IPL 2021 proved to be a fascinating edition for the fans, despite experiencing an unprecedented breakage in play. Although the tournament started in April and is ending in October, it all breezed by like the wind.
We saw some incredible events turn out this time – the fall of a very consistent Orange Army, a comeback to savor from the men in purple, some inspired individual performances like the Jadeja show at Wankhede or the Narine magic at Sharjah, and to cap it off, new talents like Umran Malik, Venkatesh Iyer emerging out of the blue.
Just the way it happens every year, some great talents were unearthed and plenty of close encounters mesmerized the fans. This will be an emotional end for some franchise fans as they will bid adieu to most of their players as the mega auction will now welcome two more teams. However, the ultimate Indian sporting festival, not for once, had the entertainment factor discounted by the pandemic.
One of the finest young talents in IPL, Ruturaj Gaikwad upped the ante this edition. He registered over 600 runs, kept providing blazing starts for his side alongside Faf du Plessis, and chipped in with runs when it mattered the most. His 50-ball 7o against Delhi Capitals in Qualifier 1 was a testament to his great ability to remain calm under pressure, and perhaps Chennai Super Kings would’ve failed to get over the line without that contribution.
He scored 603 runs for his side at an average of 46.38, and a strike rate just in excess of 135. The 24-year-old from Pune, who earned his maiden Indian cap in Sri Lanka, will make a strong case for a place in the T20 World Cup in Australia next year.
KL Rahul has been a prolific source of runs for Punjab Kings in the four seasons he stayed at this franchise, scoring over 590 runs in each edition for the side. He finished his 2021 campaign with a blitzkrieg attack on the Chennai Super Kings, smashing 98 runs off 42 balls. Despite being at the receiving end of some criticism on his strike rate, the flow of runs did not stop.
The 29-year-old batter registered 626 runs at a staggering average of 62.60 and was striking at 138.8 per hundred deliveries. He registered 6 half-centuries and ended just short of a century on his eventual final day in the 2021 edition.
One of the classiest batters of our time, Faf du Plessis sometimes makes cricket look so easy on the eye. When he’s doing so, it is evident that he is on top of his game and is in the mood for something sensational. The 2021 edition was his best in IPL, and having won the tournament in 2018, he will be desperate to add another piece of silverware to his trophy cabinet.
In 15 games, he registered 547 runs and is one of the top five run-scorers in the Indian Premier League this edition. He got those runs at an average just north of 42, and a strike rate of 137. Faf du Plessis added six partnerships in excess of 50 alongside Ruturaj Gaikwad, two of which were over 100.
There was a refurbished version of Sanju Samson in action in the 2021 edition. He was keen on playing big knocks, staying along until the very end and at the same time, whenever there was an opportunity, he did not let it slide. Rajasthan Royals’ skipper had a massive task in the batting department in UAE, and he did not disappoint.
He scored 484 runs at an average of just over 40 in the 14 games he played at a strike rate of 136.72. He chipped in with a mind-boggling century in Mumbai when Rajasthan Royals were asked to chase 222 runs. His 119 was one of the knocks of the edition, but unfortunately for his side, they fell short by 4 runs that day.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore paid a lot of money to include Glenn Maxwell in their setup, and “The Big Show” did not disappoint. He was perennially among the runs, especially after the tournament moved to the middle-east. He constantly batted above AB de Villiers in the line up, and no RCB fan or expert dared to question that choice seeing Maxwell’s returns.
Having scored 500+ runs for the first time when he had his breakthrough season for Punjab Kings, this was the only other occasion when he managed over the said amount. He scored 513 runs at an average of 42.75, and maintained a healthy strike rate of 144.1. Maxwell had 6 half-centuries to his credit in the 8 seasons prior to this one, and he scored 6 half-centuries just in 2021.
There weren’t many options among finishers this edition besides Shimron Hetmyer. Although he scored just 242 runs for the side this edition, it is important to note that most of his runs came batting slightly lower down the order, and towards the final trimester of the IPL, he chipped in with match-winning cameos to steer Delhi over the line.
This is Hetmyer’s third season in the IPL, and his most successful. Although he would be hoping for a lot more, his crucial cameos were an attractive proposition. The only half-century for this man came against Bangalore, but his pivotal contributions in the two games he played against CSK in the last 10 days were the telling moments of his 2021 edition.
Ravindra Jadeja is one of the most improved cricketers in world cricket right now, especially with his batting. The Saurashtra cricketer exhibited unreal form with the bat at the international level for over two years. He registered some stunning performances for CSK this edition, including some brutal finishes with the bat.
He scored 227 runs at a strike rate just north of 145 and kept providing some crucial breakthroughs. Although he picked just 11 wickets with the ball, he kept things tight and maintained an economy under 7. His performance against Royal Challengers Bangalore at Wankhede, where he scored 62 runs and picked up 3 wickets, is rightly hailed as one of the finest all-round performances in tournament history.
Kolkata Knight Riders’ outstanding comeback had many stalwarts, but one of the unsung heroes was Varun Chakravarthy. Ever since landing in UAE, he did not chip in with a single 4-over spell in a game where his economy was over 7. He bowls in the power play, sometimes in the latter half, and always has managed to maintain a tight grip on batters.
He picked up 18 wickets in 16 games for the Knight Riders this edition, justifying his selection in the Indian T20 World Cup squad. He completed his 4-over quota in all the games Kolkata played this edition, and to have returned with an economy of 6.41 is beyond special.
Without a hint of a doubt, Harshal Patel has been the player of the tournament of 2021. The fast bowling all-rounder from Haryana chipped in with a record-equalling tally for the Royal Challengers, and his extravaganza included a five-fer against Mumbai Indians, which also includes a hat-trick.
He picked up 32 wickets in just 15 outings for Bangalore, at a staggering average of 14.34. Despite bowling the tough overs in the death, he maintained an impressive economy of 8.15 and managed a strike rate under 11. Harshal Patel had picked up 16 wickets in the last 5 seasons in IPL, and doubled his tally in 2021, equalling Dwayne Bravo’s record of most wickets in a season.
The Sunrisers Hyderabad had a terrible outing in the 2021 edition, on and off the field. However, their only saving grace was the imperious Rashid Khan, who is easily one of the finest bowlers in T20 history. The leg-spinner from Afghanistan was playing a different game in comparison to his teammates, and proved to be a tough nut to crack.
He picked up 18 wickets at an economy of 6.70 for the Sunrisers Hyderabad, taking his wicket-tally in IPL to 93 since playing his first game against Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2017. He is expected to be SRH’s first-choice to retain ahead of the mega auction.
Avesh Khan had some minor bloopers in the latter half of the tournament, but that should not take away what has been a stellar edition for the 24-year-old from Indore. He is one of the best fast bowling talents in the country, capable of hitting the high 140s at regular intervals. Although he was taken for a few runs in some crucial games, he kept chipping in with wickets.
He picked up 24 wickets in the 2021 edition and unless Varun Chakravarthy or Shardul Thakur pick up 6 wickets in the final, he will finish as the runner-up in the purple cap race. He averaged 18.75, and his economy 7.38 wasn’t entirely bad considering a fact that he bowled various tough overs.
12th man: Prithvi Shaw
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