It was a night to remember for Kolkata Knight Riders as they put themselves into the IPL 5 final after overcoming leaders Delhi Daredevils in Pune on Tuesday.
For four years, KKR tried and tried but could not succeed. In the fifth season, finally Kolkata's fans and their owners can rejoice for making their maiden appearance in an IPL final.
The team splurged huge money on Gautam Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan last year in a bid to succeed. Though, they almost came close to winning the trophy in 2011, that eluded and finished third.
In 2011's auction, Gambhir became the costliest IPL player at a price-tag of $2.4 million. Yusuf was close behind Gambhir with $2.1 million.
With a combined investment of $4.5 million, KKR were banking on this pair to take them to the title.
The dream to be realised, is just one match away from the Knights. Though Yusuf had a quiet season so far, he played a match-winning knock on Tuesday night with an unbeaten 40, his highest this year.
The man behind KKR's successful journey so far in IPL 5, is captain Gambhir. As the cliche goes, he has led from the front. What a tournament he is having.
The left-hander from Delhi is the second highest run scorer in IPL 5 with 588 runs (after Qualifier 1). He has proved his worth as a leader and batsman.
Almost in all matches this season, Gambhir's batting has been impressive. His commitment to Team KKR is unquestionable.
When he played at his original home ground Feroz Shah Kotla against Daredevils and won, this is what he said: “I am a Calcutta boy now and Eden Gardens is my home ground. Kotla is perhaps where I spent most of my time, but my heart belongs to the Eden. But it’s always nice to come back to my hometown.”
Franchise owners and their fans will always like their players whole-hearted commitment. Every team would love to have a cricketer like Gambhir.
KKR's bowling coach Wasim Akram acknowledged Gambhir's contribution as a skipper after entering the final.
“I am happy to be associated with KKR. It's a great bunch of boys, love to stick around with each other. Long story what's changed from the first four years, but to cut it short, its all because of a very good captain and an enthusiastic owner,” the former Pakistani great said.
“Several factors have contributed to KKR doing well this season. Apart from being consistent, Gautam Gambhir has been the main reason for our success. He has been an inspirational leader and handled the side well. His attitude has rubbed on to the players and his bowling changes have been brilliant. Gambhir has been a classic example of how a captain should be. He leads by example and swears by his teammates.,” Akram wrote in his column for a website.
Apart from Gambhir, offspinner Sunil Narine has made a huge impact, not only on KKR but on whole IPL. His bag of tricks have bamboozled many top batsmen in this Twenty20 league.
Narine was the biggest buy for KKR this season in auction. He was picked by KKR for $700,000. He has turned to be a smart investment. Narine is second in the highest wicket-takers list with 24 scalps at 11.95 runs per wicket. His economy rate of 5.20 is the best.
All-rounder Jacques Kallis has done well both with bat and ball. His 340 runs and 14 wickets put in the top all-rounders of IPL. There are not many players in that bracket, who score more than 300 runs and 10 wickets.
Laxmipathy Balaji (11 wickets), Shakib Al Hasan (11) and Rajat Bhatia (12) also have wickets to show. Brendon McCullum (289 runs) and Manoj Tiwary (251) too are in the top run scorer of the team.
The success formula for KKR looks like a collective effort with Gambhir at the helm. Gambhir has definitely been the shining star of KKR's campaign.
Fans will hope that he shines brighter than ever in Chennai on May 27 and holds the trophy aloft.