Updated: Mar 29

The IPL group stage finally ended on Tuesday, the 3rd of November, with this season having the tightest qualification race ever. The top four teams weren’t decided till after the last match of the group stage, which further illustrates how equally matched all teams were. However, the preliminary round is finally over and four teams now have their focus firmly on reaching the IPL final. For the bottom four teams, though, the journey is over and they will look to fix their issues before the next season. Here, we look at how each of the bottom four teams went in the tournament, what went wrong for them, and what went right.

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)

Standings Position: 5

Result: Won 7, Lost 7

Team Rating: 5.5/10

The Kolkata Knight Riders had a very see-saw kind of season, as they missed out on qualification due to a poor net run rate. There were no big winning or losing streaks, as they struggled to find rhythm throughout the tournament. Losses at regular intervals pegged them back in the qualification race. A last-ball loss to CSK in their penultimate game thanks to a Ravindra Jadeja masterclass made qualification difficult for them, and SRH’s win against MI ensured KKR did not qualify.

What went wrong: Their batting woes played a big part in some of their losses. Releasing Robin Uthappa did not work out great since he would have provided solidarity to their middle order, which they dearly missed this season. The Sunil Narine experiment largely failed as they used him as a floater, initially as an opener and then at No.4. Narine could not contribute a lot except when he scored a swashbuckling 64 against DC.

Dinesh Karthik’s woeful batting form further compounded their problems. Karthik failed to find a good position to bat in. He tried various positions like No.3, 4, 5 and 7, but could not find form. He gave up captaincy halfway through the season to focus on his batting, but still failed to contribute substantially to the total.

KKR were also troubled by Andre Russell’s injury, which made him miss four matches. Russell’s batting form was also worrisome for the Knight Riders. Their designated hitter failed to work his magic as opponents realized that bouncers and bowling wide to him was key to getting him out early. Jasprit Bumrah, in particular, figured out how to get Russell’s wicket, and succeeded two out of two times.

What went right: Shubman Gill’s sublime opening form was a good sign for KKR. He scored 440 runs at an average of 33.84 which is a good contribution, considering how the other opener’s spot wasn’t fixed throughout the tournament. He scored at a decent pace and kept the scoreboard ticking, though he wasn’t able to convert starts into big innings quite a few times.

The only bright spot for KKR as far as their middle order batting is concerned, was Eoin Morgan. His sublime batting form saved KKR on numerous occasions, when their top order had collapsed. He scored 418 runs at a strike rate of 138, which is excellent considering he had to hold the batting together as well. He captained KKR in the second half as well, but could not inspire a winning streak which would have ensured qualification.

The performance of the bowling unit gives the KKR camp a lot to look forward to in the next season. The two young pacers, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi, impressed with 13 wickets between them. The KKR spin department also did their job by containing runs in the middle overs, and also chipping in with important wickets at regular intervals. Varun Chakravarthy in particular impressed as he took 17 wickets.

Find of the Season: Varun Chakravarthy. Though this is a debatable choice, with youngsters like Mavi and Nagarkoti also making an impression this year; Chakravarthy’s efforts in every game ensured KKR was in the game on several occasions. He finished the tournament with an economy of 6.84, outstanding for any spinner. However, he did not only contain runs, but was also used as a strike bowler and took 17 wickets. His outstanding contribution earned him his first ever India call up.

2020: Chakravarthy's breakout season

Kings XI Punjab (KXIP)

Standings Position: 6

Result: Won 6, Lost 8

Team Rating: 4/10

The Kings XI Punjab started their campaign with the most controversial match of IPL 2020: losing a Super Over due to a wrong short run call against them. This came back to haunt them as they missed out on qualification by 2 points. Their season included a losing streak of five matches, followed by a winning streak of the same duration which brought them back on track.. However, losing their last two matches meant it was another season of disappointment for KXIP.

What went wrong: First and foremost, Kings XI had a torrid run bowling at the death. This became so prominent that teams actually began targeting the death overs in their batting innings against them. KXIP did not play Chris Jordan as frequently as they could have, and when they did, he failed to impress. Their attack lacked a talismanic leader like Jofra Archer for RR, or Pat Cummins for KKR. The Kings bowling leaked too many runs, and put pressure on their batsmen.

The torrid form of Glenn Maxwell was also worrisome. Maxwell has failed to fire in the IPL for multiple seasons now, and they eventually dropped him in their last match against CSK. Maxwell’s new batting stance, which is probably to give him more access to the leg side, failed to inspire a return to form. His stance also gave him less control over off-side shots, and he wasn’t able to time the ball as well.

Another thing that could have gone better is KL Rahul’s attacking play. He almost always preferred to play the anchor, and it arguably cost them a couple of close games. It wasn’t Rahul’s fault alone, since KXIP lacked a middle order batsman who could guide the innings, like Eoin Morgan for KKR, or Shreyas Iyer for DC.

What went right: KL Rahul’s incredible consistency is something to smile about from the KXIP camp’s point of view. This was his best batting season ever, as he scored an unbeaten 132 leading KXIP to a 97 run win against RCB. He averaged over 55, and was a pillar of stability in the unstable KXIP batting order.

Leading from the front: Rahul's incredible consistency

Chris Gayle returned to the IPL as he left it: smashing anything and everything out of the ground. The self-proclaimed Universe Boss, who is 41 now, helped Kings XI get their campaign back on track with two fifties and a knock of 99, which was in a losing clause. He seemed to be fitter and often took quick singles, not something which he is known for. Mohammed Shami’s white ball evolution to turn into a fearsome strike bowler for the Kings XI is also a big positive for the team.

Find of the Season: Ravi Bishnoi. The KXIP picked him up for 2 crores at the auction, and the Under 19 World Cup star did not fail to impress. He picked up 12 wickets at an economy rate of 7.37 which is hugely impressive for an IPL debutant. He did not get intimidated by big name opponents and often provided crucial breakthroughs. The Kings XI head coach, Anil Kumble, will be encouraged by the skills and temperament Bishnoi showed this season.

Chennai Super Kings (CSK)

Standings Position: 7

Result: Won 6, Lost 8

Team Rating: 3.5/10

Nothing about this season seemed to go right for the Super Kings. They started with a win over their bitter rivals and the defending champions, the Mumbai Indians. The win marked the end of a 5 match losing streak for CSK against MI. However, their season went firmly downhill from there. They managed to win only two of their next ten matches, and were knocked out for the first time in IPL history. The story of their season seemed to be that of an ageing side struggling to live up to their legacy; and of a team unable to cope with different conditions, their slowness in the field and a lack of intent.

What went wrong: The Super Kings seemed to be desperately missing the Chepauk pitch which has been a big factor in their success over the years. They seemed to struggle on the UAE pitches which hardly offered any turn, and in the first few matches, they didn’t know where to look when their spinners were hammered.

CSK’s volatile opening partnership did a lot of harm. The Murali Vijay experiment clearly failed, and the hole left by the absence of Suresh Raina also seemed to be too big to fill. Though the Super Kings had Ruturaj Gaikwad in their squad, he got few opportunities until the Super Kings were practically knocked out. MS Dhoni’s poor run of form and Kedar Jadhav’s lack of intent made things worse for them.

The CSK spinners also seemed to be struggling throughout the tournament. Barring Karn Sharma, and Ravindra Jadeja in the later stages, no spinner could get into his rhythm as they were punished match after match. Imran Tahir finally got an opportunity in the second league match against the Royals, but by then it was too little, too late.

What went right: The rise of Sam Curran as a trustworthy foreign allrounder will surely encourage the CSK camp. Curran rescued the Super Kings in countless situations with both bat, ball and in the field. He helped finish the innings on a high with breezy cameos. He took 13 wickets, and made a real impact. He also helped the Super Kings avoid embarrassment against the Mumbai Indians when he rescued their faltering innings with a maiden half-century for CSK.

Though Jadeja couldn’t make as much of an impact with the ball, his batting form restores confidence in CSK’s batting depth. He finished the batting innings with big hits multiple times. Additionally, Ruturaj Gaikwad seems to be settled at the top now, ending the season with three consecutive fifties. That's one less problem for the team management to worry about ahead of the 2021 season.

Find of the Season: Sam Curran, without a doubt. His batting adaptability allowed CSK to use him as a floater, and he remained consistent with the ball throughout. He has proved himself invaluable for this CSK team, and it seems only obvious that he will be one of the players that CSK retain in the now-postponed Mega Auction.

Sam Curran: Bravo's long term replacement?

Rajasthan Royals

Standings Position: 8

Result: Won 6, Lost 8

Team Rating: 4/10

The Rajasthan Royals started their season well with two wins in their first two matches, but went on a downward curve after that, winning only one out of their next seven fixtures. This derailed their campaign and 3 wins in their last 5 matches proved to be inadequate to qualify for the playoffs.

What went wrong: They couldn’t find a stable batting combination, especially at the top as they opened initially with Yashasvi Jaiswal and Steve Smith, and tried several unsuccessful combinations with Ben Stokes, Smith, Robin Uthappa and Jaiswal, before settling on Uthappa and Stokes. This led to the Royals having one of the most vulnerable opening partnerships among all the eight teams. Stokes finally fired with a blockbuster 107 not out off 60 balls as RR demolished a strong MI side, but they had already lost several matches by then, partly because of their fragile top order. Part of the problem seemed to stem from the fact that Smith appeared to be equally good at both opening and batting at No. 3.

Barring the invaluable Jofra Archer, and Kartik Tyagi to some extent, their pacers failed to impress. Specifically, Jaydev Unadkat seemed to be off-colour throughout, and he gave away 25 in a crucial 19th over in a tight RCB chase, and an AB de Villiers masterclass took his team home. Unadkat was subsequently replaced by Ankit Rajpoot, who was used only scarcely, but he definitely did a better job at containing runs than Unadkat.

What went right: The RR spinners kept the opposition tied up match after match, and batsmen were largely unable to counter their offense. Shreyas Gopal and Rahul Tewatia kept chipping away at batting orders, picking up wickets at crucial moments, and if they failed to provide a breakthrough, they would keep up the pressure by being economical. Jofra Archer welcomed the responsibility of being the lead pacer, and took 20 crucial wickets. He could always be counted on to provide the breakthrough with his fearsome pace while his economy of 6.55 speaks volumes about his ability to keep batsmen quiet.

Jofra Archer's brilliant tournament with the ball wasn't enough to avoid finishing last on the table

The Royals also enjoyed the batting power provided by Buttler, Parag and Tewatia in the middle order. In particular, Tewatia caught everybody’s eye with a couple of match-rescuing knocks when the odds were stacked up against the Royals. He and Riyan Parag snatched a win against SRH with some spectacular death-overs hitting.

Sanju Samson also rediscovered form after a little bit of a lean patch. He started with a blistering 74 off 32 which blew away CSK, but then failed to convert starts in subsequent matches. He then hit form against MI when he helped centurion Ben Stokes chase a target of 196 with a half-century.

Find of the Season: Rahul Tewatia. He took 10 wickets in all, and made an impact with the ball in every game. His heroics with the bat helped Rajasthan pull off a couple of escape acts to secure crucial points amid a faltering campaign.

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