Welcome to our series ‘What If Wednesday,’ where we turn around the cricketing world and look at it from a never-seen perspective, one that slipped away from the grasp of reality. In this edition, we look at how a simple decision could have changed the entire IPL scenario for many franchises.
In 2008, Delhi Daredevils had the chance of picking the first draft of the youth players from the pool of the 2008 U-19 talents. What if they had gone with the Indian U-19 skipper Kohli instead of picking the left-arm seamer Pradeep Sangwan? After Kohli was picked by Delhi, Sangwan was picked by RCB as they had the second pick. Sangwan made his first-class debut a year earlier, his form in the U-19 World Cup was one of the prime reasons that made him the go-to person.
His 41-wicket season ensured that he was going to play alongside Praveen Kumar and Zaheer Khan in the three-man Indian pace attack at RCB. Alongside Jacques Kallis, they looked strong on the bowling-front. Meanwhile, away in Delhi, at home, Kohli is slotted straight in the Daredevils middle-order setup. While they did boast a top-order filled with David Warner, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, their middle-order was going to have Tilakaratne Dilshan, AB de Villiers and Kohli. It was not until the Kings XI Punjab game in Mohali when Kohli got a hit-out. Replacing Manoj Tiwary in the squad, he scored a blistering half-century in just 30 deliveries. In the end, he took the Delhi side to a respectable total of 175 which helped the side to a third-straight victory. He continued his dominance, scoring a total of 260 runs in the tournament.
However, his most crucial knock for the Delhi side came in the semi-final against Rajasthan. Batting first, Delhi scored 180 at the Wankhede, including a Kohli masterclass of 60. In reply, Rajasthan’s top order succumbed under the pressure of Glenn McGrath and Farveez Mahroof. This win took them to the final, where they were going to face the fan-favourites Chennai Super Kings. However, even an in-form Kohli could not save them from losing to the Chennai side. And, Chennai set their mark on the IPL, winning the first-ever tournament. At the other end, Sangwan took a total of ten wickets, thanks to the guidance from the veteran Zaheer.
In August 2008, Kohli made his international debut for India against Sri Lanka. With international experience behind him, the right-hander has continued to impress on and all in the 2009 IPL in South Africa. Batting alongside de Villiers, Kohli made his life easier for the rest of the team in South Africa. With the late surge from Dinesh Karthik, the Daredevils reached the semi-final stage for the second season in a row alongside CSK. While AB scored 465 runs in the tournament, Kohli scored 280 runs at an average of 46, such was his form. Despite that, the Daredevils side fell short against Adam Gilchrist’s Deccan Chargers side in the semifinals of the competition.
However, that did not stop the franchise from growing multi-fold, including one final and one semi-final appearance in two seasons, becoming one of the most consistent sides in the tournament at that stage. In 2010, the Delhi side qualified ahead of the Royal Challengers side, thanks to their last-minute victory against Rajasthan Royals. With 16 points, they qualified as the third-best side in the league, pushing CSK to the fourth place after their victory.
Delhi, now a formidable side, were facing the Deccan Chargers in the semi-finals. Guess what? They won the game, pretty easily, thanks to their in-form star duo of ABD and Kohli. While one was at the peak of his game, the other was growing in stature. And, with that win, they faced their nemesis, CSK in the final. CSK were up and running in the final, thanks to their skipper MS Dhoni who was casually flicking it beyond the ropes. The finals was a tense-encounter, with Raina putting on a magnificent display for the Super Kings. In the end, the yellow-side put up a formidable total of 168-5 at the end of their innings.
In reply, Delhi’s opening pair - David Warner and Virender Sehwag - fell relatively cheap, with the score reading 30-2. They still had 139 runs to chase in 15 overs, with Dilshan and Gambhir stepping up on the day. The duo put on a 65-run partnership, taking the dangerous Ravichandran Ashwin and Muttiah Muralitharan out of the attack. That made Dhoni shuffle his bowlers, with Suresh Raina being brought into the attack. His golden arm struck, with Gambhir’s wicket.
However, Delhi’s strong-lower order ensured that the Chennai side had their work cut-out. And, immediately, Delhi rebuffed their batting-order, promoting Karthik up the order. The experiment failed, as Doug Bollinger picked up the crucial wicket. Delhi needed 38 runs off three overs, with ABD and Kohli at the crease. By then, the duo had already set their reputation as cleanest strikers of the ball. The stage was set, with ABD pulling off his 360-degree shots while Kohli put it time and again to the boundary through his glorious flicks.
With 11 runs needed off the last over, ABD put it out of the park, giving Delhi their first IPL victory and for CSK their first IPL final loss. However, there was a far worse thing that was ready to happen - which was the 2011 IPL auctions. In the Auctions, there was a surprise for the Delhi side, as AB de Villiers decided to walk away to RCB, becoming Daniel Vettori’s understudy. In 2011, thanks to the presence of Chris Gayle at the top of the order and AB in the middle, the Bangalore-based franchise reached the final where they faced the formidable CSK side. Despite the brilliance of de Villiers and Gayle, the Bangalore side failed against CSK in the final, losing away to their rivals. It was also CSK’s second IPL victory after winning in the first season.
In 2012, history decided to pull the two sides - Delhi and Bangalore closer to each other. While one topped the table, RCB had to pull up their socks with the inclusion of ABD for a fourth-place finish. During the latter stage of the tournament, thanks to the brilliance from Deccan Chargers’ Dale Steyn, RCB fell short, yet ABD scored 319 runs in the tournament. Alongside ABD, Gayle scored 733 runs in the tournament. So while RCB was set in the batting department, their bowling faltered, thanks to Pradeep Sangwan’s injury. Having made his debut for India earlier in the year, Sangwan fell short on his knee just ahead of the IPL, which ruled him out of the season.
2013, 2014 and the 2015 season did not go in either of the two sides’ favour. While Delhi failed miserably, thanks to the loss of Sehwag and Gambhir, the injury-prone Sangwan left Bangalore in a bad taste. While not having Sangwan, the Bangalore side snaked their way under their new captain de Villiers towards the latter stage of the tournament, finishing as high as fifth, with the trophy continuing to be ways away from their reach.
In a shock move in 2015, Bangalore decided to acquire the power-hitter Andre Russell, which moved them one inch closer to the trophy cabinet. Meanwhile, they also bolstered their bowling attack with the addition of Yuzvendra Chahal and the pace attack of Mitchell Starc and Mohammed Shami. Shami’s loss was a huge one for the Daredevils who brought in Umesh Yadav from the Knight Riders. Everything was set in stone for a successful 2016 season. However, the franchise always regretted not having an Indian batsman who could play an anchor role. That is why they went all-guns-blazing to acquire Pandey into the setup.
To finish off the batting, they had the power-hitting of Russell. With their rivals CSK missing out on two years of IPL, it was the right time for them to step up their game and leave a mark. It was 2016 after all, eight years after the first IPL for them to achieve that. They swept aside sides, with Pandey and ABD going to be the key-holders in the middle order. It all culminated to the play-offs where they faced Gujarat Lions. Gujarat posted a total of 158, which eventually was an eight-wicket victory for the Bangalore side. Gayle top-scored with a 60 with Pandey and ABD contributing with a 40 each.
On the other hand, the Sunrisers faced the wrath of the Daredevils who leapfrogged KKR for the fourth spot. Kohli led from the front against Warner and co, with an unbeaten 60 against the Sunrisers. The chase-master Kohli was there yet again when it mattered for India and Delhi. The mouth-watering clash was finally here - ABD vs Kohli in the final of the 2016 IPL. Till that point, Kohli had already scored 700 runs in the league with twin hundreds. And, Pandey and ABD had piled up 650 and 600 of their own for the Bangalore side.
The encounter was at Chinnaswamy and it was here finally. The crowd were celebrating in joy for they had witnessed history. “De Villiers and Pandey guide RCB home in front of 40,000 fans,” read the headline.