Farewells and fare thee wells

Rajasthan Royals had the highest run-getter of the tournament in Ajinkya Rahane, who aggregated 288 in the aggressive style that he has come to patent.-

Mumbai Indians, the champion team of the IPL, won the Champions League too! It was a fitting farewell gift to Sachin Tendulkar in his final season of the Twenty20 format! Vijay Lokapally takes stock.

It was more about farewells than conquests on the field. The farewell of two modern icons, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, from a format they hardly cherished but did promote for the sake of the game’s future. After all, Twenty20 is the elixir sustaining the game around the world. The dwindling audience for the longer format of cricket was a growing concern for the administrators, but relief came in the shape of Twenty20. It was hardly surprising that Dravid and Tendulkar lent their support to this format which has clearly caught the imagination of the young followers of the game.

The Champions League T20 is not a patch on the Indian Premier League for the simple reason that it does not provide an even field for competition. Some of the foreign teams, champions in their respective domestic league, need to qualify for the main draw even as three teams from the IPL gain automatic spots. The overall standard did suffer in comparison with the IPL and it reflected in the poor turnout for matches involving non-Indian teams.

That Chennai Super Kings did not find a place in the final was the handiwork of a 41-year-old from Mumbai, a non-descript leg-spinner called Pravin Tambe, who propelled Rajasthan Royals into the final with a dream performance. His four-wicket haul was one of the stellar shows in the short history of the T20 League. For Tambe, the tournament was a moment of reckoning, a stage to showcase his talent that went unrecognised on the cricket fields of Mumbai where he has plied his trade for a long, long time.

Tambe’s success in the semifinal against CSK was not a flash in the pan. He ended up with the highest tally of wickets for the tournament, 12 scalps earned with a guile that left established batsmen bemused.

Rajasthan Royals also had the highest run-getter of the tournament in Ajinkya Rahane, who aggregated 288 in the aggressive style that he has come to patent. It was controlled aggression that speaks for the diminutive opener’s potential. Dwayne Smith and Suresh Raina were not far away, but Rahane was streets ahead in terms of quality.

Rajasthan Royals showed merit and guts with its consistency. The strength came from its collective ability where the onus was on every member. Dravid provided the impetus with his experienced leadership and the rest joined the campaign with a lot of self-belief. The same applied to Mumbai Indians, the champion with plenty of depth.

Mumbai Indians was the most compact combination with Rohit Sharma displaying good qualities as a captain who shone with the bat too. Of course, he had the support of some extremely well-equipped performers like Dwayne Smith and Kieron Pollard making runs at crucial stages and the likes of fast bowler Nathan Mitchell Coulter-Nile and veteran Harbhajan Singh striking the right notes at the right time.

Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians gained momentum when needed most. CSK ran out of steam when all seemed working in its favour. It ran into the intriguing Tambe and M. S. Dhoni, on a rare occasion, failed to deliver. Tambe conquering CSK was a glorious feat for the leg-spinner.

Among the foreign participants, Faisalabad Wolves and Kandurata Maroons from Sri Lanka were a let-down, distinctly out of place. Their mediocre presence took the sheen out of the qualifying stage where Sunrisers Hyderabad and Otago moved up.

Perth Scorchers did little to impress and Brisbane Heat hardly impacted the course of the tournament. The South African stars, Lions and Titans, created little flutter, but Trinidad and Tobago won many admirers with their passionate performance that earned the team a place in the semifinals.

It was a double for Rajastan Royals as Pravin Tambe topped the wickets aggregate.-

Twenty-one year old Evin Lewis and Darren Bravo, both left-handers, stood out with their entertaining batsmanship. Lewis lived up to his reputation as a batsman to watch with two fifty-plus knocks, both authoritative and full of punch. Just like Bravo, one of the experienced members of the West Indies team. Trinidad and Tobago, like Otago, were happy to have made it to the tournament and emerged with reputation unscathed.

The much-hyped farewell of Tendulkar and Dravid, however, fizzled out as both came a cropper in the final. They began by eulogising each other before the first ball was bowled at the Kotla but it was a pity they failed to leave an impression on the contest. Tendulkar looked a pale shadow of his classy self and some of his dismissals left a sore taste. Dravid walking in at No. 8 in the final was symbolic of the moment. It was time for both to take a bow from this format which demands flourish that belongs to much younger athletes.

The packed house at the Kotla saw Mumbai Indians complete a superb victory where Harbhajan Singh, another fading star on the country’s cricket horizon, had his say in the final verdict.

The champion team of the IPL had won the Champions League too! It was a fitting farewell gift to Tendulkar in his final season of the Twenty20 format!