The script isn’t new. Rohit Sharma’s Mumbai Indians have destroyed the Kolkata Knight Riders twice in four days, thereby making yet another comeback in an IPL season after starting at the bottom. We all know what that means – they will now make the playoffs against all odds, pulling off a miraculous comeback after losing 5 of their first 6 games. Meanwhile, the Sunrisers Hyderabad continues their dream season without David Warner, becoming the best defenders in a sport since Barcelona’s Carlos Puyol. Rajasthan Royals and KKR will scrap for a playoff spot with a resurgent Mumbai Indians team, while Kings XI Punjab will hope that life exists in their apocalyptic squad beyond KL Rahul.
With the final fifteen games of IPL 2018 remaining, it’s safe to say that the hits and misses of the tournament are now in clear view. There have been some great big hopes – players who have lit previous IPLs or been bought with massive expectations – who have flopped so miserably that their teams are bearing the brunt of it.
Here are six of them:
BEN STOKES (RR)
The most expensive overseas player in IPL history has been inexplicably ordinary despite playing every single of Rajasthan Royals’ ten games so far. Not once has he fired – his highest score is 45, and he is yet to take more than two wickets in a match. He has scored a paltry 174 runs in 10 games, and has taken 4 wickets in 10 matches. Compare this to last season where he dragged a spirited Rising Pune Supergiant team to the final on the back of his big-hitting (he combined well with Steve Smith) and effective death-bowling exploits. Stokes has lost that aura after getting into a pub brawl last year and being banned from the England squad for the Ashes – he isn’t as feared as he was last season, when he was the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. He has a few games left to prove himself, but one suspects it is too little too late, especially because captain Rahane has lost faith in him to the extent where Stokes batted at number 6 against Kings XI Punjab earlier this week. And he barely ever bowls his full quota of four overs, either, with the arrival of the skillful Jofra Archer in the team.
GLENN MAXWELL (DD)
With a pathetic 133 runs in 9 matches, until he had to be dropped by new captain Shreyas Iyer, Maxwell was supposed to be the explosive fulcrum around which Delhi’s young guns were going to operate. Instead, Maxwell has gloriously failed – his highest score is 47 – while kids like Iyer, Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant have taken the responsibility of lending a semblance of excitement to a top-heavy batting lineup. The injury to Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada hasn’t helped, but Maxwell is yet to shine like he did for the one season for Kings XI Punjab in 2014. He will forever remain an enigma, both on the international and domestic stages.
MAYANK AGARWAL (KXIP)
The resurgent record-breaker of last year’s Ranji season came into this year’s IPL with loads of confidence and the burden of expectations. This was his chance to make a statement and get the national selectors to take him more seriously – especially because it’s no secret anymore that the modern-day selectors go for players based on their IPL performances far more than the grind of domestic cricket. But Agarwal has struggled. Instead of lending KL Rahul some much-needed support at the top, he has scored 118 runs in 9 innings, with a highest score of just 30. KXIP has struggled if KL and Gayle haven’t fired, and Agarwal’s confounding form is proof of these struggles.
RAHUL TRIPATHI (RR)
Partnering Ajinkya Rahane at the top should have come as second nature to Tripathi, who set the stage on fire last season in a similar setup for Steve Smith’s Pune team. Tripathi was one of the revelations of the year. His clean-hitting and fearlessness as an opener was noticed, and he was expected to go onto great things. A year on, and Tripathi has been dropped by Rahane for Rajasthan Royals after scoring 99 runs in 9 innings – with a highest score of 14. He looks nothing like the man who almost won his team the title last year, and he looks to be going into the history books as yet another one-season wonder.
MANISH PANDEY (SRH)
Coming into this IPL, Pandey – who has ended up playing for India with distinction purely because of his IPL exploits – was battling for a stable middle-order spot in the Indian batting order. He has been in and out of Virat Kohli’s side, but has done enough to retain faith and give hope to a team that is starting to settle on the older Dinesh Karthik as an option to fill Yuvraj Singh’s void. With the injury to Kedar Jadhav, this was Pandey’s opportunity to stake a claim once and for all. Playing for a spirited SRH team, who put even more responsibility on him after David Warner’s ban, would help. Instead, a return of 184 runs in 10 matches has spelled doom for him – he was just dropped from the ODI side for the England tour after his IPL struggles. Kane Williamson is the only one batting consistently for SRH, and Pandey’s failure to join him might have derailed his stop-start international career a year before the World Cup in England. He has nobody to blame but himself – especially after blowing repeated opportunities to make a statement against a weak Sri Lankan side over the last year.
KIERON POLLARD (MI)
The tall, big-hitting Trinidadian has been a star T20 “freelancer” for years now, and along with Rohit Sharma, he has been Mumbai Indians’ most loyal member. But his powers are clearly on the wane. He has opted out of the “all-rounder” spot by choosing not to bowl, and his batting alone has been agonizing to watch – especially when his team lost 5 of their first 6 games. He wasn’t able to time a single ball properly, and he struggled to accelerate in the middle overs when he got the opportunity. After he was dropped, the team has won four of their next five games. That says a lot.
Gautam Gambhir (DD), Washington Sundar (RCB), Wriddhiman Saha (SRH)