Chennai Super Kings v/s Kolkata Knight Riders

Chepauk, Chennai

Murali IPL Vijay
With Deccan Chargers, who were destined to be wooden spooners this year, yet to play their last two games against two desperate teams- ONE of these two teams, right here right now, was expected to make the final. 
As things unfolded, KKR, one of the few teams to have not made the final in four years, were the deserved victors- and they have been waiting for 5 days to see who their opponent will be.
Many may have predicted that CSK will reach another final before the league began, but few predicted the possibility of them even making the knockouts mid-way through the league. They had simply forgotten how to win, and looked weary, tired and homesick. They almost wished to go home after they had completed their league stages before the rest, until they were reluctantly pushed back into the scheme of things- thanks to Dale Steyn. 

Funny as it may seem, as predicted by many, once Chennai were given a look-in to the playoffs, there was no turning back. Dhoni and his men, defying conventional knowledge and form, are currently the most electrifying team out there- and KKR will have their work cut out once again. 
But if it was Form v/s Destiny in Qualifier 2- where CSK promptly dismissed Delhi to all parts of the ground- in the GRAND FINALE of IPL 2012, it is Destiny v/s More Destiny. One couldn’t have asked for a more dramatic climax, in terms of the sheer dreaminess and temptation to fate it invites. The Fallen Heroes v/s The Big Stage Masters.

The Replacements
First, though, one look at Qualifier 2 will give us some very valuable information of how Champions rise to the occasion, irrespective of what went on in the group stages. Also, with controversies threatening to explode as soon as this IPL concludes, with the things going around behind closed doors- with N. Srinivasan and his merry band making some heads turn- it was inevitable, almost surreal, that the team facing the most flak- the defending champs- became the true flagbearers of Pressure Cricket. 
They played their worst in the group stages, and saved their best for the last- not that they ever expected to get here. In hindsight, one doubts they would have been so dominant if they had cruised through the group in first position- they’d have gotten bored. But this new lease of life makes their story ‘one for the ages’, making their players live a dream, and reveling in the new-found attention, despite being Three-time finalists before this. 
As bizarre as it may sound, for most of them, this will feel like the first and most memorable final- their most glorious moments, against all odds. 

Chennai Super Kings enjoyed their biggest win in terms of runs, against the Daredevils in this game. 86 huge runs. Completely and totally dominant. 
-Murali Vijay became the first Indian player (something totally unthinkable of, a few weeks ago) to score two IPL centuries. 
-CSK scored the highest total of IPL 2012, and the biggest win of IPL 2012. 
-Ashwin, with his figures of 3-23, achieved his best bowling performance this year. 
-Chennai’s 224 is the highest total scored at the Chepauk. 
-The Daredevils endured their worst defeat in IPL history, in their most important game yet. 
-For the first time this year, Sehwag did not open the batting. Also, Sehwag scored his last 40 runs in IPL-2012 at an average of 9, more like the erratic Sehwag we know. 

Pay It Forward, buddy. For Maa
These are not just any numbers- these are stats that demonstrate to us the nature of winners, of a team and a leader that know how to win, and make the most of a second chance. This is the greatest possible illustration of the state of mind needed to overcome expectations, pressure and heartbreaks- and just do one’s best at the best moments. 

Not to say, they weren’t helped by Virender Sehwag’s most scandalous team selection- only rivaled by Sangakkara’s sudden change of team composition hours before the World Cup Final. Irfan Pathan was injured, which led Sehwag’s ‘instinctive’ mind to restore the balance by leaving out their purple-cap-holding best bowler, Morne Morkel. Russell was brought in, and wonder of wonders, a young Tamil Nadu player named Sunny Gupta was given his debut in place of Morkel. 
This was to be either Sehwag’s most glorious and gravity-defying moment of his career, or just another affirmation of why the man can NEVER be Indian Captain, or leader. That he was playing against a man he is rumored to not be on good terms with since the England tour, only fuelled his madness to another level. 
Needless to say, the game was over before Delhi batted, and then his decision to demote himself to 3- for no reason- left Warner a little clueless at the top. Jayawardena was never going to score at the rate of 10 an over, and it was all over in the blink of an eye. 

Delhi deserved to lose, more than Chennai deserved to win- and there we have it, Dhoni v/s Gambhir. The two heroes of the World Cup final, the two zeroes of the tours that have followed. The two men, who have arguably endured the most, since that World Cup win. 
The two players who have been blamed the most for the worst year in Indian Cricket. 

More importantly, Dhoni will play against a man he has never seen eye-to-eye with. According to Gambhir, Dhoni is a finisher who leaves it till too late- and according to Dhoni, Gambhir is an opener who throws it all away and never takes it to the end. 

Ground Reality
One man will have the last laugh, and whether it will be the demoted ex-Vice-Captain or the beleaguered National Captain, time will tell. 
Whatever the case, this will mean good things for Indian Cricket, with their most important players facing off for the biggest prize outside of International Cricket. 


As predicted before the playoffs, I expect Chennai to finally meet Destiny’s true child- Shahrukh Khan’s KKR. There is just too much water under the bridge for the superstar this year, and if there was ever a redeeming moment, a moment that brought him his nation back- it will be his beloved KKR beating Champions of Champions CSK, in a nail-biter of a decider. 
Expect the same. There will be no winner till the last few minutes of the final. And then, fate will extend its hand.

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