In 2018, the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) trumped Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in their last league match (in Hyderabad) to march into the playoffs. A mere 5 days later, SRH comfortably overpowered KKR in the second Qualifier (this time in Kolkata) to seal their place in the finals.
In 2017, Mumbai Indians were outplayed by Rising Pune Supergiants in 3 games before their surreal 1-run victory over the same opponents in the finals.
These instances just go to show how unpredictable a high-octane league like the Indian Premier League (IPL) can be. While players will agree that the result of any game boils down to the performance on the given day, hardly any post-match interview goes by without the captain alluding to how imperative the entity called ‘momentum’ is. Victors aim to maintain it while the losers vow to regain it.
But what exactly is ‘momentum’? Is it just an abstract synonym for confidence, or does it have any visible bearings on the results of an IPL season?
To address this question, we look at the top 5 biggest win margins (by runs) in the IPL and see how it affected the momentum of the winners in their following games.
5. Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Pune Warriors by 130 runs (IPL 2013)
175 - the score that cemented Chris Gayle’s status as the Universe Boss. Coming out to bat under ominous-looking clouds at the Chinnaswamy, Chris Gayle obliterated the Pune bowling line up to such an extent that Aaron Finch, the specialist opener-cum-captain of PWI, had to turn his arm over.
In addition to Gayle’s unbeaten 175 (66), AB de Villiers’s gem of 31 (8) pushed the RCB total to an unprecedented 263/3. With the asking rate 13.2 from the onset, the PWI chase crumbled without much resistance as they folded for 133/9.
RCB’s best bowling figures that day? 2/5 by the man himself, Christopher Henry Gayle.
Perhaps it is fitting to call Gayle's knock the ‘innings of a lifetime’, as the next few matches didn’t pan out for RCB. The red-and-gold brigade went on to lose to Mumbai Indians by 58 runs and then to Rajasthan Royals by 4 wickets. They won the next match by 17 runs, however, with PWI being the victims once again.
4. Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Kings XI Punjab by 138 Runs (IPL 2015)
Another blitzkrieg from Chris Gayle (117 of 57) helped RCB to another mammoth total of 226/3 towards the business end of the league phase. Kohli (32) and AB de Villiers (47) got together after the loss of the big man to keep the scoring rate from dipping.
In response, KXIP’s innings withered away for a measly 88 with the RCB duo of Mitchell Starc and Sreenath Aravind both picking up 4 wickets apiece. Only Axar Patel, unbeaten on 40 (21), provided a noteworthy performance for KXIP.
RCB seemed to utilize their momentum a notch better this time around, registering only 1 loss (against KXIP) in their next 5 games, which extended into the playoffs. Their 6th match was against rivals Chennai Super Kings in the second Qualifier, which the Men in Yellow won, chasing down 139 with 2 balls to spare to dash RCB’s hopes of another IPL final.
3. Kolkata Knight Riders beat Royal Challengers Bangalore by 140 runs (IPL 2008)
More than 600 matches and 12 years later, the first match of the inaugural season of the IPL still holds multiple records.
RCB were on the receiving end this time as Brendon McCullum added his own fireworks to the opening ceremony. Thrashing the stunned RCB bowlers all around the park, McCullum scored an unbeaten 158 off just 73 to help KKR reach a daunting 222.
As in previous examples, the side chasing never found the accelerator as RCB struggled to 82 before being bowled out. Ajit Agarkar picked up 3 wickets while Ashok Dinda and Sourav Ganguly chipped in with 2 wickets each to ensure that RCB’s chase was buried in double-quick time.
The high of this victory carried KKR to a win over the Deccan Chargers in their second match, where they chased down a straightforward target of 110, but the good times ended there. They would go on to lose their next 4 matches against CSK, MI, RR, and KXIP.
Seeing that this was the first phase of the inaugural edition, they can be forgiven, as teams were still looking to find their footing and understand the dynamics of a tournament like the IPL.
2. Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Gujarat Lions by 144 Runs (IPL 2016)
The perennial underachievers refuse to be left out of this list. While the previous entries were magical, this entry is arguably the one that fans are the fondest of.
RCB were languishing in the bottom half of the table with 4 matches to go in the league. With Gayle falling early, all prayers were pinned on the duo of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. And boy were they answered!
It was the first of 2 instances in the IPL where two players of the same team smashed centuries in the same match (the other was David Warner and Jonny Bairstow against RCB in 2019). De Villiers (129* of 52) and Kohli (109 of 55) proved why they are considered the best batsmen of this generation, as they notched up more records than they did 6’s (which tallied upto 20) on their way to posting 248-3.
Gujarat’s early attempts to rush the scoring only led to wickets as they succumbed to 104-10, never really mounting a fight.
RCB confidently won their remaining 3 league matches to finish second on the points table behind GL, whom they again conquered in the first qualifier. Despite the 5-match winning streak, heartbreak was inevitable as the Sunrisers fought valiantly to snatch the trophy away from the Bengaluru boys with an 8-run victory in the final.
1. Mumbai Indians beat Delhi Daredevils by 146 runs (IPL 2017)
Mumbai Indians went into their 11th match with 9 wins (both losses against the Rising Pune Supergiants). The fact that they had already sealed their place in the playoffs didn’t mean that they were in a mood to be relaxed.
An unsuspecting young Delhi Daredevils (now called Capitals) side watched in horror as every Mumbai batsman who stepped out looked ravenous for runs. 4 of the 5 batsmen had strike rates over 150 as the West Indies duo of Lendl Simmons and Kieron Pollard smashed 66(43) and 63(35) respectively.
Though the target of 213 looked difficult but possible to chase down, the DD batsmen were unaware that the nightmare was just beginning. The Mumbai bowlers ripped into the Delhi line-up. The highest partnership was 15 for the 3rd wicket as they were bowled out for 66, the third-lowest total in the history of IPL.
Saying that the Mumbai Indians were dominant would be the understatement of the season.
In exactly 15 days, Mumbai were posing with the IPL trophy. In these 15 days, Mumbai finished at the top of the table. In Qualifier 1, they battled and lost to RPS, the only team that had beaten them on both occasions during the league phase.
This forced the Mumbai outfit to conquer KKR in Qualifier 2 and advance to the final where they had their 4th go at RPS, this time for the IPL crown. 40 overs later, 1 run separated the two teams, with Mumbai finally conquering their biggest hurdle in the tournament to emerge as champions.
Momentum looks like it plays an active part in how an IPL team performs, although it hasn't really ensured that teams go on winning runs. It might be abstract, but every single player would rather play with it, than without.