For two consecutive years (2011 and 2012), Impact Index’s IPL previews made predictions about who the semi-finalists would be and both times it got 3 of the 4 semi-finalists right.

We have found that the assumption of T20 being a chancy format is wrong and that there are more upsets (where a minnow wins against a more fancied side) in 50-over cricket than in 20-over games. Perhaps it has to do with the format being too crunched to allow a proper dropping of guard. And the longer the tournament, the less likely it becomes for a weaker side to win (that one’s easily understood, of course).

In 2011, Chris Gayle’s superhuman consistency changed things dramatically around a highly imbalanced RCB who sneaked into the playoffs at the cost of our 4th projected semi-finalist, KXIP, who interestingly came in 5th. Till then, Gayle did not have a big match record, and sure enough he faltered in the final and RCB promptly got hammered.

In 2012, MI were lucky to win 5 close matches which camouflaged their inadequacies and they were brutally exposed in the playoffs. We’d also predicted PW being the bottom-placed team and despite their sparkling start in the tournament (with our ample critics savagely and gleefully wading into us then on Yahoo! for whom we were covering the tournament), that is how it unfortunately panned out for them.

IPL’s considerable sample size of matches in a single tournament makes team strengths based on past impact a relatively reliable point-of-reference for their projected fortunes in the tournament. Our observation is that players by and large tend to play around their past impact over a longer period of time (the expanse of IPL facilitates this, of course), and while obviously there are those who improve or deteriorate around their past impact numbers, those deviations in a squad tend to often neutralise each other when team impact numbers are being computed.

The first half of the tournament is likely to deviate considerably from what is being suggested here (as per our past experience) but gradually, it is fascinating how things begin to move towards a strange inevitability, for a good part.

For IPL 2013, we pick out 15 players from each squad based on impact and expectation of playing (it considers what the teams shelled out for them at the auction, and general expectations based on experience)- 9 Indian players, 6 overseas players- from all functions. For Team Impact numbers, we consider weighted impact based on each player’s experience as well.

Each player’s T20 impact number is computed from all official T20 matches in their career – International T20 matches and all domestic performances with a higher value to T20I performances against the stronger sides. The system does not factor in the advantage of home conditions or varied opposition within the domestic circuit. It is too complicated (and misleading) to try and factor those elements in within the structure of domestic T20 cricket today. But the inclusion of all T20 performances makes this the most reliable assessment of T20 cricket in the world today.

This also takes into account players missing on account of injuries and late additions to teams. It also has a small part at the end revisiting teams without Sri Lankan players (for Chennai matches).

 

TWENTY FIVE TEAM OBSERVATIONS AT THE BEGINNING OF IPL 2013

1. Favourite teams for Semi-finals:

Chennai Super Kings (Team Impact 2.18)
Kings XI Punjab (2.02)
Kolkata Knight Riders (2.01)
Mumbai Indians (1.86)

CSK and KKR have the highest number of big match players so their presence is completely expected here.
KXIP’s presence is the big surprise but it has a lot to do with the high career impact of veterans Gilchrist, D Hussey and A Mahmood  if they perform near their career average, then this holds, otherwise not. This team also has some of the highest impact young Indian T20 talent- how they respond would also be crucial to their cause, much like RR’s was in 2008- they certainly have a worthy captain in Gilchrist.

2. Dark Horses: Pune Warriors and Rajasthan Royals

PW have managed a good combination this year in batting, bowling and the proportion of Indian and overseas players. Finch in Clarke’s place is a huge boon for them (a very happy accident), if he delivers in these conditions. A fully turned on Yuvraj Singh could have the final say. Angelo Mathews’s captaincy is an unknown quantity though.
This might be RR’s best team in the IPL in a long time. They have the best bowling line-up this year but a distinct lack of outstanding Indian talent in that lot will probably hurt them, as could Watson’s absence from the bowling crease due to injury as it would significantly affect the balance. How they use Badree (the highest impact economy bowler in all T20 cricket) could determine a lot.

3. Team with strongest batting unit: Chennai Super Kings

Self-explanatory, with the likes of Raina, Vijay, Dhoni- easily the highest impact Indian batting is in this team. M Hussey and Bravo strengthen this even more.

4. Team with weakest batting unit: Sunrisers Hyderabad

Duminy’s injury absence from this side considerably weakens an already middling batting line-up.

5. Team with strongest bowling unit: Rajasthan Royals

Badree, Hogg, Tait and Watson are the highest impact bowlers in this team – all foreigners, which is the problem. The Indian bowling attack, even if it can support adequately, would justify this billing.

6. Team with weakest bowling unit: Kolkata Knight Riders

Narine is the only danger bowler. Balaji, Kallis, Pathan, Abdullah, Bhatia are support bowlers in the T20 format. Lee is a not a good T20 bowler, even though a big match player. Playing Shami Ahmed could be a good move. The team has a high economy impact , which is useful in Eden Gardens conditions, perhaps not as much at other centres.

7. Team with propensity to score most runs: Pune Warriors

Finch, Samuels, Pandey, Taylor and Uthappa have a high runs tally impact . Together, this could be an important factor.

8. Team with a weakness in run-making: Sunrisers Hyderabad

Besides Sangakkara and Dhawan, the cupboard is bare amongst the probable players. However, de Kock (who has a very good runs tally impact ) and Lynn should be played by them to overcome this. Given how many batting parameters de Kock excels in, could he be the find of this tournament, a la Shaun Marsh in 2008.

9. Most attacking batting unit: Mumbai Indians

Pollard, Smith, Maxwell have a high strike rate impact . Amongst Indians, there is Rohit Sharma. Amitoze Singh also shows promise in this regard.

10. Most sluggish batting unit: Sunrisers Hyderabad

Once again, de Kock is SRH’s highest impact player when it comes to strike rate. Overall, this could be a serious problem for this team.

11. Team with ability to absorb maximum pressure while batting: Pune Warriors

Manhas, Pandey, Smith and Taylor all are high impact when it comes to absorbing pressure. Even the others have reasonably high pressure impact - this is a big plus for the team.

12. Strongest chasing team: Kolkata Knight Riders

Gambhir, Kallis, Bisla, McCullum, Morgan are all outstanding in this regard.

13. Team most susceptible in a chase: Sunrisers Hyderabad

Enough said.

14. Highest wicket-taking team: Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians

Very interesting to see KXIP here. Awana, Ryan Harris, Mascarenhas, Mahmood are all high impact in this regard- not something people expect. MI is more predictable- Malinga, Patel and Ojha are names you expect in this context.

15. Team with a wicket-taking problem: Pune Warriors

Besides Ajantha Mendis, no one excels in this parameter. Still, Dinda is not too bad, but the others- Bhuvneshwar Kumar (has not yet been a convincing T20 player at all), Rahul Sharma, Ishwar Pandey have some way to go. With Samuels and Yuvraj amongst the 5 bowlers, this could be quite a problem area for PW.

16. Most economical bowling unit: Delhi Daredevils

Botha, M Morkel, Van der Merwe supported by Nadeem, Negi and I Pathan constitute high impact at least on this count for this beleaguered team.

17. Most uneconomical bowling unit: Chennai Super Kings

Seems shocking for a team that has Ashwin and Hilfenhaus but it also has Bravo who leaks runs, and A Morkel. Jakati’s bowling has also fallen quite a bit in the last few months, especially in this regard. This is CSK’s genuine Achilles Heel this year.

18. Most mercurial side/s (high failure rates): Rajasthan Royals

Sreesanth’s inconsistency in this format (getting slapped on and off the field hasn’t helped him), along with Trivedi’s and Binny’s could hurt RR. However, Rahane’s failure rates lately have not been as high as they were before; his team will hope his ascension is still a work-in-progress.

19. Most imbalanced side: Chennai Super Kings (batting far stronger than bowling)

The batting is so assured and the bowling (despite Ashwin and Hilfenhaus) fails to inspire confidence, case in point the 2012 IPL final. Sri Lankan Dananjaya is ironically one of their highest impact bowlers and amongst their most promising new talents but he will miss all the home games.

20. Likely Cannon-fodder for most teams: Sunrisers Hyderabad

Groan.

21. Best Bench Strength (besides core 15 players): Chennai Super Kings

With currently injured du Plessis and Nannes there, not very surprising. Imtiaz Ahmed and B Aparajith are the Indian talents likely to wait their turn here.

22. Worst Bench Strength: Delhi Daredevils

Injuries have really messed them up this year.

23. Team with best Indian players: Chennai Super Kings

No surprises here. RCB is the team with the lowest impact Indian talent, no surprises there either.

24. Team with best overseas players: Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore

It’s the same above-mentioned problem with KXIP- Gilchrist, D Hussey and A Mahmood- if they play to their usual standards, then they are a serious force. If they are past their prime and it shows too regularly, then their chances recede dramatically. RCB has outstanding foreign talent unfortunately also the worst Indian talent overall so it could all be in vain, despite Gayle. The team with the lowest impact overseas talent is SH.

25. Best team without Sri Lankan players: Chennai Super Kings

Smart move by Chennai politicians who must be cricket (or at least IPL) fans. SH loses the most followed by RCB and PW.

FINAL THOUGHTS

CSK’s bowling seems a bit weaker than before but their batting still is awe-inspiring. Their key players seem hungry, more than they did at the beginning of last year. They should still be favourites if they play to potential.

KXIP is a surprisingly strong contender, provided Gilchrist, D Hussey and Mahmood deliver as per expectations of the past; without that, they won’t be a top-4 force. They have some interesting young Indian talent though it will be interesting to see how they fare.

KKR won the title last year despite not having too much specialist batting or bowling talent. This year, they have the lowest impact bowling line-up of this IPL, – a drop from last year. That could be their Achilles Heel, despite Narine. Their strong batting makes up to some extent for this (stronger than last year, based on form despite being the same line-up), though not entirely.

MI has solid Indian talent as the foundation and explosive overseas talent for that X-factor – on this count, this could be their year. However, Ponting is not a great T20 player and how he leads the side could have a big role to play.

PW and RR and are dark horses for different reasons. PW has a good balance between Indian and international talent but not enough wicket-taking bowlers. RR has the highest impact bowling (which is significant) but not enough Indian talent.

DD has been laid low by injuries and their bench strength is not good enough – this should be a tough year for them. RCB has flash and foreign flair but low impact Indian talent overall- they rely on Gayle to have his 3rd consecutive herculean tournament binge, we can hear the law of averages laughing (but then, that’s not the most reliable entity around- the two tournament-defining performances of his career have both come in the last 8 months). SRH is the worst batting side in this IPL with Duminy out, they are likely to be everyone’s whipping boy.

KXIP and PW are the only two likely contenders for first-time T20 silverware this year. It’ll be very interesting if they play to potential.