Restricted to just 4 venues due to Covid, the groundsmen at the Wankhede Stadium, Brabourne Stadium, DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai and Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune did a fantastic job to ensure that the pitches, which had to be reused, did not bring down the quality of cricket.
Balls disappearing into the stands, stumps cartwheeling and fielders defying gravity, taking supernatural catches — almost every match in the league phase was a blockbuster movie in itself, giving goosebumps and bringing out a wide range of emotions from the fans.
And now with the league phase of the 15th edition done and dusted, we have the last four teams standing — Gujarat Titans, Rajasthan Royals, Lucknow Super Giants and Royal Challengers Bangalore, who will lock horns in the playoffs, starting May 24, in an attempt to lay their hands on the coveted trophy.
With the matches of the league phase restricted to just 4 stadiums in Maharashtra, there were initial concerns that the pitches being used multiple times and the dew factor might play a huge role in the results of the contests.
And during the initial phase it was pretty clear that the captains were indeed exploiting the toss results, opting to bowl first every single time so that the dew might trouble the opposition bowlers while they were chasing.
At first, it was a given that the captain who would win the toss would bowl first, but over time the mentality and the strategy of the teams changed as they realised that it was not the sure shot way to victory. Also the dew factor abated quite a bit.
The question here is, was opting to bowl after winning the toss really worth it?
How crucial was the toss throughout the league stage of the tournament? Did it really help teams while chasing? Or was it just a myth that was eventually busted?
How did the bowlers overcome the hurdle of dew and successfully defended totals?
TimesofIndia.com here provides you with all the answers. Data compiled over 70 matches will help give you a fair idea of how the tournament progressed and what possibly lies ahead during the playoffs.
To begin with, here’s a look at some interesting numbers (from the completed league stage):
* Number of matches where the teams who won the toss, chose to bowl and won – 27
* Number of matches where the teams who won the toss, chose to bowl and lost – 29
* Number of matches where the teams who won the toss, chose to bat and won – 7
* Number of matches where the teams who won the toss, chose to bat and lost – 7
* Number of times when captains won the toss and opted to bowl in the league stage – 56
* Number of times when captains won the toss and opted to bat in the league stage – 14
So, keeping these numbers in mind, winning the toss and opting to bowl was the preferred choice initially for all skippers, but that trend clearly changed over the course of the tournament.
Yes, the first four straight games were won by teams chasing, but it was Match 5 between Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad when the former won the first match of the season, defending a target.
All the hue and cry about the dew was mostly during the first half of the tournament. And as the matches went on, the groundsmen ensured that the dew factor was taken care of as they spread chemicals and took other measures to curtail dew during the night.
Out of the 35 matches in the first half of the tournament, only 15 were won by the teams chasing which is less than 43 percent of the matches.
Taking the wickets having fallen into consideration, 214 wickets fell in the first innings while 220 wickets fell in the second innings overall in the first 35 games of the league stage.
In the next 35 games, teams won only 14 out of the 35 matches batting second, which was one less than the first half. And again during this period, 222 wickets fell in the second innings as compared to 213 in the first.
While the numbers show that, dew did not have a major impact but it took the captains almost half of the league phase to realise that batting first after winning the toss was not a bad option at all.
It was in Match 35 when for the first time Gujarat Titans skipper Hardik Pandya won the toss and opted to bat in an afternoon match. But for a captain to bat first in an evening match, the wait went on till Match 48, Hardik again took a bold decision to bat first. Although Gujarat lost that game, Hardik wanted to put himself and his team out of the comfort zone of chasing after winning the toss, purely to keep everyone in the GT camp ready for the eventuality of losing the toss and having to bat first.
Subsequently the ratio of teams winning the toss and batting first vis a vis bowling first changed and towards the latter part of the league phase captains were willingly opting to set targets.
* Looking at this from another angle – a total of 869 wickets fell in the 70 matches of the league phase. Out of this 427 wickets were taken in the first innings (49.13%) while 442 were taken in the second (50.86%).
* Instances of bowlers winning Man of the Match awards in first 35 matches – 14
* Instances of bowlers winning Man of the Match awards from Match 36 to 70 – 15
Out of the 70 matches played in the league phase, bowlers won the Man of the Match awards on 29 occasions overall and there is not much to differentiate between the two halves of the tournament (the first 35 games played and the 35 games played after that).
The first and only hat-trick of the season so far, came while defending the target (Yuzvendra Chahal) while the likes of Wanindu Hasaranga, Avesh Khan and many others also excelled while bowling second.
Overall percentage of teams winning the toss, bowling first and winning – 38.57%
Overall percentage of teams winning the toss, bowling first and losing – 41.42%
Overall percentage of teams winning the toss, batting first and winning – 10%
Overall percentage of teams winning the toss, batting first and losing – 10%
Now that it has been established that the teams were successfully able to defend targets in more that 40 percent of the matches overall (afternoon and evening matches) here’s how bowlers adapted to the conditions.
Wide yorkers were one of the most used deliveries during the league phase of the tournament.
To go with that, the bowlers outsmarted the batters, with varied pace in their bowling. With the conditions assisting the batters, the bowlers managed pretty well with the wet ball (when there was dew), outthinking the batters on several occasions.
Although there were a few high-scoring encounters as well where the batters completely decimated the bowlers, targets in excess of 190 were not very regular sightings.
With the knockouts scheduled in Kolkata and Ahmedabad, dew at this time of the year should no longer be a factor as temperatures have been soaring in the high 40s across east and north India.
It’s the rain factor, especially in the two playoff matches in Kolkata that could make a difference, with a possible Super Over being used to decide the winner if needed.