Chennai, May 26 (IANS) Chennai Super Kings, playing their fourth Indian Premier League (IPL) final in five seasons, look all primed to win their third consecutive title as they face the Kolkata Knight Riders here Sunday.
In what promises to be an intriguing contest, the two skippers make a terrific study in contrast.
For Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain cool of the Super Kings, it is a familiar territory as his team plays their third consecutive final. The team has also followed a familiar script of bouncing back after coming close to elimination.
In contrast, Dhoni's counterpart Gautam Gambhir wears his emotions on his sleeve. But then he is no less a player in leading the team from the front. For him and his team, though, it would be the first time to appear in an IPL final after the Knight Riders' top-four finish last year.
On Friday night, the Delhi Daredevils did not show the temperament required to win a big match and the Knight Riders face a similar test on the morrow against the Super Kings who look every inch a Derby winner.
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Gambhir's presence after the Knight Riders spent a fortune in acquiring the Delhi southpaw at the auction last year, has certainly made a huge difference to the Kolkata outfit that has performed consistently this season.
In contrast, the Super Kings made a typical up-and-down progress until three teams that could have eliminated them crashed to defeats at the business end of the league. Having made a backdoor entry into play-offs on Net Run Rate, the Super Kings have looked a side transformed as was evident in their spectacular 86-run win against the Delhi Daredevils Friday.
Yet, the Super Kings cannot Sunday expect the kind of largesse the Daredevils offered by dropping their key bowler Morne Morkel. The Knight Riders possess a more balanced bowling with young West Indian spinner Sunil Narine being the pick of the lot.
The 24-year-old Narine has been quite devastating with his unorthodox delivery as most batsmen have failed to read him. With 24 wickets in his bag, just one less than Morne Morkel, Narine could well be the most influential player in the final.
Besides Narine, the Knight Riders have the seam of veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis who, too, has been a key figure in the team's victories this season with 14 wickets and 340 runs.
However, the Knight Riders would require a much better effort from not just Narine and Kallis, but from the rest, especially Gambhir who is the side's highest run-getter (588), to pull off a win. Afterall, the Super Kings boast of the most balanced line-up in the competition with a bevy of quality all-rounders like Dwayne Bravo, Albie Morkel and Ravindra Jadeja.
The century by opener Murali Vijay Friday against the Daredevils after a string of low scores, has certainly given the Super Kings a massive boost and with many quality batsmen to follow him, the Super Kings are on velvet.
Further, the Chennai outfit has so much variety in bowling that Dhoni Friday did not call upon left-arm spinner Jadeja, the team's most expensive buy this season. Nor was Jadeja required to bat as the Super Kings piled up the season's highest total of 222 for five.
Thus, the Super Kings have everything going for them and, if anything, Gambhir's leadership ability will be under scanner for he will be up against a team that has rediscovered its winning ways.
This season, the teams have met twice and both lost their home matches, something that the Knight Riders would be aware of and would be looking to repeat on the morrow. The dice, though, is heavily loaded in favour of the Super Kings.