We have witnessed perhaps the most exciting IPL ever. Till the last day and the last match of the preliminary games, we didn’t have a clue as to which teams will make it to the top 4 (2nd to 4th positions) and at what position a team will end up with. Three teams who lost out were in contention till the penultimate day. Only Kings XI Punjab were truly out of contention. What followed in the Qualifiers and Eliminator games were worth watching. Everything ended with Mumbai Indians taking on Chennai Super Kings at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Since losing in their first 4 games, Mumbai came back and won most of everything that came their way, including the all-important finals! Mumbai’s performance in the final was reminiscent of Australian teams winning World Cup finals in the last 1990’s and early 2000’s. Ricky Ponting presence probably made a difference as he was leading the Australian team then and now the head coach of Mumbai Indians this season. Chennai doesn’t have to feel bad about the result as they have been the most consistent IPL team in IPL history.
Here are some of the interesting takeaways from IPL season 8:
- Top 3 teams in IPL-8 were captained by Indians: That’s right. Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore were captained by Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli respectively. The best non-Indian captain of an IPL team was Steven Smith of Rajasthan Royals (not surprising at all). David Warner (Sun Risers Hyderabad), JP Duminy (Delhi Daredevils) and George Bailey (Kings XI Punjab) all failed as a captain to lead their team to the knockouts. What does that say? Two things in my opinion – one, Indians leaders definitely know the conditions well and have their strategies in place and two, having the best player as captain is not always the best decision. David Warner and JP Duminy played well as individuals for their team but the collective was missing.
- Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians are the best teams in IPL: Without a doubt, they are! Before you start arguing why I missed out on Kolkata and Bangalore, let me explain why these 2 teams are the best. They are consistent. They win matches when it matters the most. They have been past winners (Chennai – 2 and Mumbai – 2). They have been in the finals the most compared to others (Chennai – 6 and Mumbai – 3). They have been in the knockouts the most compared to others too (Chennai – always and Mumbai – 6). With IPL done with 8 seasons, the media have to start analysing teams and bring in team rivalries to make it interesting. Don’t you think we need a Manchester United v/s Liverpool level rivalry in IPL too? What about a Barcelona v/s Real Madrid? Sony Six will do themselves a world of good by promoting such competitions to bring it additional revenues in IPL. That’s one way to make money. Fans will also keep track of such matches in upcoming seasons of IPL. IPL needs to move on to the next stage and team rivalries can be a great way to start.
- Delhi needs a makeover, again: To be fair, Delhi started the IPL well (in seasons 1 and 2, they finished 4th and 3rd respectively). They were one of the top teams in IPL. And then came the decline – 5th (2010), last (2011), 3rd (2012), last (2013), last (2014), 2nd to last (2015). The management of Delhi Daredevils have tried to change their setup every year, but to no avail. Retaining JP Duminy was a good decision and I feel they should retain him again for next year. They had the players to make them go the distance but no one clicked when it mattered, again. A costly Yuvraj Singh backfired terribly. This was just not Yuvraj Singh’s season and with age against him, he will have to make a decision. If he doesn’t, the auction participants next year will surely decide for him.
- AB de Villiers is Cricket’s answer to Lionel Messi: He cannot do a thing wrong. Although he plays in a team-game atmosphere, he has his own individuality that cannot be overlooked on the ground. When he brings in a new weapon to score, he amazes even the opposition fans. On occasions, the opposition team have absolutely no answer and just watch his magical tricks on display. If you follow the sport, you got to respect the player irrespective of the team you support. Losing the World Cup after coming agonizingly close brought out the tears in a player we thought was from another planet and hence devoid of emotions. Who am I talking about? Lionel Messi or AB de Villiers? Or both? The same narrative applies to both these players right?
- IPL is a great leveller: And Kings XI Punjab is a great example in this regard. In the 2014 season, Kings XI bull dozed their way to the top of the league table only to lose in the finals in the worst possible way (by 1 run) against a resurgent Kolkata Knight Riders. But that does not take away the fact that Kings XI were the best team in that season. Kolkata simply made it count when it mattered the most. Cut to the 2015 season and the irony is evident. The best-team-by-a-distance in 2014 has nosedived to become the worst team of 2015, also by a distance! Factually, a team that won 11 out of 14 games in 2014 lost 11 out of 14 games in 2015! I don’t think the management is to be blamed here. Kings XI retained as much as 20 players for 2015 (highest by any team). It’s just that these players stooped to a level even they thought wasn’t possible.
- IPL cannot be truly complete without controversies: IPL is all about synchronously merging Cricket with entertainment. In today’s day and age, entertainment also includes controversies and scams. The glue that attaches an Indian TV audience in front of their TV set is entertainment based journalism / news that involves scams and controversies. Let’s admit it, we simply cannot resist it. IPL-8 has also ensured controversies are brought it to make the event spicier. Remember Kieron Pollard’s tape incident. I felt it was a reaction in jest which was taken a little out of proportion by some. MSD criticising an umpire during the post-match speech was totally unlike MSD. Add to it, the recently discovered spot-fixing allegation in some of the matches in IPL-8. If the news channels have their way, expect a lot of "debates" on this front!