Scratchy Hardik Pandya, out-of-form Suresh Raina, underperforming Shubman Gill among duds of IPL 2021

Hardik Pandya gets ready for throwdowns BCCI/IPL

The IPL is just past the halfway mark and there have been some surprises, some stellar performances and some disappointments. In a tournament like the IPL, a lot of eyes are always on the bigger names and we look at some which were expected to lead the charts by now but have strayed in the opposite direction.

Nicholas Pooran, Punjab Kings (Innings: six, runs: 28, average: 4.66, SR: 85)

One of the top T20 names in the world, Pooran has been going through a rut he wouldn't have thought even existed. Four ducks in six innings, one of them without facing a ball, and a strike rate of under 85.

Apart from the run-out against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, Pooran has been out to the short ball a couple of times and thrown away his wicket the other times, to be dismissed by fast bowlers four out of five times.

Pooran has been given a new role this season to bat at No. 5 behind Deepak Hooda, who has made useful contributions as the Punjab Kings' new No. 4. The move was probably to stretch some muscle down the order after the departure of Glenn Maxwell, but it hasn't worked at all, and Pooran was finally dropped to make way for Dawid Malan against the Delhi Capitals on Sunday.

Eoin Morgan, Kolkata Knight Riders (Innings: seven, runs: 92, average: 15, SR: 112)

Being an overseas captain is always tricky in the IPL as it adds a layer of scrutiny on the player for blocking one of the four foreign spots. Eoin Morgan was the Kolkata Knight Riders' second-highest scorer last season but this time he has managed under 100 runs after seven innings. Barring an unbeaten 47 that took his team home against the Kings, Morgan has also bagged two ducks, and only one other double-digit score.

Morgan has shuffled between Nos. 4 and 5 so far and failed to provide the impetus the Knight Riders seek in the middle overs, whether batting first or second.

As a result, the Knight Riders have failed to chase totals in the range of 150-170 and managed to score only 133 and 154 while batting first in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, where other teams have put up much higher totals.

Shubman Gill, Kolkata Knight Riders (Innings: seven, runs: 132, average: 19, SR: 118)

As an opener in T20s, you would be expected to either go hard at the top or play anchor if wickets fall around you. And Shubman Gill has failed to do either of those jobs this season. It's possible he has been asked to drop anchor while his partner Nitish Rana goes for the boundaries, but Gill has crossed 25 only twice.

Among batters who have opened at least five times this IPL, Gill's average is the lowest (18.85) and his strike rate among the bottom three, only higher than David Warner and Quinton de Kock.

The Knight Riders, as a result, hardly get a strong start if Rana falls early. Gill's crawling strike rate has often been compared with KL Rahul's for the last two seasons. In Rahul's case the argument is his middle order hasn't been firing as much, but in the Knight Riders' case Gill has Morgan, Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell for the fireworks which shouldn't be holding the opener back.

Hardik Pandya, Mumbai Indians (Innings: six, runs: 52, average: 9, SR: 118)

The way Hardik Pandya was dispatching bowlers last season as a specialist batter with a strike rate of 179, his lean patch this time around has come as a surprise.

Pandya has looked scratchy with his six-hitting exploits, facing a total of 44 balls across six innings. He went 40 balls without a six this season, and when he struck two in the tall chase against the Chennai Super Kings on Saturday, it looked like Pandya had regained his prowess, but he holed out to long-off while going for a third six. Barring the opening game in which he was trapped lbw, Pandya has been dismissed while going for the big shots, mostly in the 'V' down the ground.

Pandya has been doing what he usually does in the death overs - go deep and across in the crease and swing down the ground - but it's either the slower Chennai pitches or the slower deliveries from quick bowlers that have not allowed him to middle the ball.

Suresh Raina, Chennai Super Kings (Innings: six, runs: 123, average: 25, SR: 127)

When the Chennai Super Kings finished second last in the 2020 IPL without Suresh Raina, it was thought that his return would be a big reason behind their turnaround this season. Their fortunes have turned, but it's not because of Raina.

After a cracking 54 at a strike rate of 150 in the Super Kings' opening game, Raina's form has dipped even though they have played all their matches in Mumbai and Delhi so far. A prolific batter against spin, Raina has fallen to pace all four times since that half-century, once to Mohammed Shami's short ball and later to the lack of pace offered by clever bowlers like Harshal Patel and Chetan Sakariya.

The Super Kings haven't been hit hard by the lack of runs from Raina, who has batted mostly at No. 4 this time, because of the contributions from their openers, Moeen Ali at No. 3, and Ravindra Jadeja and Ambati Rayudu down the order. Placed second at the halfway stage, the Super Kings can rise even further if Raina regains his touch.

Yuzvendra Chahal, Royal Challengers Bangalore (Innings: seven, wickets: four, average: 47.50, economy rate: 8.26)

Yuzvendra Chahal has been the Royal Challengers' prime spinner for years, but neither has his attacking bowling earned him wickets so far nor has he been able to contain the runs. He would have licked his lips at the prospect of playing the first three games in Chennai but he went wicketless in two of those and leaked 41 runs against the Mumbai Indians.

One of the reasons Chahal hasn't clicked is that his legbreak - his stock delivery - has not fetched him wickets this time. His legbreaks got him 12 of his 18 wickets (67%) in 2019 and 16 of his 21 scalps (76%) last season. But so far in this season, Chahal has picked only four wickets in 23 overs, and only two of those off his legbreaks.

Chahal also wasn't able to hit the perfect lengths against the Kings in Ahmedabad, where Harpreet Brar and Bishnoi snared five wickets for a combined 36 runs from their eight overs. Chahal, on the other hand, bowled fuller and leaked 34 on his own, which included three sixes.