Super Kings and Knight Riders star in the Grand Finale in Chennai
By Arun Gopalakrishnan
Mumbai 26 May 2012
After 53 days and 75 matches of riveting action, the last two teams left standing – the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Chennai Super Kings – go head-to-head in the title clash of DLF IPL 2012.
The Kolkata Knight Riders have been the most successful team in the competition so far, having won 69 percent of the 16 matches they’ve played. Gautam Gambhir’s side finished the league stage in second place and then defeated table-toppers Delhi Daredevils in the first playoff match. As a result, they directly qualified for the Final.
When the Chennai Super Kings finished their league engagements (they were the first team to play out all their 16 league fixtures) on May 17, they had left their fortunes in the hands of other teams. Thankfully for the defending champions – who looked far from a dominating team in the league stage – many results went their way and they sneaked into the playoffs in fourth place. In their two playoff matches though, CSK have brought their best game to the park and have been at their commanding best; they defeated the Mumbai Indians by 38 runs in the Eliminator and then thrashed the Delhi Daredevils by a mammoth 85 runs in Qualifier 2.
Both teams are evenly matched in terms of personnel and must be high on confidence heading into this contest. However, one must concede that the defending champions have the edge. And here’s why:
• CSK will be playing at home and know the conditions on hand
• CSK will have the crowd rooting for them
• CSK have the momentum of two big wins behind them
• CSK have played in three finals and know what it takes to win those big moments
The Kolkata Knight Riders start as underdogs; Gautam Gambhir’s boys are playing in an IPL final for the very first time. Will the underdogs be able to shrug off the rustiness from their break, stand up to the pressure of a title clash and cause an upset? Will we have a new IPL Champion? Only time will tell.
Sunday, May 27, 2012, 08:00 p.m.
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
Unlike several other teams in the competition, who have thrived on individual brilliance, KKR and CSK have made it this far because of contributions from several players. For both teams, their successful journeys have been a sum of several parts.
Gautam Gambhir and Sunil Narine have been the standout performers – and by a long way – as far as the Kolkata Knight Riders are concerned. The former is the second-highest run-getter in the competition with 588 runs and has shown lots of intent to score big at the top of the order. Given what is at stake, expect the KKR skipper to come out even stronger, value his wicket even more and lead from the front. Narine, meanwhile, has been unplayable right through the competition; his flummoxing of batsmen with a variety of deliveries has not only resulted in wickets, but it has also meant opposition batsmen have found scoring runs difficult. The Trinidadian turned 24 on the eve of the match, and winning the Purple Cap and leading his team to an IPL title will be the best present he could give himself.
But Gambhir and Narine are only half the picture. There have been important and match-winning contributions from several other players at crucial junctures. It would be unfair to overlook the contributions made by Yusuf Pathan (who was a pale shadow of his former self until he played a match-winning cameo against the Delhi Daredevils), Jacques Kallis, Shakib Al Hasan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Rajat Bhatia, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Brendon McCullum, Brett Lee and Manvinder Bisla at various junctures. KKR will be hoping all their players to do their jobs well one last time this season.
Faf du Plessis was the only consistent performer in the CSK ranks in the first half of the season. However, since then, several players (S Badrinath, Michael Hussey, Ravindra Jadeja, Albie Morkel and Dwayne Bravo, among others) have stepped up and won them games at various times. Murali Vijay was the latest to join the list. His scintillating 113 against the Delhi Daredevils was his first 50-plus score of the season; but that it won his team the match and ensured passage to the final must give him a lot of confidence. Expect him to shrug off all doubts over his form and come out a confident individual when he walks out to bat.
Suresh Raina is the only top-order batsman among the CSK regulars who’s not scored a half-century this season. For a player of his class and reputation (he is the leading run-getter in the IPL and the only player to aggregate more than 400 runs every season), a season aggregate of 368 runs and a best of 44 does not do justice. The southpaw got some valuable time in the middle in the previous match and was timing the ball well before he miscued one back to the bowler. CSK management and fans will be hoping the left-hander can come through in this all-important match.
Keep an eye on the two captains too; Gambhir and Dhoni are two shrewd thinkers and both players will be trying to outsmart each other. Their decision-making skills will be under the spotlight – especially after some bizarre selections and decision-making we’ve witnessed in the last few games.
In the nine matches played between the Chennai Super Kings and the Kolkata Knight Riders, the former have a 6-3 win-loss record.
In the two meetings earlier this season, both teams couldn’t win in their own backyard but went on to win their away matches. In the first meeting in Chennai, KKR restricted the hosts to 139 for five and then chased down the runs in the last over. When the two teams met for the second time – this time in Kolkata – the hosts were restricted to 158 for six, and the visitors chased down the target losing five wickets in the process, and getting past the finish line off the very last ball of the match.
The Kolkata Knight Riders have an awesome away record this season; they’ve lost only one of their nine matches on the road in DLF IPL 2012.
Gautam Gambhir has an outstanding record against the Chennai Super Kings; he’s scored five half-centuries in nine IPL innings against them.
The team batting first has won three out of the four IPL finals played till now.
MS Dhoni’s batting average against the Kolkata Knight Riders is an incredible 120 from six innings; his scores against KKR are 43*, 40*, 66*, 29, 34* and 28.
After two months of hectic, fast-paced cricket, the curtain will come down on DLF IPL 2012. The winners will take home the DLF IPL Trophy and a cheque of Rs 10 crore, while the losers will have to be content with a Rs 7.5 crore cheque. Both teams will next be seen in action in the 2012 Champions League Twenty20, where they will be pitted against the best clubs from around the world.