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Gujarat Titans' skipper Hardik Pandya celebrating the title win with David Miller, Rashid Khan, Wriddhiman Saha and Rahul Tewatia at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday. Image Credit: IPL Twitter

Dubai: Season 15 of the Indian Premier League — the longest so far — served up thrillers and last-ball wins. The near-misses brought more drama, adding fodder to the heated arguments on Indian cricket.

There were numerous positives as India searched for the new stars of the next decade. Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh are young pacers who bulldozed their way into the Indian team, joining the youth brigade of Ruturaj Gaikwad, Deepak Hooda and Venkatesh Iyer.

The biggest omission was Sanju Samson, who has not done justice to his immense talent. I first watched Samson during the 2014 Under-19 World Cup in the UAE. The ease with which he carted the West Indian bowlers at Sharjah Cricket Stadium showed he is a class apart.

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Rajasthan Royals skipper Sanju Samson showed glimpses of his talent, but has not been consistent after failing to convert starts into a big score. Image Credit: IPL Twitter

Wasted talent

Sadly, the talent is going to waste without the temperament and attitude to succeed at the highest level. The talented wicketkeeper-batter could have been the second choice, or maybe even the first if he had converted the starts into bigger knocks. Still, it’s not too late. He could take a leaf out of Dinesh Karthik’s book to regain his place in the Indian team.

Karthik deserves a salute for his perseverance as he rode out personal and professional misfortunes to resurrect his India career. The wicketkeeper-batter’s joy has doubled: he and his squash superstar wife, Deepika Pallikal, were blessed with twins last year, and he turned in a fine performance for the Royal Challengers Bangalore this year. Several match-winning knocks enabled him to make yet another return to the Indian team.

Another revelation was Hardik Pandya, who came back from a career-threatening injury to lead debutants Gujarat Titans to the title. I had watched Pandya fall on his follow-through during the Asia Cup in Dubai. Since then, the all-rounder, who was compared to legend Kapil Dev, played only a few games, warming the bench for most of IPL 2021 in the UAE. He was a mere shadow of his old self, unable to bowl even at half pace.

Shimron Hetmyer tries to complete a stunning catch against Royal Challengers Bangalore. There have been many outstanding catches during the tournament however many sitters were also floored. Image Credit: Courtesy: BCCI

In 2022, Pandya proved that he was fit again and even bowled four straight overs in the final to destroy the Rajasthan batting. He too is a fighter who overcame adversity. His return will boost India’s ambitions in the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia later this year.

No under-19 players

A sore point for me was how the teams ignored the claims of players from India’s Under-19 World Cup-winning team. None of them could find a place in the playing XI, barring all-rounder Raj Angad Bawa, who played two matches for Punjab Kings. South Africa’s Dewald Brevis played several games for the Mumbai Indians, but others were not so lucky. At least some of them could have been given chances, especially since many big names were missing from the line-up.

Dropped catches were another eyesore. An astonishing 190-plus catches were spilled in the 74 matches, an average of 2.56 catches per match. Some of them were half-chances, but many sitters were floored. That’s a poor advertisement for the best T20 league in the world.