year suspension, CSK scored six home wins (one at Chepauk and five at their adopted home ground of Pune).
During Sunrisers Hyderabad’s only title win, in 2016, out of their eight wins in the league stage, four came at their home turf, Hyderabad.
This trend of defeats at home is surprising because the IPL teams do so much homework at the auction to pick the combination which best suits their home conditions. Overall, CSK has a win percentage at home of 72.7, Rajasthan Royals has 66.1, Sunrisers Hyderabad 65.9, Mumbai Indians 63.4 and Kolkata Knight Riders 60.8.
Still settling in?
One of the obvious reasons for teams getting ambushed so frequently at home looks to be that, except for MI, this is the first season teams are playing at home with their new combinations after last year’s mega auction. Ahead of the 2022 season, which was played at Mumbai and Pune, two new teams (LSG and GT) were added. It led to most teams having a major reshuffle after the big players got divided into various teams. Hence, the team managements have yet to figure out the best method to make the home advantage count.
Secondly, with so much data available the teams are coming better prepared with strategy and match-ups for the games. An example was seen in how MI outplayed SRH at Uppal this week. SRH’s main strength was the spinners on a slow pitch, with Washington Sundar and Mayank Markande bowling well, but MI batters were aware what to expect. It was impressive to see how they planned and paced their innings batting first to get to a formidable total of 192. It proved enough.
The Impact Player rule also has a bearing as visiting teams have more options even after the match has begun. All in all, it means the advantage of playing at home has been eroded a little and it a format like the T20, everything counts.