There were cheers from the Rajasthan Royals when they snared England's Ben Stokes in January's IPL auction, but their joy was short-lived. The star all-rounder cost the Royals $1.96 million, but produced just 196 runs and eight wickets in 12 matches. The big-spending Royals also picked up fast bowler Jaydev Unadkat for $1.8, but in return got 11 wickets at an economy rate of 9.37. Meanwhile, West Indies batsman Chris Gayle was claimed by Kings XI Punjab at the reserve price of $314,000, but the big-hitter smashed 455 runs including three fifties and a century in 11 games.
New Zealand's Kane Williamson was the only foreigner to lead an IPL side this season after Australians Steve Smith and David Warner were barred following a ball-tampering scandal. Williamson, a late captaincy replacement for Warner, led Sunrisers Hyderabad from the front with his 735 runs in 17 matches. His ability to use star players like Afghan teen sensation Rashid Khan at opportune moments won him praise. Former Kiwi all-rounder Scott Styris said Williamson leads by example rather than words. "He is lead-from-the-front sort of captain and the players gain respect from him because when he speaks usually what he says is on the money," Styris, now a TV commentator, told AFP.
Rashid Khan achieved superhero status this IPL season. The 19-year-old bamboozled some of the world's top batsmen with his leg-spin, and even greats like Virat Kohli and Dhoni were undone by his well-disguised googlies. Picking up 21 wickets in 17 games, the Khan was key to Hyderabad's run to the final. Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar called him the "best spinner in the world" in the shortest format. Fellow Afghan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Nepal's cricket sensation Sandeep Lamichhane, both 17, were also impact players for their teams. While the Rahman took 14 wickets for Kings XI Punjab, Lamichhane ended with five scalps in the three outings he had with bottom-ranked Delhi Daredevils.
Rupert Mudroch's Star India repackaged the glitzy IPL after striking a $2.55 billion deal with the Indian cricket board ahead of season 11. From television commentary in six languages, to tailor-made feeds to different regions and 120 commentators on board, the cricket-crazy nation sampled a different style of sports broadcasting. While Sony, official broadcasters of IPL in its first decade, accused Star of fudging the viewership figures which they claimed were higher during their feeds, many hailed Star Sports' approach. "Star has actually got into regions, has got the languages right and also got some Star power. And now we have got the analytics. No one has done it like us," former Australia batsman Dean Jones, a commentator with Star Sports, told AFP.
The world's most popular franchise-based T20 league once again saw sell-out crowds across Indian venues but there is buzz the league might move to foreign shores in the next edition. With India's general elections slated in 2019, reports suggest that IPL-12 will be played in Dubai. This is not a new phenomenon: the league was organised in South Africa in 2009 while UAE played hosts to one-third of IPL matches in 2014 – both being election years. "If it clashes with those dates (of the elections) then we will not get security. Then for that period we will have to move it out overseas," IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla told AFP.