The IPL was back with a bang as 200 million viewers tuned in as usual on the opening night to watch the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) take on the Mumbai Indians (MI). However, at a time when the coronavirus was ravaging India, circumstances were anything but usual with the tournament having to be moved to another host nation.
Responsibility was handed to the UAE to host the 13th edition of the tournament across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, but this change had no impact on the global following as the tournament helped to lift the morale of billions in these testing times, providing a welcome distraction from the attention-seeking pandemic.
There was no better way to start than with the El Clasico of club cricket in a repeat of the previous year’s final. CSK claimed the bragging rights over MI this time, but their fortunes for the rest of the tournament could not have been more different.
Whilst MI cruised through the group stages to qualify for the play-offs as group winners, CSK never really got going. Whether it was due to a COVID outbreak in the camp in pre-season, an ageing squad or a lack of confidence, MS Dhoni’s Yellow Army succumbed to 7th place, failing to qualify for the play-offs for the first time ever.
The tournament started in an exciting manner, with high scores and tense finishes dominating the headlines. The conditions were suited to batsmen, especially at Sharjah, where the small boundaries gave the virtual audience plenty of sixes to cheer. The pitches eventually slowed down though, and the tables turned as the spinners began to get more joy.
Qualification hinged on how well teams would adapt to the changing conditions. Teams such as Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab were able to climb up the table after poor starts thanks to wrist spinners such as Rashid Khan and Murugan Ashwin, while level-headed batsmen such as Kane Williamson and KL Rahul were able to navigate the tricky conditions.
On the final day there were three available play-off spots being contested by six teams: Delhi Capitals (DC), Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and Rajasthan Royals (RR).
RR were humiliated by KKR and managed to finish below CSK at the foot of the table, whilst KKR’s net run rate was too poor to take them through despite that result. KXIP suffered defeat at the hands of already-eliminated CSK, whilst SRH overcame a weakened MI side who had rested players for the play-offs. These results meant that it was DC, SRH and RCB who went through with MI.
MI thumped DC in Qualifier 1 while SRH squeezed through against RCB in a low-scoring thriller. The winner of the DC-SRH showdown would face MI in the final, which ended up being a repeat of Qualifier 1 as DC edged past SRH in Qualifier 2.
So, the teams touted as favourites at the start of the tournament were to face off in the final and it was MI, who had never really looked out of control throughout the competition, who brushed DC aside for the fourth time in the tournament to claim the crown. With a reliable top order, a blistering middle order, a world class pace bowling attack and imaginative spinners, the Mumbai Indians had no weaknesses and were worthy winners of IPL 2020.
I now turn to my team of the tournament.
- K L Rahul (wk.) (KXIP): The top run scorer in the tournament. Without his reliable presence KXIP would not have got anywhere near the play-offs.
- Shikhar Dhawan (DC): Back-to-back hundreds saw his form peak when his team really needed him. Dhawan proved a big-game player who ensured DC would stay clear of the chasing pack in the group stages.
- Faf du Plessis (CSK): A consistent run-scorer for the struggling CSK, showing off his international pedigree and very important in the field as well.
- Suryakumar Yadav (MI): Probably played the 20 best shots of the tournament. An elegant yet destructive batsman who consistently performed for the champions.
- Ishan Kishan (MI): Ended up as the highest run-scorer for MI and hit the most sixes in the tournament.
- Kieron Pollard (C) (MI): Some brilliant batting displays saw him end the tournament with an average over 50 and a strike rate of nearly 200. Captained the champions in the absence of Rohit Sharma.
- Ravindra Jadeja (CSK): Averaged close to 50 with a strike rate of 170, handy with the ball and lived up to the billing of being the best fielder in the world.
- Jofra Archer (RR): Ended the season as the tournament MVP. As expected, he was destructive with the ball, but he found another gear with the bat as he dispatched bowlers towards the end of innings.
- Rashid Khan (SRH): The best T20 bowler scalped 20 wickets and recorded the lowest economy of the tournament (5.37). Was also a major reason for SRH’s resurgence in the group stages.
- Jasprit Bumrah (MI): The best pace bowler in the world took 27 wickets, 3 off the Purple Cap, but boasted a better average (14.96) and economy (6.73) than Purple Cap winner Kagiso Rabada.
- Trent Boult (MI): Boult managed to get 25 wickets and his ability to swing the ball both ways complemented Bumrah’s aggressive style perfectly as MI were able to rip through top orders easily thanks to the duo.
The 13th edition of the IPL served as a welcome reminder that the world will soon return to status quo. The world’s premier club cricket competition helped lift the morale of many, its impact analogous to the return of football in Europe. All eyes will be on the auction for IPL 2021 in February to see how teams respond to their performances this season.
While teams like MI will look for continuity, teams like CSK will be preparing for a major shake-up in the ranks to become title contenders once again. No matter what happens, we can all expect yet another thrilling, competitive edition of the IPL.