As a differently wired bifurcated 14th season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which began on April 9, drew to a close, with Chennai lifting their fourth title, it is time to look back on an edition seasoned with memorable highlights along with innumerable challenges and constraints.
With the second half of the edition beginning on September 17 after a dreadful Covid surge, the organising committee and the BCCI ensured a smooth, uninterrupted and tempered autumnal half in the UAE, which culminated in the final on Friday. For fans, back home and across the world, the excitement and the anxiety building up to the playoffs remained unaffected.
It was a year riddled with uncertainty, fatigue owing to a packed calendar and continuous adaptation to different bio bubbles which left the franchises with a lot to think about and bring into consideration. With pandemic protocols strictly maintained and laudably efficient management, it has been another action-packed season of the IPL that kept fans on the edge of their seats.
In Dubai, Chennai Super Kings triumphed over a resilient Kolkata side in the final with the veterans of the game leading the way. For fans across, it’s never a sad moment to see a smiling Mahendra Singh Dhoni lift another trophy. Although heartbreak for KKR fans all around, the team showed brilliant composure in turning the tide after the first leg and finishing runners-up.
It has been an edition for the young blood and the very unexpected. Every franchise had young debutants performing beyond expectations, ensuring the future of Indian cricket is in safe hands. However, with numerous big names that warmed the auction tables failing to deliver, the edition was a fairly even contest for all the franchises, with fair opportunities to score and secure their places in the Top 4. t2oS looks back on the highs and lows and the star performers of the eight franchises through this edition of IPL.
Chennai Super Kings
HIGH: TOP ORDER
For Chennai Super Kings, it was a redemptive year after a forgettable previous season. With the old guards of Dhoni and Raina holding the team together, Chennai’s opening pair of Faf Du Plessis and Ruturaj Gaikwad worked wonders through the season. 2021 saw a very consistent and impressive performer in Gaikwad with the likes of Faf and Moeen Ali consolidating the top order. Gaikwad won the Orange Cap and the Emerging Player of the Season for his incredible stats and winning performances.
LOWS: ABSENCE OF SPIN OPTIONS AND FALTERING MIDDLE ORDER
Although CSK delivered consistently through the season, with the likes of Jadeja and Moeen, the team failed to capitalise on spinning tracks with the lack of options and an over-saturated pace roster. The middle order comprising Rayudu, Raina and Dhoni often failed to keep the run rate going with proper attacking intent.
Star Performer: Ruturaj Gaikwad
Kolkata Knight Riders
HIGH: TOP ORDER
After a string of losses in the first part of the edition in India, having secured only two wins out of seven matches, the inclusion of debutant and Powerplayer of the Season Venkatesh Iyer turned the tide for the King’s men, with him infusing precision and drive into the top order. Rahul Tripathi Shubman Gill with their unmatched intent continued to deliver both with the bat and on the field, which helped the Knights bring the mojo back, bouncing back from the second-last position and secure a place in the playoffs and qualify for the finals.
LOWS: MORGAN’S LACK OF FORM, RUSTY RUSSELL AND LACK OF EXPERIENCED INDIAN PACERS
Skipper Eoin Morgan’s lack of form was evident whenever he walked on to the crease, having failing to score or even anchor, especially in the second half of the tournament. Adding to the mid-season anxieties, an injury-prone Russell increased the woes, with him having missed four matches leading to the playoffs. With the absence of both Russell and Cummins, KKR lacked power-packed finishing performances and collapsed after the opening pair fell, having no one to anchor the chase in the final, as well. A clear lack of experienced Indian pacers was prominent throughout the season with an over-dependency on spinners.
Star Performers: Venkatesh Iyer and Rahul Tripathi
HIGHS: DHAWAN’S CONSISTENCY AND AVESH KHAN’S FORM
Delhi Capitals found a stable guardian in veteran Dhawan with him contributing substantially, capitalising on powerplays and giving a solid start to the team. In addition to Dhawan’s performance, Delhi’s Avesh Khan proved to be a lethal bowler having 22 scalps to his name, second highest in the league. With an overall balanced squad, Delhi cemented their position as table toppers with 20 points, and qualifying for the playoffs.
LOWS: LOWER MIDDLE ORDER FAILING TO DELIVER
Despite having a highly commendable season, Delhi Capitals’ lack of finishing performances in addition to an underperforming Steve Smith proved to be challenging for the franchise. With a clear overdependency on skipper Rishabh Pant, Delhi’s void in the middle order was exploited by the other teams.
Star Performer: Avesh Khan
Royal Challengers Bangalore
HIGHS: PADIKKAL’S MOJO AND HARSHAL’S MAGIC
RCB’s season was bolstered by the presence of a consistent opener in young gun Devdutt Padikkal and Maxwell’s return to form. Adding to a delivering top order, Harshal Patel’s extraordinary performance with the ball made headlines, having 32 wickets to his name, and winning the Purple Cap. It was a balanced season for the Challengers, with a fine team camaraderie banking on young talents to make them qualify for the playoffs.
LOWS: FALTERING DE VILLIERS AND LACK OF LOWER MIDDLE ORDER
It has not been the greatest of seasons for skipper Virat Kohli, having scored very sporadically and not being able to maintain his characteristic flair. But, for veteran ABD, it was a season not quite memorable. Failing to deliver and/or provide anchorage to the team, it was difficult to not see Mr. 360 as the central cog in the team’s system. With Kohli and ABD not in the best of forms and Maxwell promoted up the order, RCB’s lack of a stable lower middle order was more than evident.
Star Performers: Harshal Patel and Glenn Maxwell
HIGH: BOOM BOOM BUMRAH
Despite individual performances standing out, it was not a successful campaign for the defending champions besides the ever-consistent star Indian pacer, Jasprit Bumrah’s magic. With an economy of 7.46 and 21 wickets to his name, it was just routine for Bumrah. The team saw individual sporadic performances standing out which saw them clinch few crucial victories.
LOWS: A FORGETTABLE SECOND HALF
Mumbai found themselves perched on the top half of the league after the first half but the performance took a surprising dip with the resumption of the tournament. In spite of having the best team on paper, the five-time champions failed to capitalise with the likes of Rohit, Pollard, Pandya and Boult delivering below average performances and failing to get the momentum going for the team.
Star Performer: Jasprit Bumrah
HIGHS: RELENTLESS RAHUL AND A STABLE BOWLING LINE-UP
Punjab showed promise through the season with a balanced squad, with seasoned players like Rahul, Gayle and Shami on one hand and promising youngsters like Bishnoi, Arshdeep and Shah Rukh on the other. With Rahul maintaining his deft consistency, securing the Orange Cap with 626 runs to his name, the youngsters showed great intent. Arshdeep Singh (18 wickets) and Ravi Bishnoi stood out with their bowling performances and a seasoned Shami(19 wickets) anchoring the bowling line-up.
LOWS: DEPLETED MIDDLE ORDER AND GAYLE’S DEPARTURE
Punjab failed to impress with a squad having almost no depth. There was glaring gap in the squad with a lack of a stable middle order and dependable finishers. Known pinch hitters like Nicholas Pooran could not deliver and with the departure of veteran Chris Gayle owing to bio-bubble fatigue, the squad lost out on experience or anchoring performances, often having to over-depend on Rahul.
Star Performers: K.L. Rahul and Arshdeep Singh
HIGH: SAMSON AND THE YOUNG GUNS’ TOUR DE FORCE
It was a difficult season for the Royals again, having finished at the very bottom of the table, three years in a row. However, skipper Sanju Samson pushed the team with his consistent performances with the bat and found a proper aid in the team’s youngsters. Yashasvi Jaiswal and Chetan Sakaria had a good season with the bat and ball respectively, showing great promise and intent.
LOWS: ABSENCE OF STOKES, BUTTLER AND ARCHER, CORRODED LINE UP
Rajasthan’s woes increased with the absence of star English players Stokes and Archer and the departure of Buttler. Depriving the team of any considerable experience, the team had an extremely depleted line-up with a shallow middle order. The piercingly critical rationale behind undeserving price tags intensified with the subpar performance by Chris Morris, who was bought by the Royals at a sky-scraping price of Rs 16.25 crore, the highest ever.
Star Performers: Sanju Samson, Chetan Sakaria
HIGHS: STABLE BATTING ROSTER
In an utterly disappointing season for SRH, after qualifying for the playoffs in six successive seasons, the team displayed a promising and experienced batting line-up with Williamson, Warner, Roy and Pandey adding experience and finesse to the squad. Following the top order, the middle order also showed their spark on a sporadic note with Samad, Holder and Rashid contributing both with the bat and ball. A promising prospect was found in young fast bowler Umran Malik.
LOWS: GROSS MISMANAGEMENT
The Orange Army surprised everyone with the unprecedented removal of three-time Orange Cap winner David Warner as the skipper. With Williamson holding the reins, the team failed to get any box ticked with an absolute loss of intent and collapse of composure.
Warner failed to get a spot on the line-up in the second leg of the tournament and the loss of Bairstow and Natarjan troubled the team further. With V.V.S. Laxman, Muralitharan and Tom Moody helming the franchise, their cratering performance surprised fans all around.
Star Performer: Rashid Khan and Umran Malik