Sadly, the IPL had to be suspended after a couple of the players and some members of the support staff tested positive for Covid-19. In a tight bio-secure bubble which had no issues for the greater part of a month, how the virus came through will, no doubt, be investigated by the authorities to ensure that in future such a breach can be sealed off. Till that happened, the tournament was its usual exciting one with most games going down till the final over and supporters of each team holding their breath in anticipation of what was to unfold.
While Royal Challengers Bangalore had its best ever start to the tournament and would have loved to carry that form, Sunrisers Hyderabad had a forgettable beginning and would have been relieved that the event had to be suspended. All the other teams were in top form with last year’s disappointing team, Chennai Super Kings, looking like the champion it usually had been all these years. There was a renewed energy about the team this time, though there were no major changes to its squad. The promotion of Moeen Ali to the top of the order at No. 3 turned out to be a master stroke as the left-handed batsman produced some blistering innings. The seasoned Faf du Plessis was in cracking form, too, and, along with the promising Ruturaj Gaekwad, gave the team some top starts. Sam Curran continues to impress and improve with every game and bids fair to be considered a proper all-rounder now. It’s the final overs’ bowling that the side needs to strengthen as was evident in the match against Mumbai when, despite scoring 218, it lost the game off the last ball.
The Bangalore team had a marvellous run thanks in the main to its batting dominated by the peerless A. B. de Villiers. Young Devdutt Padikkal got a terrific century and looks a great prospect for the future in all forms of the game. Glenn Maxwell was the surprise as he batted like he bats for Australia and not like someone who has accidentally strolled on to a village green and been asked to fill in to make 11 players. That he has the talent has been known for a while, but this was one season where he has also shown the inclination to make the most of that talent with admirable temperament. Mohammed Siraj has gone from strength to strength after the tour of Australia and he was relentlessly at the batsmen even in the final over just as how he was at the first over of the innings.
`Mumbai had its usual slow start and was just getting into the champion mode with that fabulous run chase against Chennai when the tournament got suspended. Its batting was inconsistent with the shining exception of Kieron Pollard and even its famed bowling was, this time, taken for more runs than usual. The break will allow the side to take stock of the situation and improve in the areas it needs to.
Punjab, Kolkata and Rajasthan were like last year, playing some amazing games and then some ordinary cricket to lose matches they should have won. The suspension could well be a blessing in disguise as it allows time for a calm, cool and proper introspection rather than in the hurly-burly of the tournament itself.
Hyderabad will also get time to think about its decision to not just sack David Warner as the captain but even to drop him from the playing XI. Warner was getting runs but not in the same assertive manner of earlier years. Still, with little support from the others, those runs were precious. Yet, he was left out of the playing XI, which was strange. Without the cares of captaincy, he could have been the galvanising batsman that the team needed. While the rights and wrongs of dropping him as captain could well be debated for long, the question that needs to be asked is if captains can be changed midway, why can’t coaches be treated the same? In football, the moment a team starts faltering, it’s the manager who is shown the exit door, so why not in cricket too?
The standout team Delhi Capitals under young Rishabh Pant. By the sixth game one could see that he was getting tired of being asked about being captain. Every presenter at the post-game ceremony had the same question to him. What he showed was a spark that can become a roaring fire if allowed to burn naturally. Yes, he will make mistakes; which captain doesn’t? But like he showed in the few games in the IPL that he is clever enough to learn and his usual street-smart savvy meant he was on top of most situations and was finding his own method to get out of sticky ones. He is one for the future, no doubt about it.
That’s because he has shown that talent can meet opportunity only when it walks hand in hand with temperament.
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