The holders begin their title defence with two tough home games against last season’s runners-up Royal Challengers Bangalore and table-toppers Gujarat Lions. It is then followed by two equally tough away games in Mumbai and Kolkata. Home and away games then follow in an equal mix which means the David Warner-led team will be crisscrossing across the country from Hyderabad to Pune, then to Bengaluru, Mohali and then back to Hyderabad before travelling again north to Delhi. They come back to Hyderabad and then finish their league campaign in Kanpur. It will be a period of hectic travel one that can either forge a sense of unity in the team or leave them as weary travelers.
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE
Royal Challengers Bangalore would want to have a close eye on how they begin the season. Winning just two out of their first seven games put immense pressure on the team last year, although they won six games out of seven in the second half of the tournament and even managed a top-two finish. They have an even spread of home and away games and also finish off their two games against bogey team Sunrisers Hyderabad well in advance. They close out their season with two home games and an away trip to Delhi. It is an itinerary that could have so easily been worse.
Gujarat Lions play their five home games in the first half of the tournament. Needless to say, the key is going to be winning away from home and sustaining the momentum when they play away games in the business end of the tournament. Their last two games in Kanpur, which is their second home base, should help them as they hold a good record at the Green Park. After playing their first two games in three days against Kolkata Knight Riders at home and an away game against Sunrisers Hyderabad they have a four day break before playing continuously without a significant break in between.
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
Much like their journey and mantra thus far, Kolkata Knight Riders’ schedule seems to be following the same route too. Their campaign begins on a tough note, facing off against last year’s table-toppers Gujarat Lions (2 losses) and then Mumbai Indians in away games, before they return home ahead of a uniformly distributed platter of home and away games. Kolkata’s group stage games end with MI again, a team they have just not been able to fare well against (13 losses, 5 wins) and in front of the Rohit Sharma-led side, who himself turns into Midas when at Eden. Kolkata will try not to leave their qualification fortunes hinge on the final game.
A look at Mumbai Indians’ IPL 2017 schedule reveals an even spread of home and away games over the duration of the season. Three of their first four matches are in Maharashtra, including the away game against Pune, which allows them the comfort of home or staying close to it. From April 9 to May 1, Mumbai play nine matches out of which six are home games. But the travel involved in between those matches and limited breaks could take a toll on the players and test their fitness levels. This could have a detrimental effect on the team close to the business end, when they are playing three away games (in Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata) in their last four matches, which is also in a span of only 8 days.
Among all teams, perhaps Delhi Daredevils have the best run-in. One of their home matches, which coincided with the municipal elections in Delhi, got rescheduled to May instead, which has ensured that Daredevils will be playing five out of their last six matches at home. If they can find form at their home venue in front of their own supporters, Daredevils will find it slightly easier than the rest to qualify for the playoffs. But it will test their endurance as well at the same time since they will be playing those six matches in a span of just 13 days.
RISING PUNE SUPERGIANT
Rising Pune Supergiant kick-start their campaign against Mumbai Indians in Pune onApril 6, before travelling to Indore for their clash against Kings XI Punjab. While the start of Pune’s campaign has a bit of back and forth travel, the side would want to capitalise on the stretch of home games fromApril 26 to May 1and pick up vital points before the fag end of the tournament, where they will face the likes of Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad away from home.
KINGS XI PUNJAB
Kings XI Punjab are starting their campaign in Indore, which has been adopted as their second home for the season. However, they will be as unfamiliar with the conditions as their oppositions there. From thereon, they are mostly playing away games. Their first game in Mohali will be played on April 28, 22 days after the start of their campaign. They might be in a better position to catch up with the rest of the teams. However, that will help only if they are in strong contention of bagging a playoff position. If they are lagging far too behind like the previous two seasons, the advantage wouldn’t make much of a difference. They don’t have too many long breaks, with the longest period of rest coming between April 30 and May 5. In the last 10 days from May 5-14, they will be playing five matches, including three away games (in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Pune). If the players are jaded, they could suffer big time towards the end of the competition.