While Mumbai Indians beat Rising Pune Supergiant in the IPL 2017 Final on Sunday, the tournament was yet another successful one.
Here are five things we learned from the 10th Indian Premier League:
BIG BUY STOKES A ‘PERFECT FIT’
Ben Stokes finally repaid the $2.16 million worth of faith Rising Pune Supergiant placed in him. The Englishman was the most expensive foreigner ever signed for the IPL and the best paid player this season. He was key in Pune’s impressive campaign to reach the knockout phase.
After some poor early performances the Stokes’ deal was questioned, but the 25-year-old eventually hit 316 runs in 12 matches, with a high of 103 not out.
He also took 12 wickets to bust the big buy, big waste tag. Pune skipper Steve Smith heaped praise on Stokes, terming him a “perfect fit” for the team.
FOREIGN INTEREST ON THE RISE
Big guns like Chris Gayle and David Warner have always raised the IPL entertainment quotient but the influx of England players this year made it even more cosmopolitan.
IPL teams welcomed them with open arms at the February auctions and the eight-strong English contingent was double the number last season. Stokes, Eoin Morgan (Kings XI Punjab), Chris Woakes (Kolkata Knight Riders) and Jos Buttler (Mumbai Indians) were important performers for their teams.
The season also saw the first Afghan players signed up, with Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi going to Sunrisers Hyderabad. “The participation of players from around the world makes it the biggest draw,” said IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla.
IPL PICKS UP THE PACE
Fast bowlers are back. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Sunrisers Hyderabad), Jaydev Unadkat (Rising Pune Supergiant) and Jasprit Bumrah (Mumbai Indians) made up the top three in the IPL bowlers rankings and the impact of seamers was evident this season.
While Kumar took 26 scalps to get the purple cap for highest wicket taker in season 10, Unadkat (24 wickets) was instrumental in Pune’s success. Mumbai also rode on Mitchell McClenaghan’s incisive bowling in the first six overs and fellow pacemen Bumrah and Mitchell Johnson’s ability to choke the opposition in the dying overs.
MATCH FIXING GHOST RETURNS
Just when the match-fixing spectre seemed to have disappeared from the world’s most lucrative cricket league, a betting ring was busted after a Gujarat Lions-Dehli Daredevils game. Three suspected bookies were arrested at the hotel used by the teams in Kanpur.
While the Indian board boasted of their anti-corruption team working overtime to keep the league clean, the presence of fixers in the hotel raised eyebrows.
A spot-fixing scandal in 2013 led to the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals being suspended in 2015 for two seasons.
IPL RAIN RULES CAUSE A CLOUD
Debate erupted over the IPL’s rain rules after an eliminator between holders Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders ended at 1.27 am. Rain stopped play after the Sunrisers managed a modest 128-7 in 20 overs and Kolkata were then given a revised target of 48 in six overs.
Many believe the current Duckworth-Lewis method should not be used in the 20 over format as it gives an undue advantage to the team batting second — Kolkata won by seven wickets.
But the bone of contention remained the IPL ruling of not having a reserve day for play-offs except the final and thus allowing the match to stretch to get a result. Kolkata paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile said: “You can’t be playing cricket at 2 am”.
Veteran paceman Mitchell Johnson, who took key wickets in Mumbai Indians’ IPL final triumph over Rising Pune Supergiant, has been hailed as an influential force off the field too by captain Rohit Sharma.
The 35-year-old Australian struck two crucial blows in the final over to drive Mumbai to a one run victory in Hyderabad on Sunday.
Pune, who required 11 to win off the 20th over, buckled as Johnson snagged two successive wickets, including a dangerous Steve Smith on 51.
Johnson (3-26), India’s Jasprit Bumrah (2-26) and Sri Lankan veteran Lasith Malinga (0-21) choked Pune of runs in the final three crucial overs, denying them their target.
Johnson, who retired from international cricket in 2015, was not first choice for Mumbai’s playing XI but an injury to Mitchell McClenaghan saw him star in the final two matches.
“We have got some proven match winners in our squad. It comes in healthy when the team requires them the most,” Sharma said.
Well done to the @mumbaiindians and thanks to all our supporters throughout an incredible season and for all the amazing msg's! #iplfinal2017 #india #T20 #Repost @mitch_m81 (@get_repost) ・・・ Words don't describe how amazing this feeling is! @rohitsharma45 @mitchjohnson398 @jaspritb1 and all the @mumbaiindians crew! #2wins3years #legends #missingtheseblokesalready
“Mitchell McClenaghan, who was playing well for us, was injured and unfortunately he couldn’t find a place in the finals, but we always knew we had a great back up in Johnson, who is again a proven customer.
“He has done it for Australia and for Mumbai as well. He has been in this atmosphere as well. I could happily rely on him when I needed (him) the most.”
Johnson, who played a key role in Mumbai’s 2013 IPL (Indian Premier League) triumph, returned for a second stint after being picked in the February auctions.
Johnson only played five games for Mumbai this season, with younger quicks Bumrah (20 wickets) and New Zealand’s McClenaghan (19 wickets) carrying the pace attack.
But despite playing limited games, the Australian also played a role behind the scenes, Sharma said, working closely with bowling coach Shane Bond to sharpen Mumbai’s fast bowlers.
“To have him throughout the season is fantastic. He’s been talking to younger bowlers, sharing his experience, all those things have helped our youngsters,” said Sharma.
“You will hear (Jasprit) Bumrah talk about him in the future and how Johnson was helpful to him.”
Meanwhile Pune coach Stephen Fleming rued the absence of England’s Ben Stokes, who was key to Supergiant’s surge to the play-offs before being recalled to play for England.
Stokes – whose $2.16 million contract broke the IPL signing record for a foreign player – scored 316 runs in 12 matches, with a highest of 103 not out, and took 12 wickets.
“We would have loved having Ben Stokes the full time but we knew he would not be there. We did not spend too much time lamenting that,” said Fleming, a former New Zealand captain.
“From his point of view, he would have loved this situation. He is a big game player. Playing in the final, whatever competition it is, it is special.”
However he was “proud” of the team for turning around their fortunes after finishing seventh in last year’s tournament.
“We are not a skilled side in the IPL. In this campaign, we have had some players stand up from nowhere. We take real pride in that,” said Fleming.
“We have created an environment where some players excel. Jaydev (Unadkat) has been extraordinary, so has been Rahul Tripathi and (Manoj) Tiwary. Big stars have stepped up at key times. Ben Stokes was fantastic for us.”
Whenever Mumbai Indians found themselves in a bit of trouble during the Indian Premier League [IPL], they usually found a player who stepped up and made a useful contribution to the team’s cause.
In the final against Rising Pune Supergiant, it was Krunal Pandya who was effective with the bat.
On a slow pitch where batting wasn’t easy, Krunal made a crucial 47 from 38 deliveries and that knock proved to be vital as Mumbai won the match by just one run.
The 26-year-old hit three fours and two sixes in his knock and won the Man of the Match award.
A special mention must also go to Mitchell Johnson who bowled a superb final over when Pune needed 11 runs to win. He took two wickets in that over and ended with bowling figures of 3-26, having taken the important wicket of Ajinkya Rahane earlier.