The Big Picture-
The razmataz of the 2019 Indian Premier League is about to take center-stage in a few days from now. The 12th edition will commence from March 23, with defending champions, Chennai Super Kings, taking on Virat Kohli's RCB at the Chepauk.
After an enthralling 2018 season, the 12th edition has its task cut-out to match or even supersede the benchmark, its predecessors have set. The 2018 edition had everything that you expect from an IPL season. It had comebacks. It had an injection of young blood. It had humdingers. It had disappointments. It had brilliance and it also had a few heartbreaks.
Today, in this article, we will go down memory lane and relive the top-10 moments from the 2018 edition of the IPL-
#10 A perfect home-coming for Dhoni & CSK
All the euphoria surrounding the 11th edition of the Indian Premier League was centered around the home-coming of its most successful franchise- Chennai Super Kings. Along with Rajasthan Royals, the Kings were suspended for two years for their involvement in the 2013 IPL Spot-fixing scandal.
So, when the 11th edition rolled along, all eyes were on Dhoni and his team to wind the clock back to the glory days. For Fans, especially, MS Dhoni fans, it was even more special to see their 'Thalaiva' back at the helm of affairs after relinquishing the leadership duties of Team India to Virat Kohli.
The first game lived up to all its hype and expectations, as the Chennai Super Kings, courtesy a cameo from Dwayne Bravo [68 off 30 balls] and an injured Kedar Jadhav, who came into bat after being retired hurt, scripted a jailbreak to overhaul MI's target of 4-165 to send the fans into a frenzy.
#9 A Season to forget for Rohit and Virat Kohli
IPL 2018 saw marquee teams like the Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore crash out of the tournament before the playoffs.
For the defending champions, Mumbai, it was a case of a misfiring top-order that was heavily dependent on Rohit Sharma. Same was the case with their bowling. The likes of Mustafizur Rahman and Mitchell McClenaghan failed to give ideal support to Jasprit Bumrah resulting in them losing a lot of close games.
As for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, it was the same old story where insipid team selections, lack of death bowlers and off-course the overwhelming over-reliance on Kohli and de Villiers paved the way for yet another disappointing season.
In the end, it came down to a knockout game between the two sides where the winner will still have chances of making it to the Playoffs. The Challengers, thanks to Tim Southee's 2-25, edged out the defending champions by 14 runs.
But, as they say, one swallow does not make a summer, which is exactly what happened with RCB, as they went down to Rajasthan Royals in their final league-game by 30 runs to squander yet another opportunity of making it to the top-4.
#8 Gambhir relinquishes the captaincy
Prior to the 2018 Auctions, Gautam Gambhir decided he would leave KKR and play what turned out to be his last season for his home franchise, Delhi, and it looked like a fairytale waiting to soon materialize into a reality.
But, as it happens often, fairytales seldom turn into reality, and it was pretty much the case for Delhi and Gambhir. On the back of a horrendous run-of-form for his side [four-straight defeats] and himself, Gambhir decided to step back from the leadership duties. Shreyas Iyer was handed over the captaincy and Gautam Gambhir did not feature in any of the games thereafter.
#7 Pant makes a statement
The change in captaincy did not improve Delhi's fortunes a heck of a lot, but in precocious talents in the form of Rishabh Pant, Iyer, Prithwi Shaw, and Avesh Khan, the team did find themselves a promising core for the seasons to follow. Rishabh Pant, in particular, had a swashbuckling season with the bat and ended up as the second highest run-getter of the season.
In 14 games, the swashbuckling left-handed batsman scored 684 runs at an average of 52.61 and a strike-rate of 173.60 which included five half-centuries and a pulsating 128.
#6 Gayle Magic
Imagine, you have stamped your authority on almost every season of the IPL since its inception; you have flayed bowling attacks at will; you have the most number of sixes and the highest individual score in the league; you have been the cornerstone of the success of your previous franchise; one bad season  and suddenly you find yourself no buyers in next years auction before one franchise takes you for a poultry sum, and then you spend the first two games of the season warming the benched.
This is exactly what happened with Chris Gayle. The swashbuckling West Indian batsman nearly went unsold in the 2018 auctions before Kings XI Punjab bought him in the final round. Gayle was benched for the first two games, and what did he do when he finally got a chance against the Chennai Super Kings. He scores a 33-ball 63 to lead his side to a 4-run win before shellacking a 63-ball 104 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad and follows it up another blistering half-century in the next game.
#5 Rahul's season to savor; a mid-season choke by the Kings XI Punjab
Gayle's belligerence and KL Rahul's consistency at the top meant the KXIP ruled the roost at the points table with five wins in their first six games. KL Rahul had an amazing season, opening the batting for KXIP. The right-hander displayed his precious talent by unleashing his dazzling strokeplay and once again vindicated the fact that playing orthodox cricket even in T20Is can be sexy.
Rahul continued to showcase his form even as his sides' fortunes dwindled [1 win in the last eight fixtures] at the back-end of the tournament, scoring 659 runs in 14 games at a strike-rate of 158.41.
#4 The disappointments of the season
A] Glenn Maxwell
Much was expected from Glenn Maxwell to spearhead Delhi's 2018 IPL campaign, but the Aussie swashbuckling batsman failed to get going on the low and slow surfaces.
In 12 games, Maxwell managed a meager 169 runs at an average of 14.08 with his highest score being 47.
B] D'Arcy Short
D'Archy Short had his stocks at an all-time high on the back of a swashbuckling BBL season prior to the 2018 IPL Auctions.
Short was snarred by the Rajasthan Royals for a whopping INR 4 Crores but struggled to make an impression with the bat as spinners proved to be his nemesis, and was eventually dropped mid-way through the season.
In 7 IPL games in 2018, Short could only manage 115 runs at an average of 16.42 and an underwhelming strike-rate of 116.16.
C] Jaydev Unadkat
To be the highest-bid cricketer of the season can have its own perils and Jaydev Unadkat's struggles accentuated it to the core. Unadkat started a bidding war at the 2018 IPL Auctions and was eventually racked up for a whopping sum of Rs 12.5 Crore by the Rajasthan Royals.
But, the season went downhill for Unadkat with every performance of his measured against the scale of his paycheck. Compared to his exploits in the 2017 season, where Unadkat claimed 24 wickets at an average of 13.41, every wicket that the left-hander claimed in 2018 came at a cost of 44.18.
D] Yuvraj Singh
One of the major reasons for Kings XI Punjab's meltdown in the second half of the 2018 IPL was their over-dependence on the top-order- especially KL Rahul. Punjab's middle-order which boasted of the likes of Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, and Yuvraj Singh failed to consistently deliver for their side.
The biggest disappointment was Yuvraj Singh. In 2018, we saw a pale shadow of Yuvraj Singh's glorious past, as the left-hander struggled with his timing, and was eventually dropped from the side.
In eight games, that Yuvraj featured in the 2018 edition, he managed just 65 runs at an average of 10.83 and a strike-rate of 89.04.
E] Manish Pandey
Like Jaydev Unadkat, Manish Pandey, too, was not able to justify his price-tag with his performances. Pandey was racked up by the Sunrisers Hyderabad for a whopping deal of Rs 11 Crore but the Indian middle-order batsman struggled to get going for the entirety of the season, failing to close out games for his side.
In 15 IPL games, Pandey scored just 284 runs at an average of 25.81 and a hugely disappointing strike-rate of 115.41.
#3 Buttler's mayhem
Rajasthan Royals struggled for a major part of the 2018 IPL and weren't even in contention to qualify for the playoffs for the major part of it.
But, as we have often seen, an individual brilliance can spur the whole team around an turn around their campaign, which is what exactly happened with Rajasthan Royals.
After spending most of the season in the middle-order, Buttler was finally promoted to the top of the order, giving him the freedom to express his talent; and he did that with disdain.
The English wicket-keeper went on to score five consecutive scores in excess of 50, to put his teams' campaign back on track as the Royals went on to qualify for the playoffs.
#2 Young Turks make it big in their debut outing
IPL is all about talent scouting and unleashing them in pressure situations with and against the best in the world. The 2018 edition too had a plethora of young new talent who with their skills and steely nerves captured the imagination of the cricketing folklore.
After Rashid Khan, another teenage spinner from Afghanistan made everyone realize of t the precocious talent that exists in that part of the world- especially, spinners.
The 17-year-old Mujeeb Ur Rahman emerged as the spearhead of the Kings XI Punjab thanks to a string of consistent performances. In 11 games, Rahman claimed 14 wickets at an average of 20.64 and an economy rate of 6.99.
Imagine outfoxing the likes of Dhoni and Kohli with a wrong'un [googly], that too in your first-ever IPL season; that's the stuff of dreams. Mayank Markande lived that dream in the last edition of the IPL.
In 14 games that Markande played, the teenage leg-spinner claimed 15 wickets at an average of 24.53.
#1 The battle between two best captains of the tournament and a CSK Triumph
In a multi-nation or a multi-side tournament, we often talk about how the two best sides' always end up playing the final. Often, we do not acknowledge that leadership plays a huge part in it. Sometimes, you might not have the most talented of personnel at your disposal but if as a leader you can inspire your team, it can spur on the individuals to play to the best of their limited opportunities. The finalists of the 2018 IPL- Sunrisers Hyderabad & Chennai Super Kings bore testimony to the aforementioned fact.
The 2018 IPL saw both Dhoni and Williamson at their best- with the bat and as leader of the side. Both had different challenges. For Williamson, it was a matter of keeping the side together after the Cape Town fiasco had left his side without David Warner's leadership. As a leader, Williamson was superb with his bowling changes, team selections, but it is his batting in the shortest format of the game that really came of age.
The Kiwi skipper spearheaded the SRH batting, scoring 735 runs in 17 games at an average of 52.50, and was awarded the 'Orange Cap'.
As for Dhoni, it was a challenge of not letting the emotion of the comeback translate into pressure when it came to game-time. Another challenge was to manage a side that had a lot of retired cricketers in it. Dhoni loves challenges. It gets the best out of him. And, it was testified yet again. He was refreshingly brilliant with the bat, scoring 435 runs at a strike-rate of 150.66, besides marshaling his troops with disdain.
One such example was his handling of Shane Watson. The Aussie all-rounder had sustained a hamstring injury midway through the season, and Dhoni, realizing the importance of Watson, did not let him bowl for the rest of the games. And, it paid off in the end, as we all know.
Watson swatted the famed SRH bowling attack-led by the 'Purple Cap' holder, Sid Kaul, to bring up his second ton of the season and take CSK to their third IPL title; making it a perfect homecoming for the 'Whistle Podu' army.