The tenth Indian Premier League will be remembered for various things. Two best teams in the league phase making it to the finals, two teams participating for the last time, Warner’s consistency, Dhoni finishing, Kohli’s six over covers, Afghan presence, breathtaking fielding efforts, liberal use of the knuckle ball and more. Here are the four that stood out for me in this edition.
Quicks strike back
Of the top 10 wicket-takers, seven are fast bowlers. It’s quite a departure from earlier editions, for spinners were having a bigger say with each passing edition. Since the pitches are tired and dusty by April-May, conditions were always conducive for spin. Were conditions a lot different this year? Didn’t we have the same quality of spinners in this edition? As far as pitches are concerned, there isn’t a radical difference from what we witnessed in the past. In fact, this season we saw spinners playing a major role at the traditional feather bed in Chinnaswamy. And barring Ashwin, we haven’t missed any of the top-flight spinners either.
The key factor that has titled the balance in seamers’ favour is the presence of reverse-swing. Earlier, the ball wouldn’t tail back in as sharply in the latter half of a T20 innings, but this edition has been different. While the reason of bowlers extracting more reverse-swing is unknown, its presence and effect can’t be denied.
In the first nine editions, team selection was based on finding overseas bowlers to bowl the death overs. In the past, there were only few Indian fast bowlers who could be trusted with bowling the final overs. But this season, there’s been a visible spurt of Indian seamers bowling in the death. While Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah have continued to shoulder this responsibility, it’s the likes of Thampi, Siraj, Kaul, Unadkat who’ve taken this edition by storm. Their presence and contribution is not only good news for the IPL, but great news for Indian cricket as well.
Change of guard
The second eliminator between MI and KKR not only decided who earned the right to play against RPS in the final but also served as an indicator of the times to come. Both MI and KKR benched their two key Indian players (Harbhajan and Yusuf Pathan), and that marked the beginning of a significant change in guard in the IPL. Till a few years ago, even the thought of benching key Indian players for important games was considered preposterous. Not anymore. This year also saw stalwarts like Gayle, Smith, Faulkner, Angelo Mathews getting dropped at various stages of the tournament. The newer Indian and overseas players have started taking centre-stage and it’ll reflect in next season’s auction too.
Umpiring becomes the talking point only when it’s substandard and it’s unfortunate that there’s been a lot of chatter about decisions throughout the IPL. While there’s indeed a dire need to raise the standard of Indian umpires, there’s another case of taking a giant leap in providing the right assistance to on-field umpires. On many instances we witnessed a wrong umpiring decision made and the replays verified that the mistake has been committed even before the next ball was bowled.
Now, commonsense should allow the third-umpire to communicate it to the on-field umpire and therefore change the decision. Unfortunately, there’s no provision to do so and that’s why an error, however blatant, isn’t rectified. Since IPL is a domestic tournament, it can bring about a radical change in everyone’s mindset. If the ICC sees merit in what’s happening in the IPL, they’d be obliged to make the change into a new law.