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IPL 2018: Highlights and talking points

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IPL_moments_Cricket_T20The eleventh edition of the Indian Premiere League (IPL) came to a crescendo on the 27th of May at the Wankhede Stadium, with the Chennai Super Kings beating Sunrisers Hyderabad comfortably by 8 wickets and winning the title.

This was one of the most entertaining IPLs in recent memory, with closely fought contests, sustained drama and excitement being the norm through the course of the season. Moreover, this time there was no clear favourite till the very last game. That’s what gave IPL 2018 a refreshing edge.

Throughout the season there were plenty of talking points. Here is a look at some of the more notable highlights of IPL 2018 that stood out.

CSK’s emphatic return:

After two years of suspension, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) made a triumphant return to the IPL, clinching the title for a third time. While CSK has been the IPL’s most successful side, their success story this year has been pretty extraordinary. Dubbed “Dad’s Army”, as the average age in their side was 33, not many expected this team to do well this year. However, with MS Dhoni captaining the side with great authority, the men in yellow excelled and put up a clinical performance throughout the season.

Ambati Rayudu (602 runs), Shane Watson (555 runs) and captain Dhoni himself excelled with the bat while youngsters like Deepak Chahar (10 wickets) and Lungi Ngidi (11 wickets) showed their mettle with the ball, ensuring that Chennai was a well-rounded unit. There were contributions from several others at different points in the season. What made Chennai stand out as a team was their ability to stay united and feed off each other’s positive energies.

CSK’s victory was also a gift to its loyal fan base that waited patiently in the wings for two years. The Chennai Super Kings really have made an emphatic return to the IPL and one needs to laud MS Dhoni for pulling off such a win with the limitations he had.

Rashid Khan - the champion match-winner:

At just 19 years of age, Rashid Khan has made tremendous waves in the cricketing world. It’s remarkable. While the Afghanistan leg-spinner did make an impression in the IPL last season as well, this year he made the tournament his own. He was the ace in Sunrisers Hyderabad’s pack and every time he came on to bowl one could feel something would happen.

21 wickets at an economy rate of 6.73 is a phenomenal achievement. But Rashid Khan was more than just the numbers. The likes of AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni all struggled to pick him. He was relentless in his lines and knew how to suffocate batsmen. These are traits of a genius in the making.

And as if his bowling wasn’t enough, Rashid also displayed his prowess on the field and as a pinch-hitter down the order. He truly was a bona fide match-winner in every sense for the Sunrisers this season. He has shown that he is a champion ready to take on the world.

Punjab’s curious fall:

The journey of Kings XI Punjab in IPL 2018 can be seen in two halves. One where they looked like a championship-winning team with a settled order and a passionate, astute captain guiding them. The other where their wheels came off, the players and captain looked befuddled and they kept spiraling downwards.

Under new captain Ravichandran Ashwin, Punjab started brilliantly. They had a lot of things going for them – KL Rahul’s scintillating batting, Andrew Tye’s sensational performance as their lead bowler and Ankit Rajpoot’s seam bowling later on. However, in the end, Punjab came across as a team too dependent on individuals rather than performing as a cohesive unit. Their middle-order simply failed to be consistent and it didn’t help that Ashwin kept shuffling the batting order around, which meant there was no stability.

Ultimately, Kings XI Punjab’s IPL journey promised a lot but ended in a whimper that left their fans dejected.

The coming of Dhoni 2.0:

A lot of things about IPL 2018 might be forgotten over the years. But one thing that people will not forget is how Mahendra Singh Dhoni reinvented himself. He gave his fans a glimpse of his former self while maintaining his current persona; a Dhoni 2.0, if you will.

Perhaps because he had returned to his former franchise after a gap of two years. It has been a while since Dhoni has looked as relaxed and determined as a batsman and that showed in his numbers. Dhoni finished the season with 455 runs at a stunning strike rate of 150.66. What was more noticeable was his clean striking at the death where, wielding his bat like an axe, Dhoni went on a rampage.

This season, in the death overs, Dhoni made 297 runs off 148 balls, including 24 sixes and 16 fours, at an average of nearly 100. He was the reason CSK finished games so well. It just goes to show that Dhoni still has a lot of fire in his belly.

Kane Williamson’s astute and inspiring leadership:

In the absence of David Warner, who was banned for one year, it was expected that Sunrisers Hyderabad would wilt. After all, Warner had been their maverick captain who almost single-handedly led them to a title win in 2016. However, Kane Williamson responded to the responsibility of captaining the side with great aplomb.

Leading an IPL team for the first time, Williamson brought all his international expertise into play and managed his resources brilliantly. His field placements, bowling changes and ability to stay cool when the opposition went hammer and tongs were terrific to watch. Williamson also led from the front as a batsman and ended the season as the highest run-scorer, making a whopping 735 runs at an average of 52.50. Both as a captain and a batsman, Kane Williamson was an inspiring figure in IPL 2018.

Indian youngsters shine:

Every season, the IPL gives a platform for uncapped Indian youngsters to shine and make a name for themselves. This year was no different. The likes of Mayank Markande, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw, Prasidh Krishna and Shivam Mavi showed signs of brilliance at every opportunity they got and will certainly be earmarked by the Indian selectors.

Gill and Shaw – both stars of India’s recent U-19 World Cup triumph – did excellently with the bat for Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils respectively, while Mayank Markande was a surprise package for the Mumbai Indians. The young leg-spinner was Mumbai’s go-to bowler this season and claimed 15 wickets. Prasidh Krishna, meanwhile, came out of nowhere and produced an excellent performance for Kolkata with his seam and swing. The young pacer showed great skills and maturity while bowling at the death and ended with 10 wickets in just 7 games.  

Overall, this was a good season for little-known and talented uncapped Indian youngsters. With every season, we get to see how confident these youngsters are of performing at the big stage and their efforts this season bodes really well for Indian cricket.

 

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