Debutants impressed, powerhouses struggled in expanded IPL
As fireworks lit up the Ahmedabad night sky and confetti rained on Hardik Pandya and his triumphant Gujarat Titans team mates, another edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) came to a glitzy end on Sunday after two months of breakneck action.
More than 100,000 fans thronged the Narendra Modi Stadium where Gujarat capped a fairytale first season by outplaying 2008 champions Rajasthan Royals in a low-scoring final.
"This has been a truly memorable season with our fans back in the stadium, celebrating every moment," tweeted Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Jay Shah.
India's struggle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic had forced the organisers to hold the entire 2020 edition of the tournament in the United Arab Emirates, which also hosted the second half of last year's tournament.
This year the entire league phase was restricted in the western state of Maharashtra to avoid air travel and minimise infection risks.
Delhi Capitals still reported COVID-19 cases in their camp but the tournament chugged along.
There were plenty of surprises this season to hook the fans.
Two of the league's most successful and popular franchises with nine titles between them, Mumbai and Chennai, finished at the bottom.
Instead, the expanded 10-team tournament witnessed the rise of Gujarat and Lucknow Super Giants, the latter also making the playoff in their debut season.
Kolkata and Ahmedabad split the playoff matches and the massive turnout for the final is a testament to the unwavering appeal of the world's richest Twenty20 league.
All of it augurs well for the BCCI, which has begun the process to sell the league's media rights for the 2023-27 cycle which, industry sources said, could fetch $6.7 billion.