Indian Premier League Recap and Update for the 2021 Season
The Indian Premier League, or IPL, is the biggest, most popular – and most powerful – cricket franchise tournament in the sport. So, when the 2021 season was abruptly halted back in May, there were a lot of fans and invested stakeholders worried about what was to happen to this year’s tournament.
Unsurprisingly, the remainder of the season was swiftly rearranged and just restarted. With just under half of the regular season still to play, there is still a lot of T20 action to be enjoyed.
Read on to find out just what happened earlier in the year – and what can be expected from next month’s cricket.
What Happened to the 2021 IPL Season?
Although the COVID pandemic was already hitting India hard earlier this year, the IPL decided that the bio bubbles it had organized for the players and officials of the eight franchise teams would ensure the season could be played safely.
The first game of the new season was played on April 9, with reigning champions Mumbai Indians losing to the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Chennai.
Even though the infection and death rates in India were rising sharply, the IPL continued until May 4.
The enhanced health and safety protocols were given as a reason to carry on – and that the competition was actually performing an important service for a nation struggling with the virus.
When reports of COVID breaches in three of the eight franchises were revealed, a decision was made to postpone the tournament indefinitely.
There have been a number of different options put forward to allow the 2021 IPL season to resume but it was eventually decided that all remaining games would be played in the UAE in September and October.
Dubai was used as a back up host for the 2020 season and is also where the rescheduled 2021 T20 World Cup is to be played shortly after the IPL season finishes.
For an already packed cricketing calendar – covering all formats of the game – cutting down the travel required for the players was obviously an important factor to consider.
??. ???. ????! ? ?— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) September 19, 2021
Hello from Dubai. ?
All set to resume the #VIVOIPL, with the blockbuster clash between the @msdhoni-led @ChennaiIPL & @ImRo45's @mipaltan. ⚡ ? #CSKvMI
Which team are you rooting for tonight? ? pic.twitter.com/wlhc7LMjr0
What Now for the IPL?
To matters on the pitch.
When the 2021 season was suspended in May, last year’s runners up Delhi Capitals led the way with Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore and reigning champions Mumbai Indians filling out the rest of the top four.
Rajasthan Royals, Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab Kings sat outside the qualifier and eliminator places but were only a few points behind the top four.
The knockout stage sees first play second, with the loser of that game then given a second chance of reaching the final by playing the winner of the game between third and fourth.
With half of the season still to play, there is still an outside chance that David Warner’s side could still climb up the league before the regular season finishes – now scheduled for October 8.
IPL Teams to Look Out For
Before the season began, the Mumbai Indians were heavily fancied to repeat its triumph of last year and pick up a record fifth title – and its third in a row.
With just four wins in the first seven games before the unscheduled season break, it meant that an improvement was needed, even if there was no real need for alarm quite yet.
Mumbai lost its first game back to its main rival Chennai as well, and now its chance of finishing in the top two – giving itself two chances to make the final – has diminished. The win for the Chennai Super Kings really boosts its own chances of staying at the top of the table though.
The CSK also have an advantage, its squad has remained largely the same as before the break. With a heavily Indian feel to the team, there has not been as much danger in losing overseas players.
South African Faf Du Pleiss was the only overseas name in the top five when it came to batsman before the break – and he has returned for the remainder of the season, as well.
That win for the CSK pushed the Delhi Capitals back to second but there is still a lot of evidence to suggest that it will carry on its good form and make it to the knockout rounds.
Royal Challengers Bangalore is probably the hardest hit team from the top four in the first half of the season. It has been weakened with several its overseas players deciding not to come back for the second half.
There will be even more pressure on Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers to score the runs needed to keep RCB in the top four now. The slower pitches in Dubai – compared to India – will affect their input though surely.
IPL Players to Keep an Eye On (and Some That Will Not Return)
Apart from the players already mentioned, there are a few names to look out for as the second half of the season progresses.
Rajasthan Royals will be hoping that Liam Livingstone continues his very impressive summer and helps it qualify for the knockout stage.
Livingstone looked excellent in The Hundred and made his first ever century in T20 for England against Pakistan earlier in the year. He will need to make up for the absence of three other England players that will not be returning.
Jofra Archer is injured so he misses out on the rest of the season and Ben Stokes is taking a break from the sport as he concentrates on improving his mental health. Jos Buttler also pulled out of the tournament, leaving the Royals severely depleted.
Jonny Bairstow is yet another England player that has decided that concentrating on the T20 World Cup is more important than the IPL this year. The Sunrisers will definitely miss his batting skills, especially as David Warner has not been the player of old this season.
Kane Williamson did replace the Australian as captain earlier on in the season but now Warner will probably return because of Bairstow’s absence.
If Sunrisers Hyderabad is to defy the odds and break into the top four then Rashid Khan will have to shine in the next month.
The Afghan spinner will obviously have had a lot of off-field issues to deal with after what happened in his homeland over the last few months. He is a rare talent with the ball and was able to push his Sussex team to the finals of the T20 Blast and might be able to work miracles for his IPL team too.
Looking to the Second Half in the 2021 IPL
Some of the teams in the IPL will now have to deal with replacement players in their squads and it does seem that those who have as little disruption as possible – or already had a main Indian core to their squad will be at an advantage as the competition now resumes.
The big hitters of Mumbai and Chennai will remain as the front runners for the rest of the regular season, but it will be interesting to see how much the state of the pitches affects how the teams play.
The original squads were selected with Indian pitches in mind remember. So the slower, drier Dubai versions could be a factor. With fewer stadiums hosting games as well, they will become even slower as the tournament progresses – possibly making for lower run totals.
Whatever the moral position of the IPL resuming – and the effect it has had on the controversial cancellation of other formats of the game in recent weeks – it’s still the biggest franchise tournament in the world and will have millions of fans around the world watching until the final on October 15.