Ravindra Jadeja swung the ball to the fine-leg fence and sprinted, leapt and punched the air in utter delight before being smothered by his teammates. He kept running until he reached Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who scooped him up. Frenzied celebrations rang out as the Chennai Super Kings basked in IPL glory Tuesday morning.
Jadeja was the man of the moment. The white knight who came on a fiery steed; the streetwise Hercules who fought the rising odds, as Bonnie Tyler’s song Holding Out for a Hero goes. He smashed a six and a four when 10 runs were required from two balls, and the last-ball win gave CSK their fifth IPL title to draw abreast of the Mumbai Indians.
Was Jadeja the hero of the win over the Gujarat Titans? Heroes, they were aplenty. All of them were minted in the searing heat of the Indian Premier League final.
Devon Conway could well be a hero. After all, he top-scored for CSK with 47 and fired the chase with a blistering opening wicket stand of 74 with Ruturaj Gaikwad. All that would have gone waste had Ajinkya Rahane not lifted the momentum with a 13-ball 27.
Ambati Rayudu made sure that his farewell match was memorable with an eight-ball 19 that whittled the target considerably. While Shivam Dube hit and missed to keep the CSK chase alive, Jadeja provided the finishing touches.
So, who’s the CSK hero? All the batters were heroes (Never mind captain Dhoni’s golden duck). They made amends for a poor bowling performance and pathetic fielding.
Gujarat went into the final as favourites. They were the dominant team of Season 16, and the final was at home: the Narendra Modi Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad. The stunning win over the Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 2 gave them more self-belief. They needed it after having lost Qualifier 1 to Chennai. Time for payback!
The postponement, rain delay and the prolific Shubman Gill’s dismissal did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm. The 214 built on Sai Sudarshan’s 96 and Wriddhiman Saha’s 54 looked like a winning total. Even when rain intervened to invoke the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method and make the target 171 from 15 overs, Gujarat’s title defence was never in danger. That was until CSK batted.
Not for nothing, they are called the Chennai Super Kings. Four titles, nine finals and 12 playoffs in 15 seasons tell us they are a champion side. A fifth title in the tenth final was a distinct possibility, even after the final spilt into the second day. And when it finished in the early hours of the third day, a beaming Dhoni held aloft the trophy before his delirious teammates joined him.
The last-ball thriller was a fitting finale to a season of 74 matches filled with nerve-jangling finishes and white-knuckle rides. In the end, Jadeja arrived when Chennai were holding out for a hero.
During the tournament, Jadeja was riled by Chennai fans, who pestered him to get out and make way for Thala (leader in Tamil) Dhoni at the crease. His response was some cryptic posts on social media and a match-winning haul in Qualifier 1. The fiery flourish in the final followed.
All the pain and heartaches eased as celebrations kicked into high gear. Jadeja thanked CSK’s Whistle Podu fan army for their continuous support. That was Jadeja’s way of saying that he’s forgiven them. With that, the rumours of a rift have been laid to rest.
Jadeja is a CSK hero.