The second half of IPL 2021 is all set to begin in the UAE from Sunday, September 19 with a contest between defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK). This will be the third time that the T20 event will be held in the Middle East. Last year, the entire tournament took place in the UAE. Twenty-nine matches were held in the first half of IPL 2021 in India before the tournament had to be suspended due to COVID-19 cases. Delhi Capitals (DC) were leading the points table when the event was halted while Sunrisers Hyderabad were in the last position. Ahead of the UAE leg, we predict where the teams will finish in the league stage.
1. Delhi Capitals
Delhi Capitals (DC) had a fantastic run in the first half of IPL 2021. They played eight matches and won six of them, losing only two, and were No. 1 in the points table. Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw were fantastic at the top of the order while Avesh Khan was a surprise hit with the ball. Leggie Amit Mishra also proved that he still has it in him to make an impact. DC will be buoyed by the return of Shreyas Iyer though Rishabh Pant will remain captain for the rest of the season. Ravichandran Ashwin, who quit the event during the first half, is also back. They should continue their good run in the second half.
2. Mumbai Indians
Defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) are currently in the fourth position in the points table. They won four and lost three of their seven games. MI had an inconsistent run in India, with their big-hitters like Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya struggling for rhythm. Kieron Pollard, however, played a fabulous knock to lead them to victory against Chennai Super Kings (CSK), just before the event was halted. Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah and Rahul Chahar were amazing with the ball. MI always fight back hard in the second half. Expect them to end in the Top 2.
3. Chennai Super Kings
After a forgettable IPL 2021, CSK made a strong return to form in the first half of IPL 2021. They were at the second position in the points table with five wins and two losses from seven matches. Moeen Ali provided the X-factor for CSK, scoring briskly at No. 3 while openers Faf du Plessis and Ruturaj Gaikwad dazzled. Ravindra Jadeja contributed in all departments while Deepak Chahar made an impact with the ball. They have good all-around strength. CSK should carry on their good work in the second half as well.
4. Royal Challengers Bangalore
Virat Kohli’s franchise was strong in the first half, losing only two of their seven games. They were at No. 3 in the points table when the event was halted. Glenn Maxwell surprised everyone with his consistent batting efforts while AB de Villiers continued his good run. Devdutt Padikkal also registered his maiden ton. Harshal Patel got a lot of wickets though he was expensive. Skipper Virat Kohli will have to lift his game with the bat. They will be missing Washington Sundar but RCB should finish in the top 4.
5. Punjab Kings
Punjab Kings again were poor in the first half of IPL 2021. They won only three of their five games and were sixth in the points table. Neither their batting nor bowling was consistent. KL Rahul, Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal have been their chief batting contributors but they need some support. Shahrukh Khan impressed lower down the order, so he could be promoted. Their bowling has been decent. Aiden Markram, Nathan Ellis and Adil Rashid have been brought into the squad as replacements. It remains to be seen what impact they can make.
6. Rajasthan Royals
Rajasthan Royals are at No. 5 in the points table. They won three and lost four of their seven games. With Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer (he missed the first half too) unavailable, they will be without three match-winners. In the batting, they will be heavily dependent on Sanju Samson, who himself has been inconsistent. Liam Livingstone is coming in with form and as a much bigger name after missing the first half due to bio-bubble fatigue. Can he change the team’s fortunes? Chris Morris will have to lift his game and will need support from Chetan Sakariya and Jaydev Unadkat in the pace bowling department. Still, with few match-winning options available, they are could finish behind Punjab.
7. Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR are seventh in the points table and they are likely to remain there. They won only two of their seven games in the first half. Pat Cummins, their key pacer, is unavailable. Their batting floundered in the first half except for some good efforts from Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi at the start. Andre Russell, skipper Eoin Morgan and Dinesh Karthik will have to do more. In their bowling, the spin duo of Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine will be expected to deliver the goods. Both have been impressive in the T20 format of late. With no Cummins, they will have to shoulder the burden in the bowling department. KKR though don’t look like a cohesive unit. Kuldeep Yadav’s open outburst against skipper Eoin Morgan doesn’t augur well for the franchise ahead of the resumption of the league.
8. Sunrisers Hyderabad
Having won only one of their seven games, it will be difficult for them to move up from the last position. Their in-form batter Jonny Bairstow has opted out of IPL 2021. Also, David Warner and Manish Pandey looked completely out of sorts in the first half. The captaincy swapped hands with Kane Williamson taking over from Warner. Basically, there was complete chaos in the SRH camp in the first half. Rashid Khan and Williamson are two match-winners in the SRH line-up but their brittle middle-order could let them down again. The return of T Natarajan from knee surgery is good news but SRH seem to have dug themselves into too big a role ahead of the second half of IPL 2021.