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IPL 2019 strategy punts: The moves that worked and the ones that didn't

Manish Pandey drills one down the ground BCCI

The plans that worked

Pandey at No. 3

Prior to the season, Manish Pandey had cited lack of clarity on the part of the team management for his struggles in IPL 2018. This year, he was left out midway. Then, in a show of confidence, he was promoted to No. 3. Suddenly, his consistency and stroke play were back, and there was talk of how he was unfortunate to have missed the World Cup bus: in this period, he produced scores of 83*, 61, 36 and 71*, which included a last-ball six to force a game into a Super Over.

Gill the opener

He can stand tall and pull a 148kph short ball in front of square, but he seldom had the chance to do it early in the season. It seemed obvious to everyone but the team management that he was being wasted. Call it luck or whatever, but Kolkata Knight Riders they broke with tradition, shelved the Sunil Narine experiment at the top and went with Shubman Gill. He responded with three half-centuries and finished the tournament four runs shy of 300.

Smith returns as captain

Steven Smith took over quite late in the season and changed the Rajasthan Royals script as best as one can in a brief stint. He introduced Riyan Parag, found a role for Stuart Binny, and resurrected a dipping campaign to keep them in the hunt till his time at the tournament ended.

Leaving Yuvraj out

Dropping Yuvraj Singh was not a move that had blatantly visible benefits, but the effects added up over the season, with the allrounders getting some room higher up in the order at times. Ishan Kishan, who practically took that spot from Yuvraj, played a crucial knock in a low-scoring qualifier against Chennai Super Kings, and got the direct hit running in from long-on that dismissed MS Dhoni in the final.

The (other) Chahar gamble

Rahul Chahar came into IPL 2019 a more seasoned bowler than the one who had sat on the bench through 2018, marrying talent with nous. He had an outstanding domestic season, taking 41 wickets in the Ranji Trophy in a Rajasthan team dominated by pacers, and showed the effects of having gained greater control by keeping things tight for Mumbai Indians in the middle overs. He had an economy rate of 6.55, the best for Mumbai (minimum ten overs), and his remarkable spell in the final played no small part in the team's eventual victory.

Pooran seizes his chance

David Miller has been a fixture in Kings XI Punjab for years, but his explosiveness has tapered somewhat in the IPL. Nicholas Pooran was initially given an opportunity in the XI ahead of Miller, and then alongside him. But his performances meant he was slotting in ahead of the more experienced South African. Pooran found his groove once he was given some rope, and his last four innings netted 151 runs at a strike rate of 173.56 - enough to perhaps earn him a starting XI slot next year.

The plans that failed

Uthappa higher than Rana

Several times in the past, Knight Riders have given the impression of having one batsman too many in the line-up. Unfortunately, this time, it happened to be their vice-captain. Robin Uthappa's IPL success has largely come as an opener or at No. 3. But because Andre Russell created the kind of impact he did and Dinesh Karthik is seen as a finisher, they had to rejig the batting order. This shuffle resulted in costly lapses: the in-form Nitish Rana was denied batting time despite having a better strike rate and consistency than Uthappa. The season ended in despair as Uthappa struggled to get going in Mumbai, a high-scoring ground, where even 200 hasn't been enough at times.

Where was Hetmyer?

Royal Challengers Bangalore played a lot of matches with only three overseas players. It also meant Shimron Hetmyer, one of world cricket's brightest upcoming batsmen, was left out in favour of underperforming domestic players. His knock against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Royal Challengers' last game, without the pressures of a crumbling batting line-up around him, showed a glimpse of the impact they might have missed out on in the middle of the season.

The Dre Russ conundrum

In Kolkata Knight Riders' first ten matches, Andre Russell never batted higher than No. 5, and mostly at No. 6 or 7. He voiced his frustration at coming in so low, but the team management was bull-headed in their belief that he could be most effective only if given a limited amount of batting time. Russell showed in the away match against Chennai Super Kings that wasn't the case, holding the innings together from No. 7 while making 50 not out off 44 where no other batsman crossed 20. Having lesser T20 batsmen eat up balls while Russell sat with pads on in the dugout became a regular, and frustrating, sight.

Mujeeb on the periphery

Kings XI had Mujeeb Ur Rahman, M Ashwin, Varun Chakravarthy (bought for INR 8.4 crore), Harpreet Brar and captain R Ashwin in a strong spin attack. That pointed to a Super Kings-like strategy of using slower bowlers, but Mujeeb played only five matches. Some of his absence was down to injury, but at other times, it seemed as if the management didn't have enough faith. He bowled only eight overs in the Powerplay, a period where he has shown in the past he can be most effective.