Cricket may well be a team sport, but the 2016 Indian Premier League final was billed as clash between specific individuals rather than two teams. Royal Challengers Bangalore exulted, celebrated and then finally fell as Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Co. spluttered after firing.

Sunrisers Hyderabad’s David Warner slugged it out, lost his wicket at a critical juncture, but lifted the trophy at the end. And like they have done throughout this season, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mustafizur Rahman stepped up with their neat little cameos.

But maybe, just maybe, the tournament does not belong to them.

Instead, it belongs to Yuvraj Singh.

How much did the win mean to Yuvraj Singh, a winner of both the 50-over and 20-over World Cups? At first glance, maybe, not much. On second thought, quite a lot.

This is the fifth franchise Singh has played for since the IPL began in 2008. From captaining Kings XI Punjab in the first two seasons to the short-lived Sahara Pune Warriors in 2011, from being bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore and then being picked up by the Delhi Daredevils, the 34-year-old has finally found success at Hyderabad in the twilight of his career.

Middling at best

Singh’s success is all the more significant because, unlike his peers in the Indian cricket team, he has never really set IPL on fire with his batting. When it began in 2008, he was one of the biggest stars of T20. The memory of his astounding six sixes off Stuart Broad at the World Twenty20 was alive in everyone's memory. Before Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli, he could justifiably be called the first Indian T20 superstar.

The numbers, though, tell the story of a man who could not live up to his talent, at least when it came to the IPL. If this is his last tournament, Singh’s figures in IPL history will remain remarkably under-par: only ten fifty-plus scores in more than 100 matches, at an average of only 25, and a strike-rate of just 130.08.

In fact, a strong case could even be made that Yuvraj the bowler was more effective than Yuvraj the batsman: he has an economy rate of just over seven with 35 wickets, including two hat-tricks, in the league to boast of.

And yet he stands now, winner of the IPL. Something which his good friend and team-mate Virat Kohli hasn’t been able to achieve – yet.

No reward for loyalty?

Kohli and Singh make a peculiar study in contrasts. While Singh has, in football terms, been the quintessential “journeyman”, hopping from one team to other, Kohli has been a Royal Challengers Bangalore faithful. From a chubby temperamental uncapped player in the early days to becoming the greatest star in their glittery constellation, Kohli belongs as much to Bangalore now as he does to Delhi.

The journey has been long. In his first three seasons with Bangalore, Kohli was a peripheral force with only two half-centuries to his name. In 2011, he finally found his mojo and ended up as the second-highest run-getter that season, just behind Chris Gayle. Together, they powered Bangalore to their maiden final in the IPL, but it ended in heartbreak against a rampaging Chennai Super Kings.

As the years went by, Virat Kohli embedded himself more and more in the psyche of the Royal Challengers Bangalore. And captaincy marked a remarkable transformation: the team seemed to embody the values he extolled. Fierce, in-your-face, a liking for some of the fancier things in life. But once they stepped onto the field – determined, angry and majestic. Yes, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kohli seem a match made in heaven.

But for all that, it was Yuvraj who got his hands on the shiny Indian Premier League trophy on Sunday. Yuvraj, who in his youth came across a milder version of the Kohli we know today - angry, flamboyant, always up for a scrap.

After captaining both Kings XI and Sahara Pune Warriors, he was bought by Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2014, and promptly proved to be a flop. Since that 2014 World Twenty20 final, Yuvraj has been accused of being past his prime, of having lost his mettle. But with the IPL trophy (and let's not forget his victory over cancer), he has had the last laugh.

We watch sports with the belief that it will give us some of things that we do not get in an otherwise unfair world. But even in sports, life can be unfair. In a fair world, Kohli’s loyalty and heroics with the bat should have rewarded him with the ultimate prize this season. But even so, who will grudge journeyman Yuvraj Singh his IPL title and claim that it's unfair?