(Click here for Part 1)
In the Indian Premier League (IPL), at the end of each edition, there is an award for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) – this considers the performances of players across the entire season. There is, of course, also a Player of the Match named at the final which is the case across all competitive cricket matches.
An IPL season can be divided into two parts: the league stage and the playoffs – both consisting of drastically different number of matches. While there were 56 scheduled league matches in nine out of the 12 seasons, there were as many as 70 such games in 2011 and 72 in 2012 and 2013.
The playoffs, on the other hand, followed a semi-finals and final system in the first three seasons – albeit in 2010, there was also a third-place playoff which served as a qualification match for the Champions League T20. From 2011, there has been a consistent system in place with two qualifiers, an eliminator and a final – this arrangement rewards performances during the league stage of the competition as teams finishing among the top two get two shots at reaching the final.
As the playoffs consist of so few matches compared to the league stage, the IPL MVP almost always tends to be the best player from the league stage. Here, we conceptualise an MVP for only the playoff stage of each season. This is, in a way, inspired by the National Basketball Association (NBA) having a finals’ MVP. You might say that is equivalent to the Player of the Match award in an IPL final, but it must be considered that the NBA finals is a best-of-seven series and doesn’t consist of only one match. Hence, this exercise to find out the best player during the crunch stage of each IPL season so far.
In Part 2, we have a look at the latest six seasons (2014-19) of the IPL.
2014 – Suresh Raina
For the first time so far, we’ve chosen a player who was not part of the winning team. In fact, this was a rare occurrence where CSK and Suresh Raina were not even part of the final. Raina, through the early years of the IPL, was the tournament’s most consistent performer and was the Player of the Match in the 2010 final too.
In the 2014 playoffs, he played two incredible knocks. The first, although not as well remembered as the one that came a couple of days later, saw Raina score an unbeaten 54 from just 33 balls to guide CSK to victory in the Eliminator against Mumbai Indians. Unsurprisingly, he was named as the Player of the Match.
Then, in Qualifier 2, came perhaps the greatest IPL innings in a losing cause. After Sehwag’s century had inspired Kings XI Punjab to a total of 226/6, it seemed like CSK had little chance, if any, of winning. To make matters worse for the Chennai-based franchise, Faf du Plessis was dismissed off the second delivery of the innings. In walked Raina and raced off to 23 off his first seven deliveries and there was no stopping him, at least for the next 18 balls he faced.
In a surreal innings, Raina scored 87 from just 25 deliveries which included an over where he hit two sixes and five fours (there was a no-ball in between) against Parvinder Awana. At the end of six overs, CSK were 100/1, but Raina was run-out off the first delivery after the Powerplay and KXIP ended up winning the match by 24 runs.
Batting: Innings – 2, Runs – 141, Strike Rate – 243.1
2015 – Lendl Simmons
There were prime performances from Pollard (41 off 17, 36 off 18) and Lasith Malinga (3/23, 2/25), but Lendl Simmons just about pips them at the finishing line with two half-centuries from as many playoff innings in 2015.
While other batsmen around him were playing the big shots, Simmons played his role to perfection – something he had done excellently across the 2014 and ’15 seasons for Mumbai. In Qualifier 1 against CSK, the West Indian opener helped himself to a fine 65 from 51 deliveries – a knock which included as many as five sixes.
In the final against the same opposition, Simmons played a brilliant hand. The early dismissal of fellow opener Parthiv Patel didn’t seem to affect him or his captain Rohit Sharma who batted at number three. The duo stitched together a sublime 119-run partnership which saw Simmons scoring 68 from 45 balls. Mumbai clinched their second IPL title and their most consistent batsman in the 2015 season had contributed when it mattered most.
Batting: Innings – 2, Runs – 133, Strike Rate – 138.5
2016 – David Warner
Among all the names here, David Warner in 2016 is perhaps going to draw the least arguments. In the last five IPL seasons, Warner has won the Orange Cap thrice in the four editions he has played in. The only time he failed to end as the tournament’s top run-scorer during that period in a season in which he played was in 2016 – a year in which, ironically, he scored more runs (848) than he has in any other season. It is, in fact, the second-highest runs tally in a single IPL season and only Kohli scoring an unimaginable 973 runs in 2016 tops Warner’s efforts in the same year.
In the end, though, it was Warner who ended IPL 2016 on the top of the podium as he led Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) to the title, defeating Kohli’s RCB in the final. While the Australian opener scored a run-a-ball 28 in SRH’s win over KKR in the Eliminator, he was at his absolute best during Qualifier 2 against Gujarat Lions.
Chasing a target of 163, Warner carried his team to victory by staying at the crease until the end of the match. Out of 193 runs, the SRH captain scored 93 with the second-highest score being Bipul Sharma’s 27*. It was a tremendous effort from Warner who carried on that momentum to the final where his 38-ball 69 got the Sunrisers off to an electrifying start. A combination of excellent captaincy and supremely consistent batting through the playoffs makes this an easy choice.
Batting: Innings – 3, Runs – 190, Strike Rate – 153.2
2017 – Krunal Pandya
Jasprit Bumrah and Karn Sharma put in some top-quality performances with the ball in the playoffs for Mumbai in 2017, but the player who perhaps made the most defining contributions over the course of the crucial period of the IPL that year was Krunal Pandya.
Krunal has been a vital cog of Mumbai’s juggernaut since he was first added to the team in 2016. The Pandya brothers – Krunal and Hardik – add great balance to Mumbai’s playing XI and that has helped the Rohit Sharma-led team become very successful in recent years. Krunal’s performance in the 2017 final is well-remembered – he was the Player of the Match after scoring a crucial 47 to give Mumbai a chance of victory. From 79/7, Krunal played a superb innings in the circumstances to set a target of 130 for Rising Pune Supergiant which Mumbai defended by the tiniest of margins.
Earlier, in Qualifier 2 against Kolkata too, did Krunal play a match-winning knock. Chasing a modest target of 108, Mumbai had been reduced to 34/3 before Krunal walked in to steady the ship with captain Rohit. In a match where numerous top batsmen had failed, the Ahmedabad-born allrounder scored an unbeaten 45 from 30 deliveries to guide his team into the final. During the 2017 IPL playoffs, when Mumbai found themselves in moments of crisis, Krunal was on hand to drag them out and take them to the promised land.
Batting: Innings – 3, Runs – 107, Strike Rate – 135.4
Bowling: Innings – 3, Wickets – 0, Economy Rate – 7.1
2018 – Rashid Khan
Over the last few years, Rashid Khan’s rise to the top has been meteoric. He is, without doubt, one of the leading spinners in the world currently. He has been quite brilliant in the IPL as well – taking 55 wickets at an average of 21.69 while maintaining an economy rate of 6.55 for the Sunrisers. And when the opportunity has come his way, he has been majestic during the biggest showdowns in the world’s top franchise-based T20 league as well.
There’s no bigger example of that than the 2018 playoffs. While he had performed admirably during the league stage, he notched it up a gear or two in the qualifiers. In Qualifier 1 against Chennai, he took two wickets – crucial ones at that, of Dhoni and Bravo – but that wasn’t the most impressive bit of Rashid’s bowling display. In his four overs, he conceded just 11 runs – the joint-best economy rate in an innings where a bowler has bowled four overs in an IPL playoff match. The Super Kings, despite being spellbound by the Afghanistan spinner’s bowling, went on to win the match and book a place in the final.
In Qualifier 2 against Kolkata, Rashid produced one of the great IPL all-round performances. First, after coming out to bat with his team struggling at 134/6 in the 18th over, he played an outrageous 10-ball innings which yielded 34 unbeaten runs. He then proceeded to get the key wickets of Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn and Andre Russell and this was again at a superb economy rate of 4.75. That was not all as he even accounted for a run-out and two catches as Hyderabad won by 14 runs – a truly great all-round IPL performance if ever there was one.
In the final, Chennai decided to play out Rashid and not give him any wickets. His four overs included a maiden and cost only 24 runs, but CSK’s strategy worked as they won their third IPL title. Nevertheless, Rashid’s performances during the 2018 IPL playoffs won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Batting: Innings – 1, Runs – 34, Strike Rate – 340
Bowling: Innings – 3, Wickets – 5, Economy Rate – 4.5
2019 – Rahul Chahar
This was a tough one as there were multiple players who shone during the 2019 playoffs. From CSK, there were Watson, Imran Tahir and Deepak Chahar – all of whom put in top performances in more than one playoff match. But it’s Deepak cousin, Rahul Chahar, who gets our vote. There was not much to separate the above-mentioned players, but with Rahul’s Mumbai winning the tournament, the decision went in his favour.
For 2010, we had picked Muralitharan because of his superb economy rate. Here, we have selected Rahul for similar reasons. While he took three wickets in two playoff matches in IPL 2019, it’s his economy rate of 3.5 that stands out during those games.
On a spin-friendly wicket in Qualifier 1 against Chennai in the opposition’s home stadium, the leg-spinner was the pick of the Mumbai bowlers – taking two wickets and conceding just 14 runs from his four overs. Then, in the final, he was at it again – maintaining the same economy rate and taking the crucial wicket of Raina. This helped Mumbai defend a total of 149 by just one run and lift the IPL trophy for a record fourth time!
Bowling: Innings – 2, Wickets – 3, Economy Rate – 3.5