In T20 cricket, a side that makes less mistakes more often than not defeats a side that tries to play exhilarating cricket. The team that drops no catches, scores more fours than sixes, don’t have silly run-outs to their names and field the ball without overachieving…these are teams that achieve long-term success.
Chennai Super Kings, led by Dhoni since 2008, also known as the best franchise T20 side in cricket, exemplifies this fact. CSK has never known to blow the opposition away. They are not known to play a memorable season in which they have captured imaginations and married fearlessness with purpose. CSK has been efficient—yes, that’s the word. They have been machines at times, well oiled and functional, and know just how much to do in order to achieve their desired results. They never destroy oppositions, and they don’t dominate games with ruthlessness either. They’re still a most difficult side to beat, because they know how to win. They’ve made winning a basic function, just like batting or bowling. More often than not, they get these basics right. When they don’t, an example is their performance in the 2015 playoffs. Catches were dropped, mistakes made and aggression deserted. They don’t exactly force the pace of the game, and the only batsman who could do that (McCullum) had left for international duty. With everyone else jaded after a relentless season of cricket, CSK struggled to look like a fearless side. Therefore, when they fail, they look like a very weak team. Because they’re not exactly playing the most exciting brand of cricket already, and to go down a step further shows limpness about their style. They fail like boring champions, not like cornered tigers.
Royal Challengers Bangalore are your typical all-or-nothing side. Unlike their young captain, who has begun to graft and accumulate in order to do justice to his reputation and run-scoring ability, the team is fire and ice. They win big, lose big, and entertain bigger. They are probably like the West Indies of Indian league cricket.
Mumbai Indians are more of a cinematic team. They have nothing special about them, except their ability to come back from behind every series. They somehow find below-par players who make a difference, and achieve fairytale results that are beyond RCB and CSK. For their man-to-man quality and foreign player picks, they’re quite the overachievers, who depend solely on timing and turbo blasts to rescue them from dark holes.
Kolkata Knight Riders, as rightly labeled, are team Bollywood. They’re as local as it gets, now without the services of Kallis and Narine (mostly). They create something out of nothing, most often on basis of domestic capabilities, and insist on rotating their international talents. With out-of-favour Uthappa, Gambhir, Pandey and Pathan leading the batting, it’s a wonder that they have won two titles, and have often started the group stages as the strongest performers. Once they get their all-rounder balance right, with Russell, Shakib, Ryan Ten and Morkel being their main picks, KKR will be a dominant force that doesn’t let things slip.
Sunrisers Hyderabad are the quintessential mid-table team. They operate in phases. At times, they’re unbeatable and the most exciting team to watch, working in extremes as a bowling and batting unit. At other times, their body language lets them down, and they do the basics wrong. Despite the presence of Warner, Steyn and Boult in one side, they faltered at the final hurdle—twice in two games like KKR, and let MI through to the playoffs and second title.
Kings XI Punjab hope to get through on reputation, mainly because they consist of more Aussie players than most (except RR). With the World Cup hangover still looming over Maxwell, Johnson and Bailey, KXIP failed miserably in 2015, playing a brand of cricket that deserved to be relegated to a second tier league.
Rajasthan Royals is the most crowd pleasing team, capable of most brands of cricket. With Watson, Smith and Faulkner this year, and with Rahane once again leading the charge, RR depended less on their youngsters for once (Samson, Nair, Hooda, Bhatia), and forced their way through with experienced percentage cricket. They will probably never win the league again after 2008, but at least they’re always in the reckoning.
Delhi Daredevils is an enigmatic team. However good their players are, they always find ways to lose. Always. They’re probably unlucky too, but they mostly make their own luck. How can a team that has boasted of the likes of KP, Warner, Sehwag, Morkel, Karthik, Yadav, Zaheer, Nehra, Duminy, Tahir, Mishra and others have failed so consistently ever year? And, of course, Guru Kirsten as coach. There are other forces at work here.