Brett’s watch list: Fight for the top four heats up
As we approach the final weekend of league stage action in the 2020 Indian T20 League, the battle for the playoff spots is still wide open with several teams in with a shot of finishing in the top four. Mumbai are the only team to have qualified for the playoffs so far and we will have a better idea about who might join them in the top four following this weekend’s games.
Here, I assess the players who could play a big part in dictating the fortunes of their teams over the weekend. With action-packed doubleheaders set to take centre stage, here are the players from all eight teams who I feel have the X-factor to be the gamechanger for their respective sides.
Delhi - Shikhar Dhawan
Following a slow start to the season, Shikhar Dhawan has really come into his own in the second half of the Indian T20 League and will be looking to finish the league stage encounters for Delhi with a flourish. He’s their top-scorer this season, having made 471 runs at an average of 52.33 and a strike rate of 147.64. His 52 boundaries for Delhi this year are by far the most by a player from the team and his back-to-back centuries a couple of matches ago reminded the world of what he’s capable of on his day. He made an unbeaten 69 against Mumbai in their earlier meeting this season and will be hoping for a similar knock against them on Saturday.
Mumbai - Quinton de Kock
The South African wicketkeeper has really stepped up in the absence of the injured Rohit Sharma to make sure that Mumbai don’t miss the Hitman’s influence at the top of the order too much. Quinton de Kock is Mumbai’s top run-getter, having scored 392 at an average of 39.20 and a strike rate of 140. A true boundary-hitter if there ever was one, de Kock smashed 34 fours, 18 sixes and scored four half-centuries for Mumbai this year. He made 53 against Delhi in their earlier meeting this season and will be eager to produce another solid knock against the side from the national capital on Saturday.
Bangalore - Devdutt Padikkal
One of the revelations of the season, Devdutt Padikkal is second only to skipper Virat Kohli when it comes to runs scored for Bangalore. He’s made 417 runs, scoring four fifties along the way and is averaging 34.75. A natural stroke-maker, he’s far ahead of the rest of his teammates as far as fours are concerned, having found the boundary ropes on 45 occasions this year. He scored his first fifty against Hyderabad on his Indian T20 League debut and will head into Saturday’s clash against David Warner’s boys having made 74 in his previous outing. I think you’d be wise to keep your eye on this young man for the remainder of the tournament.
Hyderabad – David Warner
Warner may not have enjoyed the best of seasons compared to his lofty standards, but the Hyderabad skipper is still his team’s leading run-scorer, having made 436 in 12 matches. He’s made three half-centuries so far and his average of 39.63 and strike rate of 134.56 isn’t bad either. However, none of those numbers will matter when his team face Bangalore on Saturday. A pressure match that Hyderabad must win to keep their bleak hopes alive, I think we’ll see Warner step up and grab the match by the scruff of its neck when his team need him the most.
Chennai - Ravindra Jadeja
One of the constant criticisms that I’ve seen levelled against Chennai over the course of the season is that all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja is batting too low and needs to move up the order. However, cries for a promotion for Jadeja in the batting line-up have mostly fallen on deaf ears. Jadeja, though, has still managed to score 232 for Chennai at an average of 46.40 – the best in the team – and a strike rate of 171.85, which isn’t bettered by any player from the side either. He played a match-winning knock to take his team to victory in their last match against Kolkata and will be eager for a repeat of that as Chennai look to end their season on a high.
Punjab - Mandeep Singh
Unlike the rest of the batsmen on my list, Mandeep Singh hasn’t had the best of seasons but seemed to find some form when they beat Kolkata. Mandeep played a starring role with the bat, scoring an unbeaten 66 that guided his team to victory, and more crucially, helped Punjab leapfrog Kolkata in the standings. He made 27 against Chennai in his first game for Punjab this season and will want to play an innings of substance against them on Sunday as KL Rahul’s boys look to seal the playoff spot.
Kolkata - Shubman Gill
Kolkata’s best batsman this year, Shubman Gill has grabbed the opportunity to open for the two-time champions with both hands. He’s made 404 runs at an average of 33.66 and a strike rate of 115.75 while hitting 38 boundaries as well as nine maximums along the way. Unfortunately for Gill, a lack of support from the rest of his teammates means that Kolkata find themselves in a precarious position staring at the exit door. That said, they still have an outside chance of qualification and Gill will know that he needs to be at his best if Kolkata want to take their fight for a top-four finish down to the wire.
Rajasthan - Sanju Samson
Although he’s fallen away slightly from his blistering early season form, the explosive Sanju Samson is still Rajasthan’s top run-getter, having scored 374 runs at an average of 31.16 and a strike rate of 161.20. A monster six-hitter, no player across the teams has managed to hit more maximums than Samson’s 26 this season. With Rajasthan having an outside chance of making the playoffs, it is imperative for their cause that Samson makes his presence felt against an often-tame Kolkata bowling line-up on Sunday.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @IndianT20League