No other cricket event is as openly embracing as the Indian Premier League (IPL), with the best of international cricketers in fray. Tough and thrilling, it is a veritable battle of wits where whoever blinks first ends up paying the price.
April 5 will mark 10 years of the tournament and the start of the ultimate star wars with players who have gone toe-to-toe throughout the year suddenly getting thrown in the mix as teammates. Within a week of a fiercely-contested Test series, Australia skipper Steve Smith and India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will be plotting India skipper Virat Kohli’s downfall as a part of the Rising Pune Supergiant s think tank. Australia’s vice-captain David Warner will be looking to defend Hyderabad’s crown with teammate Glenn Maxwell leading Punjab’s charge. Kohli and Rohit Sharma will be leading the lines for high-profile outfits Bangalore and Mumbai respectively.
The beauty of it is that despite some of the biggest names in the game in the fray, the top performances have often come from little-known young domestic cricketers who have to cope with living in the blinding spotlight for two months.
The ultimate multi-city ‘cricketainment’ is back for its 10th edition. HT will bring all the action to you:
IPL rewind: A season-by-season look at the highlights of the Indian Premier League -
Born out of pressure from the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL), the Indian Premier League (IPL) could not have hoped for a better launch-pad than Brendon McCullum’s stunning 73-ball 158 in the tournament opener between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The spectacular assault on bowling made everyone sit up and take notice of the new T20 league. Though there was little cheer for KKR after the dramatic start, what added to the glow of the League was Rajasthan Royals’ titillating performance — the most underrated team going on to top the glamourous outfits. The Cinderella story of Royals was scripted by the charismatic Shane Warne.
Captaining the franchise with the lowest budget, Warne led the team, mainly made of virtual unknowns, to glory. It got the Indian crowd hooked on to cricket’s latest showbiz.
Controversies weren’t far away too, kicking off with Mumbai Indians’ Harbhajan Singh slapping Kings XI Punjab’s S Sreesanth during the routine of post-match handshakes in Mohali.
Buoyed by the unprecedented success of the first edition, nothing was going to stop a certain Lalit Modi, the IPL head honcho, from taking on all odds. When the Indian government expressed its helplessness to provide security due to the general elections, the flamboyant Modi shifted the entire tournament to South Africa in a month’s time.
The Virender Sehwag-led Delhi Daredevils set the tone in the league stage, but the star-studded Deccan Chargers finally played to their potential to canter to victory, beating Royal Challengers Bangalore in the final. Captained by Adam Gilchrist, Chargers were well served by Andrew Symonds, Herschelle Gibbs and Rohit Sharma.
Sachin Tendulkar finally decided to make a statement that he remained the boss across all formats. Powered by his blistering assaults at the top of the order, Mumbai Indians decimated opposition after opposition to coast into the final. From the other side, Chennai Super Kings gradually picked up momentum.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni seemed to have perfected the T20 model. He was at the peak of his power as captain and finisher. In a fitting final, it was Tendulkar versus Dhoni. The latter used his spinners astutely and came up with his trademark, uncanny field placements to stump Mumbai.
The 2011 Cricket World Cup final ended splendidly for India but left its audience so emotionally exhausted that IPL 4 was played to vast tracts of empty stands and dipping TV ratings. The T20 league was on within six days of MS Dhoni & Co raising the Cup at the Wankhede Stadium on the night of April 2.
It was a 10-team league with new entrants Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Pune Warriors India eventually finishing eighth and ninth. The season though belonged to Chris Gayle who led with 44 sixes in 608 runs at a strike rate of 183-plus in just 12 matches. But he failed in the most important game — the final where R Ashwin dismissed him for a duck. MS Dhoni, as a result, retained the IPL in front of a sea of yellow as Chennai produced a near-perfect game and mauled Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The tournament was back to its full glory, topping the charts headlined by the Caribbean flavour thanks to Chris Gayle’s batting and Sunil Narine’s bowling. Regardless of a few scandals, there were huge crowds at stadiums, who got to enjoy an extraordinary number of close finishes.
The IPL had a new champion in Kolkata Knight Riders at the end of the nine-team league (after Kochi Tuskers Kerala had been terminated).
Captain Gautam Gambhir and Narine hogged the headlines of a successful campaign, with Gambhir’s passion trumping MS Dhoni’s cool in the title clash. Narine was the player of the tournament with 24 wickets in 15 matches at an average of 13.50 and economy rate of 5.47.
KKR had been among the poorest performing franchises, being the only constant in the bottom four in each of the first three seasons. So the title was a big relief for their actor co-owner Shah Rukh Khan.
The most expensive franchise, Mumbai Indians, finally won their first IPL title, beating Chennai Super Kings by 23 runs in the final at Eden Gardens.
However, the on-field action had been completely eclipsed by controversies by the time the final was played. S Sreesanth and his Rajasthan Royals teammates Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila were arrested for alleged spot-fixing and were consequently suspended by the BCCI. Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law of then BCCI president N Srinivasan and a top management official of the Chennai Super Kings, was arrested on charges of betting, fraud and forgery. Raj Kundra, co-owner of Rajasthan Royals, too confessed to betting. Srinivasan temporarily stepped aside as president at a BCCI working committee meeting in Chennai. Mumbai Indians won by 23 runs with Srinivasan being ultimately booed at the prize distribution ceremony.
After a controversy-ridden edition the previous year, the organisers were relieved to go through an entire season without any scandal.
Since the early part of tournament clashed with the dates of elections, the event had to be shifted to the UAE this time. It got off to a subdued start with the IPL opening ceremony being a closed-door affair. But the best teams played the final which was an endorsement for the format.
Kings XI Punjab, powered by Glenn Maxwell’s all-round hitting, decimated all opposition, while Kolkata Knight Riders peaked at the right time. KKR won their second title and were easily the best side. Well served by Sunil Narine with his death bowling, their batting revolved around Robin Uthappa, who had scored 10 successive 40-plus innings.
It was the most closely contested IPL ever with almost six teams having a chance to qualify for the knockouts. The uncertainty over the top four teams prevailed till the final league game. Ultimately, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings made the cut.
Mumbai Indians sensationally recovered from a poor start to clinch the title, beating hot favourites and table-toppers Chennai Super Kings. RCB and RR grabbed the third and fourth playoff spots.
The outcome of the 2013 spot fixing scandal put the BCCI in a fix with the Supreme Court ordering a two-year suspension for Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals from the IPL. New tenders were floated to ensure the IPL remains an eight-team tournament. Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Supergiants were the new entrants. The top five players from CSK and RR were traded through a draft system by the two new teams while the rest of their players went into auction.
This, however, wasn’t the end of the BCCI’s woes. The Bombay High Court, acting on a PIL, ordered the BCCI to shift the IPL games in May out of Maharashtra due to drought crisis. It put the whole IPL schedule in a tizzy with the BCCI facing a logistical nightmare.
As far as action on the field was concerned, RCB skipper Virat Kohli was in the form of his life, accumulating 973 runs — the most in an IPL season ever. David Warner’s Sunrisers Hyderabad, who had relaced Deccan Chargers in 2013, enjoyed their best IPL performance to lift their maiden title after beating Royal Challengers Bangalore by eight runs in a thriller at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.