Midway through the second week of its sixth installment, the IPL has re-established the abiding fundamental of the format — the peril of patterning it and the attendant risk of gauging trends. Whatever trends have shaped through these nine days, they have been vaguely contoured and could consume time before they assume a decisive shape. And then have, inadvertently, popped up the counter-trends.
The impulse was to deem it a bowlers’ tournament. For until April 9, 11 bowlers had taken three or more wickets whereas only eight batsman had registered 50-plus scores in the first eleven matches. 26 bowlers managed to keep their economy-rate below seven while only 12 batsmen had strike-rates of 150 or more. Five out of the eight matches, teams defended their totals. Of these five, only twice had teams posted totals beyond 150.
But just when it seemed that bowlers have cracked the T20 success-code, dictating games on their own, came Virat Kohli, scything through the enemy like a hot sword through a fresh brie. The same day, against Delhi, Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma engineered Mumbai to the first 200-plus tally.
Next day, Mike Hussey and Murali Vijay combined CSK to a 10-wicket win against the inspiration-less Kings XI Punjab. Thereafter, in just three days, seven batsman recorded half-centuries while only two bowlers snared more than three wickets. Batsmen’s monopoly was gradually reinstated.
It has been a even battle between the wood and the leather, so as to say, but trends in IPL are intrinsically fickle by nature. Or to put it simply, there is no template for success. Flexibility is the name of the game. For instance, spin was deemed king in IPL, but spinners this year haven’t had much of an upper-hand except for Sunil Narine and Amit Mishra. It took Rajasthan Royals just two matches to field an all-pace attack while it wasn’t until the 10th over that M S Dhoni brought in a spinner in CSK’s match against Mumbai at Chepauk, a strip that has generously aided the home spinners in the past. Only twice this season has a spinner shared the new ball.
Matches have largely been one-sided (six out of the eleven wins were comprehensive), clearly reflecting the disparity between the sides. The dynamics have remained the same, with the usual title suspects creating a great divide between them and the also-rans. While Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore could remain the front-runners, Hyderabad and Rajasthan the challengers, the jelly is on the wall for Pune, Punjab and Delhi.
If any, the start has been rather subdued and unspectacular and largely controversy free — the embers of the anti-Sri Lankan wave has died down. But the overriding trend of this year has been that there is no noticeable trend.