IPL 2023: CSK face defending champions Titans

Will CSK add another trophy to the tally or will Titans script a new era of dominance, questions galore as they face each other in season finale

| Updated: 28 May, 2023 12:15 am IST
Who will have the last laugh? Hardik Pandya or MS Dhoni

NEW DELHI: There are questions galore as Chennai Super Kings square up against defending champions Gujarat Titans in the final, with the IPL season coming to a full circle on Sunday.

But perhaps the most pertinent of all questions is whether CSK skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will pull the curtains on an incredible career by adding another IPL trophy to the team’s cabinet. A trophy will see them level with Mumbai Indians’ tally of five wins.

Or will Hardik Pandya once again oversee his unsuspecting team, marking a new era of dominance and taking the mantle from both the CSK and Mumbai Indians? The Titans had shocked everyone with their fairytale debut season and they would be keen to keep the fairytale going.

At the majestic Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad’s Motera, all eyes will be on mentor Dhoni and his protégé Pandya as they once again square off against each other.

For the season, the honours are even with the Titans winning the opening match of the season while CSK forced them to play Qualifiers 2 after beating them in Qualifiers 1.

But at their den, the Titans seem to be a force to reckon with, as they won six of the nine games they played here. CSK, on the other hand, will be looking to change the narrative as they lost all three of their matches played at the venue.

Whether one admits it or not, there is a tell-tell sign that Pandya marshalled his team along the lines of Dhoni, with the Titans too following the former Indian skipper’s philosophy of keeping things simple and backing their players.

Pandya, who was integral to the Mumbai Indians’ dominance in the past, had featured in five IPL finals before 2023. And, for the record, he always finished on the winning side.

Dhoni, on the other hand, will be playing in his 11th IPL final. No player has played more IPL finals than the man they acknowledge as one of the best captains that India has seen.

With both teams having no injury concerns, there is unlikely to be any change in the playing XI. It means Devon Conway and Ruturaj Gaikwad will have their task cut out against Mohammad Shami, the bowler they found hard to dominate.

For the record, Shami also has a great record in Ahmedabad this season. He had 17 wickets in eight games at an impressive economy of 6.77.

The Titans, who thrived on their spinners, will surely take note of Rashid Khan’s inability to dominate Gaikwad and Ambati Rayudu. But they have former CSK man Mohit Sharma, who seems to have reinvigorated himself this season.

But the CSK bowlers’ biggest challenge, perhaps, will be how to contain Shubman Gill. The youngster is in the form of his life, slamming three centuries in the season so far while amassing more than 850 runs.

The fact that seasoned left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja did not exactly have a great record against Gill will only confound the problem for CSK.

CSK might bank on Maheesh Theekshana’s impressive record in away games and might also bank on his Sri Lankan teammate and pace sensation Matheesa Pathirana.

While Chennai, where CSK beat the Titans in Qualifier 1, had a low and spinning surface, Ahmedabad will have a different preposition, with the ball coming nicely to the bat. In fact, Motera has been a high-scoring venue this season, with the team batting first winning five of the eight matches.

Keeping in mind that this season, the team batting first has won more games (40), it will be important for bowlers to use their variations to check the likes of Gill, Miller, Pandya, Shankar, Conway, Gaikwad, Dube and Rayudu.

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