The tenth edition of the Indian Premier League was much like the ones that preceded it – entertainment aplenty, gloss and bling, and a few rain-induced late nights. Fortunately, the tournament also never fails to provide high-octane cricket. Plenty happened over the last month and half over 60 matches. Below are the best, and worst, of it all.
Best team – Mumbai Indians
There is only one previous instance in the IPL when a team that finished at the top of the league went on to win the tournament. That is one of the more peculiar facts of the tournament, but Mumbai Indians became just the second side ever to do so, and it was well deserved. This wasn’t a typical Mumbai campaign, where a mid-season turnaround in form catapulted them to the title. This triumph was based on solid, consistent performances throughout the tournament, with emphasis on team work rather than individual contributions. Mumbai are traditionally poor starters, but this year they embarked on a six-match winning streak after losing their opener to Rising Pune Supergiant. They were the first side to qualify for the knockouts, and the only side to hit the 20-point mark. Their only concern was the apparent jinx they had against Pune – heading into the final, they had lost all three of the Maharashtra derbies. However, they won the important of those contests in the final, their desperation and hunger helping seal a third triumph. They were the most consistent side, the most balanced team, and no one deserved the title more than they did.
Best batsman – David Warner
David Warner showed why he is one of the first names in the many all-time IPL XIs doing the rounds. Having led Sunrisers Hyderabad to the title last year, their captain wasn’t satiated. Even scoring 848 runs last season didn’t bag him the top-scorer award – that went to Virat Kohli, who was in one of those rare zones every cricketer dreams of being. This year, Warner scored 641 runs in 14 matches at an average of 58.27 and a strike-rate of 148.81 – a whole 143 runs more than Gautam Gambhir in second place, having played two matches less. His 59-ball 126 helped Sunrisers post their highest total, and the highest by any team against Kolkata Knight Riders. It was power-hitting at its most devastating, and Warner’s ability to churn them consistently makes him one of the most dangerous batsmen in the format.
Best bowler – Jasprit Bumrah
This was a toss-up between two extremely fine bowlers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar leads the charts with 26 wickets in 14 matches, but for the sheer effect he has on the batsmen, it’s Jasprit Bumrah who takes this tag. He has largely been used as a nullifying force in the death overs, his pin-point yorkers at daunting pace making it impossible for opposition batsmen to pick singles off him, let alone the big hits. He has 20 wickets in 16 matches – six less than Bhuvneshwar – but his Super Over performance against Gujarat Lions underlined why he is such a prospect of India’s limited-overs squad. He had 11 runs to defend, but that was five runs more than he needed as he mixed up yorkers with pace variations to confound Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch. It was exceptional skill under pressure.
Most valuable player – Ben Stokes
When Rising Pune Supergiant decided to shell out Rs 14.5 crore, almost half their auction budget, on the England allrounder Ben Stokes, there were questions raised over the logic behind the decision – Stokes wouldn’t even be available for the knockout round, even if Pune did qualify. As it turned, the decision was a masterstroke. After a couple of games to get into his stride, Stokes came good with the bat, with the ball and in the field, and was crucial cog in the Pune’s wheel as they eight of their last ten matches and sealed the second spot in the table. Stokes scored 316 runs in 11 outings – including a match-winning unbeaten 103 against Gujarat Lions – at an average of 31.60 and a strike-rate of 142.98. He also picked 12 wickets at an economy of 7.18, and was Pune’s designated death bowler. Had he played the final, Pune’s story could have been quite different.
Catch of the tournament – Jaydev Unadkat vs Lendl Simmons, IPL 2017 Final
Pune may have lost the final by an inch, but when Jaydev Unadkat plucked this catch out of nowhere, they were flying. Mumbai were reeling after losing Parthiv Patel two balls before, but Unadkat wasn’t in a mood to relent. An off-cutter induced a miscue off Lendl Simmons, straight back down the ground, but Unadkat was in his follow through. Without skipping a beat, Unadkat dived to his left – always difficult when the motion is taking you the other way – plucked out the ball and held on to it with his fingertips. All in the flash of a second. Defeat later on will shadow the catch, but it was one that needed incredible skill and reflexes.
Biggest flop – Royal Challengers Bangalore
Perhaps there was too much expectation on Royal Challengers Bangalore – as is the case before they begin every tournament. They were, in fact, finalists in 2016 and that brings with it certain pressures and expectations. However, a couple of absentees through injury meant Bangalore’s striking lack of depth in the squad was brought to the forefront. Their big players didn’t perform, their bowling attack was toothless, their middle order was almost non-existentent. When Kohli was asked to analyse a certain loss, he gave a damning indictment. “It is lack of intent, guys fearful of getting out and failing and that’s never a good feeling.” If Kohli hoped that would spark something in his side, it didn’t. Bangalore won all of three matches out of 14, and one of the seven points they managed was due to a washout. The management will have much overhauling to do ahead of the next season.
Biggest gripe – Danny Morrison’s commentary
Danny Morrison is a mildly controversial figure that the average IPL consumer has grown accustomed to over the years. Unfortunately, he isn’t music to everyone’s ears. His commentary is loud and boisterous, his antics always threaten to cross a line, and he keeps coming back every year without changing a beat. Unfortunately, his over-the-top style of commentary is billed as exactly what the IPL needs – this must change at the soonest.
This happened fairly early in the tournament, but nothing has bettered it since. Trust Mahendra Singh Dhoni to make it into a tournament review, one way or the other.
When Kevin Pietersen mischievously prompted Manoj Tiwary – he was on the on-field interview duty at the time – to convey to Dhoni that Pietersen was better than him at golf, the former India captain didn’t think twice before shooting back: “You’re still my first Test wicket.” Skadoosh.