The Rajasthan Royals are desperate to “do something special” for franchise legend Shane Warne after making their first Indian Premier League final since the late spider king led them to the tournament’s first crown 14 years ago.
Star batter Jos Buttler paid tribute to Warne, the inaugural captain of the Royals who passed away in March after beating his fourth century of the IPL season to make a decision against IPL newcomers Gujarat Titans.
“He is such an influential figure for the Rajasthan Royals and after leading the team to success in that first season we will miss him dearly but we know he looks down on us with great pride today,” Buttler said after his departure. unbeaten 60-ball 106 defeated Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday.
“He made us believe.”
The decider will draw a huge crowd at the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday evening (Monday morning, 12:30 p.m. AEST).
Rajasthan paid an emotional tribute to the man known as the ‘First Royal’ earlier in the IPL season by donning shirts with ‘SW23’ on their collars and decorating the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai with Warne murals for their match against Mumbai Indians last month.
Warne had led the Royals to an unlikely title in the inaugural season of the IPL at that venue in 2008.
“The tournament has been for him from the start and I think we need to take another step for him,” said current Rajasthan captain Sanju Sampson.
“It’s very special. I don’t want to talk about it too much, but we are one step closer. We want to do something special for him.”
Rajasthan’s preference for the inaugural IPL title had seemed unlikely from the start.
The club spent the least on their team of any of the eight franchises, suffering a grueling nine-wicket defeat to Delhi in their debut match.
But under the unconventional leadership of an aging Warne and thanks to a player-of-the-tournament campaign from fellow Aussie Shane Watson, Rajasthan won 11 of their 13 matches to qualify for the final.
Their opponents were the Chennai Super Kings led by MS Dhoni, a national hero who led India to its first T20 world title last year, bought at auction for three times the price of 38-year-old Warne.
Rajasthan’s underdog status was further underlined when Royals’ star South African opener Graeme Smith was ruled out of the decider with a hamstring injury.
But after holding Chennai at 5-163, the Royals triumphed in a final ball thriller when Sohail Tanvir hit the winning run with Warne at the non-striker’s end.
“As soon as Tanvir hit the ball, I was ready to tear my hamstrings for the single,” said Warne.
With four centuries left for the current season, Buttler is now Rajasthan’s leading man in their bid for a second IPL title.
Remarkably, the Englishman admitted that he had felt he was going under the pump in the business end of the tournament, despite already hitting three hundred in the tournament.
He was sacked for some numbers in his three innings leading up to the playoffs before exploding for a 56-ball 89 against Gujarat in a qualifier earlier this week, losing his match but still getting a second chance.
“I actually felt a little bit of pressure,” Buttler said. “I got distracted and tried to suppress it, but it took me up to a week or so to really open up and start talking about it and I felt a lot better.
“I went to Kolkata much more relaxed (for the qualifier against Gujarat) and of course those turns gave me a lot more confidence today.”
Royals’ cricket director Kumar Sangakkara suggested he “can’t remember anyone hitting so well in the history of the IPL”.
“It’s hard to describe what he’s done for us this season,” Sangakkara said of Buttler.
“I think he started so well, fluttered a bit at one point in the tournament, but he calmed himself, had good conversations instead of just training. He accepted that he is mortal, he is human and he can not have that high level of excellence every day.
“He can accelerate at any point, has all the strokes and understands the game very well.”
The 2022 Indian Premier League will be broadcast live in Australia on Fox Sports and streamed live on Kayo
Australians in IPL 2022
Capitals of Delhi: Mitchell Marsh, David Warner
Gujarat Titans: Matthew Wade
Kolkata Knight Riders: Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch
Lucknow Supergiants: Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye
Mumbai Indians: Tim David, Daniel Sams, Riley Meredith
Punjab Kings: Nathan Ellis
Rajasthan Royals: Nathan Coulter-Nile
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Glenn Maxwell, Josh Hazlewood, Jason Behrendorff
Sunrise Hyderabad: Sean Abbott