The league stage of the IPL has now been completed. 70 games have been played and now we head towards the finale of the tournament with four teams in the playoffs. There has been no shortage of fantastic games of cricket, with many last-over thrillers, amazing comebacks, and shocking defeats.

The qualifier and eliminator will both be held at Eden Gardens, Kolkata while the finals will be in Ahmedabad. Qualifier 1 is on May 24. The formidable Gujarat Titans take on the mighty Rajasthan Royals. Whoever wins will go straight through to the finals. The loser will still get a second chance, as they will play the winner of the Eliminator. The Eliminator will be played on May 25. The Lucknow Super Giants will play Royal Challengers Bangalore. 

Here are some major takeaways from the league stage: 

Amazing Performances By Uncapped Indians 

Coming into this season, with the league expanding by two teams, many of the teams got uncapped players in the auction to round out their squads of proven match winners. In fact many of these uncapped players have had the highest impact on their teams. For example, Tilak Varma, Mukesh Choudhary, Umran Malik, Mohin Khan, Ayush Badoni, and Jitesh Sharma have all done amazingly well. They have left a mark on their teams and gained countless new fans. Indian team selectors will now have a headache, which is a good problem to have! 

Umran Malik

For example, Umran Malik from Sunrisers Hyderabad is a right-arm fast bowler who can consistently bowl at speeds of 150+ kph. He is most likely the fastest Indian bowler ever. Although he still needs to work on controlling his accuracy, he still is a generational talent. It is particularly unbelievable considering that he never got formal coaching until age 19.

Another bowler who made a huge impact is Lucknow Super Giants’s Mohsin Khan. His landmark moment came against Delhi Capitals, when he got four wickets and was the game changer.  The other bowler on this list, Mukesh Choudhary, improved with each and every game, and started getting powerplay wickets due to his ability to garner swing. 

Tilak Varma

Of the batsmen who got our notice, Tilak Varma stands out. Both Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians bid for him in the auction, with MI winning at the end. And he showed why there was a bidding war as he was consistently a good performer. Varma scored more than anyone else on the Mumbai Indians team, including stars like Rohit Sharma and Ishan Kishan. 

Over The Hill? Perhaps Not Yet

There was also a major resurgence of players who were considered to be heading towards retirement. Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, and Dinesh Karthik – all of these players had been let go from their respective IPL teams.

However, redemption is sweet: all these experienced champions have gotten a second wind and are performing better than ever! Yuzi Chahal is the Rajasthan Royalsent purple cap leader!   Dinesh Karthik, who had started commentating, usually something one does after one’s playing career is over, has been an amazing finisher for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Particularly given the struggles Royal Challengers Bangalore’s top order faced, he is a major reason why they are now in the playoffs. 

Kuldeep Yadav had not played for much of 2020 and for all of 2021. However, he is now bowling 3-6 mph quicker than before, and has been a consistent wicket taker for Delhi Capitals. Umesh Yadav also was recently dropped from the Indian Test team, and he had not been considered a t20 level player. But he has delivered many crucial Powerplay wickets for Kolkata Knight Riders. Each of these players has taken the second chance and run with it. Experience matters and all these players showed that. 

Best Historical Teams

Throughout this storied league’s history, many players have come and gone, but one thing that was constant was CSK and/or MI always being amongst the favorites for the IPL title. However, this year, both teams have struggled, with each winning only four games, and being completely outplayed on many occasions. Nobody is used to seeing these two teams warming the bottom of the points table. Their fans have been shocked.  However, both teams have promising young players like Matheesha Pathirana, Hrithik Shokeen, Maheesh Theekshana, and Dewald Brevis to name a few. 

Top order issues affected both teams, with CSK recently finding footing with Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devon Conway in the last few games. Ishan Kishan, MI’s opener and a 15-crore buy has struggled, with fans calling for him to even be dropped from the team. MI and CSK also had to deal with main players being injured. Deepak Chahar, Chennai Super Kings’s 14 crore buy, suffered a hamstring injury and missed the entire IPL. His replacements were Mukesh Choudhary and Simarjeet Singh, who initially looked like the rookies they were but now have settled in and are delivering. 

If the tournament started now, Chennai Super Kings would have a great chance to make the playoffs. MI shockingly was ruled out of the playoffs very early after 8 straight defeats. However they also ended the season with a bang, taking out Delhi Capitals and ending their playoff hopes. 

IPL 2023

One thing is certain – both teams know how to win, each has an amazing and experienced captain and are sure to be back with a bang in IPL 2023. MI will be concerned after hearing of Jofra Archer’s recent back injury as they were banking on him playing for them in 2023. Chennai Super Kings will have Chahar and hopefully a fit and happy Jadeja back and they will be happy to have a fully fit team. 

One of the most interesting things during this season was that many of the captains struggled to perform.  For example, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Sanju Samson, Rishabh Pant, and Rohit Sharma all struggled with the bat. This is concerning because in the past this list would only have contained 1 or 2 people, but now there are 6 examples. 

Rohit Sharma, recently anointed the all-format captain for India, struggled throughout and Jadeja, considered by many to be the best fielder on earth, dropped multiple catches which was extremely uncharacteristic. Agarwal, who was neck and neck with KL Rahul last year in terms of runs, this year has struggled even to score 1 half-century!

Hardik Pandya

On the other hand, Hardik Pandya has impressed one and all with his captaincy. Having not captained since his u16 days, he has done an amazing job, the result being that Gujarat Titans was the first team to qualify for the playoffs and still remain the top seed. Faf Du Plessis, the new captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore also showed his skill by joining a brand new team after 9 seasons with Chennai Super Kings, and taking them to the playoffs. This may be due to bubble fatigue on top of the additional pressure of captaincy, because if you look at the captains that performed well, like Hardik Pandya and Faf Du Plessis, they have not been in a bubble recently. Most of the rest, with the single exception being Mayank Agarwal, have all been in a bubble for a long time.  

International Stars

Some of the international stars that grabbed the headlines included Jos Buttler, the orange cap leader. Tim David gave some stellar performances towards the end of the season, including his knock of 34 off 11 balls which was the last nail in Delhi Capitals’s coffin. Rovman Powell was amazing as well, displaying his big-hitting capabilities. David Warner, who took Australia to their first t20 World Cup in 2020, was at his best as well, and was near the top of the Orange Cap. Finally, who can forget Quinton de Kock’s blistering 140 runs in 70 balls? Although he didn’t perform that consistently during the full season, this inning showed his brilliant batting. 

Retained players’ form

One of the biggest conversations during this league stage was the surprising form of many of those retained by their teams. Stars like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard, Ruturaj Gaikwad, and Moeen Ali all struggled.   Virat Kohli got 3 golden ducks and many single-digit scores. He roared back with a 73 off 54 balls in their last game, and would hope his rut is truly behind him.

Rohit Sharma, for the first time in his IPL career did not hit a single 50 throughout the season! In fact he is the first player who opened throughout a season to ever not score at least one 50. For someone who is usually as prolific with the bat as he is, this is truly stunning. Kieron Pollard is another stalwart who could be depended upon to be a heavy-hitter in the middle order. Unfortunately he too struggled, and was eventually left off the playing XI. 

All their fans, particularly fans of the Indian team, will be hoping these issues are in the past for their stars as the T20 World Cup is coming up soon. 

Change of Playing Style?

All in all, IPL is transitioning to the next generation of players, and playing style. Batting intent is key. The younger, less experienced players are playing fearless cricket. Punjab Kings for example, have embraced this movement. In the auction they invested heavily in Liam Livingstone, an Englishman who provides massive big-hitting capabilities at the top of the order.

They also got a power hitting coach, Julian Wood, and clearly their batsmen were told to go and play with intent. This led to some occasions where they scored well over 200 runs, but on others they were bundled out for much less, even 110. However,  I think this is a glimpse into the future of T20 cricket.

Looking ahead

Now the playoffs start.

Will Royal Challengers Bangalore be inspired after getting into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth? Will Lucknow use all their firepower to come out on top? Or will the Rajasthan Royals win it as a tribute to Shane Warne? Perhaps the Gujarat Titans will show why they were the best team throughout the IPL league stage. We will have to wait to find out. 

Adi Anand is a 10th grader living in the Bay Area. He is an avid sports fan. In his free time, Adi likes to read.