IPL 2019: 5 strategic masterstrokes of the season

Deepak Panda

IPL 2019 ended with one of the most thrilling finals in the history of the league. The two most successful teams battled for supremacy, and the match went down to the very last ball with MI pipping CSK by 1 run.

The nail-biting final was a fitting end to a season which had the most last-over finishes ever. As many as 32 games went to the last over, including the final.

For the first time in the history of the IPL, the top and bottom ranked teams in the points table were separated by just seven points. Moreover, the eighth-ranked team was just one point behind the fourth-ranked team. This shows the immense competition that was prevalent throughout the tournament.

The season, however, did not start on a bright note, with certain teams flying away with consecutive wins while a couple of other teams were finding it tough to open their accounts. As the season progressed the contest started getting more even, thanks to some major tactical changes by the teams.

Here, we look at five such tactical masterstrokes which changed the fortunes of the teams, or which could have helped the teams if executed earlier:

#5 Shubman Gill as an opener

Shubman Gill scored three fifties as an opener (picture courtesy - BCCI/iplt20.com)

Touted as one of the future stars of Indian cricket, Shubman Gill had an excellent domestic season as an opener in the build-up to IPL 2019. However, just like the 2018 season, he was used at number 6 or below for the majority of the first half of the tournament.

Batting lower down the order resulted in mediocre returns from a hugely talented player. But as the tournament progressed, the Kolkata Knight Riders management finally shelved the Sunil Narine experiment at the top and made Gill open the batting.

It was probably a bit too late for the realization to hit home that the youngster was being wasted at number 7. Opening the batting, Gill scored three half-centuries and finished the season with 296 runs.

He also won the Emerging Player award, and is surely an asset for the future for KKR - someone whom they can look to build the team around in the coming years.

#4 Introduction of Nicholas Pooran

Nicholas Pooran might prove to be a huge asset in the middle order for KXIP in the years to come. (Pic courtesy - BCCI/iplt20.com)

The highly talented Caribbean wicket-keeper batsman was not a first choice pick for Kings XI Punjab. They continued to give a longer rope to David Miller, and Pooran was in and out of the team for the most part of the season. However, the latter half of the season saw Pooran getting extended chances, and he delivered.

KXIP played him alongside Miller, sometimes sending him ahead of the South African in the batting order. As he got a longer run and more confidence from the management, Pooran found his groove and score at a strike rate of 173 in the last four innings.

Going into the next season, Pooran should find a place in the starting XI, most likely at number four.

#3 Using Deepak Chahar at the death

Deepak Chahar flourished under the pressure of death bowling as the season progressed. (Pic courtesy - BCCI/iplt20.com)

The Chennai Super Kings were dented by the injury to Lungi Ngidi and were left short of death bowling options even before the tournament started. An injury to Bravo mid-way through the season made matters worse, and MS Dhoni was forced to move out of his comfort zone.

Deepak Chahar, someone who prospered with the new ball in 2018 and was not even considered for death bowling until then, was given the task of bowling the penultimate over while defending against Kings XI Punjab at home. A nervy start with a string of wides and no balls followed by a stare from Dhoni was more than made up by Chahar as he sent back the dangerous David Miller.

Chahar was then given the responsibility to share the death bowling burden with Bravo. He repaid the captain's faith and turned out to be the best death bowler for CSK of the season.

Going forward, Chahar looks all set to spearhead the CSK pace attack, both at the start as well as the death.

#2 Manish Pandey at number three

Manish Pandey found his form back when promoted to number three (Pic courtesy - BCCI/iplt20.com)

Manish Pandey looked like a pale shadow of himself after donning the SRH jersey in 2018. He was dropped towards the end of last season, but this year saw him getting dropped mid-way after a few poor performances at number four or below.

As the tournament progressed and Jonny Bairstow got ready to leave for national duties, the management wanted their experienced campaigner to step up to the occasion. They sent Pandey in at number three at Chepauk, and his counter-attacking 83* helped SRH put up a decent total.

There was no looking back for Pandey after that. He scored two half-centuries in the next three innings, including a last-ball six to take the game to a Super Over against MI. He found his mojo back as soon as he was promoted to three, displaying his stroke play and consistency.

Pandey should be the number three for SRH in the next season right from the start.

#1 Steven Smith as the skipper of Rajasthan Royals

Steven Smith was handed over the captaincy mid-way through the tournament (Pic courtesy - BCCI/iplt20.com)

Steven Smith being handed over the captaincy mid-way through the tournament brought the Rajasthan Royals back into contention for the playoffs.

After losing a number of close games and not being at his best with the bat, Ajinkya Rahane was released from captaincy duties. This move proved to be a masterstroke.

Rahane found form with the bat, scoring a hundred, and so did Smith. He gave Riyan Parag the much-needed opportunities, found a role for the experienced Stuart Binny, reincarnated the Jaydev Unadkat of the Rising Pune Supergiant and reinvented Varun Aaron as a new ball bowler.

All these things played a key role in putting Rajasthan back in contention for the playoffs, which they eventually missed out on by just one point.