Gujarat Titans players with the IPL trophy after winning the final T20 cricket match of the Indian Premier League 2022 (IPL season 15), between the Gujarat Titans and the Rajasthan Royals, at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad.
An IPL final that was attritional rather than attractive was, perhaps, a sign of the times in which economic headwinds are blowing. The finale saw the setting of a world record of 1,04,589 fans at a limited-overs cricket match who gathered in Ahmedabad, which meant the pandemic has blown over, for India at least. They were entertained by somewhat tacky Bollywood music and dance shows before being served with a popular victory for the home team Gujarat Titans.
Having transformed from a predilection for controversy into a responsible leader, the Titans’ calm and inspirational captain Hardik Pandya did the star turn with an all-round performance that accounted for the Rajasthan Royals. Taking out three key batsmen, including Jos Buttler, who had played a leading role all season, Pandya set the chase also right in the company of anchoring opener Shubman Gill before David Miller drove them to the finish with a lot of resolve and streaky strokes.
Any number of management lessons were served up in the rise of a new IPL champion in the Titans who succeeded in almost everything, from imaginative handling of the auction to managing the league campaign as a runaway leader, down to a measured chase in the playoffs to get to the final.
It is arguable whether IPL season 15 was as successful as previous editions; light may be shed upon it only by TV viewership figures and other parameters that define success in the most modern era. The long season, clouded only by transitory concerns over Covid striking a few players and coaching staff, was largely confined to Maharashtra before giving way in climactic games to bigger venues connected to the BCCI top brass. The home and away thrills of the old format had to be sacrificed, presumably, for creating bio-bubbles.
Where on-field events contributed most in cricketing terms was to promote the quick bowling talents of a set of young bowlers like Umran Malik whose pace took the breath away even if it is yet to be backed by curving ball movements that can be more disconcerting to top class batsmen. There wasn’t much by way of the spotting of young spin bowling talent. Star batsmen from abroad, most of all England’s Buttler, put in many match-winning performances while displaying meeting targets without any sign of nerves.
Too many Indian star batsmen were consumed by their self-doubts or just poor form or, worse, by their not trying hard enough to justify the kind of riches that the IPL throws at them. In this, both Team India captains, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, were the guiltiest parties. Gifted young batsmen presented their credentials on the big stage impressively enough to offer the promise they will step up to the plate when opportunities come. But all of it comes with the caveat that IPL is not the gold standard for judging merits as big hitting abilities are often exaggerated by manipulating the conditions of pitch and playing field dimensions.
Where Indian stars are still seen to be lagging is in the temperament to take on match finishing tasks confidently and without imagining this is such a great personal burden that it consumes them. Game skills become irrelevant when they are not providing the thrust towards attaining team objectives. In each season there can only be one winner, but doubts arose over whether teams played close to their potential.
It’s no secret that the cricket economy is very well served by the IPL. But does it do enough to make Team India a great force in the white ball game?