Chennai Super Kings vs Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL Final, October 15, 07:30 PM IST
CSK’s IPL 2021 Journey
There was an unmissable spark in MS Dhoni’s eyes as his team made yet another IPL final. It had been such a week for him that a little emotion was bound to be seen. He went from a lifeless 18 off 27 against Delhi Capitals amidst a season of poor batting scores, to a 6-ball 18 against the same side in the first qualifier, that invoked fair shouts of Vintage Dhoni.
The 180 degree turn in Dhoni’s batting returns was, if anything, the term of CSK’s entertaining end to this 2018-2021 cycle. 2020 evoked conversation of CSK being a spent force, laying out the carpet for Mumbai Indians to run away with all the plaudits for being the most successful IPL franchise ever. But here they are, just one big performance away from narrowing the IPL title deficit to just one.
KKR’s IPL 2021 Journey
Also on the verge of creating a thrilling redemption story of their own are Kolkata Knight Riders. Since the eliminator appearance at the start of this cycle in 2018, KKR have largely had to play catch-up because of poor starts to the season in 2019 and 2020 – and on both occasions falling too short of a top-four finish.
A familiar, if not worse, fate awaited them with just two wins in seven games in the India leg but the unlikely coming together of favourable conditions and combinations in UAE has instead taken them all the way to the very top. If a reversal in the number of wins from the India leg – five in seven – wasn’t enough to establish their turnaround, they’ve gone ahead and put themselves in the hunt to match CSK’s IPL title tally by successfully crossing two playoffs hurdles to reach the summit clash.
CSK have a far superior IPL final experience, but KKR have never lost one. But both these teams will know history has very little bearing on events like these. They will also be wary of how equipped they both are at cancelling out each other’s strengths, as we saw in their late-September clash in Abu Dhabi. Very little separated the two sides in that tense afternoon game back then, very little is likely to be the difference on Friday evening.
Head-to-head: CSK have beaten KKR in 16 out of the 24 clashes between the two sides. This includes 5 of their last six meetings, starting from 2019.
Who will win? My heart and brain both say CSK. The logical side says so because CSK have big match players. They have players who have been in such high pressure situations. Most importantly, they have come shining out of such circumstances.
My mind, on the other hand, wants CSK to win since this might be the last season of Dhoni’s captaincy. He sure will return in yellow next season, but whether as a player? That is unlikely to happen.