When the history of the IPL will be written, the Brendon McCullum’s 155 will definitely steal the show. But it will also be remembered for the “Rajasthan Royals” who became the first team to win IPL. A team that was bought for the lowest price and full of youngsters lead by a spin wizard, but aging and retired one. A team with new faces, like they bought the leftovers. And that team, those leftovers, that aging spin wizard went on to become the first winner of IPL. The ultimate fairy-tale ending if there was one.
So how did that happen? For starters, nobody gave them the chance. And the way Delhi Daredevils thrashed them in the first game, it all felt like writing on the wall. But RR had youth, exuberance & they had nothing to lose. They were fearless. One win was followed by another, and an occasional loss was dealt with a huge win in the next game. Before anyone could notice, they won 11 of the remaining 13 games and stormed into the Semis and then finals.
And all that happened, because of the contributions from the players many called leftovers, rookies. Swapnil Asnodkar and Graeme Smith gave them the flashy starts. Yousuf Pathan back then was the Andree Russell of that season. He was the x-factor RR needed. Ravindra Jadeja was bought as an under 19 kid and he delivered way more than what people expected from him.
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But every champion team has an MVP. For Rajasthan Royals, Shane Watson was the MVP that year. Most runs, most wickets for RR, he lit up the tournament with his blazing stroke play and wicket-taking spells. In bowling, Tanvir bamboozled the batsmen with his bizarre action & variations. And as cliché, as it sounds, it was a complete team performance for them that year.
Spin Wizard “Shane Warne”
But you need a leader. No matter how good your team is, you need a leader. And for RR at the start, they didn’t even have the team, which was fancied by many, so the captain’s role was more crucial and it was spin wizard Shane Warne.
He came in the IPL, as a retired legend. Leading the side with low on experience, and much lower expectations. Taking a charge of the least favorite team, losing the first game by a huge margin, and then lifting the trophy. It was a delusional dream, far away from reality, a miracle. But Shane Warne and his boys did it. He groomed players in a matter of matches, gave them confidence, and backed them to the hilt.
The journey of Rajasthan Royals in final in IPL 2008
In finals though, they came against a certain MS Dhoni and his Chennai Super Kings. A team that would become a cult in the next few years. Batting first, CSK made 163. RR fumbled in the chase and were 42 for 3 at one stage. And then Watson and Yusuf Pathan brought RR back in the game only to throw it away at the end with a flurry of wickets.
18 of last 12 balls with the tail in the middle, the odds were in favor of CSK. Ntini almost bowled a match-winning penultimate over by only giving 6 in the first 5 balls. RR needed a boundary. To keep the hopes alive. To cross the line no one thought they will even see. And fittingly Warne was on strike.
Ntini bowled a good length ball. Warne backed away and crunched the ball through the covers. CSK’s shoulders dropped. Rajasthan dugout was elated. So, when Sohail Tanvir hit the winning runs, the avalanche of emotions was there to see for everyone. Rajasthan Royals became the first team to win IPL.
Future of IPL
That campaign of Rajasthan royals taught us many things. The IPL was here to stay. Many who thought the IPL will fade away understood what immense impact it will have on the game in the future. And finally, even if CSK would have won that game, the IPL would have been still a huge hit. But RR lifting the trophy and becoming the first team to win IPL was so symbolic of what IPL was going to be. A tournament where miracles are not far away from reality.