Top league: On IPL 2021

The dust has finally settled on a long-winding tournament which also had a pandemic-induced interval. The 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) that commenced on April 9 in India, drew to a halt on May 2 following COVID-19’s debilitating second wave. After a break, the league found its concluding phase in the desert sands with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosting the remaining matches from September 19 to October 15. The context, venues and timelines changed, but for the IPL some truths seemed eternal. Chennai Super Kings (CSK) may not have as many titles as Mumbai Indians (MI) but when it comes to consistency, no other outfit can challenge M.S. Dhoni’s men dressed in the yellow shade. CSK emerged champion with a swagger while ignoring the sarcasm around it being a ‘Dad’s Army’ considering the veterans in its ranks starting with Dhoni at 40. Having finished seventh in the previous edition in the UAE, the Chennai unit had the odds stacked against it while defending champion MI with five titles, seemed poised to extend its legacy. But when the cricket caravan moved from India to the UAE, CSK remained the team to beat while MI failed to qualify for the play-offs. CSK claimed its fourth title and is just behind MI in the trophy sweepstakes.

In the final against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), CSK held the momentum and the rival fell short by 27 runs. But, as Dhoni mentioned, it is tough to stay in the bottom half for a large part of the tournament and then qualify for the summit clash. KKR precisely did that under Eoin Morgan before stumbling in the climax. CSK’s overwhelming experience as reflected in Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina, Robin Uthappa and Ambati Rayudu, allied with youngsters like Ruturaj Gaikwad, proved to be a combination that kept its calm despite Twenty20’s frenzied rush. With Shardul Thakur, Bravo, Deepak Chahar and Ravindra Jadeja chipping in as bowlers, CSK covered all bases. While KKR was the surprise packet, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Delhi Capitals failed to break their trophy drought despite making it to the last four. The IPL’s penchant to highlight fresh talent was evident too as Ruturaj, KKR’s Venkatesh Iyer, RCB’s Harshal Patel or Sunrisers Hyderabad speedster Umran Malik, to name a few, drew attention. While the league prospered, it is sobering to reflect upon bubble fatigue, a grim reality these days, which forced Chris Gayle to skip mid-way. Financially sound, the IPL however is at an emotional tipping point as the addition of two new franchises for the 2022 season would mean that the next player-auction can alter team-compositions and test fan loyalties.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 6:05:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/top-league-the-hindu-editorial-on-ipl-2021/article37045307.ece

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