Gaurav Sethi
27 May 2023 | 05:04 PM

Inside CSK and GT camps before the IPL final

What makes the tournament special, yet over the top

After Gujarat Titans’ stunning win against a much-fancied Mumbai Indians, planning has been taken on a whole new level at CSK. While the IPL final, in all probability, could be MS Dhoni’s last IPL match, the captain wants to focus on the process – “I don’t want players to be distracted, they can be distracted eight months later when I take the decision. Right now, if you ask me, I want them to focus on the process that has got us here.” 

Asked what this process was, MSD said, “that is not for me to tell, if you can guess, guess, otherwise you will publish it and GT will know all about it, so I’d rather keep quiet.”

At the GT camp, they were anything but quiet. Rahul Tewatia was all charged up, thumping his chest as he often does after miraculous death-over chases. He could be seen urging Shubman Gill to do the same. Gill was seen smiling to no one and everyone in particular. His mates were still lining up to kiss him. It had been learnt that die-hard GT fans had been queuing outside the stadium to kiss him. 

Gill, nonchalant as ever, echoed Dhoni’s sentiment when he said, “I don’t want to be distracted. I just want to focus on my process that has got me here.”

GT skipper Hardik Pandya was more forthcoming when he said, “We all know what Shubman can do, you know and we have come to expect this of him. I know he says the process is important but even before the process we have to look at if everyone is following the process and why is he only showing such results.” At this point, coach Ashish Nehra walked past Pandya, mumbling something inaudible to him. 

As Pandya continued to ramble, Nehra returned and said something within earshot, “Talk to him later, or don’t talk to him, let’s discuss how Mumbai made so many runs, they should have lost by more than 100 runs, that Shami over nearly cost us.” As for Shami, he could be seen laughing, imitating the sitter that went through his hands. 

Mentor Gary Kirsten looked quite unaffected by all this. Almost mirroring this was CSK coach, Stephen Fleming. While Ruturaj Gaikwad, who some are pipping as Dhoni’s successor, came forward to say a few words, “We don’t need to look at GT. We need to look at ourselves. Our strengths. Everywhere there are photos of Gill’s six-pack. Why are there no photos of my six-pack? Few know I have a six-pack. At CSK, it is not our style to be demonstrative. More so after Bravo retired. But everyone here knows I have a six-pack. I even mentioned it in a post-match IPL interview.” 

At this point, everyone cracked up, but what stunned everyone was a power-point presentation that did a comparison of Gill and Gaikwad’s six-packs. While everyone continued to laugh, Gaikwad remained poker-faced. 

At GT, preps for their second IPL final in a row were on in earnest. Everyone had been given copies of Oscar Wilde’s 'The importance of being earnest'. It was Nehra’s idea – “I have not read the book, and you don’t have to also, what is important is the title. And we are after the title. Once we have the title, you can read the book. Or Not.” He continued to talk briskly in Hindi, saying the focus on the title was all that matters. 

Pandya echoed Nehra’s sentiment, “What Ashu pa is saying is correct, if I had been reading books then I would’ve been some modest cricket writer and not this flashy captain of an IPL winning team. We have to wear our attitude on our sleeve, you must have heard that saying. I believe, you have to wear it on both sleeves.”

In the CSK war-room, there was a secret visitor. It was GT bowler, Mohit Sharma. Sharma was ex-CSK and was seen animatedly talking to Dhoni after the first Eliminator. He had popped in to thank Dhoni, talking straight as he did after his 5 for 10 against MI. He was asking Dhoni what he thought of his speech. When Dhoni said he didn’t watch speeches, he only made them, Sharma repeated it verbatim. 

After Sharma left, Pandya appeared. He too wanted to spend time with his ‘elder brother’, Dhoni. He was quite emotional and MS had to calm him down. Pandya was seen ruffling Dhoni’s hair. 

Gradually, other GT members entered to speak with Dhoni and his CSK team-mates. The broadcasting crew appeared and started filming this. Ex-CSK player and broadcaster, Mathew Hayden, piped in, “It’s only in the IPL that you will see something like this. No doubt this is the greatest league in the world.” 

Harbhajan Singh, by his side, agreed, “I have to agree with you, even you and I are now friends all thanks to the IPL.” Sunil Gavaskar could be seen taking out shirts from a bag, having them autographed by Dhoni. When reminded that he already had his shirt autographed by MS on Live TV, he quipped, “In India, the moment you have something precious, your family, friends and neighbours want it.”

Ashish Nehra hovered past mumbling to himself. 

(However plausible this may sound, this is a work of fiction)

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