Last year’s IPL left two finalists with a straightforward task: Chennai Super Kings had to rejuvenate their youth to 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 evaluated 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
Back to the group league match between the two sides in Abu Dhabi, where CSK chased down 172 to win 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, the pitches in Sharjah were prepared for KKR’s bowling style. The pitch for the final in Dubai is likely to be more batting friendly.
Three of KKR’s spinners have had an excellent 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.
Once again, look at Abu Dhabi’s game again and the way Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis neutralized Narine. Gaikwad initially slammed down the track against the spinner, forcing him to pull his length back. Psychological battle won, Gaikwad pulls Naren over long on. 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.
Robin Uthappa at No 3 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, allowing Uthappa to get out at No. 3 in two matches before going to bed. to follow the batsmen, until Ravindra Jadeja As a finisher, good batting is good at devouring the slow bowling on the pitches and in this is KKR’s biggest challenge. Dhoni’s blistering finish against DC is creating problems for the opponents.
A KKR official’s finger-crossed emoji on WhatsApp hinted at 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 soldiers to be relaxed and not to be intimidated by the opportunity.
KKR have 2014 to take inspiration from, when they won two in the first seven matches and then went on to hold the all-wins record to lift the trophy. KKR have been playing a distinctive brand of cricket which saw them enjoy a turnaround in 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 the circumstances call for it. But against CSK, their difficulty level will be higher.
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 might be playing 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, apart from ruling out middle-over chokes, it will be important to break KKR’s opening partnership early. 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 complexion lately, will have to regain his powerplay mojo. KKR will match CSK’s experience through a collective effort, which is their biggest strength.