Mumbai Indians won the Indian Premier League title for the first time on Sunday night, setting the stage for Sachin Tendulkar to bow out of the competition with a winner’s medal that had proved elusive for six years.
“This is my last IPL and a perfect way to end… I’ve got to be realistic here, I’ve enjoyed my six seasons with MI and it’s been a fantastic journey, especially this season was superb,” Tendulkar said after watching his team seal a 23-run victory over Chennai Super Kings.To his left stood another cricket great; Ricky Ponting. The Australian was signed by Mumbai Indians this season, but he has spent more time appearing in bad television commercials than on the pitch. However, his influence cannot be understated; the franchise certainly benefited from his winning presence.Sunday night, both Ponting and Tendulkar sat on the sidelines in Eden Gardens as Mumbai Indians posted a total of 148 for nine, largely thanks to some terrific hitting by the West Indian Kieron Pollard, who finished the innings with two stunning sixes from the last two deliveries. His 60 not out earned him man-of-the-match.
Mumbai Indians had got off to a bad start, slipping to 16 for three at one stage, but Chennai Super Kings fared even worse in reply, losing the two key wickets of Michael Hussey and Suresh Raina in the first over, bowled by Lasith Malinga, back on form after a disappointing tournament by his high standards.S. Badrinath was then out for a duck (0) in the second over, leaving the 2010 and 2011 IPL winners in big trouble on three for three. Murali Vijay and Dwayne Bravo – who had taken four wickets in Mumbai’s innings, lifting his tournament total to 32 – tried to steady the chase, but to no avail. Bravo was out in the sixth over. Ravindra Jadeja followed almost immediately after, for a second ball duck. Vijay was then out for 18.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni had dropped himself down the order to No. 7 and he fought bravely for his team. The captain of India ensured the 61,000 spectators in Eden Gardens didn’t go home unsatisfied by a one-sided final. He picked singles and clubbed boundaries as his remaining teammates lost their wickets. But you could see in his eyes that this was a lost cause.Dhoni was still there at the end, on 63 not out, with his team 23 runs short of the target. Chennai Super Kings, the most successful team in the history of the IPL, had lost a second consecutive final.It was sweet revenge for Mumbai Indians, beaten by Chennai Super Kings in the 2010 final. Tendulkar had played in that match, scoring 48 runs, but he ended on the losing team. He didn’t contribute with the bat in this year’s final, but he still got the biggest cheers of the night in Kolkata.
It’s no surprise that Tendulkar declared this his last IPL. His career, sadly but inevitably, is winding down. He may play a few more T20s – Mumbai Indians will feature in the Champions League T20 in India last this year – but Tendulkar doesn’t dominate this cricket landscape like he once did. The likes of Dhoni, Pollard and Chris Gayle rule in T20 cricket, as Ponting admitted on Sunday.“We’re just trying to keep up with the young guys actually. When you see Pollard and Dhoni and those guys hitting the ball into the top of the stand, we’re just trying to keep up with them,” Ponting said after the final.
His compatriot Hussey, for once an opponent on Sunday, might have something to say about that, given that the 38-year-old was the top scorer in the IPL this year, with 733 runs. But age catches up with everyone. Tendulkar is wise and mature enough to admit that. It’s far harder for him to accept his playing career is coming to an end than it is for even the most die-hard fan.Tendulkar will still hope to play Test cricket for India. His international career began in November 1989 as the Berlin Wall was being torn down. In India, Rajiv Gandhi was losing his grip on power and the economic liberalization of the country was still two years away.All good things come to an end. At least Tendulkar’s IPL exit, like his batting, is perfectly timed.