There was a unique opportunity for RCB, ahead of the 2011 season to retain some of their star players but instead, they opted to retain a youngster, Virat Kohli, ahead of the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Rahul Dravid. What if RCB retained Kevin Pietersen instead of Kohli?
The year is 2011, we are here, months before the IPL Auction, and RCB have a decision to make - who will they retain? There comes the decision- RCB decide to retain the services of Kevin Pietersen. That now leaves them with a lot of spots to fill, unlike Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians, who retain four of their key players.
Pietersen’s first words as RCB’s new skipper, “Let’s target the bloke Rohit Sharma at the auction.” Until then, Rohit has established himself as one of the best batsmen in the competition for Deccan Chargers. It was a unique opportunity for RCB to cash in on a good batsman. Meanwhile, news rings in that Mumbai too are trying to bring him home. At the Auction table, as soon as Rohit’s name pops up, both the franchises go fighting neck-to-neck.
But remember, Mumbai are shot in the leg by their retention, which now, in turn, helps RCB to come good with Rohit. However, disappointed, Mumbai are ready with their opening bid for Virat Kohli and they get him for a steal of a deal, at just 5 crores. Meanwhile, in the same auction, KKR go frenzy over Yusuf Pathan and Gautam Gambhir, in an attempt to establish a good Indian core. However, one franchise has remained silent throughout - Kings XI Punjab. What was running in their mind? AB de Villiers, and as soon his name came up, they outwit and outbid them to get the South African at Rs 10 crores.
Across the table, CSK make a wise decision to rope in all-rounder Shakib-al Hasan for under Rs 6 crores, after failing to match Kochi Tusker Kerala’s bid for Ravindra Jadeja. Alongside him, they also pull their trigger for Michael Hussey, RP Singh, Wriddhiman Saha while surprising a few heads with Dwayne Bravo, who was released by Mumbai.
Under the new skipper Pietersen, and with the development of the right-handed Rohit at the top of the order, Bangalore beat all odds to find themselves in the play-off stage, one step away from the final. However, up in front of them, is a Sachin Tendulkar-led Mumbai side, spearheaded by a 400-run season from Virat Kohli. While Kohli does score an unbeaten 60, it wasn’t enough as Rohit’s hundred led RCB into the final. The other team, of course, was a well-oiled Chennai Super Kings side, who won the title in 2010 and raced their way to the final.
No one looks close to even detaching them from the throne, as RCB succumb under the pressure, due to bad captaincy from KP who decides to open alongside Rohit while he sends down Chris Gayle at No.4. With Ravichandran Ashwin in prime form, MS Dhoni’s nifty bowling changes combine with the success of Shakib-al-Hassan to take them to victory, with the all-rounder being named the Man of the Tournament, for scoring 350 runs and picking up 20 wickets. Despite having their marquee signing - de Villiers, KXIP are unable to get themselves anywhere in the tournament, finishing fifth, leaving their fans irate.
KXIP are far from their usual smiling face at the 2012 IPL Auction table, they are aware that the ‘serious business was about to come.’ When David Miller’s name pops up, the franchise goes on a bidding frenzy to get him for Rs 7 crores and also get an unexpected buy in the form of Stuart Broad, which leaves them with thin money, as they settle for James Faulkner and Ben Cutting on Adam Gilchrist’s opinion.
At the other end, CSK raise their tag for the West Indian mystery spinner Sunil Narine and go all out for him, which rules them out of the race for Ravindra Jadeja. With a set foreign unit, KKR have no other choice but to go with Jadeja to fill their spin category. Following West Indies’ show in the 2012 T20 World Cup, KKR’s back up buy was the all-rounder Marlon Samuels, who they fetch at a very low cost after they fail to outbid CSK for Narine. RCB at the other end, hops on their trust in local talents, getting back the likes of Manish Pandey, Karun Nair and Mayank Agarwal while having KL Rahul in their setup. However, there was one thing that was missing from their game plan, quite evident - a good bowling unit, for which they get the experienced RP Singh, who is released by CSK after a poor year.
Just before the start of the tournament, KXIP are dealt with another bad news, unexpected, with the injury to Stuart Broad. As a replacement, the franchise registers Glenn Maxwell as their player after the all-rounder went unsold in the Auction. In a surprise move, KXIP’s skipper announces the playing XI which had Gilchrist, Miller, AB de Villiers and Maxwell. While in some unexpecting ways, thanks to Maxwell’s cameos against CSK and Delhi in the season, the Punjab-based franchise reaches the semi-finals, only the third time since the start of the IPL.
Meanwhile, Mumbai continue to up their ante, reaching the semi-final once again, alongside a regular entrant - CSK. However, for the fourth place, there was a Rohit propelled RCB side, who seemingly made their way only for KKR to knock them off the fourth spot on the last day of the competition, with their majestic win against Deccan Chargers. While Mumbai were set to face KKR upfront in the qualifier, KXIP and CSK would meet each other in the eliminator. For Mumbai, the ever-performing Kohli does continue to excel, skippering the side after Harbhajan Singh’s failure. Batting first, KKR put on a gigantic total, 182 with a Samuels’ special (35-ball 75). However, chasing a big score, Kohli makes a light work of it, with an unbeaten hundred, which cements his place in the Orange Cap list.
When KXIP face the well-oiled Chennai outfit, there was the ‘Big Show’ from Maxwell, who scores a 35-ball century to leave MS Dhoni-led side stunned, with a total of 235. Despite Raina’s brilliant 89, all that CSK could get on the night was 212, which eliminates them from the tournament. However, when KXIP face an in-form KKR side, they drop Miller for Faulkner, a move that stuns them all. Can Faulkner hold up to the pressure or will he crumble under it? And they opted to field first, the KXIP, as they want to chase against KKR’s strong bowling unit, a move that has the potential to backfire immediately.
Interestingly, KKR too did make a change, giving a debut to Andre Russell, a man that has never played in the IPL. Immediately, it was visible why, as ‘Dre Russ’ goes on to score a 30-ball 72, as KKR score 174 after being reduced to 34/2. Unfortunately, for KXIP, Jadeja looked in prime form on that night, as he reduces KXIP to 73/5. The last straw for the Men in Red and Silver - AB de Villiers, their potential skipper next year, with Gilchrist announcing that this was going to be his last year. Slowly yet steadily, they build it up one step at a time, taking the scoreline down to 24 runs required off the last two overs. It was ABD vs Jadeja, KXIP’s best batsman vs KKR’s best bowler under the most pressure situation. Who could deliver? First ball, AB smashes it for a six, follows it up with a four and another six. 8 off 8 now, and KXIP take home the thrilling eliminator.
Gilchrist and KXIP are put into bat after Kohli wins the toss and elects to chase. KXIP are in another bout of trouble, at 10/2. However, Gilchrist in potentially his last IPL game stands tall, packs a punch, scores a scintillating 100 off 60 deliveries while de Villiers, Maxwell all score rapid-fire scores of their own which takes KXIP to 205.
206 it was, a score never-chased before in the history of any IPL final. But, this wasn’t just another ordinary side, it was Virat Kohli’s Mumbai, one who always threaten to win against all sides. Tendulkar and Smith get them off to a great start, with 60 runs already on board at the end of the powerplay. And, Gilchrist brings in Maxwell, who strikes the first ball to remove Sachin. Surprisingly, Karthik walks out to bat and despite the pressure, scores a good 32 off just 17 deliveries. Remember, they are still chasing 206, needing more 106 runs off the last 10, and now walks in Kohli, a bit late?
With the Windies opener, Kohli gets Mumbai threading to 160, with 46 runs still needed in the last three overs - with James Faulkner’s two overs left. But he goes down with an injury! Panting, the Aussie skipper tosses the ball to Abhishek Nayar, who completes the over and concedes just 14 while he removes Smith and Kieron Pollard. Maxwell bowls the next one and concedes the 15 runs without a wicket. Last over, 17 runs is required- all eyes on Praveen Kumar as he is about to deliver KXIP’s golden over, Kohli on strike. The right-hander scores 15 off 5, meaning they just need 2 off the last ball. In an attempt to run two, a de Villiers direct hit catches Kohli short, and KXIP seal an incredible victory, from the jaws of defeat as Gilchrist ends his IPL career on a high.