Plans Reworked, Teams Revamped: How Every IPL Team Will Alter Plans for UAE

Players pulled out and venue changed - how IPL teams have adapted for the second half of IPL 2021.

13 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>How teams have had to change their plans and rosters due to the change in IPL 2021's roster.</p></div>

On 19 September 2021, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings will lock horns again in the UAE – and hit the unpause button on IPL 2021.

Four months after the hopes of organising India’s annual cricket festival on home soil were quashed and the season had to be suspended as the country battled the fierce grip of a devastating second wave of COVID-19, IPL 2021 is set to resume.

Aside from the obvious first of an IPL season being played in two distinct halves, it brings with it several other challenges. How will teams recalibrate all these months later? Which players will be unavailable? What replacements have been made? Who fits where in the revised scheme of things? Let’s take a look.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Rishabh Pant will continue to captain Delhi Capitals this season.</p></div>

Rishabh Pant will continue to captain Delhi Capitals this season.

(Photo: Twitter/DC)


Played 8, Won 6, Lost 2 | Points 12, NRR +0.547

With 512 partnership runs from just eight innings, the opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw were instrumental to DC’s success – their scoring was not only consistent but also rapid (9.25 runs per over). No other pair has even 400 runs to its name so far in the season.

The standout performer with the ball was the uncapped Avesh Khan, who is joint-second in the race for the Purple Cap with 14 wickets (at an impressive economy of 7.70).

Kagiso Rabada had looked off-colour, Anrich Nortje couldn’t get a game (since DC needed to play two overseas batters), Axar Patel missed the first four games as he recovered from COVID-19, and by the time he returned, R Ashwin was out injured. It says something about the Capitals’ depth that they topped the halfway table despite all the issues.

Player Replacements

Out: Chris Woakes

In: Ben Dwarshuis

Delhi have had only one player – Chris Woakes – opting out so far, and they have replaced him with Australian fast bowler Ben Dwarshuis. More importantly though, they have a prized asset back in the mix: Shreyas Iyer had to sit out of the India leg with an injured shoulder, which has since been operated upon. It’s been a long time away from the game – and it’s unclear whether he will take the captaincy back from Rishabh Pant – but even if it’s only as a batter, Iyer adds tremendously to the Capitals setup.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Shreyas Iyer missed the first half of IPL 2021 due to an injury.</p></div>

Shreyas Iyer missed the first half of IPL 2021 due to an injury.

(Photo: DC)

Likely Changes

Iyer could take Steven Smith’s spot in the XI; DC are best served without two anchor-mould batters in the middle order, plus it frees up an overseas slot which could aid the reunion of the Proteas pair responsible for a lot of DC’s joy in the UAE last year – with 52 wickets between them, Rabada and Anrich Nortje were key to the Capitals making their maiden IPL final in 2020.

Delhi will have their spin threats available together now, with both Axar and Ashwin fit; if they start firing together, it gives the team an enviably formidable bowling attack.

Possible Variations

On exceptionally slow surfaces, Amit Mishra could join his fellow Indian spinners to give DC a spin-heavy look.

If the surfaces look more in the 140-160 range, Smith could slot in to solidify the top/middle-order in place of Shimron Hetmyer.

Delhi also possess the varied all-round potential of Tom Curran and Lalit Yadav to bring into the mix in case of any balancing issues, although the English seamer is unlikely to edge out any of his overseas competitors.

Expected XI

Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Shimron Hetmyer, Marcus Stoinis, Axar Patel, R Ashwin, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Avesh Khan

<div class="paragraphs"><p>MS Dhoni with his CSK team-mates at the pre-season camp.</p></div>

MS Dhoni with his CSK team-mates at the pre-season camp.

(Photo: CSK)


Played 7, Won 5, Lost 2 | Points 10, NRR +1.263

In a marked – and much-needed – change from the lows of last year, CSK changed their game and upped the ante, going from a trundling 7.98 per over in IPL 2020 to a turbo-charged 9.57 in IPL 2021.

This was down, in large parts, to a reversion to type. The first leg of this season saw the return of the CSK template of yesteryears: bat deep, have six bowling options, make minimal changes to the XI.

Player Replacements


Likely Changes

None; the setup and the strategy was clear, and it worked, so expect little to no change in how the Super Kings line up in the UAE.

The one area where CSK will hope for a change is not so much in the personnel as it is in the form of their Indian seamers: Deepak Chahar picked up two four-fors, but went wicketless in five other games; Shardul Thakur had the worst economy rate (10.33) for any bowler with more than 12 overs in the first half of the season. In their last game, CSK allowed Mumbai Indians to blast 135 runs in the last nine overs and pull off an improbable heist.

Possible Variations

The only foreseeable variation in the CSK lineup is with the fourth overseas slot, which, depending on conditions/match-ups, could be rotated between Dwayne Bravo, Lungi Ngidi and Imran Tahir.

Expected XI

Faf du Plessis, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suresh Raina, Moeen Ali, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Sam Curran, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Dwayne Bravo/Lungi Ngidi/Imran Tahir

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Virat Kohli landed in the UAE on Saturday for the IPL.</p></div>

Virat Kohli landed in the UAE on Saturday for the IPL.

(Photo: Twitter/RCB)


Played 7, Won 5, Lost 2 | Points 10, NRR -0.171

Typically prone to constant chopping and changing, RCB resorted to a ‘template’ after several years; seven players featured in all the games, and nine featured in all but one.

There were clear ideas to start the innings, with bat and ball: Virat Kohli moved to the top and formed a formidable pairing with Devdutt Padikkal, while Mohammed Siraj became the go-to Powerplay bowler.

AB de Villiers – surprise, surprise! – operated on a different plane, going at nearly ten runs per over (the highest scoring rate for any batter with 200+ runs).

RCB’s biggest trump cards, however, were somewhat unexpected: Glenn Maxwell was among the most impactful batters in the first leg (223 runs at 8.69 per over), while Harshal Patel topped the wicket-taking charts (17 wickets, average 15.11).

Player Replacements

Out: Adam Zampa, Daniel Sams, Kane Richardson, Finn Allen, Washington Sundar

In: Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera, George Garton, Tim David, Akash Deep

The injury-induced absence of Sundar is a blow, but RCB have covered up well with the smart signing of Hasaranga. Each of the four new overseas recruits bring something new to the table (as explained below).

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Dushmantha Chameera and Wanindu Hasaranga were picked by RCB as replacements for&nbsp;Adam Zampa and Daniel Sams.</p></div>

Dushmantha Chameera and Wanindu Hasaranga were picked by RCB as replacements for Adam Zampa and Daniel Sams.

(Photo: PTI)

Likely Changes

Hasaranga should make the fourth overseas slot his own (to go with Maxwell, de Villiers and Kyle Jamieson) – his twin abilities of middle-order hitting and four lock-in overs of spin making him a priceless addition to the roster.

With Hasaranga seemingly an upgrade on Sundar’s batting potential while also covering for the spin department, RCB could look to add pace bowling cover in the form of Navdeep Saini or Akash Deep in place of Shahbaz Ahmed.

Possible Variations

The varied skill-sets of the new overseas recruits provide manoeuvrability to RCB. If things aren’t going as per plan, Jamieson can be switched with any of the three signings apart from Hasaranga to offer different options: Chameera can be a middle-overs fast-bowling enforcer, Garton provides left-arm pace with some lower-order batting ability, while David can boost the batting potential (if the bowling attack is working out alright).

Rajat Patidar took the number three position in four out of six games; RCB have domestic batting alternatives available in the form of Sachin Baby and Mohd Azharuddeen.

Expected XI

Devdutt Padikkal, Virat Kohli, Rajat Patidar, Glenn Maxwell, AB de Villiers, Wanindu Hasaranga, Kyle Jamieson, Harshal Patel, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shahbaz Ahmed/Akash Deep/Navdeep Saini

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Mumbai Indians' skipper Rohit Sharma joined the camp in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.</p></div>

Mumbai Indians' skipper Rohit Sharma joined the camp in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

(Photo: Twitter)


Played 7, Won 4, Lost 3 | Points 8, NRR +0.062

Started slow, pulled off heists, worked their way into the top-four around the halfway mark… just a classic Mumbai Indians season already. They did look scratchy – three of their four wins were down, in part at least, to opposition teams completely bottling up an advantageous situation (KKR and SRH in Chennai, CSK in Delhi) – but there were no alarm bells. MI stuck to the combination that delivered the goods in back-to-back title-winning campaigns.

Ten of their playing XI remained the same in five games, and eight of those ten were ever-present.

Player Replacements


Likely Changes

None; this setup has barely changed in the last two seasons, with ten spots seemingly locked. The fourth overseas slot is what MI usually tinker around with.

In the UAE last year, an additional overseas seamer to partner Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult was the go-to combination. Expect that to be the modus operandi again; Nathan Coulter-Nile may have been around the setup the longest, but for this spot he will be challenged by the high-pace of Adam Milne and the left-arm angle plus height of Marco Jansen.

Possible Variations

All the variation is generally around this fourth overseas/number eight slot in the lineup. MI haven’t been averse to fielding only three overseas players either, with Jayant Yadav adding to the spin department against teams with multiple left-handed batters.

Expected XI

Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Jayant Yadav/Nathan Coulter-Nile/Adam Milne, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Sanju Samson's RR squad saw almost their entire overseas star cast pull out.</p></div>

Sanju Samson's RR squad saw almost their entire overseas star cast pull out.

(Photo: BCCI)


Played 7, Won 3, Lost 4 | Points 6, NRR -0.190

The Royals entered IPL 2021 with the setback of being without Jofra Archer – MVP in IPL 2020 – and things went from bad to worse when Ben Stokes was ruled out of the tournament with a finger injury in their first outing.

Under a new captain in Sanju Samson, RR didn’t hit the panic button and showed a consistency of selection previously unseen; nine players featured in at least six of the seven games during the India leg.

Player Replacements

Out: Jofra Archer, Andrew Tye, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes

In: Glenn Phillips, Tabraiz Shamsi, Evin Lewis, Oshane Thomas

As if the absence of Archer and Stokes wasn’t enough, RR’s second-half hopes took a hit when Jos Buttler opted out to be with family after the birth of his second child.

The Royals have managed to paper over a precarious-looking situation with some smart replacement buys.

Likely Changes

There’s no Buttler, no Stokes, no Archer; Chris Morris has played no cricket since the season paused halfway, and very little cricket before that too.

Evin Lewis and Glenn Phillips will vie for Buttler’s position at the top of the order – both have been in heady T20 form in recent months.

Based on recent form, Liam Livingstone and Tabraiz Shamsi also make pressing claims to be in the first-choice XI. Livingstone bulks up the middle-order, while Shamsi fills a glaring gap in the RR spin department.

The final overseas slot becomes a toss-up between Morris and Mustafizur Rahman. Morris might have the reputation, but his lack of game-time over the past year should tip the scales in Rahman’s favour.

Possible Variations

RR could play both Lewis and Phillips to load their top-order potential.

If the Indian middle-order (Riyan Parag, Shivam Dube, Rahul Tewatia) clicks, the Royals cold try and accommodate an additional overseas bowler.

Possible XI

Evin Lewis/Glenn Phillips, Yashasvi Jaiswal/Manan Vohra, Sanju Samson, Shivam Dube, Riyan Parag, Liam Livingstone, Rahul Tewatia, Chris Morris/Mustafizur Rahman, Chetan Sakariya, Jaydev Unadkat/Kartik Tyagi, Tabraiz Shamsi

<div class="paragraphs"><p></p></div>

(Photo: BCCI)


Played 8, Won 3, Lost 5 | Points 6, NRR -0.368

It’s been a few seasons since Punjab had any set pattern with their lineup. The glaring absence of quality all-rounders has left them with a balancing nightmare, and that didn’t change with a change of name.

Six of the batters and Mohammed Shami were more-or-less fixed, but PBKS used as many as 12 players to try and fill the four remaining spots in their XI. At the time of interruption, they seemed no closer to finding an ‘ideal’ XI than they were at the start of the season.

Player Replacements

Out: Riley Meredith, Jhye Richardson, Dawid Malan

In: Nathan Ellis, Adil Rashid, Aiden Markram

Punjab’s huge investment in pace at the 2021 auction didn’t quite reap its reward as Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith (combined auction fee INR 22 crore) couldn’t make a substantial mark. Neither of the two will return to the setup for the second leg of the tournament.

PBKS have placed their faith in another Aussie quick yet to be tested in IPL waters – Nathan Ellis. The addition of English leg-spinner Adil Rashid bolsters the spin stocks at Punjab.

Punjab have also roped in South African batter Aiden Markram to replace Dawid Malan, who withdrew from the tournament on 11 September.

Likely Changes

Given the paucity of pace-bowling resources, Ellis should slot into the XI – all the more so given his track record in the death overs. While he’s relatively fresh on the scene (33 T20s), the Australian has bowled more than 40 percent of his career overs at the death, taking 32 wickets while conceding 8.77 runs per over.

Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran are expected to be in the XI. In the absence of high-pedigree all-rounders, the last overseas slot could be a toss-up between Moises Henriques and Fabian Allen – although neither made a very compelling case for himself in the first half.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>File picture of Chris Gayle and Nicolas Puran during IPL 2020.</p></div>

File picture of Chris Gayle and Nicolas Puran during IPL 2020.

(Photo: BCCI)

Possible Variations

By choosing not to go for the bit-and-piece offerings of either Henriques or Allen, Punjab could look to strengthen one particular suit depending on the venue or the opposition.

If they go batting-heavy, PBKS can play Gayle, Pooran and Allen (as a lower-order dasher, without major bowling responsibility), along with Ellis. In a more bowling-heavy setup, they could go with two out of Gayle and Pooran, and an additional bowler along with Ellis – which could be Rashid, or Chris Jordan.

Markram’s signing poses an intriguing dilemma; his part-time bowling capability offers a makeshift solution to team balance issues – on paper, the fifth bowler’s load could be shared between Markram, Hooda and Allen, especially on slower surfaces – but that would come at the cost of one of the two West Indian batters. Also, can Punjab really accommodate another batter more suited to the top of the order in their XI?

Possible XI

KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Deepak Hooda, Nicholas Pooran, Moises Henriques/Fabian Allen, Shahrukh Khan, Ravi Bishnoi, Nathan Ellis, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh


Played 7, Won 2, Lost 5 | Points 4, NRR -0.494

They didn’t deviate much from their choice of personnel, but not a lot went to plan for KKR in the first half of the season. Nine KKR players featured in every game they played, the only major toss-up being between Sunil Narine and Shakib al Hasan for the fourth overseas slot.

The batting – and the lack of impetus, in particular – was the biggest let down for the Knight Riders. Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana scored their runs at less than 7.50 per over, Eoin Morgan at less than seven per over.

It’s quite revealing that Pat Cummins was KKR’s fastest scoring batter in the first leg – and quite concerning that he will not feature in the UAE.

Player Replacements

Out: Pat Cummins

In: Tim Southee

Cummins’ absence will be felt in both departments. His replacement, Southee, hasn’t played a T20 game since 1 April.

Likely Changes

Southee’s compatriot Lockie Ferguson should be the one taking Cummins’ spot in the lineup. The Kiwi quick had made an instant impact after a late introduction to the KKR XI during IPL 2020, including a memorable performance in a Super Over win over Sunrisers Hyderabad. However, Ferguson didn’t get a single game in the first leg of the 2021 campaign.

Had the second half of the season taken place on schedule, KKR’s batters seemed headed for an axing. Without taking any names, coach Brendon McCullum hadn’t minced words about the slow starts and the lack of intent – and the likes of Gill and Rana were probably on the cusp of being dropped.

With all these months having passed since, do KKR trust their original choices once again?

Plans Reworked, Teams Revamped: How Every IPL Team Will Alter Plans for UAE

(Photo: Twitter/KKR)

Possible Variations

The Knight Riders boast an impressive-enough spin arsenal to be tempted to go spin-heavy – say, field two out of Shakib/Narine/Harbhajan along with Varun Chakaravarthy – but that would have to be at the cost of the overseas pacer.

If they do go for the spin jugular, the pace-bowling load will have to be shared between any two of Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Sandeep Warrier.

Possible XI

Shubman Gill, Rahul Tripathi, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan, Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Shakib al Hasan/Sunil Narine, Shivam Mavi/Harbhajan Singh, Lockie Ferguson, Prasidh Krishna, Varun Chakaravarthy

Plans Reworked, Teams Revamped: How Every IPL Team Will Alter Plans for UAE

(Photo: Twitter)


Played 7, Won 2, Lost 5 | Points 4, NRR -0.623

Was there one, at all? From 2016 to 2020, SRH were the only team to maintain a 100 percent record of making the IPL playoffs. In some ways, their first leg of IPL 2021 was similar to CSK’s IPL 2020 – pretty much nothing worked out.

The lack of clarity was best evidenced by Jonny Bairstow, Rashid Khan and Vijay Shankar being the only players to feature in every game. The Sunrisers used 21 players in all, another clear sign of how unstable things were.

Player Replacements

Out: Jonny Bairstow

In: Sherfane Rutherford

Likely Changes

Bairstow’s eleventh-hour withdrawal leaves SRH in an even more precarious situation than they were in prior to the league’s suspension in May. They lose not only a gun top-order batter in white-ball cricket, but also a wicketkeeper – which means one out of Wriddhiman Saha or Sreevats Goswami will have to be included in the XI.

How they replace his batting firepower will hinge on where the Sunrisers stand on David Warner, who was dropped from the XI for the last game of the first leg. If they remain firm on what they thought four months ago, Bairstow’s English opening partner Jason Roy should get his first shot in the SRH jersey.

T Natarajan’s absence from even the traveling reserves in the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup suggests fitness issues, which could leave the Sunrisers staring at an old conundrum with the ball: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rashid Khan, and who?

Expect Mohammad Nabi to feature a lot more than he did in the first leg, as SRH attempt to address their skewed balance.


Possible Variations

Sunrisers could place their faith in their inexperienced youth batters – Virat Singh, Priyam Garg, Abdul Samad – and ditch the largely underperforming seasoned campaigners such as Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Shankar.

If SRH want to go bat-heavy, they could reinstate Warner to the XI and have him, Roy and Williamson in the top-four. They could even play Bairstow’s replacement Sherfane Rutherford, who has been among the runs in the CPL. In either scenario, they would have to rely on the domestic pace battery to carry the bowling.

Possible XI

Manish Pandey, Jason Roy/David Warner, Wriddhiman Saha, Kane Williamson, Abdul Samad, Vijay Shankar/Abhishek Sharma, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, two out of Sandeep Sharma/Siddarth Kaul/Khaleel Ahmed

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