The 13th edition of the Indian Premier League finished with the Mumbai Indians thrashing the Delhi Capitals by five wickets to clinch their fifth title on Tuesday.
AFP Sport looks at five things we learned from the Twenty20 tournament, which was played behind closed doors in the United Arab Emirates.
Delhi coach Ricky Ponting admitted he was “sceptical” about the tournament going ahead during the pandemic, but in the event he said it was “extremely well run”.
After a nearly six-month delay as India’s coronavirus crisis grew, the 53-day tournament finally got under way in the United Arab Emirates, where it took place in strict bio-secure “bubbles” and at three empty stadiums.
Despite the unusual conditions, Mumbai Indians paceman Jasprit Bumrah said he was happy to be part of a tournament that brought the “smiles back” to cricket fans.
The teams, however, felt the strain of life in a bubble with Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli and England’s Eoin Morgan both saying it can be mentally tough on players.
Tale of two skippers
Kohli and Rohit Sharma were both appointed IPL captains for their teams in 2013, but eight years down the line their leadership has met with contrasting results.
While Sharma bagged his fifth title for Mumbai Indians, an IPL crown still eludes Kohli’s Bangalore.
After finishing bottom of the eight-team table last year, Bangalore made the play-offs this season, an achievement that didn’t stop former Kolkata captain Gautam Gambhir calling for Kohli to step down.
But former India opener Virender Sehwag backed Kohli, saying the “captain is only as good as his team”.
‘Universe Boss’ at 41
Chris Gayle, the ultimate big-hitter, wasn’t introduced until midway through the tournament by Kings XI Punjab but he immediately injected life into their faltering campaign with some explosive batting.
The 41-year-old amassed 288 runs in seven innings, including two match-winning fifties. The left-hander went past 1,000 T20 sixes, extending his runaway record, with a heave over mid-wicket off Rajasthan Royals fast bowler Kartik Tyagi, 19.
The flamboyant Gayle, who modestly calls himself “Universe Boss”, said his younger team-mates had urged him: “Don’t retire.”
Fast bowlers aren’t often the heroes in T20 games in the sub-continent. But the UAE pitches gave the pacemen a chance to shine.
Delhi’s Anrich Nortje bowled the fastest ball in IPL history at 97 mph, and fellow South African quick Kagiso Rabada finished as the leading bowler with 30 wickets.
Mumbai’s pace duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult were second and third in the list of wicket-takers, with 52 scalps between them.
“I feel the conditions in the UAE have something for everyone,” Rabada said.
Bangalore batsman Devdutt Padikkal made an impact as a confident opening partner to Australia’s Aaron Finch, one of an an impressive brigade of young Indian players.
The 20-year-old left-hander was named emerging player of 2020 IPL after scoring 473 runs, with captain Virat Kohli praising his “class and efficiency”.
Mumbai Indians batsman Ishan Kishan went better with more than 500 runs en route to lifting the trophy at 22 years of age.
Spinners Rahul Chahar (Mumbai), Ravi Bishnoi (Kings XI Punjab) and Kolkata quicks Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi also made their presence felt.
Brett Lee, the former Australia bowler now working as a commentator, said “Indian talent stood out”.
© Agence France-Presse