Several West Indians starred in the just concluded Indian Premier League with Mumbai Indians’ Dwayne Smith and Kieron Pollard, Chennai Super Kings’ Dwayne Bravo, Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Chris Gayle and Kolkata Knight Riders Sunil Narine being the stand-out performers.
But pride of place goes to Smith and Pollard who contributed significantly to their team winning the IPL for the first time in the tournament’s six-year history.While Smith blasted Mumbai into the finals with a dominant batting performance against the Rajasthan Royals in the qualifier, it was Pollard whose unbeaten half-century help to win his side the championship and the big Trinidadian the man-of-the-match award.
Pollard said he backed himself to play a match-winning role for Mumbai Indians as wickets tumbled around him in Sunday’s finals.
Mumbai Indians had slumped to 52 for four, when Pollard’s unbeaten 60 helped to set up a 23-run win over Bravo’s Chennai Super Kings.
“Nothing much was going on in my mind when wickets were tumbling. I just wanted to focus on my game. I just wanted to back myself and my ability,” said Pollard.
“I know what the team needed from me at that point in time. These are the games that you have to win for your franchise and thank God it came off and we actually won”.
Pollard has emerged as one of the most important players in the Mumbai Indians set-up this year.
The Trinidadian all-rounder has not only shone with bat and sometimes with ball, but he has been a game-changer with his exceptional fielding as well, plucking certain sixes in midair.
“This is a great feeling,” said Pollard who is joining the West Indies squad in the United Kingdom for the ICC Champions Trophy.
“I have been playing for the Mumbai Indians for four years and to get this opportunity and to be able to pull it off, it is fantastic. It is something I will cherish forever”.
Smith, who inspired Mumbai Indians to several wins, also celebrated success in his first major final.
The hard-hitting Barbadian batsman – one half of the opening pair that replaced the Sachin Tendulkar-Ricky Ponting duo, scored 418 runs in 13 matches with four fifties.
“Yes. I watched the team lose the 2010 final and tonight I am so glad to be part of the winning team,” Smith said.
“Before the game I was talking to (Kieron) Pollard that one of us has to be the Man of the Match today. When I got out, I told him, ‘I didn’t do it so you will have to win this for us and I know you will.’ He came out trumps and I love that”.
Smith said at the beginning of the tournament he spoke to Gayle and they agreed that one of the West Indians in the competition had to make it to the final.
“It’s good to fulfill that promise and I am glad that all the West Indian players have performed well throughout”.
While some West Indian players in India travel to England to join the rest of their West Indies team mates for the Champions Trophy, Smith is returning to Barbados.
He will join English County Club Sussex later in June for the Friends Life T20 tournament.
“This is my first major final that I’ve played in and I’ve come out as a winner. I’m so happy,” smith said.
Meanwhile, Bravo, the losing finalists and recently appointed West Indies One Day International captain, had the consolation of winning the Purple Cap for taking the most wickets in this year’s IPL.
Bravo, who will lead the Caribbean side in the Champions Trophy beginning next week in the United Kingdom, claimed 32 wickets.
Bravo attributed his success to bowling more overs at the death.
“This year what I did different was bowl more overs at the death. I have to give credit to Mahi (MS Dhoni) for having faith in me. I always love the challenge of bowling in the latter stages of the game when batsmen tend to go for it, Bravo said.
“So, I change the pace and use variations. I am happy that I was able to produce results with the ball for the team at crucial moments”.
Bravo grabbed an impressive four wickets for 42 runs in his four overseen Sunday’s final.