The quintessential story of underdogs rising to the top with minimum backing, a young team and determined folks - on this day in 2008 Rajasthan Royals beat all odds to win the inaugural season of the Indian Premier league beating Chennai Super Kings by three wickets in an enthralling final at Dr DY Patil Sports Academy, in Mumbai.
The term "fairytale" is used liberally when triumphs are spoken of but Rajasthan's win in the inaugural season was a fairytale in every sense of the word. The likes of Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians had stacked their sides with international stars and support staff. Rajasthan, on the other hand, did not have a lot of heavyweights in their setup. They did have the likes of Shane Warne, who served as coach-cum-captain and Graeme Smith in their side but with an otherwise very inexperienced lineup not many gave Rajasthan a chance.
But the way Warne transformed a "weak side" into a winning unit was heartening. He put his faith in all the youngsters in the team and each one of them stood tall. The unknown entities like Yusuf Pathan, Shane Watson, Ravindra Jadeja and Swapnil Asnodkar all blossomed under Warne's captaincy. Pakistan's Sohail Tanvir turned out to be the trump card in the Rajasthan lineup with utmost backing from medium-pacer Siddharth Trivedi.
Rajasthan did not have the best of starts to their IPL with a loss to Delhi Daredevils but they quickly got their campaign back on track winning their next five encounters. What went their way in the entire season was every single player contributing in some way or the other.
Against all odds, Rajasthan topped the group standings with 11 wins out of 14 games. Their dismantling of Delhi by 105 runs in the first semifinal should have been clear indications that they are strong contenders for the title but very few gave them a chance against the MS Dhoni-led Chennai.
Rajasthan won the toss and elected to field and it was clearly evident that the two best sides of the tournament had made it to the final. While Chennai did not lose a wicket in their first five overs, Rajasthan made sure they did not let the Men in Yellow take the game away. Yusuf, with his slow off-spin took out openers S Vidyut and Parthiv Patel in quick succession but Suresh Raina and Albie Morkel steadied the ship.
Yusuf struck again getting rid of Morkel for 16. Raina and Dhoni, however, made sure the scoring rate never dipped too much. The left-hander struck 43 in 30 deliveries, while the ice-cool Dhoni provided the late big hits during an unbeaten 17-ball 29 to take the score to 163/5 at the end of the 20-over mark.
Rajasthan missed the services of Smith in the final and the void was felt at the top with Neeraj Patel falling for just 2. Asnodkar and Kamran Akmal then both fell in quick time as Rajasthan slipped to 42/3 in 6.4 overs.
This is when Watson and Yusuf stepped up. Both batsmen had throughout the season bailed their team out at different times and the final was the perfect chance to enhance their reputation. The duo took the attack to the opposition as they collected a boundary almost every over.
Yusuf did get a life on 13 when Raina fluffed a chance at midwicket but barring that it was a flawless innings from the Baroda lad. He thumped Muttiah Muralitharan for two consecutive sixes before giving Lakshmipathy Balaji a similar treatment.
Rajasthan had reached a fairly secure 107/3 at the end of the 13-over mark but Chennai true to their spirit hit back. Muralitharan struck twice, getting rid of Watson (28) and Mohammed Kaif (12) before Morkel sent Jadeja back for a first-ball duck. Yusuf carried on his merry ways, bringing up his half-century off just 35 balls but a needless run out in the 18th over meant Rajasthan needed 18 runs to win off the last two overs with just three wickets left.
Makhaya Ntini bowled the 19th over and he kept things tight conceding just six of his first five balls but Warne struck a four off the last ball to bring the equation back in Rajasthan's favour. Sohail Tanvir and Warne held their nerves and with a single needed to win off the final ball the former dispatched a low full toss wide of mid-on to secure a famous win for his side by three wickets.
Rajasthan through their course of the win had unearthed a lot of gems. While Dhoni is often credited with giving Jadeja the platform at CSK, it was at Rajasthan where the 'Rockstar' was first discovered. Watson, named Man of the Series for his 472 runs at 47.20 and 17 wickets at 22.52 soon after became a regular part of the Australian side. Yusuf too found a spot in both the T20 and ODI teams for India.
While Rajasthan's batting was good, it was their bowling that really got them through. Three of the top five highest-wicket takers that season were part of the Rajasthan franchise - Tanvir (22 wickets), Warne (19 wickets), Watson (17 wickets).
Tanvir finished the season with a whopping 22 wickets in 11 outings striking every 11.2 deliveries. His figures of 6/14 in a group game against Chennai were the best-ever in the tournament for 11 years before Mumbai's Alzarri Joseph claimed the record.
Yusuf's belligerent batting too became the talk of the town. Coming into bat at the end, he often provided the much-needed impetus. His strike-rate of 179 in the season was only bettered by Virender Sehwag, who struck at 184.6 (min 100 balls) for Delhi.
Rajasthan's story of beating all odds to win the title got them a nomination for the Team of the Year at the Laureus Sports Awards and while they got into numerous controversies later on, they will always be remembered for how they lifted the inaugural edition of the IPL when no one gave them a chance.
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