By: Chinmay Vaidya
The second week of the 2019 IPL season is in the books with four teams battling it out at the top. Sunrisers, Chennai, Kings XI and Kolkata all have 6 points through the first two weeks. Some have taken advantage of other teams choking away games while others have looked dominant. On the flip side, Royal Challengers have failed to muster a win through five games, losing to KKR Friday in heartbreaking fashion. Here are five observations from the second week of the tournament.
1. Always assume the play is live
This is actually really simple to understand, but sometimes players assume things and it goes exactly how you expect. Delhi's Kagiso Rabada put this on display against KKR with his supreme effort on the boundary. Although he didn't know for sure whether he'd touched the rope or not, Rabada assumed the play was still live. Shubman Gill did not and paid dearly for it.
The umpires made sure Rabada's foot didn't hit the boundary rope (which would've given KKR four runs and kept Gill in the game since the play is dead at that point) and the result was a big wicket for Delhi. Rabada kept delivering in the game, winning the match for the Capitals in the super over.
Rabada bailed out half his teammates with this brilliant over, which brings us to the second observation.
2. Delhi needs to figure out how to bat sensibly
The Capitals have shown monumental mental failures in three consecutive matches. Against KKR, Delhi was in a winning position with opener Prithvi Shaw on 99 looking for the century. Shaw played a rash shot to get out and then a sequence of batsmen followed suit. Against Kings XI Punjab, in the following match, Delhi decided to one-up itself with this disaster.
Start watching that video at 3:59. Pay attention to the score, the equation to win and the shots Delhi's batsmen play. It's pretty self-explanatory. Against Sunrisers, Delhi didn't bat sensibly on a tough wicket at the Kotla. The players kept going for big shots instead of taking easy 1s and 2s. Axar Patel carried the Capitals to a competitive 129, but Delhi should've been able to hit 140 if it played with a cool head. Speaking of Sunrisers, that takes us to the third observation.
3. David Warner and Jonny Bairstow are unstoppable
Bairstow was one of the reasons Hyderabad beat Delhi. He was dropped early in the innings, but went on to make 48 from 28 on a wicket everyone else had trouble with. If Bairstow doesn't fire, Sunrisers probably lose the game.
In the matchup with RCB, both players shined. Warner scored 100 not out from 55 balls while Bairstow put up 114 from 56 deliveries. Enjoy the highlights from this one.
The duo has created a problem for the opposition. You can't target either batsman specifically because the other can also do serious damage. The left-right combination is another wrinkle helping Warner and Bairstow attack the field. Here's how the pair is performing so far this year.
Warner - 264 runs, 88.00 average, 161.96 S/R, 1 100, 2 50
Bairstow - 246 runs, 61.50 average, 167.34, 1 100, 0 50
4. Hardik Pandya should be elevated in Mumbai's batting lineup
Pandya has been on a tear at the end of innings for Mumbai, but he needs to be moved up a few spots. His most recent game against Chennai showed his impact on both sides of the ball.
Pandya's batting heroics will get most of the attention, but his bowling was key. Normally, Pandya tends to be a little loose and reckless with his bowling. That gives the opposition the ability to play out Mumbai's other bowlers because they can get runs from Pandya's overs. That wasn't the case against Chennai.
Pandya bowled brilliantly, forcing the Super Kings to take risks against better bowlers. He also made adjustments of his own to create the wickets of MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja. Mumbai has some roster decisions to make (sit Kieron Pollard and Yuvraj Singh for Ben Cutting and Ishan Kishan). Pandya being elevated up the order is a no-brainer.
5. Andre Russell is the best finisher in the IPL
On the IPL preview podcast, Aashay said Russell was the best player in the tournament. He's not (that's a discussion for another time), but there is something Russell can claim the top spot in: finishing games.
In four matches, Russell has 49 not out, 48, 62 and 48 not out. He's done all that at a ridiculous strike rate of 268.83. That's easily the best mark of his IPL career and likely the highest mark in IPL history should it continue. Regression will occur, but it might not matter. Russell's antics usually push KKR to competitive scores or seal thrilling chases. No total looks out of reach when Russell is connecting.
Russell's bowling ability always puts him in the conversation for Most Valuable Player of the tournament, but his batting performance is situational. He can't do this if he opens the batting and sometimes, his all-out aggression backfires in critical moments. He tried to attack Rabada's yorker in the super over and paid the price instead of defending the ball. Bowlers will eventually adjust to Russell's hitting prowess, but so far it hasn't mattered. He's not the best player in the IPL except in certain situations.