Indian T20 League 2020 Learnings: How Chennai, Rajasthan and Kolkata were derailed
This is the second in a series of features where we will be taking a detailed dive into the various factors that stood out during the course of the Indian T20 League 2020 season.
The 2020 edition of the Indian T20 League proved to be a very competitive contest once again as the battle for the playoff berths went right down to the final game. While most teams who didn't make it to the top four would be disappointed, some teams would be regretting their own decisions for missing out on the playoffs. Chennai, Rajasthan and Kolkata are three of those teams and here, we'll have a look at the reasons responsible for their miseries in the season.
"This season, we probably saw a lot more tinkering among the teams than ever before. Chennai suffered a massive blow, losing key players like Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh before their season even got underway," noted Brett Lee. "Rajasthan toyed with their order too often and Kolkata experimented as far as replacing their captain mid-season. In the end, of course, it wasn't enough to upset the Mumbai juggernaut but they certainly learnt a lot to apply for Indian T20 League 2021, hopefully."
Chennai were badly hit right before the season began as two of their key players in Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh opted out of the tournament due to personal reasons. Harbhajan was their only specialist spinner who could turn the ball away from left-handed batsmen. Raina, on the other hand, had been a vital cog of their middle-order over the years. So his absence made the Chennai batting unit very fragile.
The management didn't name any replacement for them either. On top of that, they didn't show enough faith on the youngsters for the major part of the season. When they did, the performance of players like Ruturaj Gaikwad made them regret their decision of not giving them meaningful chances at the start of the season. Gaikwad's consistency at the top of the order helped Chennai in bowling out on a high, as they won their last three matches of the season in a comprehensive manner.
Rajasthan had a terrific start to the campaign as they won their first two matches by big margins. But frequent changes in the batting order didn't help their cause. They played Robin Uthappa out of position in the middle-order during the first half of the season and by the time they realized how wrong a decision that was, it was too late.
Even Steven Smith was made to open, a move that didn't give them good results at all. Instead of playing his natural anchoring role, Smith failed most of the times trying to slug bowlers out of the park in the Powerplay itself. Finally, they realized their mistakes and made the right switches too. Uthappa was promoted to the top of the order along with Ben Stokes, and they started using Jos Buttler as a finisher and Smith in his usual middle-order role. All these things worked out pretty well in their last few matches, but they just had too much to catch up on.
Kolkata made some terrible calls as well. First of all, their stubbornness of continuing with Sunil Narine as an opener in the first few matches was a flop move. Teams had figured out his weaknesses as a batsman and Narine literally looked like a walking wicket against high pace.
Their over-reliance on Pat Cummins' bowling ability hurt them pretty bad as well. While most of the successful teams in the early part of the season were reaping the rewards for going all out with two quality overseas pacers, Kolkata persisted with only Cummins in their lineup. Someone like Lockie Ferguson was just left to warm the bench. Once he was given a chance, Ferguson showed his ability with a four-wicket haul.
However, their most controversial move was the switch in captaincy from Dinesh Karthik to Eoin Morgan right in the middle of the season. These kinds of decisions can affect the team's morale in a pretty bad way. Although Karthik went on giving out a statement that it was completely his choice to give up the leadership, we'll never know what actually went on behind the scenes.
The season turned out to be pretty much like a see-saw for Kolkata. They were going upwards in one match and suddenly we found them crashing down in the very next game. Such inconsistency saw them missing out on a playoff berth by a whisker once again. It was Hyderabad and Bangalore who made their way into the last four, beating Kolkata on net run rate.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @IndianT20League