As KKR celebrated that night, the Chennai Super Kings management tried to come to terms with one of the most painful losses in their history. Such was the impact that when CSK had their revenge in a tight league phase match a year later, coach Stephen Fleming said he still would have preferred the win the 2012 final.
That loss had stopped CSK’s two-year title-winning run and it has taken MS Dhoni’s team a good nine years to get another shot at true revenge.
With two new teams and a big auction coming up, a lot of things will change in the IPL next year. And CSK, playing a record ninth final despite being banned for two years, would love to end this current cycle with their fourth title triumph.
KKR, on the other hand, have always been an erratic side and you never know what to expect from them. But, then, it is this unbelievable unpredictability that has brought them to the final for the first time in seven years after being absolute no-hopers in the India leg six months ago.
It is precisely this aspect of unpredictability that makes KKR the ever-consistent CSK’s least-preferred side in a final skirmish. The yellow brigade has beaten the Knights twice this year, but both the games were very close and Dhoni knows individual brilliance in the KKR ranks can make a difference.
It is the fearlessness stemming from the individual brilliance of some players that has made the difference for KKR after coming to UAE with only two wins in the kitty. Mercurial opener Venkatesh Iyer was unleashed and he completely changed the dynamic of the team while old magician Sunil Narine rediscovered his mojo. The likes of Rahul Tripathi, Subhman Gill and Dinesh Karthik too chipped in and here they are, even without their biggest matchwinner Andre Russell — who has struggled with a hamstring injury and missed most of the games.
Will KKR gamble with Russell?
The West Indian superstar was seen bowling before the second Qualifier on Wednesday, but the KKR management still didn’t want to take a chance with his fitness. More importantly, who will Russell replace?
Narine and Lockie Ferguson are two crucial ingredients of the bowling attack while Shakib-al Hasan has given the team the depth both in batting and bowling that they sorely lacked initially. That leaves us with skipper Eoin Morgan –woeful with the bat this time, but had he not been captain, the team management wouldn’t have thought twice before dropping him. The fact that Russell is in the West Indies team for the T20 World Cup may also make the KKR management reluctant about fielding him if he is not 100 % fit.
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Dew in Dubai and toss
Another crucial issue is the outcome of the toss. Dubai, right through this phase of the IPL, has proved a chasing ground because the dew tends to set in as the evening progresses, making it difficult for the bowlers to hold the ball. The toss becomes all the more important then, because KKR banks heavily on wrist spinners Narine and Varun Chakravarthy.
While CSK’s only spinner is Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni has enough bowling back-up, KKR’s trump cards are too wellknown. Varun and Narine, along with Shakib (if he plays), have to be on top of their game if they have to entertain any hopes of stopping CSK.