It’s quite hard to believe but M.S Dhoni has yet again steered his side into the IPL 2023 final. Even at the age of 41, his skills and competencies don’t seem to get eroded. The Chennai Super Kings have established their reputation by accomplishing feats that were once considered impossible and unimaginable.
However, the 2022 season proved to be an exception, bringing humiliation to a team that had grown accustomed to consistent victories. In a surprising turn of events, Ravindra Jadeja, the newly appointed captain, quickly relinquished his role as the team faced mounting losses midway through the season. Speculation arose when Jadeja left the team camp before the season’s conclusion, suggesting he might depart from the franchise. Additionally, uncertainties surrounded Dhoni’s future as his own performance fluctuated.
Despite these challenges, the Chennai Super Kings remained composed and resolute. Dhoni, even with a single functioning leg, continued to excel in his role as a leader. Regardless of the outcome on Sunday evening in Ahmedabad, the Super Kings have already won the admiration and affection of fans. Once again, they have triumphed in capturing hearts. The finalists of this IPL, the Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings, have been the top-performing teams on the points table. They have faced each other twice in the tournament. On both
occasions, the Titans won the toss, while the Super Kings posted scores of over 170 with the help of their top scorer, Ruturaj Gaikwad. In the first match, the Titans comfortably chased down the target, whereas they suffered a comprehensive loss in the second encounter.
Apart from the varying conditions in Ahmedabad (where the Titans emerged victorious) and Chennai (where CSK won), a notable difference between the two matches was the inclusion of Maheesh Theekshana and Matheesha Pathirana, who did not play in the first game.
Furthermore, in the first match, Hardik Pandya bowled, allowing the Titans to field Josh Little instead of Dasun Shanaka as the fourth overseas player, thereby bolstering their bowling attack. Hardik also bowled in Qualifier 2 and is expected to do so in the final as well.
CSK have managed to defeat the Titans only once in their four encounters. This outcome may not come as a significant surprise, as the Super Kings face a team that closely resembles themselves in the Titans. It is no secret that the Titans’ leadership, consisting of Gary Kirsten, Ashish Nehra, and Hardik, hold high admiration for MS Dhoni, stemming from their previous association with him.
At present, the disparities between the two sides lie in the Titans’ more well-rounded bowling attack compared to the Super Kings’ stronger batting lineup and greater depth in their batting order. Shubman Gill possesses a game that has few weaknesses, but the Chennai Super Kings excel at exploiting any relatively weaker aspects of a player’s game.
In the previous two matches, CSK managed to dismiss Gill with short balls, although he had already scored 63 and 42 runs in those innings. The shot that led to Gill being dropped against the Mumbai Indians, a slower length ball on the stumps resulting in a chipped drive, was not an isolated incident.
To contain Gill effectively, the strategy revolves around moving the ball towards the off and middle, mixing in slower deliveries on the stumps, and testing him out. It should be noted that the success of this approach also depends on the playing conditions. Deepak Chahar will play a crucial role in setting the tone with the new ball. In 2021, Chahar bowled 18 balls to Gill, conceding 21 runs and taking two wickets. However, Gill’s current form is vastly different from that of 2021.
Nevertheless, Chahar has already bowled 14 balls to him this year, conceding 17 runs and claiming one wicket. Keep an eye out for a slightly short-of-a-length ball that moves back in.
When it comes to consistently performing teams like these, surprises are rare at this stage of the season. Ravindra Jadeja will have plenty of right-handed batsmen to bowl to in the middle overs, and the same goes for Noor Ahmad, a wrist spinner who is less concerned about the type of batsman he faces.
If necessary, Rashid Khan and Theekshana will bowl one over each during the powerplay, two in the middle overs, and return for one at the death. Chahar and Mohammed Shami will handle the new ball, while Pathirana and Mohit Sharma will take charge in the latter stages of the innings. If the batsmen can effectively target Chahar and Jadeja or Shami and Noor, they may force the opposition captains to introduce other bowlers earlier than originally planned.