Former India captain Anil Kumble gestures during his stint as head coach of Punjab Kings. (File Photo) | Photo Credit: BCCI
The first leg of the Indian Premier League 2023 (IPL) has seen teams like Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders struggle, despite having some big names in its roster.
With still about four weeks remaining, the low-lying teams have plenty of catching up to do in a bid to stay in the hunt for the playoffs.
Former India captain Anil Kumble, who was the head of Punjab Kings until the last edition of the tournament, believes that while the task is difficult, it is ‘not impossible’.
With six points in their kitty, Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians are placed seventh and eighth on the points table respectively. But Kumble believes there’s still a lot to play for.
“It’s not easy to catch up. But having said that, it’s not impossible either. So, at this stage of the tournament, you have to sort of refresh and reset and see what is your best possible playing eleven. Now that you have the Impact Player rule, it becomes a lot easier to sort of make the decision of having the best possible 12. It’s about sticking to that and believing that this 12 will be able to get you out of where you are. It’s just a matter of momentum,” Kumble, who is now an IPL expert for Jio Cinema, said during a select media interaction.
Drawing reference to KKR’s win against Royal Challengers Bangalore in its last outing, Kumble said, “KKR had beaten RCB before, so I am sure that confidence helped them get over the line in Bengaluru. Whether they take the momentum going forward, we’ll have to wait and see. That is something that you constantly talk about within the team and try to keep the mood the same.”
A similar approach is essential for the top-four teams as well.
“Somebody can come down, so you will have to be cautious. It’s not necessary that just because you won five games, you will qualify. You need eight wins and we have seen that in the last year as well. How you get to eight is very important. You need to take one game at a time and then ensure, you clear the line in that particular game and then gear up for the next. You can’t go too far away, you need to stay in the present,” Kumble said.
As the league enters its second phase, the competition for the last-four berths has also intensified, and Kumble expects Mumbai Indians to turn around.
“Their (MI) batting is extremely strong, but the bowling is a bit tough, especially while defending a sport. Wankhede Stadium can be very hard for a bowler. So MI certainly has that capability. They’ve done that in the past, to bounce back. Punjab Kings again, are in the middle of all their fitness concerns are sorted and they certainly have an opportunity,” Kumble said.
“KKR had sort of a perfect schedule that came through because for anyone to turn around, you need that kind of schedule as well that works for you. So RCB was a perfect game for them. Because they had beaten RCB earlier. Hopefully, now, they can turn things around. Andre Russell is yet to fire for them. They have done really well with the bat – Rinku (Singh) has done well, Venkatesh Iyer has scored runs and so has Jason Roy. So slowly, things are happening. Anybody can do it. It’s just a matter of how the belief is in that particular team. You need some luck going ahead as well,” he said.
And, that’s why, even the top-placed teams need to be cautious, going forward. “It’s difficult to predict which four teams will make it to the top-four. You would need a minimum 16 points, but in case a team can’t amass 16 points, it would be difficult to qualify with just 14 points. Net run rate will come into the picture in those cases. I think the teams which are placed in top-four currently will try to hang in there,” Kumble said.
A lot more 200-plus scores this year
So far in the tournament, the Impact Player rule has indeed had an impact. “The rule certainly is still evolving. But having said that, it certainly has made an impact on freeing up a few batters. So, you see a lot more 200-plus scores this season than perhaps what we saw in the previous seasons,” Kumble said.
“That, to me, is because you have an extra batter and also you have an extra bowler, so you basically have a perfect all-rounder in your team. Earlier, most teams had one all-rounder or just one-and-a-half all-rounders. You had those kinds of challenges, but this season, every team can sort of fill that gap by using the Impact Player.”
And, the seasoned coach also admits that because of changing dynamics, the teams need to factor in a lot of points before choosing the Impact Player as ‘there are a lot more to understand during the season.’
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