Here’s a look at the highs of 2016:
Virat Kohli’s form
There have been editions where Chennai Super Kings were the team to catch up with. This time it was Virat Kohli all the way. With four centuries and 919 runs to his name, Kohli was the problem that other teams had no solution to. He owned the cover drive, ran like a hare and showed intent and planning with every shot. He even scored a hundred with aa split webbing. Kohli might still get to 1000 runs. Even if he doesn’t, comparisons with Sachin Tendulkar are not over the top.
Here was a man who knew neither English nor Hindi and had to rely on the signs used by his captain to know what exactly he wanted out of him. Still Mustafizur ‘Fizz’ Rahman bagged 16 wickets in his first IPL, in fact his first tournament outside Bangladesh. He is a special talent and even teammate Bhuvneshwar Kumar admitted he can’t read his slower cutters. Yet Rahman’s standout delivery has been his fast and accurate yorkers that have floored the likes of Andre Russell.
Pathan turning back the clock
Had Yusuf Pathan played just one special innings no one would have complained. Like Chris Gayle, Pathan is the type of player not expected to churn out match-winning innings frequently. This year, Pathan surprised many. Not only was he responsible for a bulk of KKR’s wins this edition, he also slammed 13 sixes, most of them without wearing a helmet, bringing back memories of the Yusuf Pathan of Rajasthan Royals.
AB de Villiers has hit 37 sixes in this IPL -- the highest-- but one stands head and shoulders above the rest. It came in that heist of a match against Gujarat Lions in Bangalore. Trying to aim for his leg stump, Praveen Kumar ended delivering a low full toss. Going down on his right knee, de Villiers swept the ball over deep-fine leg and sent the ball to the roof of the stadium. That highlighted the South African’s repertoire, which frankly was a treat to watch.
Competition stretching till last game
The fact that the play-offs were decided in the last game was just what the IPL needed to bolster its image as a premier competition. So close was the competition that at one time six teams were vying for the last-four and even Mumbai Indians could make it despite losing their last match. And it was a topsy-turvy ride too. Gujarat Lions finished top but not without hiccups. Sunrisers Hyderabad should have sealed the second position but RCB came out nowhere to take it.
The low’s in this year’s edition:
Chris Gayle’s sexist comments
To not watch Chris Gayle bat well is bad enough. To have him eyeball other women and openly ask them if they have had threesomes makes it unacceptable. The IPL has had too many controversies. The last thing it would want is a cricketer openly bragging of how well-endowed he is. To make matters worse, neither the BCCI nor RCB has come out openly to condemn Gayle’s sexist comments.
‘Virat ko gussa kyon aata hai’ could be the name of the short film on the instances of Kohli’s misplaced anger despite being on top of the world with an enviable form. The first qualifier was another example of Kohli giving aggression a bad name. Shane Watson was getting the stick from Eklavya Dwivedi in the 19th over but Kohli cut it short by taking a blinder of a catch. However, what he did next had no explanation. Angry as hell, Kohli slammed the ball into the ground and walked back to the boundary rope for a drink. The behavior made the umpires assume that Kohli had not caught the ball cleanly. The confusion was cleared after third umpire was called in but it could have been avoided if Kohli had been a little more in control of his emotions.
The unending injury list
After the auction, Rising Pune Supergiants would have fancied their chances of making it to the play-offs. By mid-tournament, they had lost Kevin Pietersen, Mitchell Marsh, Faf du Plessis and Steve Smith. Ashish Nehra was injured twice. Yuvraj Singh missed half the league phase due to an ankle injury. Lasith Malinga and Samuel Badree never saw action. Even Kings XI Punjab couldn’t cope with the loss of Shaun Marsh and later, Glen Maxwell. All in all, many were missed.
As if finishing bottom of the heap wasn’t enough, Kings XI Punjab were also embroiled in a controversy where co-owner Preity Zinta had allegedly misbehaved with team coach Sanjay Bangar. It infuriated Zinta who took to social media to deny the allegations. All this could never have a good bearing on Kings XI who had to change captains mid-season. But even Murali Vijay couldn’t stop the slide.