Paul Radley assesses the performances of the eight franchises that competed in this year's Indian Premier League
CSK top of the class but RCB must do better: IPL 2018 end-of-season report cards
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
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.
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.
Kings XI Punjab
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
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.
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.
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.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
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?
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.