All 8 IPL teams boast of quality openers. However, not every quality batsman clicks.
So, which team has been doing the best in IPL 2021 so far, as far as their openers are concerned. The following analysis shows that overall, three time champions Chennai Super Kings and the Delhi Capitals, who are still looking for their maiden IPL title have had the most impactful openers so far this season, after 25 games so far in this edition of the league.
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS (Faf du Plessis & Ruturaj Gaikwad)
One of the main reasons for Chennai’s revival this season in the IPL, after a horror show in 2020 is the form of their two openers and the impact they have made up top, collectively and sometimes individually, so far in the 6 games they have played.
After the franchise realised that Ruturaj Gaikwad had the skills and the temperament to do well on the IPL stage, after trying him out in the latter half of 2020, they began the 2021 season with the 24 year old from Maharashtra as a first choice opener. And he hasn’t let the franchise down. Gaikwad, has so far scored 192 runs in 6 innings, with a highest score of 75, two fifties and a strike rate of 130.
Gaikwad has played the perfect foil for Faf du Plessis, who seems to have rediscovered his mojo this season. In the 2020 edition in the UAE, du Plessis scored 449 runs in all, in 13 innings, with a highest score of 87* and four fifties.
This time, the South African opener has already smashed 3 fifties and has a total of 270 runs in 6 innings, with a highest score of 95*. His strike rate so far is 141.
Gaikwad and du Plessis have so far (in 6 matches) already had two century stands (115 vs KKR & 129 vs SRH) and one fifty run opening wicket stand (74 vs RCB).
DELHI CAPITALS (Shikhar Dhawan & Prithvi Shaw)
Shikhar Dhawan is once again a prime candidate for the orange cap this season. In 2020, he lost out to India team-mate KL Rahul and finished second on the most run getters’ list, with 618 runs in 17 innings (Rahul had 670 runs in 14 innings). For the first time in the league Dhawan had completed 600 runs in a single edition. That despite the fact that he fell for a duck four times.
This time again, Dhawan finds himself right at the top of the runs pile. The southpaw who has become a force to be reckoned with once again in the IPL, especially after he rejoined the Delhi Capitals has so far scored 311 runs this season in 7 innings, with a highest score of 92. He has smashed two fifties so far and has a strike rate of 132. Interestingly, Dhawan’s half centuries count is lower than a lot of batsmen who are behind him on the run getters’ tally and that is because he has had multiple scores in the 20s and 40s this season (45 vs MI, 28 vs SRH, 46 vs KKR).
Dhawan’s partner in crime at the top of the order has put a big smile meanwhile on DC coach Ricky Ponting’s face. Prithvi Shaw had a well below par outing in the UAE last season, managing to score 228 runs in 13 innings, with two fifties and three ducks. There was a lot of talk about how he would not want to bat in the nets and work on the chinks in his armour, despite Ponting’s advice.
This time, Shaw has roared back. The 21 year old has climbed to number three in the overall run getters’ list for IPL 2021, with 269 runs in 7 innings, with a highest score of 82 (vs KKR). He already has three fifties under his belt and is striking the ball at a rate of 165. He has already smashed 34 fours and 9 sixes. On Thursday, he almost single handedly took the KKR bowling apart, with a jaw-dropping 82 off 41 balls, which also included six straight fours off the first over bowled by Shivam Mavi.
Dhawan and Shaw’s form and the impact they have made together as openers has played a huge role in keeping the Capitals in the top half of the points table. The two have so far already had two century stands (138 vs CSK & 132 vs KKR) and two fifty-plus run opening wicket partnerships (59 vs PK & 81 vs SRH).
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS (Shubman Gill & Nitish Rana)
It would be an understatement to say that the Kolkata Knight Riders’ openers haven’t really managed to give the team the boost they need from them up top. And that’s one of the multiple reasons why they find themselves with 5 losses in 7 games so far.
Shubman Gill is a very talented batsman, with almost impeccable technique. However, he is not yet an impact opener in the shortest version of the game. So far in IPL 2021, Gill has managed to score only 132 runs in 7 innings, with no fifties and a strike rate of 118.
At the other end is Nitish Rana who is more in the T20 mould in terms of an attacking batsman. Rana began the season well, with scores of 80 (still his highest score this season – vs SRH and 57 vs MI). However after those two fifty-plus scores in KKR’s first two matches this season, Rana hasn’t really managed to give his team the start they need. His scores in KKR’s other five matches this season have been – 18 vs RCB, 9 vs CSK, 22 vs RR, 0 vs PK and 15 vs DC.
Gill and Rana have not been able to be explosive in the powerplay overs, something they struggled with in the last edition as well.
The two have so far been able to put up two fifty plus stands so far in IPL 2021, which were in the first two matches they played this year (53 vs SRH & 72 vs MI).
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE (Virat Kohli & Devdutt Padukkal)
Virat’s Kohli’s decision to open the batting for RCB this season was hailed as a very good one. And once Devdutt Padikkal was back after recovering from a bout of COVID-19, RCB had their two first choice openers ready.
So far in IPL 2021, Virat and Pdikkal have given their team one century plus stand (181 vs RR, with Padikkal scoring 101* and Virat smashing 72*).
Virat so far has scored 163 runs in 6 innings with a highest score of 72*. He has one fifty under his belt and has a strike rate of just over 126. He has hit 18 fours and 3 sixes. Going by the very high standard that the Indian captain has set, he would definitely want to up the strike rate and score more consistently. He currently sits in 17th place on the list of highest run getters so far this season.
Three places above Virat on that list is his opening partner Padikkal. The xxx year old is one of only two centurions so far this season (along with Sanju Samson) and has a strike rate of over 154. So far he has scored 188 runs in 5 innings, with a highest score of 101*. Padikkal did manage to silence the critics who felt he couldn’t up the ante very well, but both he and Virat would want to forge better, stronger stands up top going ahead. After their century stand vs the Royals, their next highest opening wicket stand has been 44 (vs CSK).
MUMBAI INDIANS (Rohit Sharma & Quinton de Kock)
Quinton de Kock couldn’t really get going in Mumbai Indians’ Chennai leg, but now with the team having shifted to Delhi the Protea wicket-keeer batsman seems to have found his rhythm. In Mumbai’s last outing vs RR, on Thursday, de Kock was the star of the show, smashing 70 of 50 balls with 6 fours and 2 sixes.
de Kock though has to continue this form, because that will be crucial for the defending champions, who are currently in fourth place (after match number 25) going ahead in the second half of the tournament. So far de Kock has managed to score 117 runs in 5 innings (Chris Lynn opened in one match which de Kock missed), with a strike rate of just over 112 and is in 28th place in the overall highest run getters’ list this season.
There is a school of thought that Lynn could have been brought back after the first game of the season, where he made 49. But with de Kock, who is a first choice opener for the team finding form, MI are unlikely to entertain that thought.
At the other end, MI captain Rohit Sharma also hasn’t had an explosive season so far. Though Rohit has been much more consistent than de Kock, scoring 215 runs in 6 innings, at a strike rate of 126, with one fifty, he would want to switch gears in the second half of the tournament, as MI make their push, like they often do to finish in the top two. Rohit is currently in eighth place on the list of highest run scorers this season.
The highest opening wicket stand that Rohit and de Kock have managed to put together this season was 55 vs SRH.
SUNRISERS HYDERABAD (David Warner, Jonny Bairstow & Wriddhiman Saha)
This has just not been Sunrisers Hyderabad’s season. Languishing at the bottom of the points table, the 2016 champions find themselves with just one win after 6 games played.
They haven’t managed to set the stage on fire, but their two openers have been their most consistent performers with the bat. In David Warner and Jonny Bairstow, SRH have one of the, if not the most explosive T20 opening combination in the league.
Warner and Bairstow however haven’t really set the stage on fire yet. Warner currently has 193 runs in 6 innings, with a highest score of 57 and a strike rate of 110 and 2 fifties. He is currently in 12th place on the overall run getters’ list this season.
Bairstow meanwhile finds himself five places higher than his SRH team-mate and captain, in seventh place on that list. So far this season, the Englishman has scored 218 runs in 6 innings, with a highest score of 63*, striking the ball at a rate of just over 141, with two fifties. Four times in those 6 innings, Bairstow opened the innings with Warner.
SRH made Wriddhiman Saha open with Warner for the first two games, with Bairstow batting at number four. Saha scored a total of 8 runs in those two matches. But once Bairstow was pushed up to open the innings, there was an immediate impact. In the first match that Warner and Bairstow opened together in, SRH had an opening wicket stand of 67 vs the Mumbai Indians. In the next match vs Punjab Kings that stand was worth 73, as SRH cruised to a 9 wicket win.
Teams know that if they can knock off one of these two early that will severely dent SRH’s chances.
RAJASTHAN ROYALS (Jos Buttler, Manan Vohra & Yashasvi Jaiswal)
Rajasthan Royals haven’t had the best of outings so far this season. The 2008 champions are in seventh place currently (after match number 25), with 2 wins in 6 games. And the form of their openers are a reflection in one way of where the team finds itself.
RR began the season with Ben Stokes and Manan Vohra as the openers. But then Stokes was ruled out.
Vohra meanwhile has been well below par, scoring a mere 42 runs in 4 innings. He was subsequently dropped for the young Yashasvi Jaiswal in RR’s last 2 games. Jaiswal has so far has scored 54 runs in 2 innings, with a highest score of 32.
At the other end Buttler has played in all 6 games RR have played this season so far and opened in five, but he too has been well below par going by the high standards he sets for himself, as one of the cleanest hitters of the cricket ball. Buttler so far has scored 130 runs in 6 innings overall (one where he batted at number 4), without a single fifty. In the five innings he has opened in, he has scored a total of 105 runs.
The highest partnership RR have managed for the opening wicket so far this season has been 66 – between Buttler and Jaiswal vs Mumbai Indians.
PUNJAB KINGS (KL Rahul & Mayank Agarwal)
In KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, Punjab Kings have two of the cleanest hitters of the ball as their openers.
Last season, Rahul was the orange cap winner and this season he currently finds himself in fourth place in the overall highest run scorers’ list, with 240 runs in 6 innings, with a highest score of 91 and a strike rate of 129. He has three fifties under his belt so far and has hit 20 fours and 11 sixes so far.
At the other end Aharwal has also opened in all 6 games that Punjab have played so far this season and scored 161 runs, with a highest score of 69 and a strike rate of 128.
PBKS though would want both their openers to stitch together larger partnerships at the top going forward, especially at a time when the team finds itself in sixth place on the points table, with 8 league games left to play. So far the first wicket stands for the team in their 6 games have been – 22, 1, 122, 15, 53 and 36.
That’s one century stand and one fifty plus stand.