2012, Chennai, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Stubble bristled, jaw locked & boy blazed

Chennai, May 27: The trick has tumbled out of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s hat and become Gautam Gambhir’s crown. Hail the purple revolution, the yellow empire’s over. Calcutta, it’s Kolkata. Await the Knights riding in with the cup that brimmeth over at long last.

For a fair part of the game it seemed tonight’s would have to be a korbo, lorbo story; the jeetbo bit would have to wait for another season. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings (CSK) had pummelled their way to 190, loftier than the par IPL score. The Kolkata Knight Riders’ (KKR) great hope and skipper was gone the first over, castled by Ben Hilfenhaus. Shah Rukh Khan looked like he had done well to wear a stubble to the final, it gave him an aptly morose visage.

It must take an actor to morph faces. The closer his Knights stumbled to the post, the more the stubble bristled, his fallen jaw fell into rock mode, he began to look like the gritty lead of Chak De India, against all odds. He may have planned the stubble to work either way and he may have planned well. This game could have gone either way.

In the end, it was tipped by a man who was not even meant to take the field. Manvinder Bisla was reluctantly written into the eleven; he took his chance wholesomely. Had it not been for his 89 off just 48, the gas to the crown would perhaps never have gathered behind the KKR chase.

It is praise enough for Bisla’s charge that he put his partner, the redoubtable Jacques Kallis, a critical 69 off 49, in the shade while he blistered on the park. The outsider came off on a night when neither of the KKR’s two great hopes came into the game. Gambhir misfired; Sunil Narine, named player of IPL 5 for his baffling abilities with the ball, failed to baffle.

A torrent of yellow had gushed into the newly opened Chepauk stands, churning up deafening decibels on a steamy night, whistling, beating drums, screaming so loud that they drowned the bursts of korbo, lorbo, jeetbo brought on by Bisla’s unlikely blaze.

Slumped in his chair after Gambhir went, the Bisla-Kallis tandem coaxed Shah Rukh back onto the rails, pumping the air, putting his palms together, egging his men as they coasted ahead of the run rate just for the loss of their captain.

It was not until the 14th over when the hiccups came: not one, not two but three in a row. Bisla gone for 89, his best IPL score, then Laxmi Ratan Shukla and then the fancied Yusuf Pathan to a fanciful skier that has more often been his bane than his boon. Suddenly, from 139 for one, the Knights were four down for 164.

And then Kallis perished, as much to the mounting run rate as to the cramps climbing up his muscles: 175 for five. Gambhir, still padded, bit off what remained of his fingernails in the dugout. Shah Rukh, poised on the balcony above him, clutched distraught daughter Suhana in consolation — it’s only a game, he seemed to tell her. But his face belied his consolation. This wasn’t only a game. This was about the crown the Knights had desperately chased five long years. It seemed within grasp one moment, out of it another.

They were still 16 runs adrift with seven balls remaining when Kallis perished and Manoj Tiwary walked in. Dhoni seemed in close intimation with his famed destiny, marshalling his fieldsmen, counselling his bowlers, puffing his chest out behind the wickets. The Chennai cat was among the purple pigeons, one more blow and the jugular was theirs.

But destiny bowed to delivery at the Chepauk tonight. The blow came from the other end, a four pulled off by Shakib al Hasan. And then two more to the square fence by Tiwary and it was time for Shah Rukh to cartwheel under a sky streaked with fireworks.

The KKR had packed its attendance with stars — Juhi Chawla, the ever-vivacious Usha Uthup, Genelia D’Souza, Riteish Deshmukh, Raima Sen. And peppered betwixt a fair dose of stardust.

Shah Rukh appeared midway through the CSK innings, stubbly, subdued under the onslaught he came in to. Murali Vijay, having provided the initial burst, had departed but Suresh Raina had joined Michael Hussey and the two pressed the pedal harder.

Less than an over into his innings, Raina sent Kallis soaring into the midwicket stands. He would hit four more trademark maximums before holding out at long on to Brett Lee off the last ball of the CSK outing. Dhoni’s men 190 to the good at the end, and it seemed Shah Rukh had done well to arrive with a morose stubble.

He leaned intently into the Kings’ bombardment of the fence, barely bothering to air-kiss a crowd that he knew was swung squarely against his band of purple. Wife Gauri sat behind him, a little wistful her husband had had no occasion to be his usual self on the rails. It would take quite a while for him to flash a smile, but when it did come at the end of the game, Gauri was even prepared to be coaxed into a little “chhammak chhallo” twist by her star husband.

The cricket bat was sometimes a carving knife in Hussey’s hands, sometimes a sledgehammer. He cut to the fence with canny footwork and slogged straight with power that belied his slight frame. The Aussie run machine got to his fifty pushing a single off Pathan and seemed to fire up Raina at the other end. The next three balls Raina blew to the fence — 4-6-4. The CSK were flying.

Raina got to 50 off 28 with a towering six off Narine. He finished with his best this season, 73 at double clip. The West Indian, who left batsmen beguiled all tournament, went for his worst — wicketless for 37, the most that he has conceded off his match quota.

The indifferent evening also robbed him of the purple cap by a whisker. Just one scalp would have taken him level with the DareDevils’ Morne Morkel. Not that he’d mind. He had the crown to wear. Like all of Calcutta.

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