The Indian Premier League (IPL) has returned to its original home-and-away format this season. The IPL was being held at a limited number of venues since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020.
The move has already seen teams maximising home advantage, with nine of the 15 (60 per cent) games so far having been won by the home side.
Four years ago, when IPL was last played in the home-and-away format, 58 per cent of the games were won by the host side. Washouts and ties have not been considered for calculations.
A great example of teams playing to their strengths this year is the type of pitches being prepared. When Lucknow Super Giants took on Delhi Capitals, it used a red-soil surface which aided pacers, and Mark Wood responded with a five-for.
But against Sunrisers Hyderabad, a team with a clutch of right-handed batters, Super Giants dished out a black-soil wicket where the ball would stop and turn. Leg-spinners Amit Mishra, Ravi Bishnoi and left-arm spinner Krunal Pandya – favourable matchups versus right-handed batters – then took six wickets between them for just 57 runs in 12 overs as LSG beat SRH by five wickets.
Similarly, Gujarat Titans used a red-soil surface in the tournament opener against Chennai Super Kings, which lacked an express pace option, and then unleashed Alzarri Joseph and Mohammed Shami on CSK’s batters.
They took four wickets between them for 62 runs in eight overs and helped GT get its 2023 campaign off to a winning start.
Another glittering example was when Kolkata Knight Riders hosted Royal Challengers Bangalore at Eden Gardens and given the dodgy record of RCB’s batting linchpin Virat Kohli against Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy, combined with the fact that spinners had been more economical compared to the quicks in Kolkata since 2018, KKR used a surface that didn’t offer exaggerated turn but spun just enough to cause headaches.
As expected, KKR spinners took nine wickets between them, the most by spin in an IPL game, and KKR won by a whopping margin of 81 runs.
However, teams like RCB seem to be at a disadvantage upon return to their home base. It’s just not the type of pitches but the dimensions of the ground that have also come into play.
Since IPL 2022, Royal Challengers have struggled in the final five overs of the innings, and their smaller home ground, M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, has only accentuated those troubles in the first three games this year, against Mumbai Indians, KKR and more recently, LSG.
Not surprisingly, RCB batters have time and again put up big totals while playing in Bengaluru, maximising the flat track, the quick outfield, and the relatively short boundaries.
However, the absence of a specialist death bowler, besides Harshal Patel, has hurt the side. Maybe it has to do with the IPL being played for two seasons in the UAE, where the spinners played a bigger role, and their fast bowlers bowled on wickets that gripped. Harshal’s bowling tends to spring up leaks on surfaces that are on the flatter side.
Dharamsala and Jaipur are yet to host their respective home teams. Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Lucknow, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru have had two home games each while Chennai, Mohali, Kolkata, Delhi, and Mumbai have hosted one home game apiece.
Two teams this season have two home venues.
Rajasthan Royals played its first two home games in Guwahati and will play the remaining five in Jaipur. Punjab Kings, on the other hand, will play its first five home matches in Mohali and its last two in Dharamsala. It’s still too early to comment on how the division of home grounds will impact the qualification chances of these two teams but it surely will be a unique challenge.
Also, unlike previous seasons where chasing teams had an upper hand, this year has seen no clear pattern emerge yet. After 15 games, eight matches have been won batting second and seven batting first.
IPL 2023, which has been a run-fest so far, has seen the balance tipped in favour of the home side. It remains to be seen if the trend sustains.