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Shahrukh delivers a superhit as Tamil Nadu win Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 title


CHENNAI:  This was a blockbuster penned by Shahrukh Khan. When the hero walked in, Tamil Nadu needed 57 off 28 deliveries to win the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 title for the second year running. Karnataka, who could only manage 151/7 after R Sai Kishore (3/12) broke their back, were firmly on top thanks to spinner KC Cariappa. In no time, the equation came down to 22 off seven deliveries.

This was only going away from Tamil Nadu. The only hope was Shahrukh, their designated finisher. There was a reason that at the previous IPL player auctions, Punjab Kings spent Rs 5.25 crores to acquire him (however, they did not utilise him properly and that stopped them from making the play-offs). At the Feroz Shah Kotla on Monday afternoon, this was still a herculean task, even for Shahrukh who has bailed TN out of similar circumstances. His team were up against it. Their opponents, coming into the final, had won 10 such consecutive matches across all competitions since the 2013-14 season. 

The story was going in similar direction until Shahrukh walked in after opener N Jagadeesan fell for a 46-ball 41 in the 16th over. From being 44/1 at the end of powerplay, TN managed only 51 runs in the next nine overs. The period saw them not hit a boundary for 49 deliveries. “Actually only when I went in, I realised how tough it was to score on that pitch,” Shahrukh said. “Only after I connected a couple of balls, I thought, hold on, these guys have actually done a good job. Yes the run-rate was low, but if they didn’t stitch that partnership, I wouldn’t have been able to finish it off,” Shahrukh told this daily.

Even though the asking rate nearly touched 14, there was a sense of calmness in his approach. For all the madness he brings to the table, he is a calm figure, who knows exactly what a finisher has to do. “I gave myself only two balls to get my eye in and I knew fast bowlers (Karnataka’s weak link) were going to come on. The plan was to take the game deep because I’d the belief to finish it. Of course, you could even succumb under pressure when taking it deep, but as long as you have belief, it is fine,” he said.

With 22 needed off seven, instead of taking a single to retain strike, Shahrukh hit a six off Vidhyadhar Patil and with 10 needed off four balls, he took a single again to bring Sai Kishore on strike. “Those were calculated ones because with a left-arm pacer bowling (Prateek Jain), Sai had a chance and there is no point in finishing it alone. I knew I’d do it, but you need to pick the moment. Five needed of one ball, anything can happen. But it was important I stayed 100 per cent calm and not even 99 per cent would have helped. I was willing to take the blame if we lost,” Shahrukh added.

Having grown into the finisher’s role, the clarity of thought in Shahrukh stands out. Of course, it also helped a great deal when MS Dhoni offered words of encouragement during the IPL. “He gave me a clear picture of the finisher’s role and asked me to believe whatever you are doing on that particular day is right, because you are the best judge and only you know what is running inside your mind when chasing. And also I have accepted that the finisher’s role is a bit dicey. When you do well, you are on top and if you fail, you get to cop the blame,” he said.

Brief scores: Karnataka 151/7 in 20 ovs (Manohar 46, Sai Kishore 3/12) lost to Tamil Nadu 153/6 in 20 ovs (Jagadeesan 41, Shahrukh 33 n.o, Cariappa 2/23).