Starting on the wrong foot

Although we welcomed our captain Rishabh Pant back into the team, we did not have a good start to the season losing four of the first five matches. Looking back, our last two seasons started on the wrong foot and that affected our playoffs prospects in a big way.

Grit and Character all through

We came back strongly brushing off the disappointments of our early defeats to reboot our flailing campaign. The team, under our coach Ricky Ponting and Captain Rishabh Pant, showed grit and character when pushed back to the wall.

We churned out four wins in the next five matches to climb through the IPL 2024 points table. We won two out of the four remaining matches in the home leg to end our season with 14 points, four more than last season.

This season, we were more consistent in the second half as we reached the doorstep of qualification. Hopefully, next season we will be able to make it to the playoffs.

 

IPL 2024: Things to remember

Jake Fraser-McGurk came as a replacement for Lungi Ngidi. Our winning streak started with his entry into the Playing XI. We won six matches out of the nine he played in. He took the IPL by storm with his belligerent hitting at the top of the order.

In nine matches, Fraser-McGurk aggregated 330 runs including four fifties at an average of 36.66 and an unbelievable strike rate of 234.04, the best for any batter who has played a minimum of 100 balls in IPL 2024.

 

The Australian sent opponents on a leather hunt, hitting boundaries at will as he was our find of the season and the biggest positive in our journey.

 

The return of our skipper

The return of our Rishabh Pant gave us an excellent push at the start of the season. Returning from injury he played all the matches, except for one which was not missed for that reason, and kept wickets in each of them highlighting his fitness levels.

With the bat, Pant was clearing the boundaries like he never had a break. He was our top run-getter this season as he amassed 446 runs from 13 matches averaging 40.54. He scored three fifties and also had an excellent strike rate of 155.40 which often bailed us out in the middle overs.

Behind the stumps, he was safe as ever effecting 16 dismissals and punching his ticket in the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup in June. He also led the team brilliantly, making all the right changes and keeping the team together even when they had a bad start.

The spin twins

Once again spin twins Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav delivered the goods for us in IPL 2024. They hunted in pairs as the batters struggled against their varying styles. 

Kuldeep bamboozled batters with his turn and drift picking up 16 wickets from 11 matches averaging just 23.25 runs per wicket and picking up a dismissal every 16.12 balls.

Though Axar had only 11 dismissals from 14 matches, his economy rate of 7.65 has been a revelation in an IPL where 200-plus scores have been the norm. Once again, Axar’s batting skills came to the fore as he scored 235 runs from 12 visits to the crease at an average of 29.37 and a strike rate of 131.28.

Axar has been an asset for us on the field too, taking 13 catches, the most by any player this year, and making crucial saves, a three-dimensional player by all means. Both Axar and Kuldeep impressed the national selectors with their performances and got the nod for the T20 World Cup.

 

The death-overs experts

Tristan Stubbs, on the batting front, and Mukesh Kumar with his bowling have been excellent for us in the death overs.

Stubbs has been very consistent as he racked up 378 runs from 14 matches averaging 54.00, which included three fifties. Along with Pant, Stubbs has played a key role in taking us to huge totals by getting those big overs in the middle and towards the end striking at 190.90.

Mukesh Kumar, who is known for his exploits with the new ball, pulled out a new trick from his hat this time. He was our designated death bowler this season closing out matches in style with his inch-perfect yorkers and variations delivering in high-pressure situations. 

Still, Mukesh managed to pick 17 wickets from just 10 matches, the most among all our bowlers. Though he bowled most of his overs at the death, he averaged only 21.64 runs a wicket and struck every 12.52 balls he bowled, at a decent economy rate of 10.36. 

The final over against Gujarat Titans in our four-run win and the penultimate over against Lucknow Super Giants where he gave away just six runs showed Mukesh’s death overs prowess.

 

Other Performers

Khaleel Ahmed’s performance upfront with the new ball was an encouraging sign for us this year as he swung games in our favour. Khaleel got 17 wickets from 14 matches in an impressive season as he the Indian team for the T20 World Cup as a travelling reserve.

Another notable performer was Rasikh Dar who took nine wickets from eight matches for us. The 24-year-old youngster from Jammu & Kashmir is surely one of the future stars to watch out for in the IPL.

 

Way Forward

Having finished so close to qualifying for the playoffs, we will continue to put in the hard yards and find ways of improving our performance to put us in the best place for going the distance next season. 

We will return stronger and leave no stone unturned in our journey towards the IPL silverware.