Last year’s IPL left two finalists a straightforward task: Chennai Super Kings had to rejuvenate their youth in their seniors and Kolkata Knight Riders had to mature their youth early. Fortunately, both have clever white-ball captains, both are World Cup winners, and both have former New Zealand captains as head coaches.
MS Dhoni is leading a team that knows how to win, but which faltered last year when, according to his coach Stephen Fleming, “an aging team”. Eoin Morgan leads a youth team whose captain resigned in the middle of last season and was handed over by his coach Brendon McCullumHe was assessed as “fear crippled” in the India leg of the tournament. Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Robin Uthappa and even Dhoni himself have rewinded their clocks on a rare occasion while the youngsters of Kolkata have enjoyed making their presence felt in the arena.
Keeping Chennai in the top 2 at the end of the India leg of the tournament, Kolkata’s turnaround task in the Dubai leg was tough, but they did it brilliantly.
But above all, the IPL final to be held in Dubai on Friday is a contest between the Chennai batsmen and the Kolkata spinners.
CSK Batsman vs KKR Spinner
In a group league match between the two sides in Abu Dhabi, where CSK chased down 172 runs, they won by two wickets. KKR played two spinners in that game and although Sunil Narine took three wickets, he conceded more than 10 runs per over. Varun Chakraborty was stingy as ever, less than six runs per over. KKR have now brought in Shakib Al-Hasan as their third spinner, completing the middle-overs choke in the Eliminator and Qualifier 2. But there is a catch, Sharjah’s pitches were prepared for KKR’s bowling style. The pitch for the final in Dubai is likely to be batting friendly.
Three of KKR’s spinners have had a good economy rate, all conceding less than seven runs per over. Against them, however, there will be a group of batsmen who rely on their footwork and ability to read spin from the hand.
Look at the Abu Dhabi game once again and how Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis neutralized Narine. Gaikwad initially slammed the track against the spinner, forcing him to pull his length back. Psychological battle won, Gaikwad dragged Naren for a long time. The two CSK openers, who have 1,150 runs between them in this IPL, also prefer to play straight while minimizing the risk factors. Gaikwad is the anchor, while du Plessis is the enforcer.
3 Robin Uthappa can still be an impressive batsman on surfaces that allow him to hit through the line. The Delhi Capitals’ bowlers learned this the hard way in Qualifier 1, as promoting them to No. 3 was a tactical masterstroke from Dhoni. The CSK skipper prepared a good pitch for the knockout match, leaving Uthappa at No. 3 in two matches before going to bed. to follow the batsmen, until Ravindra Jadeja Good batting as a finisher is good at devouring the slow bowling on the pitches and in this is the biggest challenge for KKR. Dhoni’s blistering end against DC is creating problems for the opponents.
The finger cross emoji of a KKR official on WhatsApp indicated the current concern. Officials don’t take the field and are expected to be tense. KKR have not played any IPL final since 2014. CSK, on the other hand, will play their ninth final in 12 attempts. It would be imperative for Morgan’s troops to rest and not be intimidated by the opportunity.
KKR have the motivation to pick it up from 2014, when they won two in the first seven matches and then lifted the trophy to lift it. KKR have been playing a distinctive brand of cricket which saw them enjoy a change of fortunes during the second leg of the tournament in UAE.
Not that his game was Sharjah-pitch specific, as he also won matches in Dubai. But the slow and low Sharjah deck assisted the six-metre length of their spinners and the stump-to-stump line. Varun, Naren and Shakib are good enough to change the template if circumstances make it necessary. But their difficulty level will be higher against CSK.
To draw a football analogy, CSK resemble the Manchester United side of eventual great Alex Ferguson of 2012–13, when an aging team drew inspiration from last season’s injury and cried for the Premier League title. Like that United side, CSK’s ‘Dad’s Army’ learned a lot from their 2020 mistakes of switching team combinations and this time around, a settled unit can play together for one last time.
A full auction is scheduled for next year and some CSK players prefer Suresh Raina Looks like they’ve finished their race. Dhoni himself has kept his retirement decision open, although the CSK management is confident of a farewell from Chepauk.
From CSK’s point of view, it will be important to break KKR’s opening partnership early apart from eliminating the choke in the middle over. Venkatesh Iyer and Shubman Gill performed brilliantly and their good form contributed immensely to the rise of the team. Deepak Chahar, who has been in a bit of a bad mood lately, will have to regain his powerplay mojo. KKR will match CSK’s experience with a collective effort, which is their biggest strength.