All roads in Ahmedabad will lead to the Narendra Modi Stadium, as it’s the final showdown.
After 73 matches, two of the most consistent teams are pitted against each other to prove who will be the King of Tata IPL 2023.Defending champions Gujarat Titans will take on Chennai Super Kings in the battle within a battle, at the biggest stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
Will it be No. 2 or No.5?
Hardik Pandya-led side GT will look to keep the crown on one side while CSK will be eager to present their skipper, MS Dhoni, the fifth title as a parting gift since this could be his last IPL match.
However, there is one man, Shubman Gill, who could play spoilsport, as he has been on the carnage in this year’s edition of the championship. And his 129 off 60 balls at this same venue against Mumbai Indians is clear sign that he is ready for yet another display to complete his mission this season.
It has been over a decade since a young Dhoni was making his first strides in India blue, a four-year-old Gill was taking a stance on vast farmland in Punjab's Fazilka village on the Pakistan border, with a handmade customised bat, prepared by his doting grandfather. On this day, the soon-to-be 42 Dhoni will have one last assignment in his favourite Canary Yellow jersey - to stop Indian cricket's megastar-in-waiting and do a 'High Five'.
Three hundreds and 851 runs don't happen in every season but on a batting belter at the Motera, what will be Dhoni's strategy to rein in the Mohali Marauder? Will it be Deepak Chahar's swing or Ravindra Jadeja's wicket-to-wicket bowling?
Or will it be Moeen Ali, who could be the Joker in the Pack with his enticing flighted deliveries outside the off-stump which could sharply break back? Can Matheesha Pathirana bowl some incisive toe-crushers? A technically near-perfect batter against a captain known for thinking out of the box. It can't get more exciting than this.
In this CSK set-up, MSD could afford to bat at No. 8 in most games but entering the finals with a bowling line-up that missed Deepak Chahar for the better part of first half and had to turn a profligate Tushar Deshpande into a dependable wicket-taker.
Turning an inconsistent Shivam Dube into a six-hitting bully or overseeing the return of Ravindra Jadeja, the T20 bowler, the legend of Dhoni will never cease to exist. It will only grow and his captaincy stories will also be burnished with coats of myth decades down the line. They say familiarity breeds contempt but contempt would be the last word in Dhoni and CSK's mind when they face Hardik Pandya's Titans.
How Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans shape up ahead of the final:
No team has emulated the structural and team building ethos of Chennai Super Kings as minutely as Gujarat Titans, another team, where cricketing decisions are based on sound logic, consistency and no interference from overbearing owners. There is a skipper in Pandya, who believes that there is only one way to lead the team. It's called The Mahi Way.
Batters win matches but bowlers win tournaments is an old saying and it couldn't be more apt when one tracks Titans' performance. Mohammed Shami (28 wickets), Rashid Khan (27 wickets) and Mohit Sharma (24 wickets) have executed plans more often than not, and thus it hasn't really affected the Titans that second-highest run-scorer after Gill's 851 runs is skipper Hardik Pandya (325), who is more than 500 runs behind.
Under Dhoni, if players like Ajinkya Rahane (299 runs in 13 matches, two fifties) and Shivam Dube have found their groove this season, young bowlers such as Sri Lanka's Matheesha Pathirana (17 wickets in 15 matches) and India's uncapped Tushar Deshpande (21 wickets in 15 matches) have also been able to find their feet at the IPL stage.
In CSK's batting line-up, Devon Conway (625 runs in 15 matches, six fifties) and Ruturaj Gaikwad (564 runs in 15 matches, four fifties) have time and again provided CSK with resolute starts at the top. The big-hitting Dube (386 runs in 15 matches, three fifties) is the second joint-highest six-hitter for CSK in this IPL with 33 sixes, joined by Gill in the list.