Easily the most electrifying edition of the five years since its inception, IPL 2012 has come to a storming halt- with all the ingredients of a successful script, an explosive finale and an ultimate comeback story in place.
The tournament culminated in a fashion that reminded us why we’re such big fans of this great game. Careers were made, legendary sports films like Rocky, Chak De! India, Miracle, We Are Marshal were recalled, Champions dethroned and owners redeemed. Truly, the stuff Bollywood dreams are made of.
The Knight Riders- the most maligned & overhyped team over the last four years- became the glorious army to end the invincible streak of the Super Kings, the battalion that so many expected them to be in the first year itself. Just as well, because as soon as owner SRK got himself into an ugly tangle with the MCA in Mumbai, it was written. His fate, and his team’s, was sealed. If there was any team that’d halt the inevitable victory march, a third consecutive title, of the ‘lucky’ but ruthless big-match geniuses Chennai, it was to be Gauti and his boys.
Destiny Thy Name KKR
Newly dropped from the vice-captain post of Team India, the smile was never to come back to the gritty Delhiite’s face- and he arrived at IPL 2012 with a mission. Though unsaid and not publicised, there is clearly a rift between the two senior Delhi boys- India’s openers- and captain Cool, who seems to have been stubborn enough to run out of luck over the last year. It is often said that, if you’re in the right, if you’re sincere and honest about your intentions- fortune will inevitably favour you. With Gautam Gambhir taking on Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the final, this was put to test. The country would, in a matter of four hours, come to a conclusion about who the real ‘villain’ was during the overseas tours. A pity, though, that there was no real discussion or debates over who the real ‘hero’ was, because the national team simply doesn’t merit the existence of one in Test Cricket. Squabbling over the past seems to be a favourite pastime, and as we know, there must always be an end to every debate or event. If IPL was to provide that answer through the mysterious ways of its last-ball finishes and gutsy competition, so be it. The winner, ultimately, would be the ‘good guy’- a victim of injustice, through those two overseas tours. After all, Gambhir even had a concussion to show for- and a gritty one-day series performance against Australia down under.
Nevertheless, Indians will take what they can get- and the stage was set.
Dhoni’s relaxed smile was wiped off his face a few games into the group stages, when KKR- after losing their first two games- began to mean business. Some will say that maybe Dhoni and his boys were given a lifeline, or three, simply so that they could steamroll their way through the playoffs like True Champions- and only so that Dhoni could face his conscience. That Kohli, the new vice captain, was the reason Bangalore crashed out in their last group game, only added fuel to this theory. Sehwag, often a peer without direction, a dangerous lawyer without an argument, fell in true Sehwag-style to his captain in Qualifier-2, with some inexplicable decision-making. This led to muffled whispers- was Dhoni right to be using the ‘rotating opener’ theory down under just to accommodate an under-performing Tendulkar? Maybe he was, because Sehwag, in IPL 2012, went down without a fight.
The other ‘victim’, Gambhir, waited patiently- with his disgraced owner. It was almost poetic, the way Chennai entered the game all guns blazing- been there done that- and made the result seem almost inevitable midway through the game. Even their second-last piece of the puzzle- Suresh Raina- embraced form with an assault of Sunil Narine, no less, and all that Srinivasan had to explain now was the inclusion of that man Ravindra Jadeja, a player who hadn’t batted or bowled through the semi and final. A Good-luck charm that cost 10 crores, that, a BCCI chief can surely afford?
And then, a North-Indian wicketkeeper batsman, supposed to be past his prime age-wise, toiling for years in Domestic Cricket for an underwhelming Haryana team- burst onto the scene on the biggest stage of all. Often looked at as a batsman without a plan, a madmax with no direction when he played for Kings XI and Deccan Chargers, Bisla decided to demonstrate the power of the human brain, if used a little- something that an entire Delhi management had failed to do days ago.
Left is Right
He didn’t simply smash his way to 89- there was a method to his madness, for the first time in his IPL career. Another young gun, Mandeep Singh, will do well to take great lessons out of this innings- because he is at a stage Bisla was at a few years ago. Bisla’s innings changed the face of the tournament, and gave his teammates a reason to believe. He allowed Kallis to steady the middle-order, and take his time- in the brutal weather of Chennai, after a brutal four over spell that may well have wiped out many Indian local bowlers.
KKR is known to choke on the biggest stage, much like Kallis’s South African team. Things were heading there, when he holed out in the penultimate over- leaving it to the ‘local duo’ of Tiwari and Hassan. Bravo, Chennai’s MVP throughout the league, bowled a decent final over, but was thwarted by a jilted Tiwari- who got his due finally, after being ignored by his own team till the 19th over.
The fairytale had begun. IPL had a new Champion, thankfully for the management, and finally, there was a ‘Jeetbo Re’ that could rightfully be added in their Anthem.
Gautam Gambhir was the leader of Champions, a spot that he feels is rightfully his- with Dhoni faltering at the top. The opener that lacks everything that Sehwag has, and possesses all the mental qualities that Sehwag doesn’t, has finally been rewarded.
An appropriate end to a league that can afford to have only one best team a year, because the SuperKings- with Four Finals in Five years- are easily the most consistent team of them all.
For Shahrukh Khan, this was the best opportunity for him to ‘behave himself’, as he said, and apologized for all things past. Who cared, we say, as long as we got the finale we deserved- a finale that befitted the most exciting league in the world- after a fortnight of 75 hard-fought games that had it all.
Fixed, you say? The only thing Fixed at the end, most noticed, was Dhoni’s gaze- as he watched his most lion-hearted teammate lift a trophy that he once owned.
As we leave you with memories of a smashing end to the tournament, in true style, we must sign off with a team that could put most corrupt politicians to shame- with their cost price not even matching 2% of their actual contributions! Here we go- (SRK made last year’s team as 12th man)
Sachin Tendulkar (be honest, it’s true)
Sreesanth (The Royal Bench)
12th man- Munaf Patel, just for having that expression on his face.
The most valuable team goes thus-
AB De Villiers
12th man- Jacques Kallis
What is heartening to see, is the presence of young Indian batsmen amongst the top batsmen this league- with the likes of Kohli and Raina finally failing in IPL cricket- thereby letting Rahane, Dhawan, Mandeep Singh, Bisla and Rohit to bask in the limelight.
There may be light at the end of that tunnel.