IPL 2024: 5 key decisions that defined the season

Kolkata Knight Riders players celebrate winning IPL 2024. (PTI)
Kolkata Knight Riders players celebrate winning IPL 2024. (PTI)


From Kolkata Knight Riders hiring Gautam Gambhir as mentor to the captaincy of Pat Cummins for Sunrisers Hyderabad, here are five things that defined IPL 2024

IPL 2024 brought into sharp relief the decisions of managers that shaped the destiny of their teams. From reinstating Sunil Narine as opener of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to replacing Rohit Sharma as captain of Mumbai Indians (MI), they took their teams to opposite ends of the table. Here’s a rundown of five back room moves that defined IPL 2024.

The return of GG

Months before the season got under way, KKR owner Shah Rukh Khan persuaded Gautam Gambhir to return to the franchise as a mentor. Gambhir had led KKR to two titles in 2012 and 2014. More recently, he mentored the new franchise Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) to the playoffs in 2022 and 2023.

Gambhir rarely gets his due although his contributions to Indian cricket are immense. He was the top scorer with 75 in the final of the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, where every other batsman failed against Pakistan. The next highest scorer for India, Rohit Sharma, got 30. Gambhir was also the top-scorer in the final of the 2011 ODI World Cup India won.

The first move he made on being appointed the KKR mentor was to call Sunil Narine. He wasn’t worried about Narine’s bowling. He told him to dust off his bat because he would open the innings.

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Kolkata Knight Riders' Sunil Narine was selected the most valuable player of IPL 2024.
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Kolkata Knight Riders' Sunil Narine was selected the most valuable player of IPL 2024. (AFP)

After languishing down the order for years, Narine scored at an average of 35 and strike rate of 181 in IPL 2024. He had come prepared for bouncers, which he swatted with aplomb. This made him much more consistent in his new avatar than his initial foray as a pinch-hitter seven seasons ago. By the time bowlers figured out yorkers on his feet were his Achilles’ Heel, it was too late.

Gambhir is as smart and aggressive a cricketer as they come. This was also apparent in the auction when he went all in with a record bid of 24.75 crore to acquire Mitchell Starc. After a poor start to the season, the Aussie speedster turned out match-winning performances when it mattered the most: the qualifier and final.

The poaching of Pandya

Rohit Sharma led Mumbai Indians (MI) to five IPL titles after taking over the captaincy from Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting in 2013. But the franchise owners, the Ambanis, lost patience after three dry years from 2021, culminating in a loss to Gujarat Titans (GT) in the IPL 2023 qualifier.

GT’s captain was MI discard Hardik Pandya, who had led the new franchise to the title in the previous year against all odds. So, in a deal whose full details are unknown, MI brought Pandya back, not just as a player but the captain in place of Sharma.

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Fans vented their ire at the perceived shoddy treatment of Sharma. Pandya’s poor form with bat and ball compounded matters. Most of all, his captaincy was nothing like what it was in GT where he had Ashish Nehra and Gary Kirsten advising him.

MI finished last. The decline of this rich franchise has a lot to do with the outlandish moves it made even before the poaching of Pandya. In the 2022 auction, they splurged 15.25 crore on Ishan Kishan and 8 crore on Jofra Archer, who wasn’t even going to be available, weakening their bowling attack in the process.

Calling Captain Cummins

Like MI, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) had a poor run of seasons from 2021 onward, after qualifying for the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, starting from 2016. Then there was a falling out with David Warner who had to hand over his captaincy to Kane Williamson midway in 2021, despite leading the franchise to a title in 2016. They hit rock bottom in 2023.

The critical move came in the auction for IPL 2024. They outbid Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) to get Australian captain Pat Cummins for 20.50 crore, second only to Starc in price.

Cummins had won the World Test Championship title and the ODI World Cup for Australia in 2023. More than his bowling, SRH needed a calm and astute captain. They also got opener Travis Head, Australia’s hero in the ODI World Cup final, for a bargain price of 6.80 crore, outbidding Chennai Super Kings (CSK).

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Pat Cummins successfully revitalised Sunrisers Hyderabad.
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Pat Cummins successfully revitalised Sunrisers Hyderabad. (AFP)

They started the season with Mayank Agarwal as opener, using Marco Jansen as a foreign bowler. Then they replaced Jansen with Head in the second game and set a new benchmark in T20 cricket with three scores above 250.

However, Cummins blundered in the final, choosing to bat first on a red soil wicket in Chennai which had enough bounce and grip for KKR’s pacers and spinners. He was fooled by the qualifier in which RR chose to bowl first on a black soil wicket that had sharp turn in the second half. Nevertheless, to take SRH from bottom to second on his debut as IPL captain was another feather in Cummins’ cap.

Indian Premier League 2024.
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Indian Premier League 2024.

Strike rate goes berserk

Delhi Capitals’ Aussie coach Ricky Ponting made a move that came out of left field, while replacing the unavailable Lungi Ngidi. Instead of a foreign pace bowler, he got Jake Fraser-McGurk. The 22-year-old top order batsman, who had turned heads in the Big Bash league in Australia, came into the playing 11 after DC lost four out of their first five games.

Fraser-McGurk began with 55 in 35 balls in a run chase of 170 against Lucknow Super Giants (LSG), which was sedate by his standards. Then he went berserk, which became his nickname by the end of the season. His strike rate of 234 was the best in IPL 2024 for batsmen who had scored above 100 runs. It also came at a healthy average of 36.66.

The induction of Fraser-McGurk turned DC’s fortunes around, although they were pipped at the post by RCB who got into the playoffs with a higher net run rate.

Ending with a whimper

RR had the most balanced side in IPL 2024 and won eight out of their first nine games. Their retention and auction strategy were smart, with value-for-money acquisitions. Coach Kumar Sangakkara’s smartest move was to switch Riyan Parag from his finisher role in earlier seasons to the No.4 position, where he became the season’s third highest run-scorer.

But, in the end, Sangakkara and skipper Sanju Samson lacked the gumption to think out of the box when opener Jos Buttler left to play for England. His replacement, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who has been plying his trade on the franchise circuit, was out of his depth as an IPL opener. Despite an unimpressive 18 in 23 balls against Punjab Kings (PBKS) and 20 in 15 balls against RCB, RR persisted with him.

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This bit them hard in the qualifier against SRH in Chennai. Kohler-Cadmore wasted the powerplay with 10 runs in 16 balls on a pitch that made SRH’s left-arm spinners hard to negotiate later in the innings.

RR had the world class South African left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj on the bench. Maharaj would have been ideal for the Chepauk pitch, but his inclusion required RR to take a punt on Rovman Powell as opener. The lack of a left-arm spinner allowed SRH to escape from 120/6 to reach 175. RR’s season ended with a whimper.

Sumit Chakraberty is a writer based in Bengaluru.

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