On the back of India’s triumphant campaign in the 2007 World T20, it was felt that there was a need to keep the frenzy around the country alive. It thus gave birth to the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008. T20 was a relatively unknown format in India. The only glimpse of the shortest format one had witnessed within the country was the India Cricket League (ICL), which had initially garnered interest before India played their first-ever T20 International (T20I) in a one-off match against South Africa, thereby entering the 2007 World T20 as the least experienced international side.
MS Dhoni’s side went on to hand India a World Cup in 2007 after all, following the debacle in the Caribbean not so long ago. T20s was considered to be a young man’s game initially and hence big guns like Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly asked not to be considered for the tournament. However, that theory would go on to be quashed by many players in years to come.
When the IPL began on April 18, 2008, there was a sense of excitement among the fans. A format that offers a result in a span of 40 overs, thereby giving the license for the batsmen to go for the big, explosive shots, which consequently translated into entertainment for those watching. In simple words, T20 is a fast paced Ashutosh Gowariker movie.
However, in the years to come, the audience soon discovered that bowlers too had a say with slow, disguised balls, knuckle-balls, back-of-the-hand deliveries etc.. It was the need of the hour considering how batting over the years had evolved – be it with the reverse hits, reverse sweeps or even the scoops over the wicketkeeper. It was only fair that the bowlers too came up with variations of their own.
Initially, T20s was seen more as a containing game for the bowlers. But soon enough, it was found that picking up wickets was the best way to contain. While hitting big sixes was considered entertainment now, even the bowlers too get their due credit – be it pacers or spinners.
Just as Yuvraj Singh proved that hitting six sixes in an over is possible, Lakshmipathy Balaji in the first edition of the IPL, proved that a hat-trick in the shortest format too is not out of the question – A feat he achieved on this day in 2008.
It was the business end of the tournament and Chennai Super Kings had already won five out of the eight matches. After winning the first four matches without much trouble, CSK had lost three in a row, before bouncing back against Delhi Daredevils, against whom they won by three wickets off the final ball of the match. Their opponents Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) too had as many wins as CSK and therefore the contest became all the more enticing as the winner would have an upper hand in making it through to the semi-final.
KXIP won the toss and elected to field. It looked like the right decision as they managed to get rid of CSK’s openers Stephen Fleming and Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan within the first three overs. Suresh Raina (26), S Badrinath (64) and MS Dhoni (60*) though ensured that the hosts reached a formidable 181 for 4. KXIP had a long batting line-up consisting of Yuvraj Singh, Mahela Jayawardene, Ramnaresh Sarwan and the in-form Shaun Marsh at their disposal and was in no way, was this game going to be a cakewalk for CSK. When the two teams met earlier in the tournament at Mohali, KXIP scored 207 against CSK, but still fell short by 33 runs thanks to a masterclass from Michael Hussey (116).
Openers James Hopes and Marsh needed to get KXIP off to a good start to stand a chance. Hopes had smashed 10 fours and three sixes on his way to a 33-ball 71 in the previous game against CSK and a similar innings would see his team make a strong case for a place in the semis.
However, Hopes could not do the job this time and Karan Goel too perished soon. Sarwan played a brilliant second fiddle to Marsh, who looked in exquisite form as the duo put on 66 for the third wicket to give KXIP a chance. But once Sarwan was dismissed for 20, Marsh (58) too did not last long and from 95 for 2 KXIP collapsed to 115 for 6 with Jayawardene and Yuvraj too back in the hut.
KXIP still needed 67 more to win from the final five overs with all their star batsmen back in the pavilion. In stepped Irfan Pathan – who proved he was no mug with the bat. He struck the ball cleanly and seemed to be the only thorn in CSK’s flesh, but it was too much to do for Pathan as KXIP needed 27 more to win from the final over.
The over started well for KXIP as Pathan managed to smash a six and two off the first two deliveries from Balaji, who had brilliant figures of 2 for 16 from three overs at the start of the 20th. He had picked up the wicket of Sarwan, earlier, which started KXIP’s mini collapse and followed that up with the big scalp of Marsh.
The night got even better for Balaji, who was playing only his second T20. After conceding eight from the first two balls off the final over, he got the wicket of Pathan for 40 off just 18, caught at deep square leg by Raina with a short ball. The batsmen had crossed and Piyush Chawla was the next victim – a full ball smashed to Chamara Kapugedara at long-off for 17 off 15. With victory all but confirmed, next batsman VRV Singh, looking to hit a short ball outside off out of the park, could only top-edge it to Dhoni. The CSK team mobbed Balaji, who not just picked up a five-wicket haul, but also became the first to pick up a hat-trick in the IPL.
Balaji went on to pick up 11 wickets from nine matches in the tournament – only behind Albie Morkel and Manpreet Gony, who had taken 17 wickets apiece.
CSK went on to win just two more from their remaining five matches, but that was good enough for them to seal a place in the top three
KXIP on the other hand won five out of their remaining six matches and finished one place above CSK.
However, in the semis, CSK once again got the better of KXIP but the Chennai franchise lost to the Shane Warne-led Rajasthan Royals in the final.
15 more players have gone on to pick up hat-tricks in IPL. Amit Mishra has the most with three.
In the years to come, CSK have gone to win the IPL thrice, while KXIP’s best finish was in 2012 when they finished runners-up.