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Malinga's star turn to Kuldeep's slump - the IPL 2019 surprise pack

Kuldeep Yadav had a poor run in IPL 2019 BCCI

Players some of us had written off came back with a bang, while quite a few superstars flattered to deceive. Here's a look at the big surprises that IPL 2019 had in store for us.

10. Kuldeep's mysterious fall

Kuldeep Yadav, India's premier left-arm wristspinner, had a season to forget, taking only four wickets in nine games before being shanked out of the Kolkata Knight Riders XI after being torn apart by Royal Challengers Bangalore. An economy of 8.66 is still acceptable for a wristspinner searching for wickets, but when those wickets don't come, there's not much to show. When he bowled quick, he was wayward. And when he looked to go slower through the air, the unsuitable Eden Gardens track allowed batsmen to take aim and tee off.

9. Harbhajan, still relevant

He's 38, and plays very little cricket outside the IPL. So there were concerns about whether Harbhajan Singh would be match-fit for 2019. But a snakepit of a pitch at Chennai's MA Chidambaram Stadium meant there was room in the Chennai Super Kings side for an extra spinner, and Harbhajan became MS Dhoni's trump card against opposition left-handers. Of the 11 games that Harbhajan played this season, eight were at home, and his ability to find the breakthrough in the Powerplay overs made him all the more potent. Nine of Harbhajan's 16 wickets came in the first six overs, and he was a big reason for Super Kings reaching the title round.

8. Malinga, Mumbai's all-season star

Lasith Malinga is a Mumbai Indians legend, so it wasn't surprising that, when he was going through a lean patch fitness-wise last year, he became their bowling coach. This time, he wanted to play again, and when Malinga was picked up by Mumbai for his base price, it was expected that he would continue to play the bowling mentor's role in the side while playing the occasional match. But injuries to Adam Milne and Alzarri Joseph, and the unavailability of Jason Behrendorff towards the back-end, pushed Malinga back into the spotlight. Although he was no longer the 140kph Slinga of the past, his skills with the slower ball, and the occasional yorker, continued to trouble batsmen both green and experienced. And in the final, despite being expensive early on, Malinga was up to the task of defending only eight runs in the last over to help Mumbai clinch their fourth IPL title.

7. Rashid - found out?

It is not a coincidence that Rashid Khan's lukewarm IPL coincided with an average run for Sunrisers Hyderabad. Since he started playing the IPL, this was the first season when Rashid was not Sunrisers' leading wicket-taker. His average tally of 1.13 wickets per game and an economy rate of 6.28 were not poor by any stretch of the imagination, but they were not quite Rashid Khan. It didn't help Rashid's cause that Sunrisers' pace attack was not as potent as before either, meaning (a) that there wasn't much pressure for him to work with, and (b) his good work wasn't always built on. Opponents managed to just see him off and work on the other bowlers.

6. Tye - no more purple patch

Andrew Tye, last year's Purple Cap winner with 24 wickets, played just the six games in IPL 2019, taking only three wickets at an economy of nearly 11. Known for his death-bowling skills, Tye was unimpressive this IPL. He conceded at least 37 runs in each of his games, with batsmen preferring not to commit to a shot when Tye was bowling. Instead, they chose to wait, hold back, and watch Tye's knuckleballs and slower-ball variations off his hand. It worked.

5. Still no Stokes impact

The MVP from 2017 had a second season with minimal impact. Ben Stokes is not a regular bloke; he's a special allrounder who can stake claim to a spot in the XI as much for his batting as he can for his bowling. But in 2019, Stokes barely held on to his place in either department, hitting only 12 boundaries, scoring an average of 20.50 per game, and conceding 11.22 runs an over. He was benched for three of Rajasthan Royals' first 12 games, and against Super Kings, he failed to defend 18 off the final over against two bowling allrounders in Ravindra Jadeja and Mitchell Santner.

4. Curran, the big-match player

Sam Curran shaking a leg with team owner Preity Zinta immediately after his match-winning hat-trick (4 for 11) against Delhi Capitals was one of the lasting images of the tournament. The 20-year-old allrounder has not yet played white-ball cricket for England, so it was surprising when Kings XI Punjab invested INR 7.2 crore in him. He opened the batting in one game, and eventually finished the season with a batting strike rate of 172.72 and a bowling strike rate of 19.80.

3. Ishant's resurgence

Over the years, Ishant Sharma was often ignored at the IPL auction table, but in Delhi Capitals he found a place that made him feel at home. Tasked to be the frontline Powerplay bowler - especially after Kagiso Rabada's exit from the tournament with a shoulder niggle - Ishant bowled hard Test-match lengths when the fielding restrictions were on. He mixed his spells with his newfound skill with the knuckleball, and his 13 wickets at an economy rate of 7.58 was a fair reflection of what he achieved.

2. De Kock comes of age

Last year, Quinton de Kock got only 208 runs despite calling Bengaluru home. So it was a gutsy call for Mumbai to trade him from Royal Challengers in a trade worth his auction price of INR 2.8 crore. Could de Kock deliver, given Mumbai had to offload two foreigners to accommodate him? He could, by getting 529 runs - the third-most this season. And barring the 19th-over wobble in the IPL final, he was rock solid behind the stumps too. De Kock's addition forced Suryakumar Yadav to drop to No. 3, but the team's balance was not affected. His average of 37.78 was a stark improvement from his IPL average of 29.90 from 2013 to 2018.

1. The other Chahar, a future superstar?

With Mayank Markande returning to build on a successful IPL 2018, very few would have given Rahul Chahar a chance to become a first XI regular. But the legspinner filled the void that cropped up due to Markande's inefficiency. His 13 wickets at an economy of 6.55 allowed Mumbai to control the middle overs, and his big heart - to give the ball that extra air - against top batsmen impressed many. His ability to strangle batsmen with accuracy and guile helped him turn many games - including the final - towards Mumbai. It was no surprise then that the IPL award for the Gamechanger of the Season also went to him.