Glenn Maxwell was the MVP of IPL 2021, according to ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats. Maxwell, who was bought for INR 14.25 crore in the 2021 auction by Royal Challengers Bangalore, put together a stellar performance with the bat and exceeded most expectations. It was not just the 513 runs that he scored at a strike rate of 144.10 in the season, but the manner and the difficult conditions in which he scored them. While most batters found it hard on the dry pitches in Chennai and Sharjah, Maxwell struck at 149.15 and 138.33 respectively on these grounds. He was also the second best player of spin in the tournament, scoring 264 runs from 171 balls at a strike rate of 154.38 and average of 52.8 against spin. Ruturaj Gaikwad was marginally ahead of him. But Maxwell's impact was not limited to strike rates and averages. He scored when others struggled, and ensured that conditions were taken out of the equation.

However, these numbers don't do full justice to his performances this season. For that, we need to look at Smart Stats, which looks at every batting and bowling performance through the prism of match context, and the pressure on the batsman and bowler at each delivery when they batted or bowled. Maxwell's 513 runs were worth 624 runs. Coming in at 9 for 2 against Kolkata Knight Riders in Chepauk, Maxwell smashed 78 off 49 to help his team reach 204. This was against a bowling attack that was spin heavy. Similarly, on another tough pitch at Sharjah against Punjab Kings, Maxwell hit 57 off 33 to help Royal Challengers post a competitive total. On several occasions, Maxwell had to soak up the pressure of slow run rates to help his team score above par.

Maxwell's match impact of 46.53 is marginally ahead of the second-placed KL Rahul, who had a match impact score of 46.23 (for a minimum of 11 matches played, to account for those who had done well in India and the UAE). Rahul once again was Mr. Dependable for the Kings. He scored 626 runs in 13 matches. The reason Rahul's impact was so high is because barring his opening partner Mayank Agarwal, there were not many other contributors with the bat for his team. Rahul often played the anchor's role for Punjab; in several innings, he scored at a conservative pace due to the middle order's failures.

There is little to separate the rest in the list. Rashid Khan, Avesh Khan and Prithvi Shaw complete the top five. The Chennai Super Kings opening batters - Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis were eighth and ninth respectively in match impact. The reason for their lower impact compared to Rahul was mainly because both Gaikwad and du Plessis had ample support through the batting order.

ESPNcricinfo's Purple Cap
The list of bowlers with the highest Smart Wickets is different from the list of top wicket-takers, because Smart Wickets takes into account the quality of batter dismissed, their score at the time of dismissal, and the match context at that point. Taking all those factors into account, Avesh, who is second on the wicket-takers' list with 24 wickets, tops the Smart Wickets tally with an aggregate of 31.5. Harshal Patel, who was the tournament's Purple Cap winner with 32 wickets, is marginally behind with 30.7 Smart Wickets. The main reason Avesh's wickets were valued higher than Harshal's is because Avesh took wickets of better batters, when the match was still in the balance. While 25% of Harshal's wickets were of lower-order batters (Nos. 8 to 11), the figure for Avesh was just 16%. Of the 24 wickets Avesh took, 12 were of the top-four batters, including eight dismissals of openers. Avesh also took eight and six wickets respectively in the middle overs and the powerplay, while conceding runs at just 6.5 and 6.8 in those two phases. Harshal's late wickets were crucial on some occasions, but others came when the match result was a formality. These added to the tally for conventional wickets, but don't add much to the Smart Wickets count.

One of the bowlers who struck crucial blows was Shardul Thakur. He took 21 wickets, but they were worth 26 Smart Wickets. His scalps included Shikhar Dhawan, Venkatesh Iyer (twice), Andre Russell, AB de Villiers, Agarwal and Sanju Samson, to name a few. Most of his dismissals involved either breaking a partnership, or getting a set batter out. Because Smart Wickets takes into account the quality of the batter and the score at which they were dismissed - getting a good batter out early before they can inflict any damage fetches higher points.

Best Match Performance
While Maxwell and Avesh took pole positions in terms of MVP and best bowler, the match-wise top impact position was dominated by all-rounders. Kieron Pollard's outstanding performance with bat and ball against Super Kings took the top spot. Pollard took 2 for 12 in two overs, and scored an unbeaten 87 runs from 34 deliveries. He came in to bat in the 10th over when the score was 81 for 3, and helped win the match off the last ball, chasing a mammoth 218 smashing eight sixes and six fours. Ravindra Jadeja's brilliantall-round show against Royal Challengers was in second spot, and Jason Holder's 3 for 24 and 29-ball 47 against the Kings was the third-best match performance.