*The IPL 2023 final has been postponed to the reserve day (Monday, ie May 29) after persistent rain on Sunday. In case the reserve day is washed out as well, Gujarat will be awarded the trophy owing to their higher spot on the points table. The chances of rain on Monday are less than 10%.
In the blink of an eye, 73 matches have gone past. Two months feel like two hours. And we are all set for the final showdown to find out the winners of the 2023 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
MS Dhoni has fulfilled his promise. Returning to Chennai, he has enthralled the crowd. The skipper has limited his role as a batter but has still delivered those sixes that act as an energy booster to the Chennai Super Kings’ fans. He has hit 10 sixes in the season out of which nine have come in Chennai. More than 50% of his runs have come in sixes.
He has delivered those captaincy masterclasses that his fans rave about. He has squeezed out the best from Matheesha Pathirana, Shivam Dube and Ajinkya Rahane. Dhoni has turned a subpar bowling line-up on paper into an efficient force on the field. Consequently, Chennai have qualified for their 10th final, all under the leadership of their beloved Thala.
On the other hand, Gujarat Titans have been one of the best all-round sides of the tournament. Their title win last year was labeled as a fluke by many. This year, they have looked stronger. In the bid to claim their second trophy in as many seasons, they hold the Orange Cap as well as the Purple Cap. The second and the third highest wicket taker in the competition also belong to them. They have the best batting average (35.6) and also the best bowling average (22.1) this season.
The master vs apprentice narrative between MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya has become repetitive already but it is at its peak now. Pandya has the team but Dhoni has the brains that can make a difference.
Things to watch out for
Can CSK circumvent the Gill scare?
Shubman Gill began the tournament on a slow note given the standards he has set for himself now. He has three hundreds in the last four innings. In the Gujarat line-up, Gill’s tally of 851 runs is over 500 runs more than the next best, Pandya (325).
He has ace numbers against all bowling types, all lengths, in all phases. In Ahmedabad, he averages 94.1 at a strike-rate of 176.2 this year, with three centuries.
Clearly, Gill is the most critical wicket in this final. The question is how CSK circumvent the Gill scare. He has no evident weakness in his game at the moment.
Among this behemoth of statistics heavily biased towards one batter, there is one figure that favors CSK. Gill’s average of 27.4 against Chennai is his lowest against any opponent in the league. However, when the two teams met in the lung opener, Gill hammered 63 off 36 balls, turning a 179-run chase into a cakewalk. Deepak Chahar has dismissed Gill thrice in T20 cricket, the joint most by any bowler. But two of those dismissals came in 2021.
Will Gill continue to ride this crest of form? Finding a way to dismiss him will be the greatest test of Dhoni’s captaincy and CSK bowlers in this final.
Dube’s middle-overs marvels meet the Afghan spinners
Shivam Dube has been a high-impact player for CSK, tackling the opposition spinners with his long levers. The left-hander has a strike-rate of 174.3 this season, the second-highest for any batter against spin (minimum 150 runs), while his average of 47.5 isn’t bad either.
In the final, however, he will be up against two of the best wrist-spinners in the tournament. Rashid Khan has the most wickets for a spinner this year - 27 wickets in 16 matches. His record against left-handers is particularly impressive - 13 wickets at 13.9 runs apiece while conceding only 7.2 runs per over.
Similarly, Noor Ahmad’s seven left-handed victims have come at 17.7 runs apiece with an economy of 7.8.
Overall, Dube still averages 43.5 against wrist-spinners while striking at 170.6.
Dube’s power-hitting has covered up for CSK’s slow start on many occasions. If it comes down to him again, his battle against the Afghan spinners will be the one to watch out.
Pathirana in death overs
Matheesha Pathirana has been the best death bowler this season. On the other side, Gujarat have been the best batting side in that phase with the highest average (27.5) and the second best run-rate (11.5).
Gujarat’s secret has been going into the phase with a hefty number of wickets at hands. As a result, Rahul Tewatia has faced only 57 balls in the season despite playing all 16 games and remaining not out four times. Pathirana’s secret is picking wickets and getting into the lower order of the opposition. It is an interesting battle of contrasting methods at loggerheads.
Pitch and Conditions
Chennai and Gujarat locked horns twice this season with the scoreline settled at 1-1. The venue played a big part in both the results, the first of which was played at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
At 30%, the Narendra Modi Stadium has the second lowest share of wickets for the spinners (venues with more than two matches).
CSK have been a spin dominant side. 41.6% of their wickets have come through spinners. However, they lack penetrative pacers at the top. That was a pivotal reason why Gujarat was able to out bat Chennai in Match 1 of the season. When the ball turned in Chennai in Qualifier 1, they were able to defeat Gujarat by 15 runs.
Therefore, the conditions favor the defending champions.
Besides that, Ahmedabad has been a high-scoring venue despite big boundaries. 193 is the average score batting first, the third-joint highest among all venues (minimum three games).
> Pandya averages only 9 runs for two dismissals against Ravindra Jadeja. However, CSK will have to be wary of Pandya’s batting partner while employing this match-up. Both Gill and David Miller have a strike-rate in excess of 140 against the left-arm spinner in T20 cricket.
> Mohammad Shami has dismissed Devon Conway thrice for only five runs in T20 cricket. Ruturaj Gaikwad will have to farm the strike against Shami. He has 46 runs off 66 balls against Shami in T20s without any dismissals.
Chennai Super Kings: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devon Conway, Ajinkya Rahane, Shivam Dube, Moeen Ali, Ambati Rayudu (IP), Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni (c/wk), Deepak Chahar, Tushar Deshpande, Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana (IP).
Gujarat Titans: Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Sai Sudharsan, Hardik Pandya (c), David Miller, Vijay Shankar (IP), Rahul Tewatia, Rashid Khan, Noor Ahmand, Joshua Little (IP), Mohit Sharma, Mohammad Shami.
IP = Impact Player