What binds Chennai and Rajasthan in the IPL?

Mar 31, 2023 11:45 PM IST

Indian Premier League (IPL) matches will return to a "home" and "away" basis for the 2023 season, allowing teams to build a greater connection with their fans and sell tickets. Some teams, such as Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, have historically performed better when playing at home. Chennai has a winning percentage of 71% when playing at home, the highest in the IPL. Rajasthan Royals lead on the metric of the highest positive markup over their overall winning percentage. Other teams have a positive markup of 2-8 percentage points when playing at home, while two teams have a home record that trails their overall record.

After a gap of three seasons, the Indian Premier League (IPL) juggernaut will travel across the country as it was originally designed: as a city-based league. After a gap of three seasons, brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, IPL matches will be held on a ‘home’ and ‘away’ basis. For all teams, it’s good cheer, as it will once again operationalize the revenue stream of selling tickets and let them undertake activities that builds a greater connect with their home fans. For some teams, more than the others, the return of home games is also a chance to leverage a cricketing advantage they have capitalized on historically.

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HT Image

Heat and Dust

In the 15-year history of the IPL, the MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings has fared the best in performance in their home city. Chennai has been a top side in the IPL on a consistent basis, marshalling a stable core, balancing youth and experience. In the muggy heat of Chennai and the MA Chidambaram Stadium, its performance jumps levels. On an overall basis, before the 2023 season, Chennai won 58% of all its IPL matches, across all venues. But playing at home, that winning percentage increased to 71%. In the IPL, this is the highest winning percentage at home.

But Chennai is not the IPL team with the highest positive markup over its overall winning percentage. Rajasthan Royals, based in Jaipur, lead on that metric. Overall, Rajasthan—historically built in an underdog, frugal mould—have a winning percentage of 50%. But when they play at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur, that number rises to 68%— a bump of 18 percentage points. These two sides will look forward to returning home in IPL 2023.

[Chart 1]

Home, No Perceptible Advantage

There are four other sides with a positive markup in results at home, of 2-8 percentage points. At the other end of the spectrum, there are two sides whose home record actually trails their overall record: Bengaluru and Delhi. Historically, barring exceptions such as Chennai and Rajasthan, home advantage in India has not been such a key force in the IPL. Of the 11 years in which the IPL has been held in India (it was held abroad four years), there have been four years when the home winning percentage has been below 50%.

The highest it has ever gone is 64% in 2013 and 63% in 2018. In general, it’s hovered in the 50-60% band. The two years of 2016 and 2017 was when the winning percentage at home plummeted to 42%. These were also the two years when both the Chennai and Rajasthan teams were banned from the IPL after some of their team owners and key officials were implicated in betting activities. In 2018 and 2019, that figure was a higher 63% and 56%, respectively, before the pandemic killed home games.

[Chart 2]

Home Perfection

There are sides such as Chennai that have been consistently good at home. For example, in the seven years it has played a full season at home, Chennai has had a losing season at home only once, in the inaugural season of 2008. Further, in these seven seasons, it has won the IPL twice and finished runner-up five times. Amid performance that shows that home advantage in the IPL is not such a clear, potent force and only select teams really driving home that advantage, there are only rare instances where teams have fashioned perfect or near-perfect seasons at home.

There have been four instances when sides have been unbeaten at home. Two of those have come from Rajasthan Royals, in 2008 and in 2013. The other two have come from Chennai in 2011 and Mumbai in 2013. There have been five other instances when teams have strung together a 6-1 season. Hyderabad has done it twice, Punjab once. Even Bengaluru, which has an overall losing record at home, put together a 6-1 season in 2013.

[Chart 3]

Stable Core

When it comes to playing at home, the Chennai blueprint is distinct and instructive. Both Chennai and Rajasthan can veer towards the extremes in the conditions they offer, more than grounds such as Mumbai or Bengaluru. But there’s possibly another reason why Chennai has performed at a consistently high level: the lowest turnover of players. In the history of the IPL, among the eight cities that have had teams all through, only Chennai has gone through 15 years with less than 100 players playing a match.

At 93, it has the fewest players. At the other end is Bengaluru, capping 152 players. Chennai has always had a stronger core—a set of players who end up playing a large number of matches. For example, Chennai’s top 15 players by caps have accounted for 61% of all appearances by the team’s players. Mumbai follows with 56%. For the other teams, that figure ranges between 37% (Punjab) and 46% (Kolkata), underscoring the relatively higher turnover and the fresh cycle of acclimatization. Such stability, or the lack of it, gets amplified while playing at home.

[Chart 4]

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