Finally the curtains go down on IPL 2019 and what a sensational final it was !! A match of epic proportions with Mumbai Indians finally scraping home by 1 run on the last ball of a low scoring thriller on a good batting pitch at Hyderabad. Batting 1st Mumbai could not sustain a cracking start by Dcock(29 off 17) and struggled against some impressive CSK bowling till Pollard (41no off 25 balls) at the end managed to add some respectability to attain a final score of 149 which was however 20 short. In reply Duplesis (26 off 13) threatened to make hay in powerplay till Krunal got him stumped and from there Chennai struggled to chase a modest target of 150 as Dhoni himself got runout in a photo finish. However Watson (80 off 59) being dropped thrice, threatened to win the game all on his own ,hitting some powerful sixes and fours and had hammered Krunal and Malinga off their lengths till Bumrah bowled a brilliant 19th over which also had Watson crucially runout. With 9 needed to win Malinga bowled a superb last over when it mattered most and with 2 to win off last ball Shardul Thakur was trapped lbw by a brilliant Yorker to end a memorable final in favour of Mumbai Indians who simply got out of jail after Watson’s heroics. For Mumbai man of the match , Bumrah (2/14) and leggie Rahul Chahal (1-14) were the standout bowlers.
It was another good year of IPL , but not without its share of controversies. The umpiring came under lots of scrutiny, with many ordinary decisions, none more glaring than the missed no ball of Lasith Malinga off last ball in a close MI v RCB 1st leg match which would have won the game for RCB , with none other than AB Devilliers on strike. Another incident happened in a close match between CSK and Rajasthan Royals, when the on field umpire seemingly called a noball ,then retracted his arm which prompted an enraged MS Dhoni ,a normally cool captain to storm into the field and confront the umpires. Dhoni was fined later for this action.
However the most telling controversial incident happened in the initial stages of the event when Jos Buttler of Rajasthan was runout (mankaded) by Ashwin of Punjab as Buttler left his crease at non strikers end seconds too early in his forward motion for a possible single which happens to all non strikers. However Ashwin stopped in his tracks ,removed the bails and appealed (within his rights as per law) and umpire gave Buttler out. This led to huge controversies in social and news media with all experts as well as people pretending to be experts went off like firecrackers giving multiple points of views and Ashwin received lots of flak for not abiding by the spirit of the game in giving the batter at least a warning .One imagines that this ” mankading” incident will lead to revisiting the runout rules ,especially when bowlers are on their delivery stride and non striker in forward motion of an anticipating single.
Another rather dissappointing aspect of IPL 2019 was the nature of a majority of pitches in some centres which played slow and low and thus hampered free flowing strokeplay which fans want to witness in T20 games .This resulted in quite a few dull games in this season. One hopes that BCCI has already taken good note of this and will take all possible steps to ensure better pitches next season accross centres. However the pitches in some centres like Mohali, Kolkata,Mumbai and Hyderabad played generally true and fair .
Now coming to the review of 4 playoff teams , the Sunrisers Hyderabad started off very well with their favourite son David Warner back after a 1 year gap. Warner and Bairstow forged a sensational opening stands in most games which in the long run helped SRH to qualify for playoffs with better net runrate. However this season SRH suffered due to early leaving of their successful openers for World Cup duties, Williamson’s initial injury and lack of depth in their middle order batting. Also their bowling attack looked to struggle somewhat this year compared to last year with batsmen beginning to read Rashid Khan better, Bhuvneswar struggling with his momentum after injury layoffs and Sid Kaul not being the same bowler as last year. For SRH apart from Bairstow and Warner, the other successes were Manish Pandey and Khaleel Ahmed in later stages of this IPL season.
Delhi Capitals should be happy to reach playoffs and nearly made it close to the finals. They had a young side led by a young captain. The bowlers did very well on the whole with Rabada striking regularly and the spinners bowling tight and picking wickets. Rabada’s absence in playoffs did affect the bowling slightly . The batting however had a patchy season and looked to be struggling especially showing nervousness while chasing decent scores, something they need to work out better next year. Rishabh Pant, Rabada, Amit Mishra, Shikhar Dhawan were their top performers this season while young prodigy Prithvi Shaw needs to achieve better consistency
Runners up Chennai Super Kings was again astutely led by who else ?, MS Dhoni. His game reading sense, ability to guide his bowlers, skillful field placings judging opposition strengths/weaknesses and his intelligence in handling a team of veteran stars extracted the maximum output from an ageing squad. The way Dhoni handled near 40 aged members like Harbhajan , Imran Tahir, Watson etc speaks volumes of the effeciency of CSK thinktank. CSK looked unbeatable at their home and travelled well enough to easily qualify for playoffs. The quality of their fielding was decent and their spinners were best in this IPL. Most of their team members contributed at some point or the other ,so tough to single out leading individual players.
Finally the champions. Mumbai Indians won their 4th title banking on their quality bowling attack , strong firepower in their batting and presence of a chilled out captain who never got rattled when the team was stuggling in first four weeks . Decock ,Suryakumar, Pollard and Hardik Pandya in particular provided the required batting firepower as skipper Rohit himself had a quiet IPL by his high standards. In bowling they had the world’s best Jasprit Bumrah who was a constant thorn in the opposition. Spinner Rahul Chahar bowled superbly as the tournament progressed and Malinga though past his best ,is still a skillful operator bowling well when it mattered most. Hardik’s fine allround show ,specially his blazing knocks proved to be the knockout punch in many games.
For the records, David Warner and Imran Tahir won the orange and purple cap for being the highest run getter and wicket taker respectively. Young Shubman Gill of KKR won the best emerging player award and Andre Russell expectedly took away the most valuable player award. Indeed Russell was devastating in this IPL, singlehandedly winning games. With better support from others ,Dre Russ would have taken his team KKR to IPL glory ,such was his impact in this IPL.
Thus with IPL 2019 coming to a close ,one hopes that BCCI will take some learning from the ordinary experiences of this season, such as mediocre pitches and umpiring, and strive to improve upon these grey areas for a much better and more fulfilling next season.