The Edict’s End-of-Season IPL Awards
By Kartikay Dutta, UG23
Returning after a brief interruption in June, the Indian Premier League headed to the UAE to wrap up the second half of its fourteenth season ahead of the T20 World Cup. In a condensed month-long adventure in the Middle East, the Kolkata Knight Riders would go on a tear of form, using their spin twins Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine as boa constrictors with which to choke opposition batsmen in the middle overs, while the Chennai Super Kings would continue their excellence from the first half of the tournament, bringing their savvy to the fore on pitches which must have reminded them of their hometown Chepauk pitch. Meanwhile, the youth of the Delhi Capitals would run out of steam at the wrong time in the playoffs, and the thrill-a-minute Royal Challengers Bangalore simply couldn’t find a level of consistency in the do-or-die eliminator.
In the end, it was all but a procession for the Super Kings, as MS Dhoni led them to a 27-run victory in his 300th T20 match as captain. But the story of any sporting success is greater than any one match, and that allows us to reflect on the story of IPL 14, take stock, and appreciate what we have been witness to in the last 8-team IPL season ahead of its expansion to ten franchises 2022 onwards.
Player of the Season
The trend throughout the IPL’s existence has been that the winning team never really has a single talismanic individual, but rather is a well-oiled machine which can churn out wins on the regular with a combination of quality performances. This was true for CSK this season too, with all the players up and down the lineup contributing in one form or another. And yet, it says a lot about Ruturaj Gaikwad’s performances at the top of the order that runs provided by Moeen Ali, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja and co. were often brilliant bonuses stacked on top of his consistently quality run-making. The Orange Cap winner (pipping KL Rahul on the day of the final) has, in an interesting tidbit, scored an IPL half-century against all 7 teams he has played against, and that tells us much of what we need to know: averaging 45.35 and striking at 136.26, Gaikwad was the archetypal T20 opener, allowing himself to set a base from which he could take off. He provided two such innings in both the first qualifier and the final, proving his value as CSK’s long-term opener for years to come — as well as shoving himself into the conversation for the hotly-contested opening spot in the Indian setup.
Honourable mention: Because of the broken-up nature of this season, it’s difficult to find many players who replicated top, top form across both halves — Shikhar Dhawan was fantastic in the first but struggled in the second, for example. We will go with the safe choice — Gaikwad’s teammate Ravindra Jadeja, who combined match-winning batting with economical bowling and impeccable fielding.
Emerging Player of the Season
Fast, accurate, and always threatening, Avesh Khan led a platoon of quality Indian pace-bowling which rose to the forefront of the imagination this season. For many, his 24 wickets for a Delhi team which boasts of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, R Ashwin, and Axar Patel were more valuable than Purple Cap holder Harshal Patel’s for RCB. In only his first full IPL season, Avesh put on show what he had, being given one over in the powerplay, another in the middle overs, and then a couple at the death — a formula Jasprit Bumrah has honed to an art, replicated in Avesh’s incredibly impressive debut season. With his strong, athletic action and ability to find the perfect length, at only 24, Avesh has a lot left to give whatever IPL franchise signs him up and ties him down — and undoubtedly soon, to the Indian white-ball outfit as well.
Honourable mention: Venkatesh Iyer’s inclusion at the top of KKR’s batting coincided with their strong second half of the season, but it was more than just a coincidence — his runs at the top combined with an ability to give 2 or 3 quality overs of part-time pace make him a rarity in the Indian game, and allows us to safely call him the find of this IPL season.
Moment of the Season
Kolkata Knight Riders flirted with a historic choke-job in the second qualifier against the Delhi Capitals, before Rahul Tripathi saved them from months and months of humiliation and online mockery with a six against R Ashwin with 6 needed to win from 2 balls. Chasing a very slim 136, they needed only 13 runs from the last 4 overs to book a place in the finals, thanks to a strong opening partnership. However, casual batsmanship from the KKR middle order and good, accurate bowling by DC’s pace trio would mean KKR so very nearly managed to land themselves in a royally ugly mess. Out of nowhere, a one-sided match became a contest — and when is winning a match with a maximum ever not interesting?
Honourable Mention: Harshal Patel’s hattrick against the Mumbai Indians. Three spitting, dipping slower balls which fell out of their flight midair like a Rafael Nadal forehand, flummoxing two of the game’s biggest hitters in Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard, before scalping Rahul Chahal for good measure. RCB fans in raptures.
Two new teams to supplement the eight existing franchises. A mega-auction in the winter months to determine what these teams will look like for the next four or five seasons to come. Team backbones ripped out, minimalistic cores left to carry the legacies built in the cycle just gone by. The many stars of Mumbai and Delhi, so young and exhilarating, go under the hammer as every other team attempts to bring success to their own performances. These are heady times for the Indian Premier League, and even though season 15 (doesn't feel quite real) is over 6 months away, intrigue is sure to hover in those intervening months.