DUAL INTERVIEW with Nikhil and Johns – IPL – 4

CSK – 6 wins and 8 defeats, overall how do you rate their performance and what are the highlights for you?

Nikhil – It would call it a timely reminder from the game to not take it too lightly and not push the conventions too much. They could have got the performance of the last three games earlier too but they were too rigid to not back away from their first plan. Not replacing Raina and Harbhajan also cost them so hopefully, they will rectify those going ahead. To me, their next core is around Sam, Ruturaj, Deepak so that’s how they should build for the future.

Johns – CSK had lots of issues starting in the season with few players pulling out, some having COVID and that took time to recover. It was disappointing but this Dad’s army has achieved a lot in 2018 and 2019 so this downfall was always on cards but the performance of Sam Curran and Ruturaj is positive moving into the next phase as MS told. Looking forward to the next auction as they will be looking to build a new core and how MS handles the phase.

Kings XI Punjab, they were peaking at the right time, but couldn’t cross the finish line (playoffs), what went wrong for this team in your view?

Nikhil – Their bowling, it was always going to be their test, they tried a lot of combinations but lack of wickets for the new ball bowlers was a major reason for their losses. Whenever they struggled with it, they were never in the game. Add to it the form of their fourth overseas player be it Maxwell or Sheldon. Gayle’s inclusion gave them cushion but the bowling came back to bite them.

Johns – KXIP had issues in the bowling unit especially in death bowling during the first half of the tournament and they came back well in the second phase but they were always catching up the top 4 and fell in last two matches with losing to Rajasthan & Chennai. KL Rahul strike rate was a big factor for them, especially with Pooran not much utilized in the last few matches backfired them by a big margin. They had some areas to close out in next auction and if they can they will be one of the team’s to look forward.

DC and RCB, they were excellent in the first half of the tournament and quite contrast in the second half. What has gone wrong for these two teams so far in your opinion?

Nikhil – Both Delhi and RCB have clear holes to fill. Delhi were always struggling for their fifth bowling option after the injury to Ishant. Rabada and Nortje’s form covered for it and so did Axar and Ashwin contributing. But sides started to prepare better against them and not to forget the decision to bring back Rahane at the top. They never got going and kept losing wickets early. Dhawan then had two ducks, you need more people to step in. Iyer didn’t, Pant has not been himself.

For RCB, the contributions from the openers tapered a touch and Kohli and AB once again had to do the bulk of the scoring and their biggest issue was their conservative batting in middle orders. You saw them trying to correct that but those things just don’t happen overnight. They need to be more alert tactically and pace their innings better, especially if batting first. With chasing getting easier, it is vital for the side batting first to not mess their batting. They need more performers, just like Delhi.

Both Bangalore and Delhi rely too heavily now on select individuals to come good.

Johns – In a group stage with 14 matches, every team goes through these phases, some teams might lose on a trot and that happened to DC & RCB but they played and outclassed most opposition in half made the playoffs so they did something right than other sides. This phase might help them in knockouts as a team to get over the line.

SRH have managed to defeat DC, RCB and now MI in their last few matches in the league stage, peaked at the right moment in your view?

Nikhil – Yup, I think the inclusion of Jason Holder and Saha has given them the balance they missed. An overseas all-rounder is always a pleasure. Pandey and Shankar won them a game which was good to see. That way they have not missed Shankar as Kane is back in the side. Warner playing freely is the pleasing sight. The way he took on Rabada, it just sets the tone. If the surfaces continue to assist bowlers any bit, expect SRH to be more competitive.

Johns – SRH had setbacks with injury to main players but they always kept them in the hunt with Warner returning to old form, it was about time to start winning and Saha has made their life easier. The Bowling unit was composed lead by Rashid Khan who has been in unbelievable form throughout the season. They have peaked at the right time but their middle order hasn’t tested much in the last few matches, can backfire in knockouts.

Has the captaincy of Steven Smith led to the failure of Rajasthan Royals qualifying for the playoffs?

Nikhil – No doubt about it. I don’t think Smith is that good a captain and we had seen that already with Australia and Rajasthan is now just an extension of it. His failures compounded their issues of not having any support to Jofra. Just imagine them getting one overseas pacer as support to Jofra who was breathing fire, would have kept them in the hunt more.

Johns – Rajasthan Royals need to realize it’s time to leave Steve Smith and make a team surrounding Buttler – Archer – Samson. If it’s a mega auction they should leave Stokes and buy for lesser price. With Jos & Archer in the side, you can’t always be out of the playoffs especially when you have near 80 cr to spend for the team. Youngsters like Riyan Parag, Tyagi has shown glimpses with Tewatia having a great season so it’s time to move forward.

Are Mumbai Indians on course to get their 5th IPL trophy or is there a particular team good enough to beat them?

Nikhil – Well, I won’t put it past them to win it. They are probably the only squad in the league who have options for all decks, all conditions. Yes, they do have weaknesses as we saw in the games they lost. There is a pattern to their game and if you have the required skills to counter those, you can beat Mumbai. And any team can beat anyone in the playoffs, it’s about how they absorb the pressure and perform on the big day. Some get caged by it, some don’t. I won’t rule out Mumbai winning but I would love for a new winner to be honest.

Johns – MI has the strongest batting unit in this IPL, all are match-winners from Rohit to Krunal at number 7 but the issue might be the bowling unit, if Boult can’t produce the wicket with the new ball then it might bring lots of pressure on Bumrah and that can make some issues in the head of Rohit as a captain but looking at the teams in the playoffs they have fewer concerns. Whether they defend or not is a tough question to answer, in knockouts anything can happen.

KKR, NRR, shows how important it is for teams and the manner in which they win, isn’t it?

Nikhil – Not too much into it but yes NRR is important but that’s only if you win enough. You scrape through on NRR because you won enough, if not, it’s because you were not good enough in the wins. I would say, I would rather avoid losing big than trying to win too big. Winning too big is not always in your hands but avoiding to not lose big is probably more in your hands. Close games are good but KKR had a few games where they were outplayed in an innings too much for them to come back in the game, you want to try and avoid those in a league as competitive as the IPL.

Johns – KKR was built for Eden Gardens, they have a batting unit with free-flowing batters but they didint use the resources well by not playing Karthik as a finisher, Morgan as your regular number 4 then fitness issues of Russell, and change in the action of Narine during midway in the tournament so everything backfired for them and missed the playoffs ticket.

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