The eleventh season of the Indian Premier League in 2018 was a significant one for many reasons. Most importantly, it was the season in which fan favorites Chennai Super Kings and perpetual underdogs Rajasthan Royals returned from a 2-year ban. So the two new teams, Rising Pune Supergiants, and Gujarat Lions were disbanded after flickering for a brief period. The original giants were back, and in IPL-11, many old rivalries were to be renewed even as new stars hit the stage.

With MS Dhoni back to where he belonged and the Australians David Warner and Steve Smith banned for a year, the season ended up being one of the most eventful in IPL’s 11-year history. As a quick refresher, here are the highs and lows of IPL 2018:

HIGHS

Kane Williamson almost capped off a fairytale season for the weakened Sunrisers Hyderabad team by dragging them to the final with his Orange-Cap performance, a year after he warmed the bench for most of the season while Warner was captain. The Sunrisers story was one of hope and defiance, and if not for the Shane Watson century in the Final, this team ended up being the best of the year when not many gave them any hope at the beginning. Williamson is a classical batsman, but he, just like Kohli, proved that T20 can be orthodox as well as explosive. 8 fifties in 17 games proved it.

Rishabh Pant had shown signs of his exciting talent in 2017 for the Delhi Daredevils, but he really came into his own only in 2018 even amidst the ruins of yet another underwhelming year for IPL’s most under-performing team. Pant set the stage for his India debut with a performance that defined the season. He scored 684 runs at 53, but his strike-rate of 175 was the clincher, with one towering century and five attacking fifties. Even though Prithvi Shaw and Shreyas Iyer flickered briefly in the team, it was Pant that confirmed he was everything that Indian batting fans hoped the next international keeper-batsman needed after the gradual exit of MS Dhoni.

– Speaking of MS Dhoni, the veteran keeper whose place in the Indian team has been under scrutiny since 2016, enjoyed his most successful IPL season in four years. Against all odds, in the yellows of “home team” CSK, Dhoni turned back the clock and batted at an average of 75, scoring 455 runs – anchoring the middle-order of a team that depended on experience rather than raw young talent (like DD). He played a major role in driving CSK towards their third IPL title in their seventh final, officially making them the most successful IPL team out there.

KL Rahul had the most enigmatic 2018. Till IPL 2018, his international career was going great guns, and he was primed to seal a permanent Test spot in the Indian team. With Kings XI Punjab, a year after being released by the top-heavy RCB team, he made the opening spot his own, scoring six big fifties at an average of 54, and along with other RCB reject Chris Gayle formed the best opening combination of the season. Rahul was impenetrable, combining grace and timing, again putting the classical over the brutal. Unfortunately, despite teammate Andrew Tye’s purple-cap performance and Rahul’s third-highest run-scorer performance behind Williamson and Pant, Kings XI Punjab failed to make the playoffs.

Ambati Rayadu was the benefactor of another MS Dhoni masterstroke. Promoted to open the innings just when he was starting to be considered in the middle order for the Indian team, Rayadu made the most of this change and combined with Watson to score 602 runs with 1 hundred and 3 fifties, contributing to CSK’s champion-forming cause. Rayadu, too, like many other experienced players in the line-up, treated this season as his “second coming,” and emulated his Mumbai Indians days by becoming the highest scorer for his team.

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LOWS

Rohit Sharma went through arguably his worst IPL season yet. Being the defending champions’ Mumbai Indians captain, he scored less than 300 runs at a paltry average of 23, symbolizing the team’s batting struggles and so-near-yet-so-far destiny. They lost 6 of their first 7 games and never completely recovered despite staging a typical late comeback, and the three matches in which Sharma scored runs were their three most convincing wins – which only goes to show that every team has that one player whose performance vitalizes their fortunes.

Ben Stokes and Glenn Maxwell, world-class all-rounders and feary T20 ex-MVPs, were the biggest disappointments of the season. Maxwell struggled, scoring only 169 runs in 12 games for Delhi, while Stokes could not replicate his Pune heroics with Rajasthan, scoring at an average of 16 and barely making any bowling breakthroughs only a month or so after he was disciplined by his Board for being involved in a drunken bar brawl. The all-rounder’s form was crucial to the Royals’ fortunes, and even though Jos Buttler did his best to pull his team to the playoffs, the big-money Stokes failed repeatedly. This season will be a litmus test for both players ahead of perhaps the biggest tournament of their lives.

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Kohli’s RCB finished dead last in the table, hinting that perhaps captain Kohli isn’t as motivated to win IPL games as he is while he is wearing the Indian jersey. RCB has lost three finals, but Kohli’s passion didn’t dim – he was again the top scorer for his team, but there was no pulling the superstar-laden RCB team out of the doldrums.

Now that you’re all caught up with what happened last year, book tickets to see this year’s matches in action. Read more about how to book IPL tickets here.

Mumbai Indians:

Rajasthan Royals:

Kolkata Knight Riders: