They say you never know the importance of a person until he is gone, and Kolkata Knight Riders experienced the same feeling on Saturday as Chennai Super Kings smashed them en route to claiming their second CLT20 title. Cricket may be a team game, but in the T20 one person can make a significant difference. And Sunil Narine has been that bowler for KKR over the last many seasons. He has held the bowling attack together, controlling things by either claiming key wickets or keeping the runs down. In his absence, Kolkata's bowling was clueless against the Suresh Raina onslaught.
Raina, yes, he was the man who made a complete mockery of Kolkata's bowling, and never allowed them even a sniff at the title. The target was a challenging one, which became tougher following Dwayne Smith's early exit. However, Raina demonstrated why have is such a great T20 player. He looked in complete control out in the middle as he pulled, drove, cut and sliced his way to a memorable hundred. The extent of his wonderful form can be gauged from the fact that every time he stepped out of the crease, the ball was deposited over the fence, even mishits.
If Kolkata had to make a match out of the final, it was upto their spinners to restrict Chennai. But, this is where Raina was so good. He never allowed the slow bowlers to settle in, and thus took the game completely away from them. The faster men hadn't impressed for Kolkata in the earlier games, and although Pat Cummins bowled with pace to get the early breakthrough, they weren't impressive again. As a complete bowling outfit, KKR were outdone by Chennai. And, while Raina did all the major damage, Brendon McCullum must also be credited for hanging him and giving him company, in spite of not being in great touch.
In hindsight, Kolkata would rue the fact that they did not get more runs on the board batting first. They had gotten off to an excellent start courtesy another belligerent opening partnership starring Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir. The KKR skipper had been inconsistent going in the final, but he raised his game with a super knock in the final. He literally blasted the Chennai bowling to get KKR off to an excellent start. Uthappa was equally fluent, but this time he was playing the supporting role in the fantastic opening stand. KKR should have crossed 200 from there. They didn't, and in the end, it proved costly.
While Suresh Raina was undoubtedly the star of the day for Chennai in the final, the other contribution that cannot be ignored at any cost is that of Pawan Negi. With KKR looking set to post a massive target, it was he who set them back, picking up five wickets, including three towards the fag end of the innings. And, while that did not completely derail KKR's innings, as the faster men kept conceding runs at the other end, it definitely cost them some crucial runs, which made a major difference in the end. Mind you, the way Raina batted, 200 might not have been enough. But then, you never know. The psychological impact of a bigger score could have seen both teams perform differently in the second half.
--By A CricketAnalyst