IPL Top 4 Season Review

Updated: Mar 29

The 2020 edition of the IPL ended on the 10th of November, with Mumbai Indians comfortably winning their fifth title and continuing their recent dominance in the tournament. Here, we look at how each of the top four qualifying teams went in the tournament, what went wrong for them, and what went right. For the season review of the bottom four teams, click here.

Mumbai Indians (MI)

Standings Position: 1

Result: Won 9, Lost 5 (Champions)

Team Rating: 9.5/10

Mumbai Indians were, without a shade of doubt, the strongest team throughout the tournament. They started the season with a loss against their arch-rivals CSK but did everything right from there. They won nine of their league matches and comfortably finished on top of the table. They kept the tempo going with an emphatic win against DC in Qualifier 1 and beat them again in the Final to win their fifth title, and second in a row.

What went wrong: Very little. I had to rack my brains for more than an hour trying to think of things that went wrong for MI this season, which is a testament to how well they played. However, no team is perfect, and MI did have their faults even if they were of very small magnitude.

One problem that slightly stood out was how MI lacked a consistent domestic batsman as a reserve. When Rohit Sharma missed a couple of games due to injury, they played Saurabh Tiwary. While Tiwary did score 103 runs in 7 matches, he couldn’t bring the same level of aggressive batting as Ishan Kishan, de Kock or Suryakumar Yadav.

Nathan Coulter-Nile’s form was also a little worrisome. He didn’t really prove to be a good backup overseas pacer, and when he replaced James Pattinson, he failed to grab his chances. He took only 5 wickets in 7 matches and had an economy of 7.92. He often leaked runs when MI was looking to build pressure on the batsmen and was unimpressive overall.

What went right: Quite simply, everything. Mumbai Indians were the first team to find their best XI, and they largely stuck with that combination throughout the tournament, using only 15 players overall.

Their domestic batsmen, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav, were consistently scoring runs. Together, they scored 996 runs at a strike rate of more than 145. Their contributions helped MI chase down as well as set difficult targets.

MI’s lower middle order, comprising of the Pandya brothers and Kieron Pollard, performed whenever they were required to do so. These three players helped MI reach competitive totals by being incredibly destructive at the death. Krunal Pandya’s bowling also came in handy as he took 6 wickets with an economy of 7.5.

Lastly, Trent Boult almost always contributed with wickets in the first six overs, so much so that he became to be known as the Powerplay specialist. His lethal combination with Bumrah could control run rates and provide breakthroughs at the same time. Between them, they took an astounding 52 wickets in the tournament and played a big part in MI’s successful title defence.

Find of the Season: Ishan Kishan. The uncapped Indian batsman is just 22 but has already destroyed experienced bowling units multiple times this season. He scored 516 runs in 14 matches at a destructive strike rate of 145.76. While he initially played at No. 4, he started to open the batting when Rohit was injured and looked even better there. His adaptability thus helped MI cope with their captain’s injury as well.

Ishan Kishan was incredibly consistent and destructive in 2020

Delhi Capitals (DC)

Standings Position: 2

Result: Won 8, Lost 6 (Runners-up)

Team Rating: 7.5/10

The Delhi Capitals went from looking like one of the strongest franchises in the tournament to a team which looked a shadow of its early-season self. Make no mistake, they were still a strong side, but small things led to them losing their way a little. They won 7 of their first 9 matches. After that, however, they lost 6 of their next 8 matches, including the Final, ending the season in a somewhat disappointing manner.

What went wrong: Prithvi Shaw’s form in the later stages of the tournament was a real cause for worry. He had a top score of 10 in his last seven innings, and due to this, DC’s No. 3 was almost always at the crease within the Powerplay. While he started the season well enough, including 2 fifties, his decline in form contributed to DC’s batting woes when Shikhar Dhawan failed to fire.

Rishabh Pant’s form also hurt Capitals greatly. They relied on Pant and Hetmyer’s hitting to get them through the slog overs, but Pant was a shadow of his former self. Case in point: his strike rate in 2019 was over 162, while in 2020, it was below 114. He seemed to struggle to find his groove, and when he finally did with a crucial fifty in the Final, he got out at just the wrong time. His injury led to Hetmyer also being excluded from the team since Alex Carey was the only other keeper in the squad.

What went right: While they fell short in the Final, a lot of things went right for the Capitals. They remained one of the best bowling units in the tournament. Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje were among the top wicket-takers. The former even got the Purple Cap for the most wickets. Both of them used their extra pace to keep batsmen on edge and often proved useful at the death.

Shikhar Dhawan had a blockbuster 2020 season, making 618 runs in 17 matches, including two centuries. DC began to rely on his big contributions to the extent that when he had a lean run, DC failed to cope and couldn't post big scores.

Marcus Stoinis showed his worth in all three departments this season. He made 352 runs in 17 matches and was so good with the bat that he was even promoted to open in the Playoffs, although this move didn’t pay off in the Final. He also provided DC with a sixth bowling option and took 13 wickets. He often provided the crucial breakthrough and could be trusted to bowl at the death.

Find of the Season: Anrich Nortje. The South African pacer rocked the speed guns in his debut IPL season. He took 22 wickets in all, at an economy of 8.39. His extra pace allowed him to generate extra bounce and the excellent UAE wickets helped him to hurry the batsmen into false shots. He even broke the record for the fastest IPL ball, clocking 156.22, a ball which Jos Buttler outrageously scooped for four.

Nortje impressed in his debut IPL season

Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH)

Standings Position: 3

Result: Won 7, Lost 7(Qualified, knocked out in Qualifier 2)

Team Rating: 7/10

Sunrisers Hyderabad didn’t really come into their stride until the later stages in the tournament. They won four of their first nine matches and weren’t in the best of positions to qualify for the Playoffs. Multiple injuries seemed to threaten their chances for a top 4 finish, but a four-match winning streak, including three wins against the top three sides, catapulted them to 3rd position. They won the Eliminator against RCB but then lost to a strong DC side in Qualifier 2.

What went wrong: SRH was plagued by multiple injuries throughout their campaign. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was ruled out after four games due to a thigh injury. W. Saha sustained a hamstring tear due to which SRH had to play Shreevats Goswami in the must-win playoffs. Vijay Shankar also played only seven matches due to multiple niggles.

Another problem that the SRH camp might worry about a little was Priyam Garg’s form in his debut season. He managed only 133 runs in 14 matches, and apart from a 51* off 26 balls against CSK, the under-19 captain largely failed to impress. Given that SRH’s lower middle order isn’t the best even with Jason Holder, they might look to fix this in the next auction.

What went right: A lot of things went right for SRH, who rightly deserved their 3rd place finish in this highly competitive IPL. While individual brilliance won them some matches, most of the other wins came due to teamwork between these players. Wriddhiman Saha proved to be a brilliant partner for David Warner, and he amassed 214 runs in just 4 matches before a hamstring tear prevented him from participating in the Playoffs. David Warner was no less destructive, as he made 548 runs in 16 matches at a healthy strike rate of 134. He once again proved to be invaluable to the SRH batting order.

Rashid Khan was once again among the wickets, as he took 20 wickets along with an astounding economy of 5.37, his best ever. He managed to keep a check on the run rate while taking wickets.

Sandeep Sharma added variety to the pace attack, providing the less pace option when pitches were two-paced. He took 14 wickets in 13 matches and was consistent. T.Natarajan was also brilliant in his first complete season, taking 16 wickets in 16 matches.

Find of the Season: T. Natarajan. He bowled brilliantly in his first full IPL season. He took 16 wickets in 16 matches, at a decent economy of 8. He began to be known as the yorker specialist of the IPL, bowling as many as he could in every death over he was given. He has the potential to become a death overs specialist and will be an exciting talent to watch in the future.

T. Natarajan: the Yorker Specialist

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)

Standings Position: 4

Result: Won 7, Lost 7 (Qualified, knocked out in Eliminator)

Team Rating: 5.5/10

Royal Challengers Bangalore started their season with 5 wins in 7 matches and were in an excellent position for a Top Two finish. However, they ended the group stage with a five-match losing streak which saw them qualify in 4th position, ahead of KKR only on net run rate. RCB failed to cash in on this luck and were knocked out in the Eliminator by a strong, in-form SRH side.

What went wrong: RCB faced problems which they have faced for several seasons now: depending too much on AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli. This season, Virat Kohli blew hot and cold throughout the season, and due to this, RCB’s batting problems were amplified. The cracks in their batting existed from the beginning but were initially papered over by the genius of AB de Villiers. However, even ABD couldn’t manage the batting of an entire team by himself, and the problems surfaced eventually. While Devdutt Paddikal had a good debut season, the other opening spot couldn’t contribute a lot, whether it was Aaron Finch or Josh Philippe. Both of them failed to impress, and the incoming ball particularly troubled Finch a lot. This led to Kohli opening in the Eliminator, but to no avail.

RCB also had one of the least defined lower-middle orders. Washington Sundar, Shivam Dube and Gurkeerat Singh kept shuffling around, and neither of them could make as much of an impact as RCB would have liked. This led to even more pressure on the top order. They couldn’t attack freely because the lower order didn’t provide a lot of cushion if the top order collapsed.

What went right: The 2020 edition of the IPL saw the emergence of Washington Sundar as a Powerplay specialist. In 15 matches, he had an amazing economy rate of just 5.96. That’s impressive enough, but he also bowled most of his overs with the fielding restrictions. He also took 8 wickets, which shows he was potent enough to provide breakthroughs as well.

Though Mohammed Siraj was fairly expensive with an economy of over 8, he impressed whenever he got swing. He tore apart KKR’s top order with a searing spell of 3/8 and took 11 wickets in all. He showed his value as a strike bowler who could provide breakthroughs in helpful conditions. Navdeep Saini also continued to impress with his pace, taking 6 wickets in all.

Find of the season: Devdutt Padikkal had a brilliant debut season, as he scored a total of 473 runs at a strike rate of nearly 125. As the other opener struggled, he was a symbol of consistency at the top and will surely be a target for many franchises in the next auction.

Devdutt Padikkal: an Indian legend in the making?

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