Mumbai Indians: Worthy Winners of IPL 2020

There’s a sudden void these days for old folk like me! The reason is not far to seek: the Indian Premier League (IPL) which kept us busy for the last two months is over! We have to wait for the next edition which they say may be in 4-5 months time! The Mumbai Indians (MI) were the worthy winners. I think they richly deserved the top honors. You may recall they had 9 wins out of the 14 matches they played in the league stage. In the knock outs, they first beat Delhi Capitals to go directly into the finals and a few days later defeated them once again in the finals!

The Mumbai Indians have the distinction of having won the tournament 5 times in the last 8 years: in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and now in 2020. Also they are only the second team after the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to have won two successive editions of the IPL.

To K L Rahul, captain of the Kings XI Punjab goes the credit of scoring the most runs in this tournament: 670, but his team finished 6th missing out on the knock outs. They say that every ball and every run is important in the IPL. Rahul was unlucky in that an umpiring error cost them one match versus Delhi early in the tournament.

If the Orange Cap for the most runs went to K L Rahul, the Purple Cap for the most number of wickets by a bowler in the tournament went to Kagiso Rabada of Delhi Capitals for his 30 wickets in 17 matches.

I was delighted to see the promising Devdutt Padikkal of Royal Challengers Bangalore ( RCB) get the coveted Emerging Player Award amongst tough competition. This young left handed opening batsman scored 473 runs in 15 matches and took some great catches too. Certainly this talented man is one for the future, for RCB if not for India, provided he keeps a steady head on his shoulders.

For the team I support, RCB it was another disappointing year in that we thought, like we do every year, that we may finally win the IPL title. However, the good news was that RCB finished 4th compared to 8, 6 and 8 in the last three years, so that’s progress.

As always the standards of catching and fielding were brilliant. A few catches and fielding efforts stood out, as captured in this article. You can see them again and again, that’s how great they were!

Hat’s off to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for doing what seemed the impossible! While the pandemic raged all over the world, the BCCI brought some cheer to cricket fans by pulling off this spectacular tournament in the UAE.

In the next year, 2021 again there will be changes, swaps, buys and sells in the teams. The managements will reflect on how they can improve. This year’s winners -the Mumbai Indians- will think what they need to do to keep the title for an unprecedented third year!

IPL: The Last 4 Standing!

We are in the last lap of the prestigious Indian Premier League (IPL) arguably the richest sporting league of its type in the world. In past editions, a couple of teams raced ahead and were clear favorites for the title while a few were laggards. This year, the 13th edition being played in the United Arab Emirates, proved to be one of the most interesting and closely contested events.

Here are the four left standing after the league phase of 56 matches in which each of the 8 teams played their 7 opposing teams twice. The Mumbai Indians were the first to qualify with 8 wins. They have won the tournament in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019. No other team has won so many times!

Their supporters say Rohit Sharma’s team will lift the Cup this year as well with their formidable batting and bowling squads. Yet every team can be beaten. Mumbai have lost 5 matches, including one in a thriller super over against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). In any case, their opponents say they win only in alternate years so probably won’t win this year!

The Delhi Capitals, having had one of their best seasons qualified to be No 2 by beating the Bangalore team. Not having won the title so far, their motivation will be very high driven by their Head Coach, the Aussie Ricky Ponting. They will play the Mumbai Indians in the first match of the knock outs on November 5. The winner will go straight into the finals. This is the biggest advantage of finishing first or second in the league phase. This team has never qualified for the finals so far.

The loss to Delhi Capitals pushed Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to the third place but at least they made it to the last four. This is indeed creditable because they finished 8, 6, and 8 in the last three years! They featured in three finals- in 2009, 2011, and 2016 but have never won the IPL trophy so far. Will this year end on a magical note for them?

Until the very last match, we didn’t know who would be the fourth team to qualify for the play offs. However in that match, Mumbai Indians were given a bloody nose by the Sunrisers Hyderabad who not only won but crushed them with a rare 10 wicket victory. It is not as if the openers had to score 50-60 runs to win. David Warner and Wriddhiman Saha scored all the 151 needed for a match-winning opening partnership. With this victory, Sunrisers Hyderabad vaulted to the No 3 position going ahead of Royal Challengers Bangalore by virtue of a better net run rate. They have won the title in 2016 so will be trying for their second title.

Who do we expect to shine in this last lap? While every player is important and matches have been lost by extremely narrow margins because of a small lapse, each team has a few stars they count upon. For Mumbai Indians, I rate Bumrah and Pollard to be the most dangerous players on their day. For Delhi Capitals, their Purple Cap holder with 25 wickets so far this season, Kagiso Rabada and their seasoned opener Shikhar Dhawan will be key. I expect David Warner and Rashid Khan to be the best performers for the Sunrisers just as Virat Kohli and A B De Villiers will, as always, be banked upon by the Royal Challengers.

So, let’s wait and see what happens as the last four matches will decide who will lift the 2020 IPL trophy on November 10.

To Mankad Or Not?

Cricket lovers will of course recognize from the title of this blog post that “Mankad” here is used as a verb. But isn’t Mankad a name of a cricketer of yore? Yes, it is and Vinoo Mankad, one of India’s best all rounders has the distinction of having a type of dismissal named after him! If I am not mistaken, this is the only form of dismissal in cricket named after an individual!! Caught, stumped, bowled, and so on not being the names of players!!

This subject- which I hadn’t thought off for long- came back to my attention in yesterday’s Indian Premier League (IPL) match. Ravi Ashwin of Delhi Capitals gave the Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman, Aaron Finch, a warning that he could ” Mankad” him if he left the crease and wandered out before he (the bowler) delivered the ball. He later tweeted that batsmen should take this as a final warning!

For the uninitiated to the rules of cricket, this manner of dismissing a batsman came into being during the India vs. Australia Test series in 1947-48. Vinoo Mankad, then Indian’s premier all- rounder did what from then on came to be called a “Mankad”. He ran out Bill Brown in the Test Match in Sydney when Brown the non-striker batsman strayed outside his crease before the ball was delivered by Mankad.

At that time, the media howled about the lack of sportsmanship on Mankad’s part. They complained that it was a pretty cheap way of getting a batsman out. The legendary Don Bradman though said it was entirely within the laws of the game.

In future years there have been more cases in test cricket and International one day matches where batsmen have been ‘ Mankaded” so to speak! Ravi Ashwin brought this mode of dismissal to the Indian Premier League ( IPL) in 2019. Bowling for Kings XI Punjab, he “Mankaded” Jos Buttler of the Rajasthan Royals without giving him any gentlemanly warning! This incident created quite a controversy at that time.

But to return to Ashwin and Finch and the present. Ashwin’s not running Finch out, in this case, didn’t matter at all. Finch scored only 13 and RCB scored 137/9 chasing a target of 197. But imagine if Finch had scored a hundred! What if -after that friendly warning -he had scored a brilliant and match winning innings? Sure, some would have applauded Ashwin’s sporting spirit in warning Finch. But had the match been won by RCB, many would have blasted Ashwin. for being too considerate in the modern game. You know the high stakes involved in a tournament such as the IPL.

I can think of at least one match where a sporting gesture lost a team the match. Coutney Walsh the West Indian fast bowler did not run out Saleem Jaffer of Pakistan in the 1987 World Cup. He just warned him but Pakistan went on to win the match. You may recall that the West Indies were then knocked out of the tournament. So much for the sporting spirit!

Batsmen, in today’s T20 cricket, already have so much in their favor than the bowlers. Look at the rules regarding field setting in the first six overs; the strictness shown by umpires for wides and no balls; the number of balls they can bowl ( a maximum of 24 legal deliveries in 4 overs vs many more a batsman can face, the maximum possible being all 20 overs) etc. etc. You will agree that it is really tough being a bowler in the modern T20 game.

In my view Ashwin was very kind in letting off Finch with a warning. Ashwin’s team won the match so the matter ended there.
I go back to my earlier question: making the most of a chance and warning, what if Finch had gone on to make a match winning contribution with the bat?