After weeks of frenzied action that had most people glued to their TV sets, several nail-biting finishes, and some dashing stroke play, as also some fine bowling from the pace men and the spinners alike, IPL 2009 came to a dramatic end on Sunday night, with a pulsating final between the wooden-spooners from last year- the Deccan Chargers of Hyderabad and the Royal Challengers of Bangalore.
For much of the evening it seemed as if the Challengers had outclassed the Chargers in every department of the game. A moderate total by the Chargers, followed by some spectacular shots by Ross Taylor and Roelf van der Merwe had almost ensured a Bangalore win, but some gritty bowling from RP Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Andrew Symonds and the remarkable Harmeet Singh coupled with some senseless batting by the experienced Bangalore batters, produced a turnaround that left the Challengers downcast and the Chargers triumphant!
The expressions on the faces of the two wily old skippers, Anil Kumble and Adam Gilchrist, fluctuated with increasing frequency as the match went through its exciting journey. Kumble, the champion spinner, bamboozled his long time foe in the very first over of the match, but Gilchrist had the last laugh! That both men finished second in the race for the Orange cap and the Purple cap respectively is a testimony to their class and fitness even after their retirement from international cricket.
The Deccan Chargers emerged as champions of IPL 2009 due to their resilience and their never-say-die-attitude. That attitude became ugly at times in the final, with Symonds being guilty of intimidating young Manish Pandey when the latter came out to open the innings for Bangalore. But as long as such things stay within the laws of the game, and if the Umpires have no problems, the additional adrenalin may actually spur teams onto great heights, as was the case with the Chargers. All their players seemed to be fiercely determined to do-or-die when they came out to field in the final. An animated pep-talk by skipper Gilchrist no doubt had the right effect!
RP Singh had a superb tournament for the Chargers and it is no surprise that the champion teams of both editions of the IPL till now had the Purple Cap winners on their side- Singh this time, and Sohail Tanvir for Rajasthan Royals last year. Ojha was also high on the wicket-takers list in both editions. Gilchrist led from the front to be named the Man of the Tournament (his semi-final blitz being jaw-dropping stuff!) while Symonds, Rohit Sharma and Herschelle Gibbs came up with stroke-filled cameos at crucial moments for them in match after match.
The Royal Challengers had a spectacular tournament too, and Anil Kumble led them brilliantly. His bowling was controlled and on target each time. There is no doubt that Kumble would have been a consistently dangerous bowler in T-20 cricket had it been played at the time when he was younger. Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid and Ross Taylor came up with match-winning performances for their team throughout the tournament, and green-horn Manish Pandey became the first Indian to score a ton in the IPL!
The Delhi Daredevils and the Chennai Super Kings were at the top of the table for most of the event, but faltered when it really mattered. Matthew Hayden, another international retiree, was so intimidating at the crease that opposing bowlers would surely have nightmares about him for months to come! His strokes were audacious and bold in their intent as in their outcome. A cartoon in a leading newspaper depicted him holding aloft the Orange Cap in the 2012 IPL! Suresh Raina is turning out to be a world-beater too and has added some crafty off-spin to his already impressive batting and fielding abilities. MS Dhoni had his moments too, but Chennai’s bowling and fielding was below par throughout the tournament. Balaji was under-utilized, and Makhaya Ntini should have been played given his experience of local conditions, and given that Jacob Oram hardly got a chance to bat or bowl!
For Delhi, Glenn McGrath’s absence from the playing XI was the mystery of IPL-2009, especially given the fact that other senior players were doing so well, day after day! Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were nowhere near their best, but will hopefully be back to their best when it really counts- at the ICC World T-20, in June. AB De Villiers and Tillakaratne Dilshan, along with Dirk Nannes were Delhi’s stars.
The rest of the teams flattered to deceive. Mumbai Indians had a real chance to go all the way, with Shaun Pollock and Jonty Rhodes coaching them, and with Sachin Tendulkar himself in good form. JP Duminy and Lasith Malinga shone for them too, but the rest were patchy, and they ended up second-last! Some of their decisions relating to their batting-order were appalling!
Shane Warne led the Rajasthan Royals superbly again, and Yusuf Pathan blasted some huge sixes but the team sorely missed Shane Watson’s all round skills this time.
Kolkata Knight Riders were an absolute disaster. Off the field factors were obviously to blame, for they had a talented side. Skipper Brendon McCullum came up with a couple of sparkling 80 plus scores but Sourav Ganguly should have led the team in his place. Dada was below par, as was Ishant Sharma, their main bowler. They lost some really tight matches and looked heart-broken at most times.
The Punjab Kings XI team was the enigma of IPL 2009. They played so well at times that it seemed they would prove unbeatable. Yuvraj shone more with the ball but came up with crucial contributions. So did Kumar Sangakarra, Mahela Jayawardene and Brett Lee. Punjab youngsters Sunny Sohal and Karan Goel showed promise too. Wilkin Mota looked out of depth though, as did the mercurial Sreesanth. Their real star was Irfan Pathan, who clubbed crucial blows at critical times and picked up key wickets regularly. What let them down was the inability of their powerful batting to deliver when it really mattered.
A memorable edition of the IPL thus came to an end with the South Africans proving to be amazing hosts. Matches were evenly fought between the ball and the bat. Spinners were surprisingly potent weapons for their captains. Last over finishes including a super-over ending were thrilling to witness. Some reputations were marred and others were made.
IPL 2010 may prove to be even more thrilling than the first two editions…but for now, there is the mouth-watering prospect of the T-20 World Cup coming up!