IPL 2020 Season so far

By Josh Knappett

We are really spoilt for choice at the moment! Having been so long with all cricket closed down globally due to the COVID outbreak, to now having so much on that it's hard to keep up!! Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share my views on the IPL 2020, review the England Women’s vs West Indies Women’s T20I series, and review Men’s cricket in the UK as well as understanding the challenges that COVID has presented us with. 

 

IPL 2020

Where to start?! The tournament feels like it's only just started but so much has gone on!! We are 10 games in, we have had; 2 hundred, a record-equalling 33 maximums hit in 1 game, 2 tied matches and a vast display of international talent on show competing against experienced IPL players and young up-coming talent. 

 

I'm not sure who I think will win it yet. There is still so much more cricket to play. And winning the IPL isn’t achieved in the first few matches. Just because you’ve started well, or even topped the group stages, that doesn’t guarantee you team lifting the gold trophy. Nor does a poor start write off a team who can finish well. 

 

Clearly, I have an affinity to the Mumbai Indians, and I try to get myself to the games when I can to support the boys in blue and gold, but with our very own TMGA coach, Pravin Tambe, in the coaching staff of KKR after his playing role in winning the Caribbean Premier league with TKR, and with our Middlesex player Eoin Morgan in the KKR line up too – I'm certainly watching those KKR games with a vested interested. However, I also really like how Delhi Capitals are set up a batting unit this year. They have invested in young enterprising batters and young leadership with Shreyas Iyer, accompanied by a couple of experienced campaigners. With Prithvi Shaw, Rishbah Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Shermon Hetmyr, then the flamboyance and experience of Shikhar Dhawan, and the grounded experience of Ajinkya Rahane in the squad and other overseas who can be great match winners and finishers with Alex Carey and Marcus Stoinis… this team is really exciting to me! 

 

KL Rahul has been a shining light of regular brilliance. His hundred was outstanding! He displayed an ability of controlled and traditional cricket shots to start with, as he built his innings, then moved into the brutal power hitting with a range of destructive skills used through the back end of his innings. This range of skills is phenomenal and his versatility is enviable. Rahul has not only shown this as a one-off but has done this through the tournament so far – I wonder what he can achieve over the duration of the IPL this year… Can he stay present? Will he get distracted by all the talk of amazing things that he has done so far – which ultimately are done and can be forgotten? Will he get distracted by the focus of the next game and the next innings?

Also, how will the rest of his team cope? Often when one player achieves dominance, the players around them don’t get as much “game time” – so when they are called on later in the tournament, they don’t have much match form. Also, when players are looked up to by their own team, when they get out – as they inevitably will do as its cricket after all – how do the rest of the team react? Do they fear the game “oh no KL Rahul is out – it must be hard” or “KL Rahul is out – we are doomed! How are we going to get these runs now!?”, or do they just stay present themselves, see the game, see their strategy and believe they can win it through their own input?

 

This is the art of tournament play. Often winning from challenging positions, or even losing the occasional game in the early phases of a tournament, can actually be positive to the greater good. More players get time in the middle, more players get belief they can impact the game and that as a team you don’t have all your hopes resting on one player…

Regardless of which way round you view it; cricketers need to be athletic to reach the top, or top cricketers need to develop their athleticism, this Pooran effort shows what the game is all about. 

Now, this wouldn’t have been possible a few years back when boundary boards were close – of even on – the boundary rope, but with understanding the role that boundary fielders can have on the game through a defensive and attacking input, its pushed players to look to new capabilities to support their team and entertain the crowds! I don’t know if some people would mark this down in the dropped catch column for data collection purposes, but this was simply breath-taking to save a few runs for his team. Not only to leap from inside the boundary, to reach as far back as he did and still take the catch, but to rotate his body in the air to allow a smooth path for ball release to take the ball back into the field of play before any part of his body made contact again with the ground…. 

I have honestly watched this in full speed and slow-mo about 20 times – and I just don’t get bored of it! 

Pooran is a wicket-keeper batter by trade. He gets into the team for his batting alone, which is great, but also shows that wicket keepers need to, and can, field well to keep their place in the side. 

Gone are the days where the wicket-keeper holds their place only for the job they do with the gloves. So, well done Pooran for setting the bar higher, taking fielding to a new level and entertaining the viewers and players of the game alike. It is his belief that he could catch the ball, the audacity to attempt it, and ability to execute it, all under extreme pressures of this level of the tournament.

Yes KL Rahul has been astonishingly good, and Argawal’s hundred was fantastic to watch, along with serious batting displays from Sanju Samon with nine maximums in one innings, and Jofra Archer when he hit four 6’s in an 8 ball innings vs CSK which changed the momentum back into RR favour (as RR were 178 for 7 after 18.2 overs. Archer took his team to 216! It wasn’t just the extra runs CSK had to now score – but a completely different psychological battle of regaining control. RR goes into the field on a high and CSK licking their wounds, all because of Archer blasting 27 in just over an over). 

Back to Tewatia and his special match-winning contribution of 53 from 31 balls. 53 off 31 is impressive – but not the full story. At 8 runs from 19 balls, he was really struggling. He took the wind out of his team’s sails and put a huge amount of pressure on his batting partners, however then a switch got flicked, where he turned off “the worst 20 balls [he] had ever played” and onto a ‘6 hitting’ mode, which saw him then launch five 6’s off the 17th over bowled by Cottrell. He finished with 45 from last 12 balls and RR win was recorded with 3 balls to spare from a position of almost certain loss. 

When you take a moment to step back, view the learnings you can take from this game, you unearth the valuable lessons. Never give up, never stop believing, don’t assume you will win – until the result is official, back yourself, believe you can do it, dream big, have a vision of how you will win the game and commit fully to achieving that vision – even if you have to deal with a few setbacks and speed bumps along the way, cricket isn’t a straight line game – there are momentum changes, challenges to adapt to along the way, and whether you win, lose or tie, there is still an ethical duty to yourself and the team as to how you play. 

Tewatia.jpg

CSK’s first game of IPL 2020 at Sharjah stadium. Now you wouldn’t think of this as a significant moment of outstanding performance. But in my opinion, it was. 

He got hit for 55 off 4 overs but Piyush Chawla showed every bit of his character, experience and personality in this game. 

With incredibly up and coming talents like Washington Sundar in the tournament, and Imran Tahir and Mitchell Santner on his team’s bench, he still gets picked season after season as an older player. Why? Because of this character, personality and emotional control even at times of great pressure. 

It is these traits when combined with his technical ability to produce his skill, which kept him in the IPL for so long. Being a good leg spinner in the nets doesn’t get you selected into teams at this level. To make it to the top, sure you have to have your technical and actual performance skill, but you have to complement these with your character, attitude, personality, emotional control and ability to perform your skills under pressure and in the right way at the right time, to be at the top for so long. 

Chawla has played over 160 IPL matches. Played in 12 IPL Seasons. He is 3rd in all-time most IPL wickets (3 wickets behind second-place – so could overtake this year). 4th in IPL all-time for most dot balls bowled. 

And what was it that he did in this game where – where Sanju Samson dispatched him into the stands frequently…? 

Well, after every time he got hit, without exception, he went calmly to the back of his mark, then set off to bowl the next ball to his plan. Now his plan didn’t work, clearly, but still to have the emotional control to be calm on his exterior, believe in his plan and on his ability, to see the big picture – that one, two of a few 6’s on a small ground, does not define a career, nor does it define your teams tournament outcome, so reset, refocus and go again with belief and confidence. 

This is a message for any young spinner (or bowler for that matter), you will get hit for good shots, perhaps even a 6 or two along the way (especially on small grounds like Sharjah is at this level), you will have appeals turned down incorrectly, you will have catches dropped, but stay positive, respond in the way you would want to respond with belief, skill and strategy. Chawla is as experienced as one can get – look to him as a role model here – even with going for 55, he can come back strong another day – rather than under pressure from ball one in the next game, all because his emotional control, self-belief in his skills and ability and his view of the bigger picture. 

As we keep reinforcing with TMGA, to all our TMGA players, and through our coaching staff, we support the development of people, not just cricketers, and we help nurture not only players technically, but tactically, physically, mentally and emotionally. The messages above are not just outcome-based, there is a process, and methodology and personal approach that has helped these performances happen. Dream big, develop all aspects of your skills and know your strengths. Train hard with an open mind and fearless approach to developing and learning. Trust your skills to use them in match play environments. “Train the skills you use in games/play games with skills you develop and hone in training”. 

 

This tournament teachers us so much. That the game isn’t over until the result has been confirmed. The MI vs RCB tied game and super over was a cricket lover’s dream and a fine example of this as the game ebbed and flowed from one team to another a few times through the match – albeit with the wrong end result for MI fans…, but it showed that with belief, skill, and tactical awareness, anything is possible. 

 

Its been great for cricket globally to have this tournament on this year. It is an unbelievably good development ground and finishing school for young Indian talent. For the likes of Iyer, to develop his leadership as Delhi captain. For Gill, Prithvi Shaw, Nair, Bishnoi, Chahar, Kishan, etc to be key players of their sides, as well as the really young with Parag, Jaiswal, Garg, etc, getting exposure and opportunities to live alongside the world very best current players, and some of the past best within their coaching setups, it truly is unique and special.

 

So, keep enjoying the tournament. I can’t wait for more cricket to unfold from brilliant players over the next few weeks. I’ll update again soon. It's wonderful to watch from the outside – but would be even better to be in as a player!