Maximum impact: On Indian Premier League and Sunday’s final  

IPL’s 17th edition added a new dimension to the way cricket is played 

Updated - May 28, 2024 08:08 am IST

Published - May 28, 2024 12:15 am IST

Sunday’s Indian Premier League final between Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai might have turned anti-climactic, but it should not deflect from what was an enthralling two months of cricket. KKR thrashed SRH by eight wickets to claim its third title — its first since 2014 — but the one-sided nature of the summit clash should not stain the latter’s reputation. KKR and SRH had finished seventh and tenth, respectively, in 2023, but broke out of the rut by playing some of the boldest and most attacking cricket. Eight of the nine highest IPL totals came this season, and KKR and SRH accounted for five of those. These gargantuan scores can be attributed to the Impact Player rule, which allowed an extra batter or bowler to be drafted into the playing XI. But credit is also due to the respective teams’ think-tanks that assembled such wholesome squads. KKR’s stock was built on Shreyas Iyer’s astute captaincy, the experience of Sunil Narine — most valuable player for a record third time — Andre Russell and Mitchell Starc, and a strong Indian core of Venkatesh Iyer, Varun Chakravarthy and Vaibhav Arora. SRH brought in Pat Cummins to helm the side, and under the Aussie’s calm leadership, Travis Head, Abhishek Sharma and Heinrich Klaasen redefined T20 batting.

As much as KKR and SRH broadened the horizon of T20s, IPL-17 witnessed spirited attempts by others to keep pace. Virat Kohli had his second-best IPL (741 runs) and scored at a never-seen-before rate (154.70). The belligerent hitting of Jake Fraser-McGurk and Tristan Stubbs kept Delhi Capitals in Playoffs contention for long, while Will Jacks played a crucial role in Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s fairytale entry into the final four despite having lost seven of the first eight games. The competition was also enriched by Mayank Yadav’s searing speed, fast bowler Harshit Rana’s deception and the early-career promise of batters Abishek Porel and Nitish Kumar Reddy. What also stood out in this cricketing jamboree was the timelessness of Dinesh Karthik, and to a lesser extent, of M.S. Dhoni. Perhaps, the only discordant note was the absence of T20 World Cup-bound Indian stars — despite fine performances — in the business end of the tournament. But it can potentially work in India’s favour, for a week’s rest in a jam-packed calendar is a god-send. If the likes of Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Shivam Dube, Suryakumar Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah can carry their form into the biennial extravaganza that begins on Sunday, Rohit Sharma’s men will have a fair chance of ending their long ICC trophy drought.

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