The league stage of the twelfth season of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2019) is over, and the top teams have qualified for the playoffs. It was a very tight race as it is for the first time in the history of IPL, a team with 12 points has qualified for the playoffs.  Three teams finished with 12 points, and the bottom two teams on the points table had 11 points each. 

In a long tournament like IPL, the pendulum keeps shifting and teams that look very strong in the first few matches of the season can end up at the bottom of the table. In IPL 2019, Kings XI Punjab made a great start to their campaign, but as the tournament progressed, they fell apart and ended the season as the third last team. They lost 4 out of their previous five matches and wasted a very good opportunity of making it to the playoffs. 

Every year, we see teams starting well but losing the track in between. Also, we've seen some powerful squads end up at the bottom of the table, too. Let's have a look at the two biggest factors that contribute to long-term success in IPL. 

Retaining the 'core group'

Over the years, we have seen Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians, the most successful franchises in IPL, retain their key players every season and build a team around them. Also, even their recruits are given a long rope to show their skills. 

After winning IPL 2018, Chennai's coach Stephen Fleming spoke about the importance of retaining the 'core group' and giving them confidence throughout the tournament. This is what he had to say: 

"We have been consistent with the players that we have picked, and once we have a core group, we have bucked the trend by sticking with the players through thick and thin because we believe that gives us an overall chance of success.

"We went back to players we respected, and the loyalty comes back in droves," said CSK coach. 

Kings XI Punjab's captain Ravichandran Ashwin also spoke about the importance of retaining the core group, after winning their last game of IPL 2019 against Chennai Super Kings. 

"If you look at all the successful franchises, they retained the core they got, we need to start producing players and have that core going forward," Ashwin said at the media interaction.

"It is not like you are going to buy something and end up winning the next day, so it is very important for us to keep adding strength to that dressing room, in terms of attitude, in terms of what you bring to the table," said KXIP captain. 

Finding the best playing XI in the first 2-3 matches of the season 

Every year, coaching staff, team owners and captains get together before the auctions to make the right investment in terms of players. The idea behind this activity is to buy the best players for the franchise and find the right combination.

However, over the years, we have seen that teams struggle to find their best playing XI even after playing 8-10 matches. They keep making changes in every match, and as a result, there's no clarity in the roles of players. 

In IPL 2019, top 4 teams that have qualified for the playoffs have a very stable core, and they haven't made too many changes in their playing XI. When the roles are clearly defined to each of the eleven players, the job of the coaching staff and captain becomes easier. 

Last year, CSK's coach Stephen Fleming, who is, arguably, the best coach in the history of IPL, emphasized on giving a consistent role to each player and this strategy has repaid in "bucket loads". 

"MS Dhoni has a strong effect and influence on the players. He gives players the belief, and as team management, we give roles to each of the players. MS does have the ability to bring the best out of the players.

"There are many players whose careers needed a boost. We, as a franchise, see that as an opportunity and Rayudu is an example. He has been in and out of the side. We have given him a consistent role, and he has repaid in bucket loads. It's using the strength of a remarkable captain with a strong franchise with a good gameplan."