IPL 2021 season review – Mumbai Indians, Punjab Kings, Rajasthan Royals, Sunrisers Hyderabad

With the IPL 2021 league stage over, it’s time to look back at the performances of the four teams – Mumbai Indians, Punjab Kings, Rajasthan Royals, Sunrisers Hyderabad – who didn’t make it to the playoffs.

Mumbai Indians

Where they finished

The defending champions slipped four places into fifth this time. They left it to the very last day of the league stage to keep their qualification chances – no matter how unlikely – alive, before they battle it out.

How the season went
He mostly went right to Mumbai until the tournament moved to the UAE. They had won four of their seven matches in India in the first leg, but in the UAE, it was almost as if they had left their batting senses behind.

What went wrong
As captain Rohit Sharma said before the last league game, they “did not bat well in the UAE’s leg”, and it cost them a playoff spot.

Mumbai is known for their star-studded line, and their campaign took a beating when many of them stopped clicking. Quinton de Kock’s strike rate dropped below 105 in the last three games he played, Rohit produced two single-digit scores when desperately needed to win, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav clicked a little too late, and Hardik Pandya didn’t come ‘ the party at all. To add to that, Trent Boult, king of IPL 2020 powerplay, went unbeaten in powerhouses five games in a row.

In the news
The one most subject to scrutiny was Hardik, who was off the boil with the bat and had not bowled single over in the tournament. He is in the squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup as a fielder but with no headlines and barely any runs under his belt, fans and several former players have started asking for his position. When at its best, there is not much in India like it. But it’s far from being at its best right now.

Kings of Punjab

Where they finished

For the second year running, they finished sixth on the board with 12 points.

How the season went
Starting the season with a new name, the Punjab Kings opened their campaign with a win but went on to lose five of their next seven games. Coming to the UAE, their struggles to win strings together continued and they ended in a complicated four-way mound at the center of the points table. They won their last three games but fell out of the race due to their poor net running rate. They continued to have problems in their mating line, which seemed to mislead once opening pair KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal were made. But on the positive side, their uncapped Indian bowlers Arshdeep Singh, Ravi Bishnoi and Harpreet Brar stood out.

What went wrong
Their over-reliance on Rahul and Agarwal. While the two remain the backbone of the team, Nicholas Pooran had to be dropped after failing to re-show his IPL 2020 return. The uncapped Indians could not in middle order – Deepak Hooda, Sarfaraz Khan and Shahrukh Khan – achieved enough too. Their middle order (Numbers 4-7), in fact, had the second-worst batting average (16.68) this season.

Rahul was among the top three scorers in the tournament for the fourth year in a row, scoring 626 runs in 13 games, but his strike rate was again a big talking point. He started off the 2021 season with a 50-ball 91 but then returned to score sedately, banning two innings, against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings, where he scored 57-ball 91 * and 42-ball 98 * in the respectively. His strike rate was only around 114 in the rest of the ten games. His conservative approach did not always have the desired effect on the team, which he also admitted.

In the news
Chris Gayle left to set up Punjab Kings in UAE citing bubble fatigue. After just arriving from the CPL bubble, the veteran star said he was looking to mentally renew himself ahead of the T20 World Cup.

Rajasthan Royals

Where they finished

Rajasthan Royals had yet another miserable season, finishing seventh with five wins in 14 games, a slight increase from the last spot of the previous season.

How their season went
Royals won just three out of the first seven games in the first leg and remained inconsistent in the UAE as well, going on to win just two of their seven games. In the second half, nothing really went their way. They were without some of their big guns, and were weighed down by familiar faults, remaining very heavy sides. The absence of a spearhead in their bowling attack also hurt them.

What went wrong
Royals didn’t get it right in the first half of the season but Jos Buttler, Chris Morris and captain Sanju Samson made sure to step up and keep them in the middle of the table, although their two biggest names – Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer – available.

Buttler did not reach the second half but they got a capable replacement in Evin Lewis, who, along with Yashasvi Jaiswal, made their fast start. Samson, who had the best outing ever in his nine-year IPL career, making 484 runs in 14 games, was also a force at the top of the order.

But there we are. Middle order continued their weak contact, and Liam Livingstone and Glenn Phillips couldn’t help much. Morris couldn’t. He was also poor with the ball. Morris not only went unbeaten in the first three games of the UAE but was also expensive, dropping 47 and 50 runs against Punjab Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore respectively, and was dropped as a result . There were a couple of good solo performances, by Kartik Tyagi, Chetan Sakariya and Mustafizur Rahman, in their otherwise bowling attack towards the road, but the constant reconciliation towards the business end of the tournament did not work well either. And, if anything, the end was terrible: 90 to 9 and 85 all out in their last two league games.

In the news
Royals without their three-star overseas were greatest for different ranks. Archer was ruled out due to an elbow injury at first, Stokes took a break from the game for mental health reasons and chose Buttler out of the UAE leg due to the birth of his second child. That was too much to compensate for.

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Where they finished

Sunrisers Hyderabad had the biggest fall compared to the 2020 season, going from third place to the very bottom. They finished the 2021 edition with just three wins from 14 games.

How the season went
Sunrisers just didn’t come up. Even when the first leg started in India, they took as many as four matches to register their first win. They lost three more before the IPL was postponed, and then kicked off the UAE leg with two more defeats. Just one win from their first nine games meant their season was almost over before it really was.

What went wrong
The loss of form for David Warner and the lack of Jonny Bairstow in the UAE leg meant his bowlers had to do the heavy lifting again, but Sunrisers’ inability to cross 150 regularly hit them hard.

They started the season by chasing away trouble in games they could have won. This was because of the old issue: inexperienced and weak middle order. And when they first batted, they crossed 135 just twice in five attempts and successfully defended just one of those totals.

In the bowling too, T Natarajan’s forced absence from Covid-19 denied their plans and Sandeep Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s high economy rate in non-rocking conditions didn’t help either. Rashid Khan was their head wicketkeeper once again and Jason Holder also inspired them in the UAE leg with his strikes, but if there’s one team that needs a complete overhaul, it’s Sunrisers.

In the news
Warner, one of the most consistent batsmen in the IPL in the last few years but ludicrous in form at the moment, lost not only his captaincy but was dropped from Sunrisers’ plans completely after scores of 2 and 0 in the UAE leg. He was left at the team hotel for a couple of games, before being seen waving the Sunrisers flag from the stands towards the end of the league stage. Warner-Sunrisers marriage may well be over.

Stat inputs from Gaurav Sundararaman

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