On This Day: Rajasthan Royals defies odds to win inaugural IPL

The team, filled with youngsters, stunned the cricketing fraternity as it unleashed rookie talents like Swpanil Asnodkar to clinch the title.

Shane Warne brought the best out of his team to take it to the top.   -  K. Pichumani

The format was new. The team was young. But despite all odds, Rajasthan Royals clinched the first-ever Indian Premier League (IPL) title, defeating some of the star-studded sides.

That was exactly a decade ago.

Guided by its star captain, Shane Warne, Rajasthan Royals came out victorious against a strong Chennai Super Kings side in the final. The team, filled with youngsters, stunned the cricketing fraternity as it unleashed rookie talents like Swapnil Asnodkar to clinch the title. And as the members of that first IPL-winning team look back at the halcyon days, they unanimously agree that it was their captain Warne who made the difference.

Of all the eight teams, Royals owners made the smallest bid of USD 67 million in the auctions and despite this the team was triumphant. After early jitters, the combination was set — a perfect mix of youth and experience — and Warne ensured that the boys got their ‘free space’ in the middle.

 

‘Good’ bonding

“Warne would handle the pressure brilliantly and gave a free-hand to the youngsters. Never for a moment did any player feel uncomfortable. The team bonding was really good,” Yusuf Pathan, who was one of the key members of that team, tells Sportstar.

With Warne as its leader, the team also had seasoned campaigners like Graeme Smith, Darren Lehmann, Younis Khan, Shane Watson. But the Indian players were mostly new and were largely inexperienced.

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“Nobody knew what format would be like. With mostly unknown players, the expectations were less and there was no pressure. But Warne ensured that we played fearless cricket. Warne had the image of a rebel, and he knew no boundaries. Interestingly, he was able to infuse this indomitable spirit in the team,” Harish Joshi, who was the assistant head coach, says.

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“Asnodkar, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja were young guys then and the idea of playing fearlessly worked with them,” Joshi explains.

‘No divide’

There would be times when the team would go through rough patches, and Warne’s idea was simple: go out and play your natural game. “Warne would back the players to the hilt and encouraged all of us to take our decisions, which certainly helped a lot,” Asnodkar, who was one of the major discoveries of the season, points out.

The Goa batsman observed that his former captain treated everyone equally. “There was no divide between the seniors and the juniors. He treated everyone equally. When we lost against Delhi Daredevils initially, there were doubts, but things settled down afterwards,” Asnodkar says, adding: “Despite being youngsters, we were given a free hand. That actually helped us.”

It’s been a decade since that historic feat, but even now, the old campers at the Royals credit the Australian spin legend for all the success. It’s not for nothing that they call Warne a legend!