We didn't perform collectively as a team: MI captain Rohit Sharma
9 Oct 2021
This is it. We have finally arrived at what we have been waiting for. The fireworks have been prepared, the entrance has been rehearsed and the strategies have been set. Within the next 24 hours, two champion teams will take the field playing one final game in the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League.
These two teams have beaten incredible odds to reach the final stage of the tournament. Both teams have had a very different journey into the finals, but are bound by one common factor - the fact that nobody gave them a chance.
When CSK started their 2021 campaign, defeated and injured from their 2020 campaign, people thought, ‘What’s the point?’ With mega auction scheduled to be held in 2021, fans of the game just wanted this one to go away.
At the end of the last season, after bowing out early in the same UAE, the talismanic MS Dhoni had prophesized, “We’ll come back stronger, that’s what we are known for.”
And Nostradmus Dhoni was right. After losing 8 matches in the 2020 campaign, CSK sat down and built around the dynamism of Ruturaj Gaikwad, who has been their shining light of the tournament.
In the current edition, Chennai were dominant from the get go, well after a minor blip in the first game.
After suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of Delhi Capitals, Chennai won 5 on the trot in the Indian leg of the tournament. After entering the UAE, they won four on the go, making easy work in their run up to the playoffs.
One of the aspects of the game that was bugging them from a long time was their captain’s performance in the reopening of the tournament. Even that came through in the last match, with Dhoni batting in a manner that he is known for - dismissing balls over the boundary line at will.
Playing just 6 balls in the entire game, Dhoni scored 18 runs to bail out Chennai in a chase that had gone tricky at the end and everything was normal again.
Chennai in the final, Dhoni hitting sixes - everything was where it should belong.
Captaincy change, management openly criticising the players and a captain that couldn’t hit a ball even if it was bowled by a 5 year-old kid; KKR have gone through a lot in the last season and a half.
And yet, here they are, having clawed their way back into the competition, defeating teams like Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals and Punjab Kings in a fatal fourway.
Having been tied in points throughout the last phase of the season, KKR were able to pull through due to their steely reserve and their high risk - high energy output in the field.
It has not come easy though. In the first half of the tournament KKR lost four in a row, 5 out of their first seven games. This put them in an interesting frame of mind.
The management headed by legendary Brendon McCullum burst out in flames in the post match press conference, blaming his top order for the loss.
It’s very, very disappointing,” the visibly agitated Kiwi had said.
“That’s the style of play which both myself and the captain (Eoin Morgan) have asked of our players. But unfortunately we’re not quite getting that. We’re certainly not getting it in the abundance that we need,” summed up the Kiwi, pointing out the issue that he thought was the main problem with KKR at that point.
However, he did not stop there. What started out as an analysis went onto become a full blown rant.
“What we saw from Prithvi Shaw tonight was the perfect template of how we want to play. You’re not always going to be able to hit every ball for four or six, but you can have the intent to do so, particularly when you’re given a free licence,” McCullum continued to speak on the issue while taking an opposition player's name.
Anybody watching the game knows that in no world can that be a good sign.
But thankfully, or rather unfortunately, the IPL came to a halt. COVID-19 had spread through the franchises and the tournament had to be postponed for an unknown amount of time.
Here also KKR were found in the mud. One of the star players, Varun Chakravarthy contracted COVID-19 and the player along with the franchise were hurled abuses online.
Once KKR got back from the break, they looked like a different team. On their return, the bowlers routed through a strong RCB line-up and then their batting took over. The facet of the game that had them reeling, suddenly looked transformed, and to the credit of whom?
Venkatesh Iyer. Unknown to the internationals, barely known to the nationals for that matter. The Madhya Pradesh lad, who had not faced international quality bowling in his career got one opportunity in the biggest stage of all and stamped his authority.
He took the onus on himself to score aggressive runs and made Morgan’s vision a reality. One can imagine that McCullum must have barked at every single batsman in the KKR line-up to change their approach, but little would he have imagined that the change would come from an uncapped Indian international.
What’s at stake?
The IPL Trophy, duh? But this game is a little bigger than that.
For MS Dhoni, it is his reputation as an able tactician and that he can still hit the ball out of the park. That he can read the game better than most, that he can soak in pressure till the last over and unleash his pyrotechnics at a time when people start to lose belief.
For Morgan, this game is a test of his process, a test of his reputation that he can turn broken sides around. It is a test that his attacking approach, one that he has honed for the past six years, is not obsolete in today’s cricket.
Personally, it is also a test of his ability to bat, something that has not come off in a while now. People have started questioning his spot in the side and people will start questioning his place in England if Captain Morgan keeps failing with the bat.
Once a behemoth with the bat, Morgan’s last half century in IPL and in national colours came in 2020, a number that he should not be proud of.
So there is a lot at stake here for the two sides, especially after the kind of season that they have had.
This is a battle to prove people wrong, to prove that they belong to the highest level, that they are not finished as individuals.
Kolkata Knight Riders vs Chennai Super Kings
Match Number - IPL Final
Date & Time - 15 October, 7:30 PM IST (6:00 PM Local)
Venue - Dubai International Stadium
Broadcast & Stream - Star Sports Network & Hotstar
Dubai has been the most unique pitch in this year’s edition of the Indian Premier League and it should be one that ICC replicate in the T20 World Cup. If the grass covering is left on then it bears fruit for the fast bowlers in the first 4 overs of the game. It then transforms into a very good batting wicket with a little bit of help for the spinners.
The fact that both teams have a good line up of out and out pacers and swing bowlers, this should be an ideal wicket to play the final.
The chasing side has won their last 8 games in Dubai, so if you win the toss, bowl first, extract that movement and hopefully, the dew will do the rest.
We need to discuss match-ups
Here is the part that you have been waiting for. The match-ups.
There are a fair few to be honest.
Let’s start with CSK vs the KKR bowlers.
The Chennai opening unit has been paramount to the success of Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. They have shielded the middle order for long enough and have broken their shackles by going deep into the game.
Hence it is very very important for KKR opening bowlers to keep that in check.
Usually, Morgan has opened his bowling with a spinner while playing in Abu Dhabi or Sharjah, but on Friday, we might see him going with an out and out pace attack of Shivam Mavi and Lockie Ferguson. They will be in charge of bowling at serious pace and hopefully testing the Chennai openers with the short stuff.
Negotiating the lack of pace
KKR batters like pace on the ball. Venky Iyer, Rahul Tripathy, Eoin Morgan, all of these players feel home when the ball comes on to the bat. And this is where Dwayne Bravo and Deepak Chahar come into play.
While Chahar can be used in front to extract swing from the Dubai track, it would be much handier if he could bowl in the backend of the innings with his knuckle ball and cutters. While defending a total against KKR, the lack of pace offered by the two bowlers could come in really handy.
KKR and the art of choking out the opposition
If you are up against a bowling line-up like KKR, you have to pick your battles.
Since coming to the UAE, KKR have restricted their opposition 5 times below 140 runs while bowling first. Out of these 5, they have picked 7 or more wickets 4 times, kind of establishing that they are an ultra attacking bowling unit and that they hunt in packs.
If Chennai can manage to conserve their wickets in the early phases of the match and get over 150 runs in Dubai, they might make a game out of this, but anything below 140, it will be difficult to contain the Kolkata based side.
Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR had to worry a little while trying to get into the final of the IPL 2021. For a side that had their first chance to play the finals since 2014, KKR absolutely lost the plot in the final four overs.
If it were not for Rahul Tripathi and his bizarre ability to hit any ball, KKR would not be here in the first place. So, changes might be expected, but only if Andre Russell is fit to play.
Eoin Morgan in the post match press conference spoke about how the management would be looking into the debacle, and it means only one thing, dre Russ in for Shakib al Hasan.
Given that the game is in Dubai and KKR might want to have a genuine big hitter in their team might sway in favour of Russ, but only if he is fit to play.
Shubman Gill, Venkatesh Iyer, Nitish Rana, Rahul Tripathi, Eoin Morgan (c), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Shakib al Hasan/Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shivam Mavi, Lockie Ferguson, Varun Chakravarthy
Chennai Super Kings
Chennai Super Kings have looked the most settled unit in this edition’s IPL and the clarity of role is the prime reason for that.
Ruturaj Gaikwad knows that he has to stay through, Faf du Plessis knows that he has to take that risk, Robin Uthappa knows that he has to demolish whatever comes his way; this is what makes CSK special.
There is no reason for them to change their last match’s unit and with Dhoni coming into the fray, the only thing that CSK can hope for is to win the toss.
Ruturaj Gaikwad, Faf du Plessis, Robin Uthappa, Moeen Ali, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (c&wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Dwane Bravo, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Josh Hazlewood
CE Fantasy XI
Wicket Keeper - MS Dhoni
Batsman - Ambati Rayudu, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rahul Tripathi, Shubman Gill,
All Rounder - Venkatesh Iyer, Shakib al Hasan, Sunil Narine
Bowler - Shardul Thakur, Lockie Ferguson, Varun Chakravarthy