Bangalore and Delhi have had pretty good Indian T20 League seasons so far. While the batsmen and especially the pace bowling has fired for both teams, what's gone under the radar are two of the sidekicks in the team - the stump-to-stump spinners Washington Sundar and Axar Patel.
Bangalore have Yuzvendra Chahal and Delhi have Ravichandran Ashwin, and earlier Amit Mishra, in the team and the second spinners do not really hog the headlines as much unless they do really well.
That's exactly what Sundar and Axar have been doing so far, despite their contrasting roles in the team. Bowling stump-to-stump channels have been their forte and in this season so far, no spinners have bowled a higher percentage of good length balls as these two.
The success of Washington Sundar and Axar Patel have been built on being able to land the ball in that same spot over and over.— Stat Doctor🩺 (@stat_doctor) October 15, 2020
More than 80% of the balls by these two have landed on a good length in #IPL2020
How will Sundar fare vs Gayle today?#RCBvKXIP #DCvRR pic.twitter.com/BQnVAwBabk
Washington Sundar, the Powerplay specialist
Washington Sundar is a Powerplay specialist and has been used to curb scoring rates and pick up the odd wicket in the first six overs. After being underused in the 2019 edition, Sundar has fit in snugly in the Bangalore setup as their spinner inside the first six overs and immediately after.
Sundar has bowled 11 overs in the Powerplay this season, leaking just 50 runs and taking three wickets. His economy rate of 4.55 is the best among all bowlers - pace or spin - to have bowled at least 20 balls inside the first six overs.
The only other bowler to clock an economy of under five in this phase in the 2020 edition of the season so far is Bhuvneshwar Kumar who has been ruled out. Sundar has made minimal fuss in the Bangalore setup but been really effective in allowing the other bowlers to attack from the other end.
Sundar has also been used to match-up against left-handers. Although his economy against left and right-handed batsmen are nearly the same, Sundar, surprisingly, takes wickets at a better average against right-handers this season.
In the middle overs immediately after, Sundar continues to be effective and leaks runs at just 5.27, the fifth-best by any bowler in the middle-overs phase. The only other Indian spinner in the top six is Axar Patel.
Axar Patel, the run-containing wicket-taker
Axar Patel was once considered a serious prospect in the Indian limited-overs sides. A stump-to-stump spinner, Axar also had a quickish action and getting underneath his quick balls wasn't easy. He soon became one-dimensional, though, but has revamped this season to bowl really smart.
From clever and subtle pace variations to tying down the batsmen with his usual lines, Axar has developed into an indispensable middle overs bowler for Delhi this year.
In the 2020 edition of the Indian T20 League, Axar has bowled with an economy of 4.79 in the middle overs, which is bettered only by Jofra Archer who has 4.50.
The most economical spinner in this phase, Axar has just three wickets in the 14 overs he has bowled so far. He has also been used in a split way across the middle overs too.
Splitting the middle overs to overs 6-10 and 11-15, Axar has conceded 49 in nine overs in the first phase. After the 11th over, Axar improves with three wickets at an average of 16.7 and an economy rate of 5.56.
The two have bowled outstandingly well, knowing their limitations, and as a result, thrived in the respective roles assigned to them by their franchises.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter.com / Bangalore, AFP / Xavier Galiana