The IPL trends: Virat Kohli confidence dip, home players over imported talent

  • Every IPL season throws up new trends, discoveries and a subtle evolution of T20 cricket. This season in the UAE leg, these were the major takeaways for me.
The IPL trends: Virat Kohli confidence dip, home players over imported talent(RCB/Twitter) PREMIUM
The IPL trends: Virat Kohli confidence dip, home players over imported talent(RCB/Twitter)
Updated on Oct 10, 2021 07:46 AM IST
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BySanjay Manjrekar

The UAE surfaces

To the surprise of many, pitches in the UAE at the three venues, though slightly different from each other, were really slow.

Let me dwell on this slowness factor a little more, for pitches in India aren’t fast either. But these UAE slow pitches allowed seam bowlers to thrive with their change of pace and the angles they could create by bowling the leg-cutters and off-cutters. Harshal Patel has been the flag-bearer of this successful phenomenon.

In India when you bowl a slower ball, yes, it's slow in the air, but off the pitch it is still coming on to the bat nicely. The skiddy nature of Indian pitches where you get the big 200s makes a slower ball still easy to hit. It’s just a change of pace, and if the batsman picks this deception early, he can still hit through the line and send that ball flying for a six.

In the UAE, just picking the slower ball early wasn’t enough. One had to also have the skills to make the connection after the ball pitched. There was still a hint of trickery left in the delivery after it landed. This small but crucial aspect became extremely challenging for most batters, especially those with only power and less subtle skills.

Just ‘muscle’ wasn’t enough; you needed to connect the ball closer to your body like you defend in overseas Tests, you had to account for the little surprise off the pitch, only then could you hit that ball into the stands. This meant a lot of batters became redundant and the likes of Ruturaj Gaikwad with good fundamentals and an ability to play the ball late really succeeded while the Hardik Pandya kind struggled.

Quality of foreigners

It may actually become the trend of IPL. This season was unique—it was the most times a team chose to play less than the allowed four foreign players. They went for a local, Indian player instead.

One of the major reasons IPL was such a big hit to begin with was the quality of foreign players that played in it. Remember Brendon McCullum’s incredible innings that announced the IPL to the world in 2008?

With a handful of exceptional foreign players unavailable, this aspect became even more glaring.

The UAE pitches made it even harder for the next generation of foreign players like Pooran and Livingstone. These players currently with regards to their ability are nowhere in the league of Chris Gayle, AB, Warner and the likes from decade back. The side note here is the fact that these big names also had a solid Test background.

Pooran has played only 5 FC matches and no Tests. Time will tell us how these exclusive T20 players develop over the next few years in the high pressure IPL. With 10 teams next year, IPL could struggle to find quality young foreign players for we would be looking at 40 of them at least!

This is a good sign from Indian cricket’s point of view. We are seeing the IPL effect of 14 years now, we are throwing up some really effective, albeit low profile T20 players that are competing with and also overshadowing the foreign players.

Arshdeep Singh is a great example, easily a better choice than Chris Jordan for Punjab. We will also keep a watch on these kinds of bowlers, Harshal being the other, how they go when IPL returns to India on flatter and ‘easy to hit through the line’ pitches.

Kohli and Rahul

Two batters who caught my eye for different reasons. Virat is clearly going through a ‘low confidence’ patch, and T20 cricket is probably a format which at this stage, with the low self-confidence and dearth of runs at the international level, he is finding most difficult to excel at.

His first two 50s in the UAE actually gave me a greater understanding of his state of mind. His keenness to get to an IPL 50 at the cost of his team's run rate dropping off showed how much these relatively small milestones for a man of his stature mattered to him.

Hopefully he gets through this phase quickly and we see the usual Virat Kohli selflessly leading and batting at the top of the order for India in the T20 World Cup.

KL Rahul bid goodbye to this IPL by playing an innings very few can. It was frustrating to see the last few seasons how Punjab was using him, or may be Rahul himself thought this was the way to go. Hopefully the penny drops for Punjab if they retain him. This is where Rahul is at his best, not as an anchor but a guy who stays in the moment and gives you a start like this. That’s another way to make things easier for your low confidence batters down the order.

Rahul may not win the orange cap, but in the future, his team may have a better shot at the title.

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Monday, December 06, 2021