2008 IPL: A LOOK BACK
Time flies – 10 seasons of the Indian Premier League have gone by. Yet the inaugural year is still fresh in one’s memory. For there is a sense of romance associated with firsts – as in life, so in sport – which is what makes it all the more memorable.
Chennai Super Kings finished runners-up to Rajasthan Royals in 2008 in what is one of the closest summit clashes in the competition’s history – decided on the last ball.
“It was a great year for CSK,” recollected former India pacer Lakshmipathy Balaji, who recorded the competition’s first hat-trick (against Kings XI Punjab) after returning from a potentially career-ending injury.
“It (IPL) was a new concept, in fact Twenty20 cricket itself was still in its nascent stage and, come to think of it, my first official T20 game was the IPL,” added 36-year-old Balaji, who debuted in the second half of the inaugural season.
CSK got off to a winning start, against Kings XI Punjab in Mohali, thanks in main to Michael Hussey’s blistering 116* off 54 balls. And their fourth straight win, against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, was lit up by MS Dhoni’s 30-ball 65.
The Lions, however, lost their next three games.
“And so, we had to win four out of the remaining seven games to quality for the Playoffs,” Balaji said. “There were no clear favourites as the competition was in its first year,” added the Tamil Nadu bowling coach.
CSK won their next two outings, a clinical display against Delhi Daredevils followed by the home game against Kings XI Punjab in which Balaji turned in a match-winning five for 24, including the last-over hat-trick.
After dismissing Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shaun Marsh in the same over midway through the innings, nippy Balaji signed off on a superb performance by sending back Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla and VRV Singh off consecutive deliveries.
“I’m grateful to MS (Dhoni) for giving me a chance, as it was a comeback for me in many ways after the injury,” Balaji said. “I can remember the hat-trick like it was yesterday, and importantly the win put us firmly in the Playoff race.”
As it turned out, the Lions sealed a Playoff berth only after another wobble that saw them lose three out of four games before beating Deccan Chargers in their final league match in Hyderabad.
CSK finished third on the league table with 16 points (8 wins) from 14 matches, behind toppers Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab.
A comprehensive nine-wicket win over Kings XI Punjab in the semi-final at the Wankhede Stadium set the stage for the summit clash.
CSK posted a competitive 163/5 in the final at the DY Patil Stadium after being asked to bat first. Royals rode on a combative fifty by Yusuf Pathan and it boiled down to eight runs off the last over, bowled by Balaji.
“It all happened so quickly,” said Balaji. “I’d say the cricket world was still figuring out Twenty20 back then. And the final went down to the wire,” he concluded.