Five coin tosses, five losses after bowling first – the first week of IPL 2020 seems to be following a pattern that belies conventional logic. Will teams be forced to reassess the idea of bowling first in Dubai and Abu Dhabi?
When MS Dhoni, with his familiar, dry smile, opted to bowl first in the first toss of IPL 2020, it felt that it would become a template that would be followed throughout the tournament. Get the coin flip right, bowl first in a T20, put the batting team under pressure and chase it down.
And, while Faf du Plessis and Ambati Rayudu, despite their obvious rustiness, ticked past the target on the opening night, the next five games – all won by the side that batted first – have shown that teams might have to rethink their strategy, at least in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Open Account Offer – Up to ₹4000 in Bet Credits for new customers at bet365. Min deposit ₹400. Bet Credits available for use upon settlement of bets to value of 12 times qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply. The bonus code WISDEN can be used during registration, but does not change the offer amount in any way.
When IPL squads were picked in December, no one could have predicted that the tournament would be held in the UAE, where different conditions force a rethink, not just at the outset, but by also actively reading and learning surfaces through the season.
IPL 2020: Bigger grounds, bigger ask
It’s becoming obvious that it’s not an easy task chasing in the two venues of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, who not only have bigger dimensions than Sharjah, but are comparatively larger than the usual grounds in India. Barring the likes of Chennai’s Chepauk and Jaipur’s Sawai Mansingh, most grounds in India, where IPL teams are based, have much shorter boundary dimensions.
In the UAE, chases involve a lot of running between the wickets, especially tricky with the high temperatures at play – often around 35 degrees at night time. For the sort of players who carry the reputation of walking in and instantly bringing the run-rate down, pulling off improbable chases at the back end of the innings, on starkly different ground measurements, has become a lot more difficult.
“Yes, you can talk about MS Dhoni’s last over, but it was of no use to be honest. It was just all personal runs.” 👀
What is your take on this?https://t.co/WHcWBCebgk
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) September 23, 2020
Against Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders found it challenging, despite the array of stroke-players in their ranks – four of their top seven batsmen recorded sub-100 strike-rates in a chase of 196. Mayank Agarwal, the hero in Punjab’s heartbreaking super over loss to Delhi Capitals, ended with a 56-ball 80, but admitted that it was very difficult to play cross-batted strokes, and it took time to get used to the pitch before going all out. Also, considering that the square boundaries are longer, hitting across the line against the shorter ball is all the more tricky.
Dew – advantage or disadvantage?
While the dew factor has traditionally been an obvious disadvantage to the bowlers, who have trouble gripping onto a slippery seam, moisture under lights has so far looked helpful for seamers. Watching Trent Boult against KKR on Wednesday night, and Mohammed Shami on Thursday, it became clear that in the second innings, with the dew in play, the chasing team and its openers have had to deal with considerable lateral movement, more so with the tinge of grass on the pitches.
"Sometimes I feel as cricketers, we easily criticise a lot of stuff …"
Class from MS Dhoni 👌
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) September 20, 2020
The dew also plays its part in making the ball softer, which has seemingly made it even more difficult to clear boundaries on the sluggish pitches, more so with the longer boundaries on either side of the square.
Having seen Hyderabad lose 32 runs for eight wickets and Kolkata Knight Riders’ middle-order fall like ninepins in their attempt to break free, teams in IPL 2020 might think twice before opting to bowl first after winning the toss.