In a year when the world was turned upside down, it was never easy to get cricketers from across the world and play them across three cities. The organisers did a terrific job, as did the cricketers, resulting in some of the most intense T20 cricket. Few tournaments have been as competitive.
IPL 2020 is on its last legs – and there is little doubt that it has been one of the most successful editions. BCCI deserves credit for that. In a year when the world was turned upside down, it was never easy to get cricketers from across the world and play them across three cities. The organisers did a terrific job, as did the cricketers, resulting in some of the most intense T20 cricket. Few tournaments have been as competitive.
Here are some key takeaways from the league stage:
There was no weak side
The point first came up in 2018, when Delhi Capitals, who finished last, got 10 points. An abandoned match between the two teams meant that Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore finished at the bottom with 11 apiece in 2019, an improvement on the previous edition.
This time it got even closer: For the first time in IPL history did all eight teams get 12 or more points. Six teams were in the hunt after Match 52 (out of 56), where four were in the hunt after Match 54. It cannot get closer than that.
To add to that, Delhi and Bangalore, usual contenders for the wooden spoon, have both made it to the top four, while Chennai Super Kings have failed to make it to the top four for the first time.
Lockdown had its effects
Seldom have the fittest athletes of the sport looked drained after batting for 15 overs, but that was exactly we saw towards the initial phase of the tournament. Some looked woefully out of touch. However, professionals that they are, they improved as the tournament progressed.
The worst hit were Chennai, whose superstars are not only older than the others, but also out of their national sides. Having played little cricket, they struggled – and marginally avoided finishing last. The absence of two key players – Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh – did not help their cause either.
The venues played a role
Over years, a significant reason behind the Chennai juggernaut has been their invincibility at Chepauk. The slow, low pitches have always aided their spinners and medium to fast-medium seamers. Given the excellent side that they are, Chennai still played well in patches – but not like champions.
On the other hand, some spinners, especially the Bangalore pair, have thrived on the larger grounds where they could try out all variations unhesitatingly. If Yuzvendra Chahal has been consistently brilliant, Washington Sundar has taken giant strides as the tournament went on.
Empty stands did not matter...
Ahead of the tournament, the artificial applause was expected to be a concern. At times it seemed monotonous and predictable, but once the audience got used to it, it did not matter anymore. Of course, the huge grounds must have seemed eerie to the cricketers.
...but the bubble did
Several cricketers complained about the long stretch they had to spend inside the bubble, away from even the familiarity of home. Steven Smith, for example, has opted out of the upcoming BBL.
Sam Curran, one of the most prominent voices on the topic, was candid in his interview with Sky: “It can be tough – if you're in all three formats, you're obviously travelling into different bubbles, not being able to spend time with family, loved ones, things like that.”
A concern for India
Not for the first time have the Indian batsmen not scored at breakneck pace, and the numbers show. As the table reveals, the overseas batsmen have scored quicker than their Indian counterparts, but the problem is deeper than that.
The overseas cricketers in the table are all regulars – or close to – the first XIs of their respective sides.
Apart from Hardik, the Indian contingency includes Jadeja, unlikely to bat above No 7 in the national side; Samson, not a regular; Dhawan, who, despite a decent season so far, has rarely delivered while playing T20Is for India; and Mayank, Suryakumar, Kishan, Hooda, Tewatia, and Saha, none of whom features in the squad.
To make things worse, here are the records of some certainties (or thereabouts) for India in the T20I series in Australia.
Individuals cannot bear the burden of an entire team
As expected, Archer, with his 20 wickets, 175 dot balls, and 10 sixes, leads the race for the MVP of the season. He is 55.5 points clear of KL Rahul, the next name on the list. However, none of them will feature anymore in the tournament, just like four others in the top ten. One or two individuals can only take you so far.
There is only one Universe Boss
He is 41, but Chris Gayle does not seem to age. He struck at an impressive strike rate of 137. He played only 7 matches out of 14, but hit 23 sixes – joint fifth in the edition. Of those who played fewer than 10 matches, nobody hit more than 7 sixes.
He got three fifties in these seven matches, and celebrated by holding his bat horizontally, pointing at the words THE BOSS. When he got out for 99 against Rajasthan, he swung the bat so hard that it soared towards mid-wicket. Then he returned, bat aloft, helmet perched on the bat.
Amidst all this, he became the first in T20 history to hit a thousand sixes. Nobody else has hit even 700.
And, of course, little promotion for Women’s T20 Challenge
The Women’s T20 Challenge might have acquired a title sponsor this time, but the number of teams has not gone up. Worse, it is set to clash with the WBBL, which has led to several international superstars missing out.
However, what stands out is the lack of promotion for the tournament. As always, viewership picked up as the IPL league phase approached its end, thus providing an excellent opportunity for promotion of the event. What happened was far from adequate.
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