Best bowling strategy: Start the innings from 2nd over

By Balakumar K Published on Apr 19, 2018 02:22 PM IST

* Emerging trends in IPL 2018: Pak sneaks in one of its players

Chennai, Apr 19: Even with just 10 days into the IPL 2018, we have already seen plenty of excitement, especially over the drama surrounding Chennai Super Kings with its home matches now being shifted to Pune, which probably made Harbhajan Singh to wonder whether he had to now start tweeting in Marathi.

Interestingly, early this year, the popular Chennai Open tennis tournament was moved to Pune. And now CSK will be based out of that city. If cities were fielders, Pune would do well in the slips. It quickly picks up what others drop.

But enough of off-field dramas. There were a lot of thrilling action on-field too. None more compelling than in the match between Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore when Pakistan managed to sneak in one of its players into the field.

When RCB was batting, the RR wicket-keeper was having a shocker. He dropped a catch, missed a stumping, fluffed a runout chance. At the end of it all, when he removed his helmet, and the camera panned to his face — whoa! — it was indeed Kamran Akmal. Kamran Akmal trying his best to look like Joss Buttler, to be precise. “Should have guessed at first itself when he kept on shouting ‘well bowled, Lala’ to my bowling,” Jaydev Unadkat, the RR fast bowler, was quoted as saying later.

The incident was, of course, hushed up lest it might snowball into an international crisis involving two nuclear weapons-possessing neighbours.

Anyway, what are the real emerging trends in this edition of the IPL? Here we take a quick look:

Boss The Toss: At the moment of writing, a total of 14 matches have been played, and 10 of them have been won by the team batting second. In the four matches that the teams batting second could not win, one was touch and go, and in two others the team batting second had a genuine excuse of being Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The story of the IPL has so far been: Win the toss, whistle, and bowl first. In case of RCB, win the toss, and pray.

In the event, IPL franchises will do well to invest in — knowing the IPL teams, they might already have — a toss coach, who will, armed with sheets on high-end probability theorems, train the captain on what to call at the toss. (“This is the 5th match at the Eden Gardens this season, all four captains before had called tails and won. Eden traditionally favours visiting captains calling tails. But Gambhir, you better call this heads because I just managed to remember some chapters from Bayesian statistics.”)

Move First Over (No, not to Pune): Gone are the days when teams would begin with circumspection and hit the top gear later or, in the case of Kochi Tuskers Kerala, after the match. Today’s teams, however, go for the jugular at the dugout itself. The first over in this IPL is the most expensive ever. Till the 13th match, the first over was going at over 8 runs. Captains are now looking at an effective strategy to counter this, like if there is a possibility by which they can bowl the first over at around 7th over, which has proved to be the least expensive in this IPL so far.

“If full tosses, which you wouldn’t want to bowl to tail-enders in 5th division league, can become big wicket-taking balls now, surely there must be a way to bowl the first over much later in the innings,” logically said Paddy Upton, who started his career as a fielding coach for South Africa, then became a mental conditioning coach for Indian team, and he is now the head coach of RR (and several other T20 franchises across the globe), with the only thing left in his resume to achieve being the post of ICC chief.

If teams should try and push the first over to the middle of the innings, Mumbai Indians may be wondering whether it can bowl the last over right at the start. This season, it lost its first three matches in the last over. Clearly, the last over is the chink in the armour of the defending champions which Virat Kohli was obviously trying to exploit when he seemed to bat quietly in the middle overs when his team was chasing over 200 against MI on Tuesday night. “Even in a situation when we had to get over 40 in the last over we backed ourselves to get it. One, we have big hitters in the line-up. Two, this was a last over from Mumbai Indians. Even teams not playing would fancy its chances,” Kohli said later. But while he may have remembered that the opponent was Mumbai Indians, he probably forgot to realise that his team was RCB.