Manvinder Bisla and Manish Pandey - remembering KKR's IPL final heroes

[Credit: Mavinder Bisla & Manish Pandey
[Credit: Mavinder Bisla & Manish Pandey's Instagram handles]

After the two-month thrills and spills, the IPL 2024 season has reached its climax, with the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) facing off against the SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the grand finale in Chennai on Sunday, May 26. KKR have been the most dominant side of the competition by a distance, winning nine out of their 12 completed league stage games and finishing atop the points table.

They asserted their dominance further by dispatching SRH in Qualifier 1 to book their final berth. Meanwhile, the road has been much stiffer for SRH, who had to wait till the final day of the league stage to finish second in the standings.

The Orange Army then overcame their mauling in Qualifier 1 by defeating Rajasthan Royals (RR) by 36 runs in Qualifier 2 to reach the finale. SRH last won the title in 2016 under the captaincy of David Warner, while KKR's last triumph came in 2014 under Gautam Gambhir.

KKR won their maiden IPL title in 2012 and their second in 2014. Both campaigns had several outstanding performances. However, come the big finals, the side found unlikely heroes in Manvinder Bisla and Manish Pandey to take them over the line.

As KKR look to win a third IPL title in the upcoming clash tonight, let us reminisce about Bisla and Pandey's heroics in the summit clashes of their previous two triumphs.

IPL 2012 Final - Manvinder Bisla's masterclass that no one saw coming

They say a sportsman builds his legacy in a title-clinching game and out of nowhere, Manvinder Bisla did just that in the IPL 2012 final. That KKR have terrific memories of playing a final at Chepauk Stadium, thanks largely to the now-39-year-old's heroics.

For context, Bisla had scored only 124 runs in six innings at an average of under 21 that season until the final. KKR's opponents were the then-two-time defending champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK), who were on a rampage with back-to-back thumping wins in the Eliminator and Qualifier 2.

In front of a packed crowd in Chennai, CSK motored along with the bat and amassed a mammoth 190/3 in 20 overs. KKR's innings started in the worst possible manner as they lost the skipper and their leading run-scorer Gautam Gambhir in the first over.

Yet, it was Bisla's day come what may, as the right-hander stunned the CSK bowlers and the crowd with a breathtaking 89 off 48 deliveries. His knock of eight boundaries and five maximums took KKR to the cusp of a stunning victory at 139/2 in the 15th over.

The other batters ensured the momentum continued as KKR finished the task with five wickets and two balls to spare. The Haryana-born wicket-keeper may have averaged only 21 in his 39-game IPL career, but his masterclass in a big final remains etched in the memories of KKR fans.

IPL 2014 Final - Manish Pandey overcomes all odds to cement KKR's legacy

Another stiff run-chase and another right-handed batter from KKR coming to the party marked the IPL final two years later in Bengaluru. Only this time, the batter in question - Manish Pandey - was in reasonable form throughout the season.

The now-34-year-old had scored 307 runs in 15 games before the grand finale, helping KKR achieve a top-two finish on the points table. However, they were up against the in-form side of the tournament, Punjab Kings (PBKS) in the summit clash.

Renowned as the most dangerous batting lineup that season, PBKS lived up to their billing, scoring 199/4 in 20 overs. In reply, KKR lost the Orange Cap winner Robin Uthappa in the first over, bringing Pandey to the middle.

With hopes of a second title dwindling by the minute, a resolute Pandey flexed his muscles and smashed a sensational 94 off 50 deliveries. His knock included seven boundaries and six maximums but fell short of a well-deserved century, with KKR needing 21 off 18.

However, Pandey had done enough for the other batters to finish the job with three wickets and as many balls to spare. A second title in three years cemented KKR's legacy through the first half of the 2010s under the captaincy of Gautam Gambhir.

It was Pandey's first of three seasons with KKR and how fitting that the veteran batter is back with the franchise after seven years in IPL 2024.

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