IPL 2020 analysis: Bowlers success the biggest story of the tournament

Chandresh Narayanan/Dubai
Filed on November 11, 2020
Leg-spinners like Ravi Bishnoi made waves whenever they got a chance to perform. (IPL)

The T20 game is slowly becoming a much more nuanced version of the sport

The 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was probably the most engrossing and entertaining of them all.

It seemed like the franchises had evolved a lot more in terms of planning and strategizing for the T20 format than in the previous years. That can only mean that the T20 game is slowly becoming a much more nuanced version of the sport. There is a very strong case for the T20 game to be separated from the one-day format.

The T20 format now needs a complete fresh look and all the old references via the one-day spectrum are no longer valid.

The concept of match-ups is the first big evolution of this edition of the IPL, where coaches depended on specific match-ups. The classic example of this was in the final when Mumbai Indians took the gamble of leaving out their successful leg-spinner (Rahul Chahar) in the face of Delhi Capitals’ three left-handers.

In came the off-spinner Jayant Yadav who was expected to tie up and strangle the Delhi left-handers. Yadav struck immediately, castling Shikhar Dhawan and played a huge part.

This was the scenario all through the season as specific match-ups were utilised by think-tanks to target players. In the past such scenarios may have been scorned at, but in this evolved T20 format, there is a case for using players for specific situations.

The growth of the T20 specific cricketers was another big evolution of this year’s IPL. Varun Chakravarthy and T Natarajan made a significant leap with their performances. Varun’s mystery and Natarajan’s yorkers made everyone sit up. Their skills are perfectly made for the T20 format which meant that they both got India call-ups for the same reason. It is only fitting that the new generation of T20 specific cricketers have finally started emerging out of India too. It was bound to happen over a period of time because we have had 12 seasons of IPL and a legacy was bound to be created sooner rather than later.

The next big trend or should we say a continuation was the superb performance of the leg-spinners across the board. Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravi Bishnoi, Chahar, Rashid Khan made waves whenever they got a chance to perform. There was a time in the shorter formats when leg-spinners were considered to be a liability. But over the past few years, leggies have emerged as the strike weapon for their captains.

But if we fail to mention the performance of Ravichandran Ashwin, the off-spinner, we will be failing in our duty. In a tournament dominated by leg-spinners, Ashwin was an exception. Unfortunately, still a return to action in coloured clothing for India is a step too far for him.

We are probably witnessing the finest set of fast bowlers currently in operation in world cricket. Barring Mitchell Starc and a couple of others, we had almost everyone on display during the IPL. The battle between Jasprit Bumrah and Kagiso Rabada was enthralling. Then we had the skills of Mohammed Shami, the brute pace of Jofra Archer, Lockie Ferguson and Anrich Nortje too. Pat Cummins seemed a little off colour, but Kolkata Knight Riders could not afford to step out without his expertise.

It is indeed interesting that a format expected to be dominated by batsmen, the biggest story was that of the bowling skills. This just underlines how much bowlers have evolved and upskilled themselves.

But we still did have moments of brilliance with the bat. Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Mayank Agarwal were effective; Chris Gayle was brutal even if he made a late appearance. Suryakumar Yadav and AB de Villiers were creative, while young Ishan Kishan took a tremendous leap. Marcus Stoinis made a significant contribution as an all-rounder for Delhi Capitals with his hitting skills and key wickets with the ball.

The usual big hitters like Andre Russell and Rishabh Pant may have flattered to deceive, but we had excellent striking from Hardik Pandya and Rahul Tewatia. The younger lot were expected to take IPL by storm but except Devdutt Padikkal, the others including Prithvi Shaw fell off the radar, while Yashasvi Jaiswal was forgotten by his own franchise.

The best piece of news from this year’s IPL was the quality of fielding especially around the boundary line. We witnessed possibly the best fielding display this year, even though catching at times was a bit iffy. Nicholas Pooran’s effort at the boundary line probably being the moment of the season.

But what is IPL without a debate for us to indulge. Well then, we got plenty of it in the form of Rohit Sharma lifting the title for the fifth time. Sharma’s successful leadership in T20 format has already led to calls for him to be captain in the shortest format for India. With Virat Kohli failing yet again, this time also with the bat, the calls are only growing louder. Only time will tell if these calls become something more than just chatter.

Thankfully, the IPL has ended with more answers than questions.

Chandresh Narayanan is an Indian cricket author and broadcaster

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