The 13th edition of the Indian Premier League finished on Tuesday with the Mumbai Indians thrashing the Delhi Capitals to clinch their fifth title.
The Twenty20 tournament, which was played behind closed doors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), produced some talking points as players and administrators came to grips with unique playing conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delhi coach Ricky Ponting said that he was “skeptical” about the tournament going ahead during the pandemic, but later said that it was “extremely well run.”
After a nearly six-month delay as the virus spread in India, the 53-day tournament finally got under way in the United Arab Emirates, where it took place in strict bio-secure “bubbles” at three empty stadiums.
Despite the unusual conditions, Mumbai paceman Jasprit Bumrah said that he was happy to be part of a tournament that brought the “smiles back” to cricket fans.
However, the teams felt the strain of life in a bubble, with Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli and England’s Eoin Morgan saying it can be mentally tough on players.
TALE OF TWO SKIPPERS
Kohli and Rohit Sharma were both appointed IPL captains for their teams in 2013, but eight years down the line their leadership has met with contrasting results.
While Sharma bagged his fifth title for Mumbai, an IPL crown still eludes Kohli’s Bangalore.
After finishing bottom of the eight-team table last year, Bangalore made the play-offs this season, an achievement that did not stop former Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir calling for Kohli to step down.
However, former India opener Virender Sehwag backed Kohli, saying that the “captain is only as good as his team.”
‘UNIVERSE BOSS’ AT 41
Chris Gayle, the ultimate big-hitter, was not introduced until about halfway through the tournament by Kings XI Punjab, but he immediately injected life into their faltering campaign with some explosive batting.
The 41-year-old amassed 288 runs in seven innings, including two match-winning 50s.
The left-hander went past 1,000 T20 sixes, extending his runaway record, with a heave over mid-wicket off Rajasthan Royals fast bowler Kartik Tyagi.
The flamboyant Gayle, who modestly calls himself “Universe Boss,” said that his younger teammates had urged him: “Don’t retire.”
Fast bowlers are not often the heroes in T20 games in the subcontinent, but the UAE pitches gave the pacemen a chance to shine.
Delhi’s Anrich Nortje bowled the fastest ball in IPL history at 156.1kph and fellow South African quick Kagiso Rabada finished as the leading bowler with 30 wickets.
Mumbai’s pace duo of Bumrah and Trent Boult were second and third in the list of wickettakers, with 52 scalps between them.
“I feel the conditions in the UAE have something for everyone,” Rabada said.
Bangalore batsman Devdutt Padikkal made an impact as a confident opening partner to Australia’s Aaron Finch, one of an an impressive brigade of young Indian players.
The 20-year-old left-hander was named emerging player of this season after scoring 473 runs, with captain Kohli praising his “class and efficiency.”
Mumbai batsman Ishan Kishan went better with more than 500 runs en route to lifting the trophy at 22 years of age.
Spinners Rahul Chahar (Mumbai), Ravi Bishnoi (Kings XI), and Kolkata quicks Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi also made their presence felt.
Brett Lee, a former Australia bowler now working as a commentator, said: “Indian talent stood out.”
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Three new COVID-19 cases yesterday hit the Australian Open’s troubled buildup as a backlash grew against international tennis players flown in during a raging pandemic. Two of the new cases were players, state health officials said, taking the total infections to seven since more than 1,000 people arrived in largely COVID-19-free Australia on charter flights last week. The Victoria Department of Health and Human Services said that the two players and a third person associated with the tournament — a woman in her 20s, and two men in their 30s — had returned positive results. The year’s first Grand Slam, delayed three weeks,