The fifth edition of the Indian T20 League was, for my money, the best so far. Mainly, because till the last week of the tournament, there were seven teams in contention. And this unpredictability is the greatest strength of this league. In the La Liga and the EPL, it is always down to two or three teams that you already know will qualify, but that doesn't happen here. That said, the league has to be very careful in preserving this unpredictability and equal opportunity to all.
We also saw signs that the bigger teams were going to go far ahead of the other teams. For instance, Mohali and Jaipur had to play every game out of their skins to remain in contention. But you can't play every game that way, and we saw that the moment their performance dropped a little, they were gone. They had to play their best in every game because they did not have the money power to have more players. Interestingly, the new rule coming up of putting the uncapped players in the auction would actually work against the smaller franchises. The smaller teams develop these uncapped players and the bigger franchises will simply pay big money and buy them. This is something the league must guard against.
Coming to the Top Performers this year, I would pick the two men from the Caribbean, Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine. Gayle was first on the Castrol Index with 58 points and also led the Batting Momentum charts with 69 points. He was the highest run-getter despite his team Bangalore not making it to the play-offs. Player of the Tournament Narine was undoubtedly the star for Kolkata with a Bowling Efficiency of almost 47 points. Then looking at the next level of players, we had Morne Morkel and Gautam Gambhir who were both excellent throughout the tournament. Virender Sehwag played well but wasn't consistent and cooled it off toward the end.
I would also put Umesh Yadav in the list of impressive performers. He kept bowling fast, he never tried to cut down on pace and he kept taking wickets. He did go for runs here and there but he was also getting the wickets. Everyone talks about Morne Morkel when it comes to Delhi's bowling but I remember this one game at Dharamsala where all the commentators were going on about Morkel who took the last three wickets while Yadav had taken the first three, including the likes of David Hussey and Adam Gilchrist, out to pace. Everyone kept talking about the South African, but hang on! Our boys are not so bad, they are okay too.
Speaking of our boys, one of the most outstanding performers for me was Ajinkya Rahane. With a Castrol Index rating of 49, he was a star for Jaipur. Players like him are very lucky to have played for the right franchise. If they played for a bigger team, they might not end up playing too many games. So it is very important for the tourney in the future to recognize that good players need to get games. You cannot pick players and not play them. For example, if Suryakumar Yadav had played for Jaipur, he would have more chances to play; Abu Nechim would have received a lot of opportunities somewhere else, and Wriddhiman Saha would have been a regular starter for any other team.
The Indian T20 League has come a long way since its inception and has been a platform for experienced and budding cricketers alike to showcase their skills and talent.