Mumbai: You wait all year for such a big game – The final of a mega tournament. And then… BOOM! The best bowler in T20s gets called for chucking and will miss one of the most important matches of his T20 career and his team’s history. Kolkata’ Sunil Narine will miss out on playing in the Champions League T20 2014 final against Chennai as the West Indian mystery spinner was banned from bowling after authorities found his action suspect for the 2nd time in as many matches.
The indomitable Chennai, on the other hand, will have the advantage of familiarity with the conditions but the unbeaten Indian Premier League Champions would still be a tough nut to crack when they clash in the final at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.
A look at the stats, and you would be forgiven for choosing Kolkata as the favourites. They have been on a roll after an unbeaten run in the tournament. They have, in fact, registered 14 wins in a row starting from IPL-7, but recent developments would argue with your decision, and with good reasons, too.
Kolkata skipper Gautam Gambhir is enterprising and has shared an intense rivalry with Dhoni in IPL, coming out trumps against the India captain on quite a few occasions. The Kolkata are coming into the title clash with the tag of invincible post their 14th straight win — a seven-wicket victory over Australias Hobart Hurricanes in the first semifinal.
Kolkata, unlike Chennai, have played all their group matches in Hyderabad and will have to get used to the conditions quickly in Bengaluru. The IPL-Champions, though, boasts of batsmen such as Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey and Jacques Kallis, all of whom have loads of experience and are in good form as well.
In the bowling department, there is bound to be some turmoil and soul-searching after mystery spinner Sunil Narine was banned from bowling in the final. Young Kuldeep Yadav and all-rounders such as Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate and Andre Russel have been quite successful.
Chennai had to depend on other teams results to make the last-four stage. Led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the team, however, has the ability to turn it around, a quality which was evident in the semifinal against a power-packed Punjab side. Dhoni knows the art of utilising his resources aptly, sometimes leaving rival captains too stunned by his decisions on batting and bowling combinations, besides field placements.
Coming into the match after handing a crushing 65-run defeat to Punjab in the second semifinal, Chennai would love to exploit the placid Chinnaswamy pitch, where they played most of their group matches.
Opener Dwayne Smith, who had a pretty good season last IPL but has been disappointing in CLT20, would look to make amends. He has the quality to put the opposition attack to the sword and will relish taking on KOL’s Narine-less attack. The swashbuckling Brendon McCullum has been inconsistent; he, too, would like to get into the groove and give a launch pad to the likes of Suresh Raina and Faf du Plessis.
Dwayne Bravo, who missed the last IPL season, has again proved his mettle with both bat and ball in the tournament. The West Indian all-rounder was the star in his teams last match, smashing 67 off 39 balls, while Ravindra Jadeja would also be eager to show his all-round prowess.
On the bowling front, bowlers like Ashish Nehra, Jadeja, R Ashwin, Mohit Sharma and Bravo can trouble most teams on a given day. In their last match, Sharma, Nehra, Pawan Negi and Raina looked to be in top form, and coupled with their brilliant fielders, CHN will hope for a repeat performance in their most important match of the series.
We are working as hard as if we are on a losing streak. As long as we keep doing that, there’s no reason why we can’t continue like this. We have a big final and we will start on naught. We will need a big performance and I know the guys will be up for it and looking forward to it: Jacques Kallis.
We are very driven to win this tournament. Chennai have always been consistent but we want to win trophies. It really means a lot for us and we especially want to win this one because its been quite some time since we last won a trophy: Faf du Plessis.
Chennai (From): Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina, Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo, Pawan Negi, MS Dhoni(c & w), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashish Nehra, Mohit Sharma, Mithun Manhas, Ishwar Pandey, John Hastings, Samuel Badree
Kolkata (From): Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Jacques Kallis, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Suryakumar Yadav, Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Pat Cummins, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Sunil Narine, Manvinder Bisla