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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

CSK top of the class but RCB must do better: IPL 2018 end-of-season report cards

Paul Radley assesses the performances of the eight franchises that competed in this year's Indian Premier League

Chennai Super Kings enjoy the trophy celebrations after winning the 2018 Indian Premier League on Sunday. Rafiq Maqbool / AP Photo
Chennai Super Kings enjoy the trophy celebrations after winning the 2018 Indian Premier League on Sunday. Rafiq Maqbool / AP Photo

When Twenty20 cricket first started, it was touted as being a young man’s game. Chennai Super Kings proved the lie in that theory by winning the 2018 Vivo Indian Premier League with a squad chock-full of thirty-somethings.

Shane Watson, who turns 37 next month, brought the curtain down on the campaign with a sparkling century at Wankhede Stadium on Sunday night to beat Sunrisers Hyderabad.

So how did each of the franchises fare this term?

Chennai Super Kings

Grade: A

A source of frustration for the teachers. Clearly talented, as they scarcely missed a beat on their return after their temporary exclusion from school.

But they were unruly on their return to class, and had to swiftly be moved to a different building entirely – more than 1,000km away in Pune. From then on, though, their progress was more or less serene.

They must still have a few rough edges. Headmaster Stephen Fleming was sporting a black eye on finals night.

Experience eventually trumped impetuous youth, however, with Watson rounding off a champion campaign, 11 seasons after he was player of the tournament in the first IPL.

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Read more:

Indian Premier League 2018: Team of the tournament

Afghanistan's Rashid Khan backed to shine in Test cricket after IPL exploits

IPL 2018: Centurion Shane Watson bats Chennai Super Kings to third title

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Sandeep Lamichhane, right, excelled after his belated debut but it came too late for Delhi Daredevils. Manish Swarup / AP Photo
Sandeep Lamichhane, right, excelled after his belated debut but it came too late for Delhi Daredevils. Manish Swarup / AP Photo

Delhi Daredevils

Grade: C

Not actually as bad as last in the class suggests. The capital city franchise have always been useless, after all.

This time round they showed some signs of progress as they were only two wins off a play-off place. And they have arguably more emerging talent than any other side – from India and beyond.

Sandeep Lamichhane made his belated debut with just three matches of their doomed campaign to go.

What were they thinking leaving it so late? OK, so he is 17. OK, he comes from a country that followers of only mainstream cricket might not have realise even plays the game.

But the Nepal legspinner showed enough in his brief stint in the spotlight to show he is a supreme talent.

A blistering start to the tournament by Kings XI Punjab was followed by a dismal run of form. Rafiq Maqbool / AP Photo
A blistering start to the tournament by Kings XI Punjab was followed by a dismal run of form. Rafiq Maqbool / AP Photo

Kings XI Punjab

Grade: C-

Tournaments are not about how you start. They are about how you finish. Kings XI were A-grade students during April, at which point they looked set fair for the finals. Then it all fell apart in May.

Their demise was pitiful, especially considering the bowling riches they had at their disposal, not to mention the fact they had KL Rahul in prime touch at the top of the order.

Andrew Tye finished as the leading wicket-taker in the tournament. Mujeeb ur Rahman was a fine discovery. And yet they still finished second last.

Kolkata Knight Riders player Sunil Narine was awarded the IPL's most valuable player award. Mahesh Kumar A / AP Photo
Kolkata Knight Riders player Sunil Narine was awarded the IPL's most valuable player award. Mahesh Kumar A / AP Photo

Kolkata Knight Riders

Grade: B+

The points system that decides the tournament’s most valuable player ended up with Sunil Narine winning the award for a second time. Most subjective measures would probably have placed Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Rashid Khan above him, though.

Andre Russell, the other free-spirited West Indian in the KKR line up, pushed Narine close for that honour, too.

Having such standout performers only counted for a third-place finish in the table, and an eliminator play-off exit, though.

Jasprit Bumrah, right, excelled for the Mumbai Indians but it was a disappointing title defence for the 2017 champions. Rafiq Maqbool / AP Photo
Jasprit Bumrah, right, excelled for the Mumbai Indians but it was a disappointing title defence for the 2017 champions. Rafiq Maqbool / AP Photo

Mumbai Indians

Grade: C+

The three-time champions have long been adept at timing their run to the final perfectly. They are usually abject in April, but masters of May. This time round, though, they left themselves too much to do.

Even though their title defence petered out before the playoffs, there were still positives. Most notably, Jasprit Bumrah continues to excel, and the Pandya brothers – Hardik and Krunal – are each becoming cricketers of great substance.

Ajinkya Rahane took over the Rajasthan Royals captaincy following Steve Smith's withdrawal. Bikas Das / AP Photo
Ajinkya Rahane took over the Rajasthan Royals captaincy following Steve Smith's withdrawal. Bikas Das / AP Photo

Rajasthan Royals

Grade: B-

They did well to muddle through to the last four, given the circumstances. When Steve Smith’s Australia captaincy unravelled in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, the Royals suffered in the fall out.

He had been supposed to captain the Rajasthan franchise on their return to the IPL after a two-year ban, 12 months on from taking Rising Pune Supergiant to the 2017 final.

Ajinkya Rahane shouldered the burden with mixed effect, while Ben Stokes failed to hit the heights of a season earlier.

Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore side had a season to forget. Altaf Qadri / AP Photo
Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore side had a season to forget. Altaf Qadri / AP Photo

Royal Challengers Bangalore

Grade: C-

Could do better. So much better. They are basically an All Star side. Most matches bring a eulogy about Virat Kohli’s magnificence, or AB de Villiers’ genius. So why can they never even make the playoffs, let alone the final?

Rashid Khan was one of the stand-out players of this IPL season and was vital to Sunrisers Hyderabad's march to the final. Bikas Das / AP Photo
Rashid Khan was one of the stand-out players of this IPL season and was vital to Sunrisers Hyderabad's march to the final. Bikas Das / AP Photo

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Grade: A-

Kohli, India’s captain, might have opted to skip next month’s Test against Afghanistan. And, if the IPL shows anything it is that there should be enough playing riches elsewhere to cover his absence against Test cricket’s latest new additions.

However, this season also proved it would be folly to underestimate their guests in Bengaluru. Afghanistan had four players on contracts at this IPL, and two stood out.

Mujeeb was excellence for Kings XI, while Rashid Khan was many people’s pick as the most important player in the competition. He carried Sunrisers to the final with great panache.