The Indian Premier League returned to India after being forced to stage a majority of the last two editions overseas. Moreover, the spectators returned to the stands, with Wankhede Stadium’s upper tiers virtually turning into a sea of yellow.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s unbeaten fifty gave the spectators more reason to rejoice than dancing to the beats of popular Bollywood numbers. Still, it was Umesh Yadav and Ajinkya Rahane who ensured that the night of comebacks belonged to the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Riding on Umesh’s fiery spell, the Knight Riders stifled the Chennai Super Kings innings. So much was the impact of Umesh’s twin strikes upfront and the good work of mystery spinners Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy in the middle that the Super Kings could never take off until the last two overs. Despite Dhoni and captain Ravindra Jadeja amassing 32 runs off Shivam Mavi and Andre Russell combined, all that the defending champion could manage was 131 for five.
Rahane, having been bought at a base price in the player auction after seldom getting a game with Delhi Capitals, then justified the faith shown in him by his new franchise. With a trademark knock, he ensured the Knight Riders avenged last year’s loss in the final without a stutter.
Rahane’s pull off Adam Milne that sailed into the second tier over square-leg will be remembered as much as Dhoni’s whip off Russell in the last over of the essay. Despite Rahane perishing six short of a deserving fifty, captain Shreyas Iyer ensured the Knight Riders crossed the line with nine balls and six wickets to spare.
The tone of the night was set up by Umesh. Having been benched in 2021 by Delhi Capitals, Umesh marked his return to his former team in style. Umesh’s pace and swing were too hot to handle for the CSK openers.
Ruturaj Gaikwad edged one to Nitish Rana at first slip while Devon Conway’s IPL debut resulted in a chip to mid-on in the fifth over after being troubled by Umesh all along.
Robin Uthappa and Ambati Rayudu did look at their best, but Uthappa was sharply stumped by Sheldon Jackson, who last played an IPL game in 2017, down the leg off Varun.
Dhoni then joined Jadeja in the middle but both the seasoned batters were tied down by a clinical Knight Riders unit. In a bid to stretch the innings deep, the duo avoided playing the big shots. But the Knight Riders were so impressive that they didn’t let Dhoni and Jadeja rotate strike.