Kolkata loves its sport but they love their sportsmen a bit more. Sourav Ganguly is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, cultural icons Bengal has ever produced and that’s some high praise given the number of Nobel laureates and musicians hailed from the state.
Even 12 years after international retirement and about one and a half-decade past his batting dominance, Ganguly is still the ultimate Dada. However, much to the city’s dismay, in 2011, the city of Kolkata had almost ditched the franchise from their own city - Knight Riders - when Venky Mysore, fresh with the team as the CEO, took one of the most important decisions he ever had to take. KKR let go of the City’s favourite icon and all hell broke loose.
But if you have just landed from Mars and have no idea of the Ganguly circus, then hang on. Don’t assume anything else. Be in the zone as we take you in a ride of exploring an alternate universe that has Sourav Ganguly as the KKR skipper even in the 2011 IPL on the back of his performance in the 2010 season, where he, in reality, managed to score 493 runs at an SR of 117.66. So from now on, we assume that KKR, impressed by Ganguly’s stellar show, retained the son of the soil for the 2011 season, as we would go on to explore what could have been.
We are in January 2011 now and KKR has already announced Sourav Ganguly to continue as the skipper for the following season. However, Ganguly, who is still pissed by the slow batting display of the top-order, decides to do away with the likes of Owais Shah, Cheteshwar Pujara and Angelo Mathews and revamps the squad in his own ideology.
That means, Gautam Gambhir, who was already released by Delhi Daredevils, ends up in Kochi Tuskers Kerala, who splurge in a handsome bid to bag the Delhite’s services. But Ganguly has his look on Saurabh Tiwary, who he has played within the East Zone Deodhar Trophy matches, and after an intense bidding war with Mumbai Indians, KKR finally snap him up with a 2.4 million dollar deal.
Ganguly, who is already flattered by the franchise’s faith in him, repays the faith by having a crazy season, where he partners with Saurabh Tiwary, to help KKR to the play-off. Everything is going according to the script for KKR, who with six consecutive wins, end up in the IPL play-offs, where they are beaten by an inspired Chennai Super Kings who goes on to win their second consecutive IPL title. While there are a lot of positives to take away from, KKR franchise are glad that Ganguly scores over 500 runs and makes some swerved calls despite the team being disadvantaged in the previous mega auction.
Now that Ganguly is approaching the final stages in his career, he decides to give one final push for the coveted title in 2012 and KKR trust him once again, given his track record. Meanwhile, Kochi Tuskers Kerala have been banned from the IPL, with all the players moving to new teams. Dhoni knows Gautam Gambhir’s approach in and out, having captained him in the latter’s glorious years with the Indian team, and it is then Gambhir gets an unofficial call from CSK.
Gambhir is more than happy to join the defending champions as his game would suit to the demands of CSK and the slow wickets of Chepauk but he requests the franchise to bring in Sunil Narine to the squad as well, having faced difficulties in facing him in the West Indies tour preceding the IPL. Dhoni is fine with the arrangement as CSK go all guns blazing in the player auction and conveniently manage to secure their services too.
Ganguly, on the other hand, starts to show rustiness and the captaincy blunders that defined his later years starts to show. With him bringing Murali Kartik as the main spin option doesn’t do any good to KKR’s prospects, with the fast wickets bringing the KKR’s structure down. When the team travels finally after a host of matches at home, the side is already down on confidence, they are battered again.
Parallelly, the Dhoni-Gambhir combo reaps dividends right from the word go for Chennai Super Kings and in the encounter against KKR, the duo adds an unbeaten 160 runs to leave KKR shell-shocked. Ganguly uses all his resources to befall the duo but his lack of trust on left-arm pacers means he used Jacques Kallis in the middle-overs when Kartik could have been a useful option. After the loss to CSK, KKR are rattled morally which allows RCB, DD and Punjab to secure their own bragging rights.
Even though a couple of wins towards the backend of the league stage helps them avoid being the wooden-spooners, a sixth position finish is an anti-climatic end to the Ganguly era in Indian cricket. He retires immediately with RCB, CSK, DD, and MI being the four teams qualified for the play-offs.
In the first Qualifier, CSK face Mumbai - their soon-to-be-archrivals - and even though Rohit Sharma scores an unbeaten 60, on the back of a quickfire Gambhir 80, CSK romp home in a canter, seizing the place in the finals. Meanwhile, inspired by a Morne Morkel masterclass with the ball, Delhi Daredevils get the better of RCB, who are off the track from the first ball bowled, to ensure a DD-CSK final. After breaking the partnership with Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag is lacklustre in his performance and such has been the woes that he is not even a sure-starter for the final.
However, dropping the captain in the final is not the option but then the worry goes manifold. With Dhoni being on point with his moves, DD have a mountain to climb and they eventually achieve the unthinkable thanks to a Glenn Maxwell masterclass after the powerplay. DD reach a total of 213 runs and CSK can’t just get on with their slow game.
Gambhir knows DD inside-out and Dhoni banks on the southpaw to make the plunge in the final. Gambhir bats cautiously to take the game with him and a sudden change in accelerator sees him and Suresh Raina adding runs comfortably. The game reaches the touching distance with 13 needed off the last over, with Dhoni at the crease.
Irfan Pathan has the responsibility of bowling the last over and Dhoni makes his intentions clear by hitting the long hop for a six. However, Pathan’s slower ball does the trick as Dhoni is castled, leaving CSK in a spot of bother. The equation comes down to 3 off the last ball, but Pathan holds his ace dear and delivers a pinch-perfect yorker to end the game and help guide DD to their first-ever title.
While the team sets off for a celebration, one person is not really happy. The winning captain Virender Sehwag’s form has been deserted and he announces stepping down from the captaincy for the following season. Delhi Daredevils are surprised but they also know the next captain is ready in their wings - Glenn Big Show Maxwell is the new captain for 2013, almost as a poetic end to the 2012 season.