The Last Tango: Top Cats

Match#69: Royal Challengers Bangalore v/s Chennai Super Kings

M Chinnaswamy stadium, Bangalore
Form: RCB- Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Draw, Win, Win, Win, Win, Win, Win, Win, Loss, 
            CSK- Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, 

So it all comes down to this. Okay, so maybe it is not the matter of life or death as we hoped (and expected) it to be. The Superpowers of the South face off for the final time this year in a game that may decide the winner of this league (complete with Sambhar masala bragging rights). Not much on the line, really- taking into consideration the magnitude of the NEXT game we have on hand today.
But it is only apt that the top 4 teams face off on the last Super Sunday and round off this league in blazing style- that may only add to their confidence as they enter the long-overdue first-ever PLAYOFFS!
For CSK, the equation is simple- Win and finish first (one does not net RR coming into question with MI anymore). Finishing first is an alien concept to CSK, atleast so far- and Mi or RCB fans can only hope that this may mean that they peaked a bit too early (from their own unpleasant experiences). But this is a team that has reached two finals out of three- and they certainly don’t need TWO opportunities to make the final, leave alone ONE. MSD must be grinning as we speak- he can chill for a game, lose even- and then fire against a KKR, gather some momentum and go all guns blazing into the final. At home. Perfect. 
RCB have already qualified, of course, but their awe-inducing loss to a rampaging Punjab might have hurt their pride a bit- especially because it confirmed suspicions that a Gayle failure will inevitably lead to a system failure in general. Win this, and a top 2 finish is guaranteed- along with it perks of the playoff format and a champions league automatic position. Hmm, one wonders if a one-man team really deserves so much. But then, that is like wondering why Siddharth Mallya was born into a multi-billion dollar beverage franchise that has give him the automatic fake-record-breaking status of being IPL’s youngest team-owner. 
Royal Challengers Bangalore: (Finals 2009)
After quite a stellar performance over the best part of 10 games now, the Challengers will look to keep Chris Gayle as happy as possible- even if it means not exposing his two-step bowling action to someone like Dhoni or Morkel just to keep his spirits high (no pun intended). After possibly one of the greatest examples of how one man can rule the fate of an entire team for an extended period of time (after SRT in the 90s), RCB will want to dispel all such notions and actually exhibit some team spirit. Of course, look at where that team spirit got Rajasthan, and one cannot blame them for instantly being discouraged. On Tuesday night, they ran into the Aussie duo of Gilchrist and Marsh (also known 75% of team Punjab) who promptly destroyed Bangalore’s invincibility with a blazing blitz of a record-shattering double century partnership- and an unusually skillful Piyush Chawla. Just their luck. One embarrassment per league is a must, and RCB have now done their quota. 

The Orange cap? You take it- its a curse

Facing a frighteningly strong Chennai outfit in their last game, temperamental captain Kohli will need to do more than just make sour faces, fist-pump and bringing himself on to bowl for no rhyme or reason whatsoever. He will do well to learn from MSD at the other end, who sticks to keeping inspite of having a newly-christened Saha in the same team. Do your job, and stick to your strengths. In Kohli’s case, it could mean the choicest of cool abuses and looking unnecessarily intense. Never mind- he has still won 66 % of his games (2 out of 3). 

All he needs is a half-decent performance from 8 of his other 9 players (forgive Zak) and they are on their way. Indeed.
Player to watch out for: Virat Kohli
The young Delhiite seems to be enjoying the highs and lows of captaining a fired-up South Indian team- and will savour this opportunity as one to sound a warning just in case Gauti decides to slip on a banana peel on the bathroom tiles of a Jamaican joint next month. VK has always been billed as the future captain- in keeping with the long tradition of having technically-flawed but gritty batsmen as Indian captains. No better stage than this to prove your ability- against your World Champion captain in a massive (and pointless) match-up of two IPL giants, where it will not matter at all if he manages to smash a century now and then promptly get out for a duck in a rematch in the crucial final. He is Indian, after all. He must prove a point.
Chennai Super Kings: (Winners 2010)
They were expected to win all along against Kochi at home- inspite of not playing at their best. Their batting attack decided to take it easy and refuel, hence setting the stage for the much-maligned Wriddhiman Saha to be the LAST CSK player to hit form and duly confirm the fact that not ONE out of their 11 players seem to be out of sorts. The rotational tactics from MSD have worked again and I shudder to call it a fluke. Calculated fluke is more like it. Anyhow, it only meant good news for the yellow Devils- and will only confirm (undeservedly) Kris Srikkanth and Co.’s ridiculous decision to include Saha in the squad to the Windies. Facing a mediocre Kochi attack was never an issue, and even someone like Naman Ojha might come good in the last game of IPL-2011. One doubts if Saha will be persisted with for the playoffs, but this is MSD we are talking about. Eat your words.

Age. *pant* *huff* What age? *pant*

Easily the strongest of the 4 contenders for the title, unlike last year, Dhoni seems to have made sure of the possibility of a rare occasion where a previous IPL winner will be part of the Champion’s league for two years in a row. Just another feather in his multi-colored cap, only. With R. Ashwin looking lean, mean and making up for Bollinger’s mood swings, they did not even need Albie Morkel to bowl against Kochi to defend a par score of 152. Imagine MI not needing someone like Munaf or KKR not needing someone like Abdullah. Yes, that strong.

Just to drive home their dominance, much like one team does every year till the final- Chennai will want to teach Bangalore the true meaning of teen spirit. I mean- team spirit. 
Player to watch out for: Murali Vijay
Big one is due. Still due. And we all know that the batting star of Champions league 2010 has that one inning in him- and duly treat us to a spectacle of graceful strokes that we may never ever see him play in an international arena- much like Rohit Sharma. Atleast he opens the batting and does not need to sit with his pads on till the 16th over of every innings waiting for a Rayadu to get out, just to face a few measly balls and then fail. Brighter side, brighter side. For the Super Kings, he is the Murali that never got away. 
Of course, expect Dhoni to fail and wait till an interesting game to put on his cape and mask- and Bollinger to end his dry spell and actually vault up the purple-cap list into second place. 

Gayle fail? Gayle pass? Doesn’t matter- because CSK have it covered. A lapse could be forgiven, but one doesn’t see Dhoni wanting to ease up anytime soon- especially now that he knows that a tiny vacations awaits him after the IPL. Phew. CSK win, it is. Top spot. Problems solved. 

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