In the past, Kolkata Knight Riders seldom missed an opportunity…to miss an opportunity.
This time around, the side displayed clinical end-game skills.
The Knight Riders of IPL-V bucked the odds, was undaunted by adversity. In fact, demanding situations only stoked the team's combative instinct.
The mood in Knight Riders' dug-out must have been grim after its skipper and influential batsman, Gautam Gambhir, walked back at the beginning of the side's challenging chase of 191 in the Cup final on Sunday.
Then Manvinder Singh Bisla — he had replaced the destructive Brendon McCullum as the wicket-keeper batsman, with his team seeking to retain the composition of its bowling combination — launched into the bowling with strokes that were bright and bold.
The ability of Knight Riders to walk down the path of risk-taking — the side did not shy away from making tough calls — was among the highlights of the competition.
So was Gautam Gambhir's captaincy. He had a clear but flexible game-plan and was attack-minded for most part.
He rotated his three spinners intelligently and employed his two pacemen judiciously. There was proper role definition in the team, which is among the chief attributes for a skipper.
And Gambhir led from the front, lifted his men. Quick of mind and feet, he notched up 590 runs at 36.87.
Not too many present-day batsmen use the depth of the crease as well against spin as Gambhir does. This left-hander made all the right moves.
Sunil Narine's accuracy, two-way spin and bounce fetched him a whopping 24 scalps at 13.50.
He contained and struck with his ‘mystery' turn and bowled in different stages of the innings with subtle variations in trajectory. A spinner relies on his skipper for support and confidence, and Gambhir instilled belief in the man.
And the formidable Jacques Kallis showed the heart of a champion. Whether splitting the field with strokes of timing and balance or thundering down to mix his mean short-pitched deliveries with fuller-length balls and probe a batsman's footwork, Kallis defined commitment.
Super Kings raise their game
CSK finished just short of an incredible hat-trick of titles in the IPL and deserves credit for a raising its game in the play-off stages.
The side might have been fortunate to make the last-four cut but subsequently showed why it is such a feared outfit.
The side's batting firepower enabled it to pummel Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils, with blitzkriegs from M.S. Dhoni and M. Vijay — the latter is now the only Indian with two IPL centuries — lighting up the night sky.
The Chennai side was eventually let down by its bowling; the lack on incision in its attack had remained an issue the whole season.
Ben Hilfenhaus produced an outstanding display of swing bowling against Delhi Daredevils in the league phase at Chepauk but did not always receive adequate pace support.
And Chris Gayle's effortless sixes — this left-hander has such a natural back-swing — had spectators on their feet. The West Indian had a mind-boggling 733 runs at 61.08, and a strike rate of 160.74. Despite Gayle's hurricane efforts, Royal Challengers Bangalore choked at the crunch.
A blow to the IPL
India TV's sting operation did have a negative impact on the IPL. The authorities have to act firmly to counter the menace of spot-fixing.
Yet, the move to put the domestic players to auction promises to curtail alleged under-the-table payments.
The on-field behaviour of the teams came under scrutiny. The Mumbai Indians, in particular, did not cover itself with glory.
Captain Harbhajan Singh did not quite set the right example. And the angry gestures and exchanges of words by Munaf Patel presented him and his team in poor light. Winning is not everything, and the umpires need to be respected.
It did not really come as a surprise that the outfit with the best role model as captain — Rahul Dravid — took home the fair-play award. Rajasthan Royals deserved the prize.
The impressive Morne Morkel finished with most wickets in the competition — 25 at 18.12 — but bizarre tactics by Delhi Daredevils saw this probing paceman being dropped to accommodate Andre Russell. The logic given — the multi-dimensional Russell was brought in to lend balance to the side after another all-rounder Irfan Pathan suffered a split webbing — is laughable. The best method to check run-rate is to pick wickets.
While the fielding was brilliant on plenty of occasions, the Deccan Chargers would want to forget their catching in a hurry. And the seemingly never-ending sequence of defeats would haunt Pune Warriors.
On the positive side for this IPL — despite a few reports of the tournament's TRP ratings going down — crowds thronged the venues. And the fans witnessed some tight games and close finishes.