The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and IPL finals, and to some extent, titles, appear to have been designed to coexist. After all, CSK advanced to the final of the world’s biggest T20 competition for the record-breaking 10th time on Tuesday, defeating the reigning champion Gujarat Titans by 15 runs at MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Even though Chennai has several awards, the Mumbai Indians have more. They have won five championships in six finals, while Chennai has only won one.
Despite winning the most trophies, it’s evident that MS Dhoni’s team is the most dependable when it comes to being in the top four at the conclusion of the league stage and making it to the final. There’s also no disputing the influence the CSK has on people, young and old, and how they grow as athletes while in the Chennai locker room. This is what distinguishes this club from the others.
CSK and GT met in the opening playoff game of the 16th season. CSK appears to have inspired GT’s team culture and consistency during the last two seasons. CSK’s performance against GT demonstrated why this team is so remarkable and why they are the overwhelming favorites to win the trophy on Sunday at the Narendra Modi Stadium.
Following Gujarat captain Hardik Pandya’s decision to stick to his team’s strength of chasing down targets, seamer Darshan Nalkande, who replaced Yash Dayal in the only change between the two sides, appeared to have given the table-toppers the perfect start after striking in only his third delivery of the season.
Ruturaj Gaikwad, who has 564 runs this season, chipped towards Shubman Gill at midwicket and was caught and bowled for 2 from six deliveries. GT reasoned as such. The no-ball hooter went out at Chepauk shortly later, much to the delight of the rowdy, yellow-clad CSK fan army. The 26-year-old then gave a preview of what was to come by hitting Nalkande for a six and a four on the next two deliveries, shattering the shackles.
Their in-form openers’ exploits (Devon Conway is the other) have been the cornerstone of Chennai’s batting performances this season, and while both have clicked on the same day at times, much to the chagrin of opposing bowlers, they’ve also made sure to fill in for each other if their partner found the going tough on a given day.
Gaikwad took center stage on Tuesday, pulling ahead while Conway struggled to timing the ball and bringing up the fifty-point partnership shortly after the powerplay finished. While they took a chance against Noor Ahmad, they were cautious against Mohammed Shami and Rashid Khan, the two bowlers at the top of the rankings who are currently vying for the Purple Cap. Later, they welcomed back Mohit Sharma with a 12-run over that included two boundaries for Gaikwad.
Chennai had 85 runs with no wickets down at the midway point, while Gaikwad had 59. His knock instilled confidence in Shivam Dube, Ambati Rayudu, and the rest of the batting lineup to go for the throat in the second half of the game. Even though the Gujarat bowlers responded with a flurry of wickets, and Mohit stunned the Chepauk crowd by dismissing Dhoni for one run, Gaikwad’s knock meant that Chennai only needed two or three huge overs to reach 172. This would have been much below par at Wankhede or Chinnaswamy, but it was a reasonably solid score at Chepauk.