Sports

This Was One Of The Most Lopsided IPL Seasons — KKR Was Number One, No One Was Second

K Balakumar

May 27, 2024, 05:43 PM | Updated 05:42 PM IST

KKR, the IPL 2024 champions.
KKR, the IPL 2024 champions.
  • This IPL season was extremely lopsided, with KKR clearly at the top and no close competitors.
  • On the night of IPL final, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) hardly broke a sweat. In Chennai's humidity, which may as well have been more than Argentina's inflation rate, that should count as the biggest achievement.

    In an underwhelming final, the Sunrisers Hyderabad just failed to turn up as it was shot out for the lowest score in the final of the IPL.

    Seen from the other side, KKR's triumph with 57 balls in hand is the biggest at the playoff stage. (Incidentally, the previous record was also with KKR — its win with 38 balls remaining against SRH in Qualifier 1 a few days back in Ahmedabad.)

    In a sense, the IPL final was symptomatic of the entire tournament this year — mostly predictable with the winner identified much before the match hit the final stretch.

    The last-over, even last-ball thrillers, the sine qua non of T20 matches, were far and few between in the 2024 edition. Tellingly, there was no super-over contests this year.

    KKR was by far the most dominant team — it lost just three matches (the lowest any champion team has done in the tournament, on a par with RR in the inaugural edition of 2008) and in the playoffs it just steamrolled past its opponent with aggression and intent.

    The rest of the franchises, including the other finalists SRH, which broke many batting records with spectacular batting on the way, was mostly inconsistent to their own good.

    MI Was Feckless In The Ground And Off It, Too

    The bottom three — MI, PBKS and GT — never had any momentum to their campaign. The unravelling of MI due to a hare-brained idea of parachuting a captain at the last moment must count as one of the sporting disasters.

    The five-time champion, with Hardik Pandya replacing the most successful captain in the IPL history Rohit Sharma, lost the essential espirit de corps, the key ingredient for a champion outfit.

    It also upset the equilibrium of GT (from where Pandya was picked up), and after two consecutive years of being in the finals, the Gujarat franchise had to endure the sobering reality of being among the wooden-spoonists.

    Of the Punjab team, the less said the better, as it kept repeating the mistakes that it has been committing right through the 16 editions of the tournament. Its frontline bowler Harshal Patel with 24 wickets was the highest wicket-taker. But that, sadly, did not prove beneficial to his team.

    Lucknow Super Giants had a start and stop kind of tournament. They had a couple of good wins, but their problem was boiled down to the batting approach of their captain K L Rahul, whose 'anchoring' ways have triggered many a passionate debate.

    The seeming blow-up of its owner with the team's captain in open ground, which the cameras did not miss, will remain a talking point for long as it has long term implications for the franchise owner system of the teams.

    Delhi Capitals, as ever, had its moments. But, as ever, faltered to deceive. It, then again, had its issue with personnel, and not surprisingly it involved the eternally troubled Prithvi Shaw. That such an impressive talent is in the line of fire for his attitude is a tragedy for both DC and Indian cricket.

    CSK, one with a big support base, paid the price for making it all about MS Dhoni. Okay, its fans may have made it so.

    Anyway, it proved to be such a distraction that, as one spectator said during the second eliminator, 'it was a circus out there'. Dhoni's few sixers seemed to satisfy the fans, and the team, especially the newly-anointed captain Rituraj Gaikwad, was unsure.

    Despite being the second highest run scorer, he failed in the crunch games. Dhoni has been a kind of elephant in the room for the last five years.

    That the team won two trophies in that period is a testament to its tenacity as well as the fact that in T20 punditry can be hogwash. But in 2025, CSK really needs to hit the reset button.

    RCB And Its Tears Don’t Look Like Drying

    The other crowd favourite, RCB, continued its Greek tragedy in the overall perspective. It was shambolic to start with. After the first two matches, it lost six on the trot, and then picked itself up to win six on the trot.

    After the last win against the CSK, it went overboard with its celebrations, and in the next match, the first eliminator, when it capitulated, the thud of the fall seemed louder than it should have. Virat Kohli ending up with 741 runs — the highest run-getter in the tournament is hardly any consolation.

    The perennially underperforming RR (after its triumph under the inspiration Shane Warne in the first year) was the one frontrunner with some impressive cricket — it won eight of its first nine matches, and then went down in four consecutive matches.

    Even though it won the first eliminator quite dominantly, RR seemed to have lost its initial momentum. But in the fitness of things, it should have been in the finals. But its inconsistent middle-order proved to be its undoing in the second eliminator.

    SRH had a spectacular batting season. It breached the 250-run threshold thrice this year alone — including the IPL's highest team score (287 for 3 against RCB at Bengaluru).

    It also scored 277 for 3 against MI and 266 for 7 against DC. (For the record, the 250-mark was breached by teams for a scarcely-believable record of 8 times in 2024 IPL. The 200 runs base was reached on 40 occasions).

    As you can see, it is a batsmen-favouring season, and SRH made the most out of it, thanks in the main to the form of its explosive openers Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma. The rich vein of aggression from Heinrich Klaasen and Eiden Markram also helped matters for it.

    But when the openers failed to click, it did not seem to have any plan-B. In both the matches against KKR in the playoff section, Head was dismissed for ducks, and the SRH never really recovered. Its strategy was always high-risk.

    Go for the leather right from the first ball. When it came off, it looked beyond spectacular, but when it failed, as it did a few times, SRH actually looked clueless. It showed there is place for nuance even within the slambang batting, which at times reached the level of pornographic excesses this season.

    Gautham Gambhir Proves A Point

    And so, in a sense, it was a romp in the park for KKR in one of the most lopsided seasons of the IPL. For it too, the form of the openers, Phil Salt (as it happened, a last minute replacement for Jason Roy) and the enigmatic Sunil Narine gave it the right trigger.

    Narine batting got a modicum of consistency, and that was the real clincher. Of course, he bowled his four over with typical stoical sincerity, bamboozling the batsmen. Venkatesh Iyer too found his mojo, and he particularly stamped his authority in the playoff matches scoring two fireworks-filled fifties.

    Shreyas Iyer, the captain, was also quite good as a batsman as he managed to put behind his problems in international cricket. The emergence of Angkrish Raghuvanshi and Ramandeep Singh is good for KKR's future. Rinku Singh, its find in the last two seasons, didn't have much to do.

    KKR's bowling, its weakest link over the years, really came good this year.  In 6 matches, it bowled out its opponents this season — the most by a team in a single IPL year. The 1.17 ratio between KKR's batting run rate and its bowling economy rate is the highest for any team in an IPL season.

    Mitchell Starc, Narine, and the underrated Varun Chakravarthy (21 wickets, the highest for KKR this season) were all on song. But the emergence of Harshit Rana (19 wickets) has to be the biggest plus for KKR. Vaibhav Arora with 11 wickets was also another vital cog in the relentless KKR wheel.

    Of course, the consistent all-round show of Andre Russell was always going to stand the KKR in good stead.  Gautham Gambhir, the new coach, will have all the bragging rights — KKR's two other triumphs in IPL (in 2012 and 2014) had come under his captaincy. The man knows the franchise well and manages to bring the best out of it.

    Overall, this IPL also saw the blossoming of LSG's Yash Thahur. His white-hot pace was the talking point before injuries put paid to his run. Jasprit Bumrah was as usual special as only he can be — his 20 wickets amidst the ruins of MI were all gold. 

    The likes of T Natarajan in bowling and Riyan Parag in batting were extremely good, but they still couldn't figure in the squad for the T20 World Cup is a sporting travesty.

    India’s Chances In The World T20

    One look at the Indian squad (Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj), it would be clear that none (except perhaps Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav) was consistently good at this year's IPL.

    A couple of them had a few good outings, for sure. So fingers crossed for the World Cup.

    Overall, IPL 2024 may be the one which formalised the death of bowlers in the format as the batsmen just kept going for their shots. Great bats, short boundaries and high risk approach were always detrimental to bowlers. But the highly contentious impact-rule has taken out 'contest' from the scheme of things.

    It is likely that the rule is not going to be back next season. If it, however, does return, the bowlers in this tournament may as well do a Dinesh Karthik — announce their retirement.   


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