Dubai: This Dussehra will bring historical significance to the Indian Premier League (IPL). Dashain as it symbolizes is the victory of good over evil. The day when Ram stood victorious over Ravana or when goddess Durga killed the demon, Mahishasura.
The final of the IPL has no such act but the battle for supremacy to clinch the most prestigious T20 title. The day they will do so is such an auspicious occasion, “Dussehra”, when the Super Kings of Chennai take on the Knights of Kolkata.
The Kings have a pedigree behind them. They have won the tournament on three occasions and have always been a side to beat. Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been their inspirational and respected leader whose presence itself has had opponents worried. Captain Dhoni, may have a temperament that is unshakable but he also has a mind that calculates a situation with computer-like accuracy. Like Ram’s arrow of Brahma that pierced through the heart of Ravana to kill him, Dhoni’s cameo knock to demolish Delhi C’pital’s has shown that he has regained his armory to become a dreaded finisher.
The Chennai Super Kings have had the luxury of a few days of rest and recreation which has given them time to recover from any small niggles and strains they might have. A fresh CSK side will have an advantage especially as they have some older legs that needed a longer time in which to recover.
On the other hand, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have shown their preference for playing in the United Arab Republic (UAE). In 2014, they won the IPL when the first part of the tournament was held there and in the 2021 edition, they have climbed from the position of also-ran on to play the final. The UAE atmosphere seems to bring the best out of them and this could be because of the mysterious spinners in their fold. KKR too has a very astute captain in Eoin Morgan, the England team’s leader, who won them the ODI World Cup in 2019. He matches Dhoni on temperament, however, the lack of runs is his biggest concern but he has the class and experience to shine on the big stage.
KKR has also an advantage up their sleeve. In the IPL 2012 final played between CSK and them, they were victorious. They have also reached the finals on two occasions and have won both times.
The wonderful feature of both the Chennai and Kolkata sides has been the performances of their Indian domestic players. The two Maharashtra batsmen are now pitted against each other. Ruturaj Gaekwad has been a Chennai super performer and the person who has been very much instrumental in getting them into the finals. Whereas, Rahul Tripathi has blossomed batting higher up in the order for KKR. His incredible backfoot six on the penultimate ball to steal a victory for his side against Delhi Capitals to reach the final showed his nerves of steel’ An army man’s son, who during his early days in the IPL with CSK, watched and learned a lot from the person he admires and will be playing against, Faf du Plessis.
The player who has stolen the limelight from many has been the KKR opener, Venkatesh Rajasekaran Iyer. The domestic cricketer from Madhya Pradesh has been brilliant. He has a very good future ahead of him especially being a left-hand batsman. With Shikhar Dhawan on the decline, he along with Devdutt Paddikal are the two aspiring youngsters to replace him. Iyer has the advantage that he can bowl medium pacers as well.
The match will also have an element of two distinctively different coaches at the helm. Both Brendon Mccullum and Stephen Fleming are from New Zealand. They have captained their country and have been their superst’rs with Mccullum’s aggressive batting app’oach and Fleming’s conservative consistency. One can see this in the way their sides approach matches as well. One wonders whether the BCCI may look at one of them to replace Ravi Shastri as the coach of the Indian side.
One is astonished that West Indians have not selected their mysterious spinner, Sunil Narine, in their World Cup T20 squad. A bowler who has just recently in the IPL bamboozled the likes of Virat Kohli, Glen Maxwell and AB de Villiers cannot find a place in their side. A sigh of relief is what most sides must be going through.
One does feel sorry for the Delhi Capitals side, who played so well in the league stage to top the leaderboard but failed when most needed. Two elementary mistakes cost them a place in the final. One was against CSK when they had a choice to either bowl Tom Curran or Kagiso Rabada. The pace of Rabada would have been difficult for an out-of-form Dhoni to face. Opting for Curran because of his slower ball deliveries was ideal for the CSK captain to make his mark. Dhoni has the arm of a lumberjack and the strength to clear any boundary. Giving him time to smack the ball was underestimating his capabilities.
The other error of DC was the selection of Marcus Stoinis as a top-order batsman ahead of Steve Smith in the match against KKR. The slowness and at times the sponginess of the wicket requires a batsman to have the skills to play late and the ability to deflect at the last moment. Steve Smith was ideally suited to do that as the UAE wickets have not been a high-scoring affair. Most sides fell victim when trying to achieve tall scores rather than setting a challenging one. In the bargain, many succumbed to a middle-order slump.
The IPL 2021 final should be a pulsating affair. KKR, in chess termin”logy, will start wi”h a ” Three Knights Game” whereas”the other chess m”ve of “Kings Knight move” is what CSK will put in place. However, the only move important will be the toss of the coin!