By: Chinmay Vaidya
Week 3 is in the books and we are officially halfway through the IPL 2019 season. Chennai Super Kings have the top spot, Royal Challengers Bangalore are sitting at the bottom and five teams are separated by just two points. It's about to be a killer second half. But first, here's 5 observations from the third week.
1. Mumbai's West Indies players are shining
On Saturday, Kieron Pollard propelled Mumbai to 136 after scoring 46 runs off 26 balls. That was likely not going to be enough against Sunrisers Hyderabad and their deadly openers, but then debutant Alzarri Joseph got the ball.
Joseph not only took six wickets and saved the match for Mumbai, but became the bowler with the best figures in IPL history in the process. The Indians suddenly have a ridiculous stable of pace bowling options and have to believe they'll be fine in light of World Cup selections making the move up. The fun didn't stop there for Mumbai
Pollard, who was drawing criticism from me after his run of poor games to open the season, absolutely demolished Kings XI Punjab. Words can't really put his knock into proper context so you might as well watch the highlights.
Joseph and Pollard helped Mumbai steal two games against teams in the middle of the IPL table. The Indians got some necessary breathing room in the process.
2. Should RCB shut down Virat Kohli?
Bangalore realistically needs to go 7-1 the rest of the way to have a chance to make the postseason. That's not impossible, but it's extremely unlikely given the team's 0-6 state. RCB can't bowl well when its players bat well and can't bat well when its players bowl well. Basically, Bangalore hasn't put together a complete game in the tournament so far.
This leaves BCCI in a lurch. Does the board send a message through backchannels telling RCB to sit Kohli, the most marketable player in the league and world? Does it opt to do nothing and risk the superstar wearing himself out in a campaign unlikely to end with RCB playing meaningful games? The board should have a discussion, if they haven't already. Kohli wants to play. But the trophy is June is more important than the one in May.
3. Will someone account for Sunil Narine?
Narine has been opening the batting for two years now and has become quite devastating. What initially started as a gimmicky tactic to ink free runs out of a guy not normally going to trouble scorers, Narine has suddenly been an important part of KKR's lineup. Here are his numbers from the last two seasons:
2017: 224 runs, 17.23 average, 172.3 S/R
2018: 357 runs, 22.31 average, 189.89 S/R
He's no longer a gimmick opener; he's a legitimate batsman. Narine is simply looking to do damage from Ball 1. If he gets out, it's no problem since KKR has plenty of depth. If he clicks, it's the game.
The Royals pretty much gave Narine whatever he wanted, bowling legside and in the slot regularly. The result was an easy win for the Knight Riders and a reminder of how devastating the West Indies all-rounder can be with the bat.
4. How does CSK have so much karma on its side?
The Super Kings are a dynasty. They've been the most successful IPL side in league history. They've been suspended and accussed of being involved in match fixing. They've basically been able to get the best players by hook or by crook. There is no reason CSK should have this much karma.
Let's start with Ravindra Jadeja's ridiculous 6. Are you kidding me? That's not supposed to happen. Ben Stokes bowling the last over of an important match, which this absolutely was for Rajasthan, is usually not a good recipe for success (see 2016 T20 WC Final). However, CSK got some crazy luck to win this thing.
5. Shikhar Dhawan gets Delhi on track
The Capitals botched two chases last week, but this time their veteran opener stepped up to the plate. Dhawan scored an unbeaten 97 to give Delhi an easy win over KKR and put the team squarely in the playoff mix with the second half left.
Dhawan was aggressive from the start, but he controlled his shots brilliantly. He didn't take too many risks and was able to score easily while playing each ball to its merit. This is the Dhawan IPL fans recognize from his days in Hyderabad. Delhi will be happy to see him emerge now with the second half starting. Hopefully, this win will calm some nerves and help the other batsmen play level-headed, sensible cricket when needed.