When the IPL first began in 2008, there were eight founding teams, although, one of them, the Deccan Chargers, only lasted four years before they were replaced by the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH).
However, whilst The Mumbai Indians, (MI) of the remaining seven franchises and the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), have won nine titles between them, three of those original teams have yet to lift the trophy once.
With the current season already two-thirds completed, it is increasingly beginning to look as if fans of the Punjab Kings (PBKS) and the Delhi Capitals (DC) may have to wait another year at least before they can hope to enjoy trophy success.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) still have a good chance of making the playoffs but, as past experience would have taught them, that is only half the job. There are still two or three games to be won after that, and, in the past, the pressure has proved too much.
There have been near misses in recent history. RCB reached the final on three occasions – in 2009, 2011, and again in 2016 - but each time they fell short at the final hurdle. The Punjab King's solitary appearance in the final came in 2014 when they went down to the Kolkata Knight Riders. Six years later it was Delhi’s chance to win it for the first time, but they found the Mumbai Indians too strong for them.
Changing a team’s name has not brought about a change of fortunes. The Delhi Capitals were originally the Daredevils whilst Punjab Kings were Kings XI Punjab until the start of this year.
There are a number of theories why each of these franchises has yet to enjoy IPL success.
RCB are a case in point. They have been heavily dependent in the past on several key players to win matches, and. if they are not on their game, then the team tends to lose. Virat Kohli was captain for many years, but, for all his individual success, there was always an argument that he lacked the necessary understanding of the nuances of T20 cricket to always make the right calls.
The franchise also has traditionally lacked an effective bowing line-up, and teams that cannot take wickets or restrict the run rate in this tournament will always find it hard going over the course of a long campaign.
Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni
Close observers of Punjab Kings (PBKS) believe that their consistent failure to lift the big prize is due to their failure to find a good captain or leader that can inspire the team. It is no coincidence that the MI and CSK success has always come with the same man at the helm of the team – Rohit Sharma in case of MI and MS Dhoni with CSK. In addition, they have always lacked consistency in the middle order, and there have never been enough wicket-takers among their spin bowlers.
DC has also struggled with captaincy issues, and, no sooner did they seem to have found one in the form of Shreyas Iyer, but they lost him to the Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2022 player auction. Their squad has also suffered from a surfeit of good all-rounders, and finding an opening pair that works has also been a problem.
In theory, all these issues can be fixed with the right recruitment, coaching, and team strategy. It is not a question of money either.
PBKS, having retained only two players from last year, began this edition of the IPL with the biggest remaining purse of all the franchises at INR 72 crore. RCB has INR 57 crore at its disposal, and DC has a more modest INR 47.5 crore.
The issues though go deep.
The American football coach Vince Lombardi once said that whilst “winning is a habit, unfortunately so is losing.”
Parallels can be drawn here with football. When Real Madrid found themselves effectively two goals down to Manchester City in their Champions League semi-final earlier this week, few outside the Spanish capital believed that they could mount a comeback.
But, having halved the deficit, that gave them the self-belief and confidence that they could not only go on to level the tie but actually win it.
That belief came from years of trophy success at the top level, which is hard-wired into the DNA of the club. It means that, whether somebody is brought up in the Real Madrid academy system, or has been brought in from abroad, Real Madrid players have an expectation of success every time they walk onto a pitch.
They may not always win, but even a string of defeats is not enough to erode the underlying confidence in their innate ability.
It is the same in cricket. This year both MI and CSK have suffered and found themselves at the bottom of the table. Neither is now expected to make the playoffs. But that does not mean anybody should be writing them off just yet. When IPL 2023 gets underway, both will start among the favorites for the title again.
Psychologists talk about the phenomenon known as muscle memory, which is when a movement is created and repeated over time to the extent that the brain comes to recognize it and allows it to be repeated with little or no conscious effort.
Winning is such an activity. On the flip side so is losing.
And there is a sense that all three franchises have bought into the history surrounding them, and have effectively conceded defeat before the first ball is bowled in any IPL tournament.
This mindset heaps pressure on the team and the anxiety can become overwhelming. That is when mistakes occur – a dropped catch, a run-out, a loss of early wickets, or an inability to close out games.
It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy – a team expects to lose and, collectively, fails to perform at the right level and confirms the pre-match prediction.
Nor is such a mindset confined to the players alone. Whilst there will always be die-hard fans whose enthusiasm will never be quelled, most cricket supporters are realists and even fatalistic.
Ask fans of any of the three franchises at the start of a season if they expect their side to be lifting the trophy at the end of the campaign, and it is a fair bet that the true believers will be in a small minority.
Individuals can learn to improve their mental toughness by working with sports psychologists, and. no doubt over the years, each of the franchises has employed a range of experts who have helped improve the mindsets of players.
However, the malaise that affects the three sides is collective, and embraces all aspects of the teams, from the owners through to the players and the coaching staff.
There is no quick and easy fix, but, the good news, is that when they do finally win, they can find that just an addictive habit as losing.
To go back to the example of football again, take the case of Manchester United. They won the league title in 1967, but it would be 26 years before they won it again.
That had eight managers during that period, and, despite the occasional cup success, and having many fine players, the league title proved elusive. It took Alex Ferguson to finally come along and place his imprimatur on the team and the club.
But, having got over the line finally, the trophies started to flow, and 12 more league titles, two Champions Leagues, and numerous other cups followed in their wake. United had learned to win again, and their players and fans began to expect it as a matter of course. That is the type of example that needs to inspire each of the three franchises. Not only is it possible to win, but, having done so, it can be repeated.
And that may just give their fans hope at the end of what may be another disappointing season.