There were multiple question marks over IPL 2020 after the Coronavirus pandemic reared its ugly head.
However, though it was delayed, not played in India, and didn’t have any crowds for the first time, IPL 2020 was a success in terms of the tournament being held smoothly, despite all players and support staff operating from their own secure bio bubbles and meeting opposition players and team members only on match days.
Despite this being a ‘different’ IPL, there were quite a few big talking points that emerged in terms of the teams, the players, and the overall tournament. IPL 2020 also went down in the history books as the most competitive IPL ever played.
TimesofIndia.com takes a look at some of the big talking points through this season of the IPL that finished with Mumbai Indians being crowned champions for a record-extending fifth time:
MUMBAI INDIANS IN FAMILIAR TERRITORY
Rohit Sharma and his boys once again found themselves in familiar territory. The most successful franchise in IPL history extended their record of having won the coveted IPL title to the fifth time. With quite a few matches still left in the league stage, it was clear that Mumbai would top the points table. And they did, with 18 points, despite losing their last league match vs SRH. They were also the first team through to the playoffs. They put up another complete performance to beat Delhi Capitals in Qualifier 1 to storm straight through to the final and then beat Shreyas Iyer and co. again in the final comfortably to incredibly register their fourth win against Delhi in as many matches in IPL 2020. There’s no doubt that Mumbai dominated IPL 2020 from beginning to end and now have two titles more than their nearest competitor, the Chennai Super Kings, who are three-time champions.
THE MOST COMPETITIVE IPL SEASON EVER
IPL 2020 was also officially the most competitive IPL season ever. The lowest placed team this season, Rajasthan Royals finished on 12 points (6 wins). That had never happened before. In fact teams, 6, 7, and 8 this season (KXIP, CSK, and RR) were all tied on 12 points and separated only by NRR. The race for the top four was a very close one this season. While the top spot was secured by Mumbai once they reached 18 points (because no other team could equal them on points), the ranking for teams 2, 3, and 4 took time to decide. Delhi seized the second spot once they got to 16 points. Till the very last league stage match (match number 56) we didn’t know who the fourth team in the playoffs would be. Hyderabad’s big 10 wicket win vs Mumbai helped them leapfrog both KKR and RCB on NRR to finish third after the league stage.
THE CSK SHOCKER BUT DHONI WILL BE BACK
Perhaps the biggest shock for fans this season was three-time champions Chennai Super Kings’ dismal performance in IPL 2020. For the first time ever in 11 seasons (CSK were suspended for two seasons), MS Dhoni and co. couldn’t make the IPL playoffs. In fact, such was their slump this season that the yellow brigade was the first one to be knocked out of the IPL 2020 playoff race. Dhoni and his boys though did manage to salvage some pride, by winning their last three league stage matches to finish with 12 points and avoid being tagged wooden spoon holders by keeping RR below them on NRR.
Most CSK fans though were relieved when MS Dhoni made it clear that he will be back for IPL 2021. When asked at the toss in CSK’s last league stage match if this was his last IPL match, Dhoni replied saying ‘Definitely not’. Earlier CSK CEO Kasi Viswanathan had said that he was confident that Dhoni will lead CSK in 2021 as well.
ANOTHER STRONG SEASON FOR DELHI CAPITALS
For the Delhi Capitals, IPL 2020 was another strong showing. After reaching their first IPL playoffs in six years in 2019, they made the playoffs again this season and then entered their very first IPL final. Under Shreyas Iyer’s captaincy and with Ricky Ponting as Head coach, DC finished second on the points table after the league stage with 16 points. However, they couldn’t break their title jinx and went down rather tamely in the end to the Mumbai Indians in the final.
YOUNG INDIAN PLAYERS DID VERY WELL THIS SEASON
Another big highlight of IPL 2020 was young Indian players doing very well. Uncapped young Indian cricketers like Ishan Kishan, Devdutt Padikal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, T Natarajan, Arshdeep Singh, Varun Chakravarthy, and Ravi Bishnoi became vital cogs in their teams’ wheels. Natarajan in fact was selected as a net bowler to travel with the Indian team to Australia and then was included in the T20 squad after it became clear that Varun Chakravarthy (who had earlier got his maiden India call-up) was nursing a shoulder injury and would not be fully fit to play.
ROHIT SHARMA’S MYSTERIOUS HAMSTRING INJURY
What exactly is the status of Rohit Sharma’s hamstring injury? That remains the million-dollar question in Indian cricketing circles currently. The Mumbai Indians captain picked up a hamstring injury in Mumbai’s second leg match vs KXIP. The franchise at that time called it a ‘hamstring strain’. BCCI President Sourav Ganguly later said that it was a hamstring tear. However, on the very same day, Rohit, after missing four league games turned up for Mumbai’s last league stage match. The Indian selectors didn’t name Rohit in any of the three squads (ODI, T20I, and Tests) for the tour of Australia clearly indicating that there is every possibility he might not be fit to take part in any of the games. Rohit himself though in a post-match presentation had said that the hamstring is ‘fine, absolutely’. The BCCI later sent a press release saying that after having spoken to Rohit they had decided to rest him for the T20I and ODI series in Australia, but the talismanic batsman was included in India’s Test squad for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series. Rohit played Qualifier 1 and the final in IPL 2020, scoring a crucial and potentially match-winning 68 off 51 balls in the summit clash vs Delhi. He also ran between the wickets without any trouble.
LIST OF INJURIES A LONG ONE THIS SEASON
The list of injuries was quite a long one this season. Along with Rohit, multiple other players picked up injuries. Players like Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Mitchell Marsh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Ali Khan were ruled out of the tournament altogether in the initial stages. Wriddhiman Saha suffered a hamstring tear and couldn’t play in the playoffs for SRH. KKR’s talismanic all-rounder Andre Russell missed a few matches with injury and then came back, despite not being 100% fit to help KKR qualify for the playoffs, which they couldn’t. Some other players who picked up injuries during the course of the tournament, but returned to play were Rishabh Pant (hamstring), R Ashwin (shoulder), Ambati Ryaudu (hamstring), and Chris Morris (side strain).
SHANE WATSON BID ADIEU TO THE IPL
Former Australian cricketer Shane Watson bid adieu to the IPL and franchise cricket after CSK’s campaign ended this season. Watson was bought by CSK ahead of IPL 2018 and played three seasons with the Super Kings, helping them get to the IPL title in 2018 and almost pulling off an encore in 2019. He scored a valiant 80 off 59 balls in 2019 IPL final and almost took CSK to their fourth title, but Mumbai pulled off an incredible 1 run win. In 2018 final, which CSK won, Watson had scored a century. Watson informed his teammates that he is retiring from ‘all forms of cricket’ after CSK’s win in their last league stage match vs KXIP. The Aussie all-rounder had retired from international cricket before CSK bought him in 2018.
RCB’S WAIT CONTINUES – REACTIONS ON VIRAT’S CAPTAINCY
Virat Kohli and RCB’s wait for that elusive IPL title still continues. Despite putting up a strong performance this season and managing to enter the playoffs in fourth place (behind SRH on NRR), RCB couldn’t win the Eliminator against Sunrisers Hyderabad, going down by 6 wickets. RCB are still waiting for their first IPL title after 13 seasons. After RCB were knocked out, former India cricketer Gautam Gambhir said that it’s time to remove Virat as RCB captain. Gambhir’s former India teammate Virender Sehwag though countered that sentiment by saying that a captain is only as good as his team and that the RCB management should focus on improving the team and not look for a new captain. On the batting front, Virat scored 466 runs in 15 matches and finished ninth on the overall run-getters list for IPL 2020.
DINESH KARTHIK RELINQUISHING KKR CAPTAINCY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEASON
Another big talking point was Dinesh Karthik deciding to relinquish the KKR captaincy and hand the reins of the team to Eoin Morgan. Karthik took this decision at a time when KKR had won four of their first seven matches and were fourth on the points table. Karthik’s captaincy was under the scanner after KKR’s rather erratic start to the season. The KKR management released a statement saying they while they were surprised by Karthik’s decision, they would back him. The change of captaincy didn’t really do any wonders for the Knight Riders, who finished with 7 wins and 7 losses out of their 14 league stage matches and failed to make the playoffs for a second straight season.
KKR FINISHING FIFTH AGAIN – ‘MOST EXPENSIVE’ PAT CUMMINS’ PERFORMANCES & MORGAN’S BATTING POSITION
There must have been a sense of Deja Vu for the Kolkata Knight Riders this season. Just like in 2019, this season too, KKR finished fifth on the points table. They were once again tied with SRH on points (14), as well as RCB, and lost out on a playoff berth only on NRR. Though they finished the league stage with a big win (60 runs win vs RR) their hopes of making the final four were extinguished after Mumbai Indians lost to SRH in their last league stage match. It was a reflection really of KKR’s stop-start campaign this season, which saw them win 7 and lose 7 of their league stage games and they only had themselves to blame for not making the playoffs for a second straight season.
Another big talking point for KKR fans this season was the performance overall of their most expensive recent signing Pat Cummins. Cummins who was bought for Rs 15.5 Crore in the December 2019 player auction, which incidentally made him the most expensive foreign player ever bought at an IPL auction, finished the season with 12 wickets in 14 games. Though his season-best figures of 4/34 vs RR in KKR’s last league match was instrumental in the Knight Riders finishing strong in the league phase, it was a little too late to revive KKR’s campaign such that they would be the masters of their own destiny.
Meanwhile, Eoin Morgan, who took over from Dinesh Karthik as KKR captain was bought for Rs 5.25 Crore in the last player auction. Morgan scored 418 runs in the 14 matches he played, at an average of 41.80, with one half-century. But his and the team management’s decision to not come in at number 4 in many of the games baffled both the experts and fans. Most experts felt that Morgan, being the England limited-overs captain and one of the most effective power hitters in the game currently should have batted higher than he did in most games.
SURYAKUMAR DOING WELL – IGNORED AGAIN BY SELECTORS
Another big talking point this season was Mumbai Indians’ Suryakumar Yadav putting up another strong showing, but being ignored by the national selectors for India’s tour of Australia. Suryakumar, who is nicknamed ‘Sky’ played a crucial role in Mumbai’s march into the final this season. He finished off the season with 480 runs in 16 matches, at an average of 40, with four fifties. In 2019 he had scored 424 runs and the year before that in 2018 he scored 512 runs, which is his best showing in the IPL to date. Former India cricketer Harbhajan Singh tweeted to ask the selectors what else Suryakumar, who has also been doing well in the Ranji Trophy, need to do to merit a national call-up. Team India Head coach Ravi Shastri meanwhile asked the 30-year-old from Mumbai to ‘stay strong and patient’.
All pics credit: BCCI/IPL/PTI