Given the kind of thrilling contests that it produced for the most part in its league phase, the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) came to a rather tame conclusion with defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) bossing their way to an unprecedented fifth title with a comfortable five-wicket victory over Delhi Capitals (DC) on Tuesday.
First-time finalists Delhi were put under pressure from the word go, and barring a solid partnership between captain Shreyas Iyer and wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant that was almost worth a ton, never really seized control in the final as Mumbai ticked off all the boxes in yet another all-round performance.
Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma led the way with the bat with a 51-ball 68 after another quality performance by New Zealand left-arm seamer Trent Boult (3/30) restricted DC to 156/7, which MI then chased down with eight balls and five wickets — with a couple of them falling late in the case when the game was already out of Delhi’s grasp.
As the proud side lifted the trophy once again, an act that is fast becoming a habit for a team that can be counted among the most successful in the shortest format of the game, the curtains drew on a rather unique edition of the tournament, one that almost never happened in the first place after the novel coronavirus wrought havoc across the world.
The tournament had to be shifted entirely to the UAE with strict bio-secure protocols in place, and fake crowd noise was added at the venues to make up for the absence of cheering fans. However, the ‘new normal’ did little to diminish the quality of cricket that was put up on display during the course of the tournament, with this edition barely having any dead rubbers till the last league game was played.
While there were a number of individuals who shone during the course of the tournament, including and especially Marcus Stoinis, Rahul Tewatia, Ishan Kishan among others, there were also those — especially the high-profile names — who failed to fire despite carrying the weight of expectations on their shoulders. We take a look at 10 such players in greater detail below:
MS Dhoni, Chennai Super Kings
The 2020 edition of the cash-rich league was unique in many ways, one of which would be absence of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the playoffs, something that had never happened in the previous editions before this, barring the two seasons when the Chennai franchise did not participate due to a ban. And at the heart of their abysmal performance, this season was the lack of quality performances from their star players, including and especially the leader himself.
MS Dhoni had not played a competitive match since the 2019 ICC World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand at Manchester, and the pre-season nets was about the only bit of practice that the former India captain got before the season opener against Mumbai Indians.
And the rustiness was evident during his stay in the middle as he never quite looked comfortable at the crease, especially since he walked out to bat rather late in the innings, failing to force the pace and accelerate the innings more often than not and ultimately collecting 200 runs from 14 games at an average of 25.
As a leader, some of his questions too were perplexing, including, and especially his decision to hold Sam Curran back more often than not. Given his answer to the question of this being his last season was “definitely not”, the ‘Yellow Army’ will hope he comes back stronger next season.
Kedar Jadhav, Chennai Super Kings
Kedar Jadhav’s reputation as a limited-overs middle-order bat took a serious hit this season as the 35-year-old, who was bought by CSK for Rs 7.8 crore in 2018, failed to justify his price tag for three years in a row now — although he played just one game before getting ruled out of the remainder of the season back in 2018.
In the six matches in which Jadhav represented the men in yellow, Jadhav showed an approach not very different from Dhoni’s when walking out to the centre. It was especially evident in the 10-run defeat at the hands of KKR in which he scored just 7 off 12 balls. Chasing 168 to win, Jadhav ended up consuming most of the deliveries in the last two overs of the innings, giving his partner Ravindra Jadeja the strike only when the game was well and truly out of their grasp.
His knocks of 22 and 26 against Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Capitals — with Chennai falling short on both occasions while chasing sizeable targets, didn’t help his cause either, and he was ultimately benched around halfway through the season, with N Jagadeesan being brought in his place.
Given how he flopped with the bat this season, and wasn’t utilised as a part-time off-spinner, retaining his place in the squad next season, with the franchise likely to go for a complete overhaul, looks very difficult, if not impossible.
Rishabh Pant, Delhi Capitals
While his half-century in the match that mattered the most might help Rishabh Pant redeem himself in the eyes of the fans, even if it ultimately came in a losing cause, it does little to repair what mostly was a disappointing season for the Delhi Capitals wicketkeeper-batsman.
The hard-hitting southpaw was expected to play a crucial role in the Delhi middle-order alongside captain Shreyas Iyer. While Iyer did fire every now and then, especially with his 38-ball 88 not out against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Pant couldn’t quite live up to the expectations this time around.
His inability to play his natural game when pressure started to build in the middle overs also put other batsmen in the side such as Stoinis under further pressure. A strike-rate of 113.95 for someone who has the reputation of being one of the cleanest strikers of the ball in the current generation does him no good either.
Pant did, however, please Team India fans to some extent in the final to make up for the disappointing run. The 38-ball 56 in the final, which saw him forge a valuable partnership with Iyer to lift Delhi to a total in excess of 150 from a shaky position of 22/3, should do his confidence and form a world of good as he prepares to silence his critics on the tour of Australia.
Andre Russell, Kolkata Knight Riders
Dre Russ went all guns blazing in the previous season for KKR, smashing 510 runs at a superb average of 56.66 while collecting 11 wickets at an average of 26. The Dre Russ of IPL 2020, however, was a pale shadow of the superstar who became one of the most prominent names in the shortest format of the game the world over.
While he held up his end with the ball with relatively economical performances, he couldn’t quite produce the big hits this season with the bat, scoring just 117 runs at an abysmal average of 13. What further hampered his run was a mid-season knee injury, which resulted in the Jamaican missing four games on the trot.
Russell eventually returned in the two-time champions’ final league fixture of the season against Rajasthan Royals, in which he struck an 11-ball 25 — a knock that helped the Eoin Morgan-led side win the match handsomely, but failed to see them through to the playoffs.
Kuldeep Yadav, Kolkata Knight Riders
Kuldeep, a regular member of the Indian setup across formats whether at home or overseas, has had a couple of off seasons for KKR now, with the chinaman bowler collecting a total of just one wicket — that of tailender Jaydev Unadkat in the 37-run win over RR — from five appearances this season.
The spinner was backed by the team leadership for the first three games of their campaign, and when he failed to yield any performance of note, the team decided to shore up the batting unit by bringing in Rahul Tripathi in his stead.
At the same time, Tamil Nadu mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy began to blossom and finally lived up to his potential after having represented the franchise in just one game in the previous season. Not only did his performance give KKR the cushion to play an extra batsman or a seamer, it even led to a maiden India call-up for the upcoming Australia tour.
Sunil Narine, Kolkata Knight Riders
Narine has had an exceptional run for KKR over the years, having represented the side since 2012 and being part of two title-winning sides and spinning a web around many a batsman while also proving his worth as a pinch-hitter at the top of the order. This year, however, things were a little different for him.
Sure he bowled sensationally on a couple of occasions, including a superb spell in the death overs that helped Kolkata defend the 165-run target against Kings XI Punjab by the barest of margins, especially when their opponents needed 21 to win with nine wickets in hand at one stage. And let’s not forget his 64 at a strike rate of 200 that helped KKR defeat DC handsomely.
But the noteworthy performances were few and far between this season. He was once again trusted to get the team off to explosive starts at the beginning of the season and was demoted down the order after a series of low scores that only put further pressure on opening partner Shubman Gill. And his inconsistency with the ball could’ve cost the team dearly had it not been for other individuals in the bowling department shining bright. What did not help his case either was getting reported for suspect action midway through the tournament.
While the season did turn out to be a forgettable one for Narine, it is unlikely the current leadership group with captain Eoin Morgan and head coach Brendon McCullum at the helm are going to give their nod to releasing him anytime soon, given the occasional spark of brilliance. But the rope that he’ll be given beyond this season might not be a very long one.
Glenn Maxwell, Kings XI Punjab
A lot of expectations were pinned on the hard-hitting Australian all-rounder ahead of the edition, especially since he had shown promising signs with his batting during the tour of England just before boarding the flight for the UAE.
Many a KXIP fan had even hoped to see an encore of the 2014 season — Maxwell’s best IPL season ever in which he was instrumental in the team’s run to the final. The team management certainly had that in mind when they shelled out Rs 10.75 crore for him in the last player auction.
The ‘Big Show’ however, cannot say with certainty that he made the most of the opportunities offered to him this season. While he did pitch in with a few handy overs when asked to bowl, he left a lot to be desired with the bat with a season haul of 108 runs from 13 games with an average of 15.42 and a strike rate just about the 100-mark.
His only innings of note — a 24-ball 32 — came while chasing a target of 165 set by Delhi Capitals, which Kings XI Punjab eventually overhauled with five wickets and a full over to spare. Will that one knock be enough for him to retain captain KL Rahul and coach Anil Kumble’s confidence going into the next season? One cannot say for sure.
Jaydev Unadkat, Rajasthan Royals
Unadkat has attracted some jaw-dropping bids at IPL player auctions — fetching Rs 11.50 crore and Rs 8.40 crore in the 2018 and 2019 auctions, with Rajasthan shelling out the greens on both occasions. After all, he did bag 24 wickets at an average of 13.41 for Rising Pune Supergiant in 2017, a performance that was bound to make him hot property.
While Unadkat’s performances in 2018 (11 wickets, average 44.18) and 2019 (10 wickets, average 39.80) could be described as lukewarm with occasional flashes of brilliance, the Saurashtra pacer simply wasn’t anywhere close to his 2017 self this year in the UAE, collecting just four wickets from seven appearances. Two of those came in the match against Delhi which Rajasthan lost by 13 runs, although he did concede 32 runs from three overs.
England seamer Jofra Archer though, more than made up for Unadkat’s lack of form as he tore through opposition batting lineups with his fiery pace, with the likes of Rahul Tewatia and Karthik Tyagi also among the wickets as Rajasthan nearly made it to the playoffs, getting knocked out by KKR in their final league game.
Robin Uthappa, Rajasthan Royals
With 4,607 runs and 119 wicket-keeping dismissals to his credit from 189 appearances, IPL veteran Robin Uthappa has carved quite the reputation for himself for various franchises over the years, a reputation that he couldn’t quite replicate in international cricket in 59 appearances.
After being released from KKR, whom he had represented for five years until the 2019 edition, Uthappa was bought by the Jaipur-based franchise for Rs 3 crore, giving the team the option of someone who could bat at various positions and was also a wicketkeeping backup.
Uthappa, however, ended up producing his poorest show with the bat in a decade — the last time his season average had dipped below 20 was when he was with RCB in 2009 — despite being given an extended run by the team management that stretched to 12 of the 14 league games.
Collecting 196 runs at an average of 16.33 simply isn’t good enough, even if Uthappa did show signs of regaining form on a couple of occasions when opening alongside Ben Stokes. Especially when you have batsmen such as Steve Smith, Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler in your ranks along with a talented young opener in Yashasvi Jaiswal, who has the age factor to his advantage even if he did have a poor run himself.
Dale Steyn, Royal Challengers Bangalore
The South African pace legend has quite a reputation when it comes to sending the stumps into a cartwheel.
Steyn, widely considered one of the greatest pacers of all time, especially in the Test format, had been signed by RCB as a replacement for the injured Nathan Coulter-Nile last season and made an immediate impact by starring in a couple of victories for his side before a shoulder injury ruled him out of the remainder of the season.
This time, however, it wasn’t any injury that allowed him only three appearances this season, but rather a lack of form. Steyn was part of the RCB attack in their first two games of the season — returning figures of 1/33 and 0/57 which, needless to say, didn’t quite impress skipper Virat Kohli. Steyn played just one more match after those two games, getting hammered for 43 runs in a wicketless performance as RCB lost to MI by five wickets.
Whether he will be in action next season in the black-and-red jersey remains to be seen, but garnering the interest of bidders in the next player auction, should he be released, certainly looks very difficult after his latest run. Perhaps he has saved his final hurrah for the Proteas after all, preferably in an ICC event.
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