In the end, it was KKR who, when everyone had given up on them, rose from the ashes like a phoenix, and went on to stage a phenomenal title win.
Let us now charter KKR’s journey to victory in the seventh edition of the IPL.
A Mixed Beginning
Incidentally, KKR played and won the first and last matches of the IPL this season. However, there was a lot that happened in between that made Kolkata’s journey the most intriguing.
Since the first leg of the IPL was to be played in the UAE, Kolkata had to play their first five games there. KKR began well by winning the first match against the Mumbai Indians by 41 runs. However, they slipped in the second match against a new-look Delhi Daredevils when they lost to them by four wickets. They were lucky in their next match against the Royal Challengers of Bangalore and won a very close encounter against them by a mere two runs. But Kolkata’s luck deserted them in the next two matches which they lost by 23 runs to Punjab and in a Super Over to Rajasthan. Thus in their first five games of the tournament, Kolkata had registered just two victories and weren’t exactly looking a champion side.
The talking point of Kolkata’s first leg was undoubtedly skipper Gautam Gambhir’s woeful performance where he scored four ducks in a row. The others in the team too were looking out of sorts and performing only in patches. There seemed to be a lack of confidence in the team and some morale boosting victories were desperately required.
The Exponential Fall
When Kolkata returned to India, much was expected of them as they were back in home conditions. However that was not to be as KKR lost two back to back matches and sank further.
Their first match after the return to India was against the Chennai Super Kings. Kolkata couldn’t put much of a fight and were thumped by 34 runs by the boys in yellow. It was their next match against Rajasthan though that completely shattered Kolkata fans’ hearts. Chasing 171 on a placid Ahmadabad track, Kolkata were well on their way to victory with a superb 121 run opening stand between skipper Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa, who had been promoted to the opener’s slot. With Kolkata needing just 50 runs from about seven overs, they suddenly committed hara-kiri. Kolkata lost six wickets in the space of eight deliveries and could never recover from these setbacks; going on to lose the match by 10 runs.
So shocking was the defeat that everyone almost gave up on KKR. None of the players looked set to take up responsibilities and it seemed as if KKR’s tournament dreams were all but over for this edition.
Rising like a Phoenix
It is often said that when all looks over, we sometimes find some magical strength in us. That is exactly what happened with KKR next. With just two victories in seven games, Kolkata had an arduous task ahead of them if they were to make it to the final four. And what happened next was sheer magic.
Captain Gautam Gambhir had already regained some of his fallen form and was playing well at the top of the order. Further, his move of promoting Robin Uthappa to the opener’s slot was a masterstroke and was paying rich dividends. However, what still lacked was team confidence and morale. Thus Gambhir’s role was of pivotal importance and he rose to the occasion when the situation asked the most of him.
Gambhir captained aggressively and actively and lifted the sagging morale of his team by leading from the front. In their next match against Sunrisers Hyderabad, both Gambhir and Uthappa yet again scripted good knocks to lead their team to victory by eight wickets. This started KKR’s phenomenal march to victory with one thumping win after the other.
All of a sudden, things began changing with KKR. They brushed aside one opposition after the other and slowly but surely climbed their way up the points table; entering the last four in the most emphatic fashion. It seemed that somebody had woven a magic wand Kolkata’s fortunes had been magically turned upside down. From being down in the dumps, KKR became an unstoppable force. The team suddenly began playing as a unit and was not dependent on any single individual to guide them through. Everyone seemed to know their role perfectly well and contributed to the team’s cause in their own little ways.
While the team had their star performers in Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Narine and Shakib-Al-Hasan, who kept coming up with regular match-winning knocks, there were others too who played a role in Kolkata’s resurgence at different stages of the tournament. Manish Pandey (apart from his sizzling 94 in the final) and Ryan Doeschate bolstered the middle-order with their small yet significant contributions. Yusuf Pathan, whose place in the side had been questioned almost throughout the tournament, came good when it mattered the most. His blistering 72 off 22 balls in Kolkata’s last league game against Hyderabad ensured KKR’s position in the top two. Even his 30 odd runs in the final were of vital importance.
As for the bowling, KKR slowly developed into one of the most lethal bowling sides in the championship. All the bowlers bowled well regularly and aided Narine and Shakib in stifling the opposition. Morne Morkel, Umesh Yadav and Piyush Chawla performed their roles admirably and a lot of team Kolkata’s success in the tournament should also be given to them.
All in all, KKR displayed sheer, indomitable grit and dexterity to rise from the ashes and win the trophy.
KKR’s mercurial rise thus made this IPL that much more thrilling and exciting. Here is hoping that more teams learn from KKR’s books and continue to make the IPL even more engrossing and captivating than it already is.