For the past IPL winning teams like Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders, the first half of the 2023 season hasn't panned out as per their expectations.
Despite some strong individual performances in the absence of some of their main players, both Kolkata and Mumbai have six points each, and are placed seventh and eighth respectively on the points table.
Former India leg-spinner Anil Kumble, who was the head coach of Punjab Kings last year, believes the task for the two teams is a challenging one, but it is also something which is not impossible.
"I have been a part of teams which have been in the second half of the points table through the half-way stage. It's not easy to catch up. But having said that, it's not impossible either. So, at this stage of the tournament, you have to sort of refresh and reset and then see what is your best possible playing eleven.
Now that you have the Impact Player rule, it becomes a lot easier to sort of make that decision of having the best possible 12. It's about sticking to that and believing that this 12 will be able to get you out of where you are. It's just a matter of momentum," said Kumble, an IPL expert for JioCinema, in a select virtual media interaction.
In IPL 2021, Kolkata had won only two out of their seven games in India till the second wave of Covid-19 halted the tournament. When the action shifted to UAE, they won five of their remaining seven matches and emerged triumphant in the eliminator and Qualifier 2 to reach the final, where they finished as runners-up.
With Kolkata beginning their second half of the competition with a 21-run win over Royal Challengers Bangalore, the signs are there for a possible resurgence.
"For example, KKR had beaten RCB before, so I am sure that confidence certainly helped them get over the line in Bengaluru. Whether they take the momentum going forward and make a turnaround, that is something we'll have to wait and see. That is something that you constantly talk about within the team and try to keep the mood the same in a hope to make a turnaround. It's something which the top four teams will be thinking about too.
KKR had sort of a perfect schedule that came through because for anyone to turn around, you need that kind of schedule as well that works for you. So RCB was a perfect game for them in Bengaluru. Because they had beaten RCB earlier in the season. Hopefully, now, they can turn things around," elaborated Kumble.
The 52-year old Kumble noted that Mumbai can also do a turnaround, while adding that teams currently in bottom half will need luck to go their way too.
"Their (Mumbai Indians) batting is extremely strong. But the bowling is a bit tough, especially while defending a score. Wankhede Stadium can be very hard for a bowler. So Mumbai certainly has that capability. They've done that in the past, to bounce back," he said.
"Andre Russell is yet to fire for them. They have done really well with the bat - Rinku (Singh) has done well, Venkatesh Iyer has scored runs and so has Jason Roy and Nitish Rana. So slowly, things are happening. Anybody can do it; it's just a matter of how the belief is in that particular team. You need some luck going ahead as well, like nobody thought Gujarat would win that game over Lucknow," he added.
The former India captain also cautioned top four teams in the points table to hold on to their places as the race for playoffs intensifies, with three teams on ten and eight points respectively.
"Somebody can come down, so you will have to be cautious as well. It's not necessary that just because you won five games, you will be able to qualify. You need eight wins and we have seen that in the last year as well.
How you get to eight (points) is very, very important. You need to take one game at a time and then ensure you get over the line in that particular game and then gear up for the next. You can't go too far away, you need to be in the present," said Kumble.
"It's very difficult to predict which four teams will make it to the top-four. You would need a minimum 16 points, but in case a team can't amass 16 points, it would be pretty difficult to qualify with just 14 points. Then, Net run rate will come into the picture in those cases of 14 or 16 points. I think the teams which are placed in top-four currently will try to hang in there till the end, but it will be difficult for the rest of teams to sneak into top four," he concluded.