Two astute captains and a great final, the Indian Premier League (IPL) could not have asked for a better ending. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team pitted against Shane Warne’s was a dream come true.
One of them growing in stature as a leader while the other arguably one of the smartest brains to have been kept away from national captaincy. It’s difficult to say if both had a point to prove. But Chennai bowler Muttiah Muralitharan had said during the league games that it is unfair to compare Dhoni and Warne as captains.
“Warne has 20 years of cricket behind him, while Dhoni is comparatively new,” Murali had said. But both captains made batting and bowling changes exceptionally well and their field settings — especially that of Warne — were a lesson to other skippers.
But Jaipur were far more consistent considering the fact that minimum money was spent on players. They were the underdogs when the IPL began and, when 39-year-old Warne lifted the trophy, it was a befitting end to their campaign.
“I’ll be 40 next year, a bit too old for these sort of finishes,” Warne said after the win at the DY Patil Stadium on Sunday. “But the players, they make me feel young. I’ll come back as long as my body will hold up.”
Middle lane for Dhoni
At 26, Dhoni has a long way to go. But his maturity was quite evident in the tournament. “We played some good cricket throughout the tournament,” Dhoni said. “So, don’t really feel bad about it (the loss). We tried our best and it went up to the last ball and you can’t really expect better cricket than this.”
For Dhoni, who won the Twenty20 World Cup last year and the triangular ODI series in Australia, this was the first big loss.
“That’s how the game is,” Dhoni said after the final on Sunday.
“You win some, you lose some,” he said. “Especially, with the amount of cricket being played, you can’t say you will win all the games or you will lose all.
“The middle lane, I say, is the best one. Even if you knew you are winning a few, you look to be in the same lane and if you lose a few you have to be in the same lane,” he said.
Perfect script for IPL
Warne was overjoyed after the win. He, however, refused to take credit for it. “We won because each one of us played our part correctly,” the Australian said. With 12 runs needed from last seven balls, the Aussie sent the last ball of the penultimate over bowled by Makhaya Ntini screaming to the cover boundary. This gave his team eight runs from last over.
“That was just one of those shots,” Warne said about the cover drive. “We didn’t want to leave ourselves with too may runs in the last over. Eight runs from six balls was gettable and it calmed our nerves. I think Tanvir (Sohail) played exceptionally well.”
The leg-spinner said the last-ball finish was just what the tournament deserved. “It was just one of those things that was meant to be,” Warne said.
Warne, however, reserved the best comment for the last. When someone asked him if he agreed with Dhoni’s supposed belief that T20 was a game for the youngsters, the Aussie remarked: “In that case, I will be back with a walking stick next year.”