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IPL 2016: At least 5 ways in which it was different – and positive

Put into perspective, IPL is about how much it contributes to Indian cricket. This edition offered positives.

IPL 2016, IPL 2016 review, IPL 2016 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, IPL 2016 Bhuvi, IPL 2016 analysis, IPL analysis, IPL 9 winner, IPL 2016 SRH IPL 2016: Bhuvneshwar Kumar is possibly the biggest positive for India from this IPL. (Source: BCCI/IPL)

Befittingly, exhilaratingly, the best bowling side of the tournament triumphed, confirming the age-old truth; bowlers win you matches. In an IPL final, where 408 runs had been scored in 40 overs, Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s figures read: 4-0-25-0. In a tournament where batting-friendly pitches became the norm, Mustafizur Rahman bagged the Emerging Player award for his 17 wickets at an economy rate of 6.90. Outstanding!

Together Bhuvi and Fizz formed Hyderabad’s spine. The excellent David Warner was the team’s brain and heart. The skipper led from the front, scoring 848 runs at 60.57 (strike-rate 151.42). He led brilliantly. But Hyderabad’s success was down to proper team bonding.

T20 cricket doesn’t create a lasting legacy though. IPLs will come and go. Put into perspective, it’s about how much the tournament is contributing to Indian cricket. This edition offered positives. From India’s point of view, Kumar’s return to form was perhaps the biggest of them.

Coming into the IPL, the 26-year-old medium pacer was short of game time and confidence. He wasn’t picked for the World T20 although he stayed with the team as a stand-by. After a difficult start, he finished with 23 scalps from 17 matches to take the Purple Cap. He has been a revelation with his death bowling and extra yards of pace. It was heartening to see him clock 140 km consistently. Kumar credited his team mentor. “I credit VVS Laxman. He said, ‘you are the one who will win matches’. I was mainly looking to develop the death bowling. At the same time, I worked on new-ball bowling.” The challenge for him would be to replicate this form in international fixtures. The upcoming Test series in West Indies could be a good (re)starting point.

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Coming back to limited-overs formats, death bowling had been India’s biggest concern last season. Then, Jasprit Bumrah came and Ashish Nehra started to roll back the years. The latter has undergone a knee surgery in London and the Indian team will hope he recovers well and returns to the T20 fold. If Kumar carries forward his IPL form to international cricket, it would be a big bonus. And there is Mohammed Shami, dusting himself off after an elongated injury break. The cupboard no longer looks bare. There is definite optimism.

Overall, this IPL was a little different. Two months ago at the World T20, spinners ruled. Pacers bucked the trend in the T20 league. Only one spinner – Royal Challengers Bangalore leggie Yuzvendra Chahal, 21 scalps – featured in the list of top 10 wicket-takers. Curators deserve accolades for preparing some excellent cricket pitches, curbing their penchant for slow turners.

This IPL was different, because circumstances forced MS Dhoni to play for a different franchise. Forgive me for drawing a football analogy, but Dhoni playing for Rising Pune Supergiants was like Lionel Messi turning up for Espanyol after leaving his beloved Barcelona. Also, for the first time, Dhoni’s team didn’t reach the playoffs. Injuries to Kevin Pietersen, Faf du Plessis, Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh robbed the side of quality. Dhoni had to deal with too much mediocrity around him. He couldn’t perform a miracle.

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This IPL was different because Warner conducted himself with amazing dignity and discipline on and off the field. “He (Warner) isn’t touching any alcohol for the last 12 months and that itself is strong leadership. (He is) setting a great example to the rest of the group,” former Australia batsman and Kolkata Knight Riders assistant coach Simon Katich revealed.

In the end, however, this edition will always be called Virat Kohli’s IPL. Title remained elusive for the champion, but with 973 runs at a staggering 81.08 and four centuries, he rewrote record books and set the benchmark for T20 batting. He lit up the show like no one else.

First published on: 30-05-2016 at 07:40:28 pm
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