We did it for Balaji - Gambhir
Manvinder Bisla, who had played one IPL game in the last month, played the final only because Kolkata Knight Riders were forced to rejig their combination, after L Balaji failed to recover from a hamstring injury. To accommodate a second fast bowler in Brett Lee, Brendon McCullum sat out, and Bisla was brought in to keep wicket and open the batting. He went on to score a career-best 89 off 48 balls, "one of the best Twenty20 innings" Gautam Gambhir had seen, and led Knight Riders to their maiden IPL title in their fifth attempt.
Chasing 191 on Chennai's home turf, Knight Riders were in early trouble when Gambhir fell in the first over. Bisla, however, began to ease the pressure immediately and did not stop. "It was one of the best Twenty20 innings I've seen," Gambhir said after the game. "Especially under pressure [against the] defending champions in their backyard, in conditions that suit them, getting 90 odd in 40 off balls shows his character."
Before the final, Bisla had played only six matches this season. He had begun with 46 but was dropped after his form tapered off and Knight Riders were tinkering to find their preferred combination. Today his selection was forced and he put on 136 runs with Jacques Kallis in 13.4 overs.
"I don't think I have hit as well, good to play this in the finals to help win it for my team," a composed Bisla said as victory celebrations broke out around him. "There was no plan, wanted to go out there to enjoy after Gambhir got out. I felt a little tense but after getting one or two to the fence, I got the confidence. Kallis is a legend, batting along side him was a great opportunity, he asked me to keep it simple and get going."
Through the tournament Knight Riders relied on Gambhir to lead the batting and on Sunil Narine to spearhead the bowling. Today they were forced to find other performers after Narine went for 0 for 37, his most expensive IPL figures, and Gambhir fell for 2.
"It was a team effort, a captain is only as good as his team, this has been my stand throughout," Gambhir said. "A successful team makes a captain, a successful captain doesn't make a team. I always said, if we play to potential, we can't be beaten. There were a lot of questions asked about the middle order not clicking. I always had a strong belief that it would click at the right time."
At the post-match press conference, Gambhir said the late cameos from Manoj Tiwary and Shakib Al Hasan played a critical role. "It's not about how you start, it's about how you finish. Those cameos from Manoj and Shakib won the game for us."
Among the people most relieved with his team's win, Gambhir said, was the co-owner Shah Rukh Khan. "He's been a great owner. Not even once in this entire tournament has he put any pressure on the team, and he hasn't interfered in any of the cricketing matters. That's the kind of owner you want."
Gambhir also had praise for Balaji, who was a vital cog in their bowling attack, taking 11 wickets in eight games with an economy of 5.40, before missing the final. "Bala is the unsung hero, he's been brilliant all through. We were playing for him. Missing such an important game in front of his home crowd was always disappointing, but it was very satisfying winning it for him.
"Only one word comes to mind, mission accomplished."