Ben Stokes began the IPL as the most expensive player and he ended it being hailed as the most valuable one. A satisfying escapade therefore, apart from one small detail: he missed the final and his team, Rising Pune Supergiant, lost the match by a single run.
Even when you are fast becoming one of the most sought-after all-rounders in world cricket, life does not always go according to plan. When you have disappeared for four successive sixes in the last over of a World T20 final, as Stokes did when Carlos Brathwaite laid about him in Kolkata in 2016, you become inured to a disappointment or two.
Stokes is now back in the England fold, preparing for an ODI against South Africa at Headingley on Wednesday – one which, it has to be said, has crept up without much attention. While the razzamatazz of the IPL is with us, little else gets a look in.
If Stokes himself has flicked his mental switch (as the top players must do these days, switching with barely a second thought from club to country, changing formats, crossing time zones), his absence from the final does invite the question when it comes to their international summer how much England can hold the line.
Now the presence of England players in the IPL has been legitimized, with England’s director of cricket, Andrew Strauss, openly encouraging participation, it will be a natural consequence for IPL franchises to lobby for the likes of Stokes to remain for the whole tournament.
In football, for good or ill, club commitments became superior to those of the national side many years ago. In cricket, England still hold sway, but the slippage is apparent.
That the IPL will slim down to occupy a more modest place in a saner cricketing calendar seems to be a naïve hope. England’s international fixtures in May are bound to become a sticking point, especially given that Jos Buttler, another England T20 player with something approaching superstar status, also missed the final. Chris Woakes, less celebrated but valued nonetheless, also left Kolkata at the end of the league stages.