IPL 2024: Sunrisers eclipsed by ruthless Knight Riders - The IPL 2023

IPL 2024: Sunrisers eclipsed by ruthless Knight Riders

IPL 2024: Sunrisers eclipsed by ruthless Knight Riders


There is an overwhelming sense of emptiness when an event that many feverishly awaited ends. This sentiment was even more pronounced at the end of this year's Indian Premier League (IPL).

After matching each other stroke for stroke to become two of the league's fastest-scoring teams, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) delivered the most lopsided final in the tournament's history.

KKR galloped to an eight-wicket win, overcoming SRH's 113 inside 11 overs to end the contest almost an hour ahead of schedule. Pat Cummins' trophy-winning spree on the international circuit had finally been curtailed by the crash-bang-wallop of T20 cricket's cash cow.

RELATED: KKR vs SRH, IPL 2024 Final: Kolkata Knight Riders thumps listless Sunrisers Hyderabad to win third title

Perhaps the only consolation for the Australian Test and ODI skipper was that cricket's oft-quoted and overused truism — 'Batsmen win you games, bowlers win you tournaments' — had been vindicated.

That his Aussie teammate and bowling partner Mitchell Starc emerged as the most ardent proponent of that adage would have felt bittersweet.

When the left-arm pacer's classical delivery to knock the top of Abhishek Sharma's off-stump in the first over set the tone, Cummins' instinct in the longest format may have kicked in — that of riding out the initial phase in swing-friendly conditions.

But for a leader who had seen his team start off like the clappers, rewrite batting records, spawn conversations about what wretched fate awaited bowlers, and succeed in high-risk methods, there was no turning back. It was boom or bust, and the latter would eventually run its course.

But to dilate on the league's most expensive players would be reductionist. Though Starc found his stride late in the tournament and peaked in the playoffs, it was the Knight Riders' Indian bowling group — Harshit Rana, Vaibhav Arora, and Varun Chakravarthy — that was pivotal in its dominant run.

Roar of a champion: Mitchell Starc (left) was merciless with the ball, picking up two wickets for just 14 runs in three overs.  He was adjudged Man of the Match.

Roar of a champion: Mitchell Starc (left) was merciless with the ball, picking up two wickets for just 14 runs in three overs. He was adjudged Man of the Match. , Photo Credit: R. Raghu

Roar of a champion: Mitchell Starc (left) was merciless with the ball, picking up two wickets for just 14 runs in three overs. He was adjudged Man of the Match. , Photo Credit: R. Raghu

In the final, Arora accounted for Travis Head in the PowerPlay, Rana served a masterclass in deception in the middle overs by nabbing Nitish Kumar Reddy and Heinrich Klaasen, and Chakravarthy was at his economical best.

The three had their roles perfectly assigned. In the Knight Riders' campaign opener, also against SRH, Rana proved his credentials as someone who could deliver under pressure when he defended 12 runs against a high-flying Klaasen breathing down his neck.

Arora, introduced later in the tournament, was a revelation with his ability to get breakthroughs with the new ball — nine of his 11 wickets this season came in the PowerPlay. This allowed Rana to shift focus to the middle overs when his variations and ability to bowl into the pitch made him a force to reckon with.

Andre Russell, Chakravarthy, and Sunil Narine combined to make KKR the tournament's most economical side in the middle overs with the best average (20.17). KKR was the only side to have six bowlers in the squad who picked 10 or more wickets in the season, three of whom were Rana, Arora, and Chakravarthy.

On the batting front, the Iyers (Shreyas and Venkatesh) and the Singhs (Rinku and Ramandeep) chipped in with handy contributions to prop up the blazing starts provided by overseas openers Narine and Phil Salt.

Though not many fancied KKR's chances, it had all its bases covered, largely thanks to an unfancied Indian core and an in-form overseas unit.

Behind the scenes, the backroom staff comprising mentor Gautam Gambhir, head coach Chandrakant Pandit, and assistant coach Abhishek Nayar embodied the value of experience, grooming domestic talent, and being acquainted with the ethos of a franchise.

After guiding KKR as captain to two title triumphs in 2012 and 2014, Gambhir returned to the franchise with an uncompromising winning mentality.

“Gautam bhai has immense knowledge about how the game is played. He has won two titles with KKR, and his strategies have been spot-on. He adds a lot of cream to the team,” captain Iyer had said ahead of the final.

Meanwhile, Pandit's purported disciplinarian approach yielded dividends as he added an IPL title to his rich haul of Ranji Trophy wins. Nayar, who has been with the franchise since 2018 and worked extensively with Venkatesh, Rinku, and 18-year-old Angkrish Raghuvanshi, was hailed as KKR's unsung hero.

“All I can think right now is of the person who built this Indian core: Abhishek Nayar,” Chakravarthy said after winning the final in Chennai.

Raghuvanshi, who shone briefly but brightly and turned heads with a brisk fifty in his debut innings in the league, also termed Nayar his 'guru' and credited the former India international for helping him with his game, training, and diet.

Valiant effort: SRH can be proud of its performance this IPL, especially that of its domestic players who made their presence felt in the tournament.

Valiant efforts: SRH can be proud of its performance this IPL, especially that of its domestic players who made their presence felt in the tournament. , Photo Credit: M VEDHAN

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Valiant efforts: SRH can be proud of its performance this IPL, especially that of its domestic players who made their presence felt in the tournament. , Photo Credit: M VEDHAN

“The youngsters are fearless in their approach and their attitude is headstrong. A lot of them are versatile in terms of their approach and proactive. When you give them freedom and back them during tough times, that's when they deliver the best. When these guys step up at the right time, they see to it that they win matches,” Iyer had said, summing up the contributions made by his Indian talent group.

SRH too had its fair share of domestic players who made their presence felt. Nitish, the Emerging Player of the Season, had a stabilising influence in the middle-order, scoring 303 runs at a strike rate of over 140. He demonstrated the potential to be groomed as a seam-bowling all-rounder – a commodity in short supply in the Indian market.

The opening duo of Abhishek and Head redefined T20 batting, while T. Natarajan, SRH's top wicket-taker (19), added the slower bouncer to his already-potent yorker, making good use of the newly introduced two-bouncer rule. However, Washington Sundar, Abhishek's left-arm spin, and Shahbaz Ahmed were not fully utilised, largely due to the Impact Player provision.

In Qualifier 2 against Rajasthan Royals, Cummins, faced with a lack of a specialist spinner, was forced to turn to Abhishek and Shahbaz. They effectively wrecked the opposition's middle-order in the defence of a 176-run target.

RELATED: IPL 2024: Sunrisers Hyderabad's spinners turn a corner with Pat Cummins' faith

The Royals also thrived with the re-emergence of Avesh Khan and Sandeep Sharma, who bagged 19 and 13 wickets, respectively, and were particularly impressive in the death overs, complementing Trent Boult's wicket-taking form in the PowerPlay. As a result, it was the most economical unit in the last four overs of the innings.

The leap of faith the management took in backing Riyan Parag through thick and thin over the years also paid off, as the 22-year-old emerged as the Royals' top run-scorer (573) after being promoted to the No. 4 spots.

Meanwhile, Royal Challengers Bengaluru's (RCB) gamble with Yash Dayal not only bore dividends but provided the tournament with a heartening redemption arc.

With an on-song MS Dhoni on strike, the left-armer shook off the ghosts of that five-sixes-in-a-row horror of last year by defending 16 runs in the final over, securing RCB's sixth consecutive win and a miraculous playoffs qualification. Persisting with Rajat Patidar in the middle order, despite his indifferent start to the tournament, was also pivotal in turning RCB's fortunes around.

This year's edition was the fastest-scoring one in the history of the tournament, registering eight of the ten highest team totals in the IPL, and yet all the playoffs went in favour of the team that bowled better.

With T20 batting expected to increasingly go into overdrive and the gaps in teams' power-hitting abilities shrinking, the razzmatazz of the shortest format may hinge more on the subtle art of bowling.




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