Kolkata Knight Riders' stunning run of 14 straight victories was brought to a cruel end by a rampant Chennai Super Kings in the final of the Champions League Twenty20, but skipper Gautam Gambhir lauded the IPL champions for showing exemplary character. (Scorecard | Highlights | Pics)
The Knight Riders were unbeaten right through the tournament and were delivered a crushing blow when mystery spinner Sunil Narine was ruled out of the title clash, after being reported for a suspect bowling action twice. In his absence, Suresh Raina smashed an unbeaten 109 off 62 balls and with cameos from Brendon McCullum and MS Dhoni, the Super Kings overhauled the target of 181 with eight wickets and nine balls to spare.
However, Gambhir was not heartbroken.
"All of us should be proud of each other, the way we showed character," said Gambhir at the post-match presentation ceremony. "The journey is not yet complete, it has just started. We have great characters, tough characters. The guys should be proud of what they have achieved. They will be better next year."
KKR with their 14 wins on the trot, now hold an IPL record, one that may not be broken easily. However, the final turned out to be completely lopsided and for a team that did incredibly well even without Shakib al Hasan and Morne Morkel, the result would have been a major disappointment. If anything, the ease with which the Super Kings chased down a stiff target showed how heavily Kolkata depended on Narine.
Perhaps, Gambhir realised it would be tough for his bowlers to restrict a star-studded CSK batting line-up and he chose to lead from the front not for the first time. The stylish left-handed batman cracked 80 off 52 balls to set up a challenging total for his side. The captain believed he had a fighting total but at the end, his bowlers were just not good enough without the key international stars.
Gambhir uncharacteristically chose to blame the conditions. Not that dew would not have hampered his bowlers, but it was unlike him to pick external reasons for a failure.
"We thought 170-180 was a very good total, but in the second innings there was dew as well, and the spinners found it difficult to grip the ball," Gambhir said.
They lost the final to a far superior side that played to full potential but Gambhir was right - KKR can be proud of their achievements. They will forever be regarded as one of the best sides to have ever played the shortest format of the game.