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Underdogs bite back

Bangalore and Deccan seem to have a certain junior-senior synergy going, which teams like Chennai lack

Praveen Kumar and his team-mates get together, Bangalore Royal Challengers v Chennai Super Kings, IPL, second semi-final, Johannesburg, May 23, 2009
Bangalore: from barrel bottom to top tier © Associated Press

Well, well, well. Who'd have thunk it? Last year's losers out on top! It has a nice poetic ring to it in a way, and after Chennai's very lacklustre performance, I doubt even the most hardened Super Kings fan could deny the Challengers their semi-final win.

The disappointing thing is that it wasn't really an exciting match. I always tend to expect big things from semi-finals, especially after the long slog of grunt work it takes to get there. Perhaps not a sizzler like the first semi - where it wasn't so much Delhi losing as Adam Gilchrist single-handedly winning it for the Chargers, but I did expect a better fight. Down to the wire, maybe? Nailbiting moments of wondering maybe, maybe not, in with a chance, not?

There weren't any nailbiting moments in last night's match other than when Muttiah Muralitharan came out to bowl. He was literally the only magic factor in the entire Super Kings squad. Parthiv Patel and Matthew Hayden's explosive start was a brief cause for hope, but when they fell a kind of pall descended on the rest of the team. Everyone else looked like they hadn't eaten any breakfast. Either that or they'd just had enough and were ready to go home.

The problem with Chennai is that they've struggled with cohesiveness throughout. They were lauded as the team with the best chance to win, by everyone from Shane Warne to Kris Srikkanth, but to me they've really lacked oomph as a unit. There have been individual brilliant performances, most consistently by Hayden and Murali, but there hasn't really been that senior-junior synergy thing going on, which seems like the crucial driving force of both the Chargers and the Challengers.

So, while a deafening aiyyo was released by the entire state of Tamil Nadu as soon as Dr Mallya's men in red charged out on the field in joy, I was secretly thinking to myself, this is probably the best thing that could have happened to the Super Kings. Next time around they'll come back with a bit more fire in their bellies.

Besides, not all is lost. There is some cause for celebration. India has a new hero in the wonderfully young and talented Manish Pandey, and it has new reasons for celebrating an old hero - Anil Kumble, who seems like the nicest man on the planet, and possesses a pretty handy set of captaincy skills.

In the end, it's all about resurgences. The beauty of the underdog coming to the fore is that they know what the bottom of the barrel feels like and they have no desire to go back down there. With a lot of direction and a little bit of luck, the Chargers and the Challengers have managed to reverse their dismal IPL fortunes and are looking set to give us fireworks of only the finest quality in tonight's final.

For my part, I'm relieved that I don't have to back any team tonight. I can just kick back and hope that it's a befitting end to what's been a great six weeks of cricket. Enough said. May the most aggrieved team win!

Tishani Doshi is a writer and dancer based in Chennai

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