SK Flashback: When KXIP's Valthaty almost single-handedly defeated CSK
Paul Valthaty, a name buried somewhere in the race of time, was a U-19 Indian player alongside Parthiv Patel, Irfan Pathan and Stuart Binny, in 2002. Despite joining the Himachal Pradesh team for First Class games, recurrent injuries had kept him away from professional cricket. A decade after his stint with the U-19 team, he marked his presence by hitting his first and unfortunately, the last IPL century. It came off against the defending champions, the Chennai Super Kings in the 4th edition of the IPL.
The batsman struggled to keep his position in the KXIP, however, a string of poor performances followed and he played his last professional match in 2013.
The backdrop of the match
It was the season 4 of the IPL where 10 teams were competing, with the addition of Pune Warriors India and Kochi Tuskers Kerala. The teams were divided into two groups and the matches were scheduled in a complicated manner - a team played twice with all the teams in its row and column when the predetermined groups were arranged next to each other, and once with the remaining teams.
KXIP from group A were competing against CSK from group B for their only group-level match in that season. Both the teams had played one match each before they met at Mohali. While Srikkanth Aniruddha had ensured a win for the CSK, KXIP were yet to open their account in the league owing to their below-par total in the previous game.
The Chennai lads' mountain with Dhoni's capstone
Adam Gilchrist, the captain of KXIP, had chosen to field after winning the toss. This decision turned sweeter when CSK lost two of their batsmen right at the beginning of the match. An inswinger and a short ball plucked out Aniruddha and Raina in consecutive balls by Praveen Kumar.
Chennai were reeling and two local boys of Chennai, Murali Vijay, and Subramaniam Badrinath were on the crease. The first three overs were gone for 6/2 and they were looking to accelerate from there. Badri started the shower of boundaries by chasing Ryan Harris' ball and timed it well over mid-off.
Rotating the strike, punishing the bowler at bad balls, the duo kept to a low percentage of dot balls. The run-rate was consistently increasing with every over. Spinners and seamers were equally smashed when they had set their eyes beyond the ropes. They were cruising at a 100-run partnership at the end of 13th over. The duo went on to add 24 more runs together before Vijay was stumped off Piyush Chawla's bowling.
Badrinath continued bamboozling KXIP with his explosives when Dhoni joined the party in his niche, the last three overs of the game. He scored 22 runs of Praveen Kumar's over alone, hitting him for 2 sixes and 2 fours. He helicopter-shot a four against Harris in the next over.
At the end of 20 overs, CSK had reached a giant total of 188. Lesser than the other mammoth totals they went on to make but this was commendable given the early falls of Raina and Aniruddha.
The Valthaty party
The KXIP had to produce a dramatic run-chase to beat the defending champions and Adam Gilchrist walked down with Valthaty instead of Shaun Marsh. The best bet Gilchrist could've chosen for that night. Getting off to a decent start, the new opener had already begun smashing the balls to the boundaries. CSK had begun to sense the threat of this man.
A misjudged drop-catch from Morne Morkel granted another life to Valthaty in the third over. Morkel definitely had many chances in the match to regret it. The man went on to send every other ball to the boundary line, despite all the tactics Dhoni was trying to implement.
Gilchrist was mainly on the non-strikers end allowing Valthaty all the time to power the run-chase. But, aging Gilly played that trademark pick-up flick over the backward square leg and was caught by Randiv.
Shaun Marsh was in. A partnership Punjab were banking on to take their team through. Valthaty continued banging the balls all around the park while Marsh was only indulging in singles and doubles. Racing to a second run which his partner had screamed 'no' to, Marsh was run out by Randiv.
After Marsh, Sunny Singh joined him to contribute a quick 20 runs. Post his wicket, Abhishek Nayar followed him immediately, scoring a golden duck. Dinesh Karthik walked out to partner the firing opener in the last phase. Despite all the quick wickets, Mohali was still roaring in support of KXIP due to one man - PAUL VALTHATY.
The man was still hitting in his own rhythm, unaffected by all the wickets falling. 38 runs were required off the last four overs. Scoring quick couples and three boundaries in the next over, he reduced the numbers to 21 off the last three overs. Two more overs from the CSK's bowling unit and Valthaty had reached his record score of 120 runs. A mere 2 runs were to be scored in the last over. Dinesh Karthik did a Dhoni and sent the ball sailing away to six.
The next highest score that day, after Valthaty's, was Karthik's 21, almost a 100 runs difference in the contributions. Although some expected him to continue his form to become the revived lost gem of Indian cricket, he remained to be a 'lost gem' forever in the books. Hard luck!