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Goodbye India, now on to Champs Trophy

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Delhi, the night after the IPL final. Having been delayed in Kolkata for a couple of hours, I eventually found my way to Delhi, and now I have a 3am flight to Amsterdam to look forward to!

I’m not feeling the freshest, having had to contend with a busy Kolkata airport, with just a few hours’ sleep under the belt. There was nothing to do, as I was on my own, so I made do with watching movies on my laptop, in between satisfying requests for photo opportunities. Now I’m just looking forward to hooking up with my national teammates in Amsterdam and getting stuck into preparations for the Champions Trophy.

I have, though, had time to reflect on this year’s IPL and even though I didn’t get to play a game, it’s been memorable for so many other reasons. Firstly, it was another great season for the Chennai Super Kings, even though we fell just short and lost the final to the Mumbai Indians. For an IPL franchise to reach five finals in six seasons is pretty incredible, considering the unpredictable nature of Twenty20 cricket.

The end of this year’s IPL also marks the end of my three-year contract with the Super Kings, and it’s quite interesting to see where the IPL is now, compared with when I started with the team. When I started, as a player with just a couple of international games under my belt, the IPL was still seen as quite a ‘fun’ event, with the cricket not that serious, whereas now it’s very performance-orientated and a lot more serious. It’s a proper fixture on the international cricket calendar now, and every cricketer wants to be part of it. Obviously, I’m hoping to be retained by Chennai when the next IPL auction comes around in January or February, and it’s going to be interesting to see which players the franchise bids for. I expect Chennai to retain the big-name Indian players like Dhoni, Ashwin, Jadeja and Raina, because, for me, the most important ingredient in a successful IPL team is the Indian players, and Chennai has always had that.

Just looking at the IPL final, we started brilliantly, but Kieron Pollard brought Mumbai back into the game. Then, the early wickets we lost at the top of our innings just killed us, and we were out of it from there. Those first four or five overs proved the difference. It just wasn’t our best batting performance and the guys were incredibly disappointed.

After the game, we only got back to the team hotel at around 3am, before heading down to the team room for a few drinks and then joining up with the very happy Mumbai guys in the hotel night club. I spent most of my time with some of the Aussie guys in the Mumbai side – Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Coulter-Nile – and they were all certainly a lot happier than the Chennai guys!

Now I’ve got the Champions Trophy to focus on. It’s been a frustrating few weeks for me, not getting a game or some quality practice. But, I’ve stayed fit, hit plenty of balls and stayed in as good a shape as possible. Now I’m looking to build on that in Amsterdam and hopefully get into contention for a place in the Proteas team for the first Champions Trophy game against India.

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