As has been the case all season long, Captain Pandya led from the front and really matured following his first stint in a leadership role -- a shadow of the old arrogant, flamboyant, playboy of yesteryear who haS now joined an exclusive club of 5 time IPL Winners, Shailesh Karkera.
Gujarat Titans etched their name in the annals of Indian sporting history following their triumph in the Indian Premier League 2022 final with a comprehensive performance against the Rajasthan Royals at the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
In what was initially billed as a heavyweight contest between two of the best performing teams in the competition this season which would go right down to the wire, Rajasthan found themselves stifled, gagged and completely undone by a master-class in all departments from a truly titanic performance by Gujarat.
Both teams came into the tie with high expectations.
For the Rajasthan Royals, apart from having the league's top individual performers in the Orange and Purple Cap categories in their ranks, this was all about redemption, a return to winning ways following their previous triumph in the inaugural season of the IPL apart from a sincere urge to pay tribute to the 'First Royal', a legendary figure in Shane Warne.
For the Gujarat Titans, this was a homecoming of sorts. After months of playing games on the road and finishing the league phase in first place, it was finally time to register one final win and lift the trophy in front of their fans in Ahmedabad in the biggest cricket stadium in the world.
With the official attendance crossing 100,000 fans in the arena, a preposterous figure for anyone who had gotten comfortable watching games in half-empty stadiums during the Covid era, this final was symbolic of the return to normalcy for a country obsessed with cricket and culture.
Bollywood star Ranveer Singh and Maestro A R Rahman kicked off the proceedings with a pulsating opening ceremony that had the entire crowd on their feet as they performed their medley of greatest hits in a spectacular production by the IPL organisers which would easily rival any opening acts in any major sporting event globally.
As Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal walked to the crease to start the Royals innings, the stage was set for an epic contest.
Buttler, fresh off a century that saw Royal Challengers Bangalore getting completely decimated in Qualfier-2 of the Playoffs and having raked up a record number of runs this season, took only three balls to get off the mark with a sublime four on the offside though point off Yash Dayal's bowling.
While the entire global cricketing fan-based drooled over the mouth-watering prospect of a century in the IPL final from Buttler to catapult him into the record books, the Gujarat bowlers came in with a strategy to chip away at the Royals batting in a systematic and surgical manner.
Firstly, Jaiswal was dismissed for 22 off 16 balls in the fourth over by Yash Dayal thanks to a smart catch by Sai Kishore before the ever dependable skipper Sanju Samson fell cheaply in the eighth over under similar circumstances on 14 off 11 balls.
Where Samson faltered, his Gujarat counterpart Hardik Pandya flourished as he steadily built the foundations of a brilliant bowling spell which would see him end up with final figures of 3-17 in his four overs.
Samson's dismissal was quickly followed by that of a clearly struggling Devdutt Padikkal who was out for 2 off 11 balls by Rashid Khan before Hardik struck arguably the most crucial wicket of the innings -- that of Josh Buttler, who departed for 39 runs off 35 balls.
Hard hitting Shimron Hetmyer is known for his attacking prowess and affinity for power-hitting, but he became Pandya's third and final victim when he miscued a ball right back into the hands of the bowler.
Gujarat kept up the pressure and any chance of a revival was firmly quashed as the Rajasthan batters kept getting dismissed at regular intervals largely attributed to poor choice selection in the death overs.
By the end of the innings, the Royals had barely managed to stumble through the finish line to register a score of 130-9 at the end of 20 overs, a total unbecoming of a final of this magnitude, let alone a match-winning score.
Onto the second half of the game and if there was one moment that summed up Rajasthan's night, it would have to be that of Yuzvendra Chahal dropping an absolute sitter off Shubman Gill, who was batting on zero at the time and eventually went on to top score for Gujarat with 45 runs off 43 balls.
Rajasthan did get an early break though as Prasidh Krishna sent Wriddhiman Saha packing after uprooting his stumps as Gujarat went a wicket down at 10-1. Three overs later, Matthew Wade was back in the dugout after Trent Boult baited him into going for the big hit and serial-catcher Riyan Parag made no mistake making the catch in the deep.
Hardik Pandya was the new man in and alongside Gill, the duo went about building a partnership which would eventually add 63 runs off 52 balls which would bring Gujarat within touching distance of the win.
By the time, Rajasthan finally managed to break the partnership with the dismissal of Pandya for 34, Gujarat were in need of 45 runs more from 40 deliveries. With David Miller and Rahul Tewatia, two genuine finishers waiting to come on, Rajasthan would need to orchestrate a major batting collapse on the part of their opponents to have a chance at winning the game.
Eventually, Miller continued where he had left off in the previous game and alongside Gill, took Gujarat comfortably home without breaking much off a sweat with just under two overs to spare.
With four runs needed off 12 balls, Gill hammered a massive six off Obed McCoy's very first delivery over deep square-leg and as the camera tracked the ball's trajectory over the ropes and into the galleries, history had been made and the crowd erupted in joy.
Gujarat Titans, who had perfected the art of the heist in the group stages with last over heroics, had pulled off one of the most comprehensive one-sided wins in the Indian Premier League in the biggest stage of them all, the final.
This was a team that had thoroughly dominated the IPL in their debut season and went on to top the league standings before claiming the big prize. As has been the case all season long, Captain Pandya led from the front and really matured following his first stint in a leadership role -- a shadow of the old arrogant, flamboyant, playboy of yesteryear who has now joined an exclusive club of 5 time IPL Winners.
As Pandya hoisted the glittering IPL trophy and fireworks lit up the night sky in a spectacular show, the era of the Gujarat Titans had officially begun.