Dubai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the feared finisher of the game, will rise to the big occasion and come out well, a top Chennai Super Kings official said in a veiled threat to the rivals on the eve of the Indian Premier League Season 14 final against Kolkata Knight Riders to be held tomorrow (Friday) at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
“Whenever the chips are down and whenever the occasion is big, MS comes out well. Whether it is IPL final or World Cup final, you can expect Dhoni to do very well,” Kasi Viswanathan, CEO of Chennai Super Kings, told Gulf News in an exclusive chat today.
After a disappointing season 13, the Yellove did not leave any stone unturned to reclaim their rightful place in the most-lucrative league in the world.
Talking about the transformation, Viswanathan, who did not hide his elation after reaching the final, said: “We were confident we would do well this season.
“We started preparing very early for the season. In the first phase we had a month’s camp in Chennai and when we came over to Dubai in the second phase, we came a month early. The team landed on August 13 and started practicing from August 20. Basically the process was set and the results are coming up.”
The Super Kings now get a chance to avenge the loss they suffered in 2012 final at the hands of Kolkata, who found a Knight in the shining armour in the name of Manvinder Bisla.
However, the form of the team points towards the consistent Yellow Lions, who have breezed to the playoffs before a stutter in the final rounds of the league phase. They ended the rot when Dhoni again showcased his feared finishing touches to take Chennai past the line against table-toppers Delhi Capitals in the Qualifier 1 at the same venue last Sunday.
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However, Kolkata, who from their seventh spot before the start of the UAE leg, moved up to the fourth spot to enter the playoffs. But they have not been convincing in their two games — in the Eliminator against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals in Qualifier 2 — winning by two balls and one ball to spare, respectively.
The spin trio of Varun Chakravarthy, Sunil Narine and Shakib Al Hasan have spun a web around the rivals at the Sharjah Stadium, where the pitch was conducive for their bowling. The ball keeping low and a stump-to-stump line giving the batsmen little leeway to go after them.
It might not be the same on a Dubai pitch, where the ball comes on to the bat nicely at a good height. In the Qualifier 1, Delhi pacers Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje raked up good pace and had good carry. Chennai chasing a target of 173 is a testimony that there were no demons on the pitch.
Robin Uthappa filling in the No 3 slot must have given more confidence to the openers Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis, who have done the bulk of the scoring. Chennai will once again expect a strong start from Gaikwad, who has grown in leaps and bounds this season as is now just 23 runs behind KL Rahul’s 626 runs to take home the Orange Cap.
Former South African skipper du Plessis is also not far behind at fourth spot with 547 runs.
With both Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan not playing tomorrow’s clash, it is the best chance for these two to clinch the Orange Cap.
It remains to be seen if Super Kings’ leading run-getter and the backbone of the Yellove batting Suresh Raina gets fit for the final after recovering from a knee niggle.
Barring this one change, Super Kings might retain the same squad as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not an advocate of frequent chopping and churning of the playing XI.
Despite Uthappa not among the runs, Chennai team management continued to repose their faith on the former Indian opener, who repaid that with a match-winning knock.
A few years ago, when Australian Shane Watson went through a lean patch, Super Kings trusted in the Australian all-rounder’s abilities and the opener came up with a brilliant knock despite blood oozing from his left knee in the final against Mumbai in 2019, which Chennai lost by one run.
If Chennai could make early inroads then, they will make Kolkata’s life extremely difficult and ensure that they are not third time lucky.