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Heartbreak for Pune but the IPL brand continues to be robust and vibrant

It’s indeed a bitter pill to swallow for each of these RPS cricketers who had turned things around quite miraculously only to fall short by a run and that too quite miraculously.

Updated: May 23, 2017, 12.41 AM IST
The morning after. All of the players I managed to speak to had not slept. Not even one of them. While some were at the airport going back to Australia or to England for the Champions Trophy, others were getting ready to get back to their respective cities. But each of them had the very same thing to say — 1 run. And then there was a pause.

It’s indeed a bitter pill to swallow for each of these Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) cricketers who had turned things around quite miraculously only to fall short by a run and that too quite miraculously. They knew they had lost an opportunity. A huge chance to create history. With all due credit to Rohit Sharma and his boys, it was RPS’ match to lose and they lost it.

“7 off 5 balls and we should’ve got it. We thought we were home and dry. One hit and it was over. But that’s cricket isn’t it. Nothing is over till it is actually over”, said one of their bowling stars while not wanting to be named. His bowling partner in the power play concurred. “When Steve (Smith) hit that shot we thought it was done. An inch here and there and it was a boundary. We were not destined”, he lamented.

Sport, it was evident, can be cruel. There are no retakes. It was drama, pure and unadulterated. RPS couldn’t have come any closer and Mumbai Indians (MI) literally got themselves out of jail. In football terms it was a 90th minute equaliser followed by a winning goal with just minutes of extra time remaining.

Steve Smith, who had the best four months of his life in India and had scored at will right through, fell short by one shot. Another half-century under pressure and the captain had nearly taken his team over the line. Nearly. And that difference between nearly and reality will haunt a visibly emotional Smith for days to come. Having been given captaincy, he couldn’t have asked for more.

A team that had ended rock bottom in 2016 and started with one win in four games, won 10 out of 12 matches and made the IPL final. Smith hadn’t put a foot wrong till that one extravagant stroke against Mitchell Johnson. He had deposited the absolutely brilliant Jasprit Bumrah into the stands and switch-hit Krunal Pandya over square leg to ensure the asking rate was never beyond them. With Tiwari hitting a final over boundary, it was all within reach till Smith holed out to Ambati Rayudu. Cricket, once again, had made fools of everyone around and proved to one and all that there is nothing bigger than the game itself and it is indeed one of glorious uncertainty.

There’s always a lot of talk about bookies trying to fix IPL games. Some bookies have been arrested for trying to tamper the wicket in Kanpur earlier in the season.

The final was literally a challenge to these bookies. Can a final like this be fixed? Can action like this ever be scripted? Can you even imagine something like this can happen? That’s why cricket is the biggest winner this IPL. Many have said it was a boring tournament. Not much drama or controversy.

While they are right, the final is a huge plus for the brand to demonstrate that ultimately bookies and crooks will always fall short.

No bookie can ever conceive a scenario in the manner that it unfolded in Hyderabad and cricket, the sport, has given the corrupt a real slap. The game, which enthrals millions in India, will always be the winner.

Despite all the scepticism and the controversy the IPL brand continues to be robust and vibrant. Stadiums have been full and the demand for tickets hasn’t lessened in the 10 years. Come the mega auction of 2018, several Indian players who’ve managed to make the tournament their own this year will make mega bucks justifying the tagline — the Indian Premier League.

And RPS? They won’t ever play the tournament. Done and dusted, they’ll go back proud having left an imprint on the tournament’s history. Whenever the history of the IPL is written, the season 10 final will stand out as one of the closest finals ever and all and sundry will say RPS did themselves proud before falling at the final step.

MI, on the other hand, will go from strength to strength. One of the most followed teams with a huge fan base stepped up when it mattered and showed pedigree under pressure. They had won the tournament before and knew what it was like to win big finals. The challenger had almost beaten the Champion on points till in the last few seconds of round 15 a knockout punch was landed. And in so doing brand IPL emerged as the biggest winner of them all.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of
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