So Kolkata Knight Riders are this year's IPL champions, and how they deserve it!
The odds were stacked against them, but they pulled through, played some amazing cricket, and sent out a powerful message about a tournament that has been dragged through the mud over the last few weeks. This was a moment when the IPL proved that as a cricket tournament, it has lost none of its vigour, exuberance, and excitement.
Yesterday's final was an opportunity for two teams to show the watching world that the IPL can still throw up drama, tension, and high quality sports entertainment and the defending champions, Chennai Super Kings and opponents KKR didn't disappoint. Obviously, the odds were stacked against KKR from the start as home advantage gave CSK a massive advantage, not only because they were playing in familiar surroundings on a pitch they knew well, but also of course, because the packed stadium was a sea of bright 'Chennai' yellow. The home supporters were expecting to cheer a third successive championship but KKR's determination, skill, and tremendous team sprit earned them their first IPL title against all the odds.
It was a result, which I believe was important for the IPL. There had been whispers about the final being 'fixed', which was a view no doubt borne of all the accusations that had been flying around about corruption in the last few weeks. On Twitter, someone even proclaimed before the game: "Today's match written, produced, and directed by N. Srinivasan." Even in jest, it showed that the doubters were out in force. There was also a suggestion that Ravi Shastri had proclaimed CSK as three-times IPL Champions BEFORE the final! Its a perfect illustration of how ridiculous the rumour mill had become off the back of the negative stories that engulfed IPL 5.
So the five-wicket win was a victory for KKR and also a victory for the strength of the IPL.
As CSK owner, N. Srinivasan must be hugely disappointed, but as BCCI chief he will surely acknowledge the powerful message this result sends about the IPL. At no point, have I ever believed the IPL was 'fixed' or generally corrupt and last night's outcome proved it beyond all doubt - despite the rumours. You only had to see the determination and tension displayed by players from both sides to know this was a fair and true sporting battle of the highest calibre. For example, the frustration was obvious on the face of Australian paceman, Brett Lee as his compatriot Michael Hussey gave CSK the early advantage. Try telling Brett he was there to lose!
And if CSK were supposed to claim a third successive title, then no-one obviously told Manvinder Bisla either! 89 in 48 balls as KKR chased 191 to win was a simply brilliant performance, as was the 69 in 49 from Jacques Kallis. KKR ultimately upset the odds and, no doubt, the conspiracy theorists.
So for me, IPL 5 finished in a wonderful blaze of colourful glory, courtesy of a final that epitomised everything I envisaged about the tournament when I put it together. Against a backdrop of criticism and negativity, the players put on a cricketing display that showed the IPL DOES have a future - but the work to rebuild the entire brand must start now. I am on record as saying the current administration must lead by example and my last blog "Don't just sit there, DO something!" can be found by clicking here.
Severe criticism and scrutiny of off-field issues have been an unfortunate feature throughout this year's tournament. The allegations of spot fixing and under-hand payments and accusations of anti-social behaviour from players have contributed to thousands of words, interviews, and discussions about the IPL's future. And now that the show is over, credibility, and confidence must be restored to the administrative processes. Owners, sponsors, and stakeholders must be re-engaged and new ideas embraced to make next year's tournament fresh, exciting, and entertaining. Rules need changing and player auctions need streamlining.
To the players who entertained on the field with style and panache; I salute you. To a Governing Council that must now lead from the front, India and the world awaits.