IPL 2023 comes full circle as wily CSK face defending champs Titans


IPL 2023 has come full circle.

The season started with Hardik Pandya’s Gujarat Titans taking on MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings in Ahmedabad. In the final on Sunday, the two teams will once again be face-to-face at the same venue.

Watch the game live from 10:00h on E-Net, the authorised broadcaster of IPL 2023.

Titans had come out on top in the opening game. Earlier this week, CSK levelled the score with a comprehensive win in One. But that match was played on a slow, spinning surface in Chennai. The pitches in Ahmedabad have been much more batter-friendly, with the ball coming onto the bat nicely.

Moreover, CSK have lost all three games they have played in Ahmedabad so far. This is the only venue in the IPL where they have played at least three games and are yet to register a win. Titans, meanwhile, have six wins in nine outings here.

Having said that, CSK will be looking to embellish their already fabulous record; they are the second-most successful team in the tournament’s history. One more trophy and they will draw level with Mumbai Indians with five. On the other side, Titans will be keen to establish their dominance.

Shubman Gill’s last four scores in the IPL are 129, 42, 104* and 101 (Photo: BCCI)

They surprised everyone by emerging as champions in their debut season. They will be focused on making it two in two.

Apart from this being a battle between two sides built around the same philosophy – of keeping things simple, backing their players, and creating a relaxed team environment – there is the sub-plot of Hardik, the protégé, looking to trump Dhoni, the mentor.

Sunday’s game will be Dhoni’s 11th IPL final (his tenth with CSK); no player has featured in more. Hardik has been a part of five before 2023; he has never finished on the losing side. Hardik has always said he has learnt a lot, not just about cricket but also life, from Dhoni. Sunday evening will be a test of all that he has learnt over the years.

Team news: No injury concerns

Coming into Qualifier Two against Mumbai Indians, Hardik had not bowled in the previous four matches. With him having rolled his arm over against Mumbai, there are no known injury concerns in either camp.

Impact Player strategy: Sticking to the template

Both teams are expected to be unchanged. One of Shubman Gill and Josh Little will be Titans’ Impact Player, depending on whether they are bowling first or batting. For CSK, Shivam Dube and Matheesha Pathirana are likely to be in similar roles.

Gujarat Titans (probable XII): 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 3 Sai Sudharsan, 4 Hardik Pandya (capt), 5 Vijay Shankar, 6 David Miller, 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Rahul Tewatia, 9 Noor Ahmed, 10 Mohit Sharma, 11 Mohammed Shami, 12 Josh Little

Chennai Super Kings (probable XII): 1 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 2 Devon Conway, 3 Shivam Dube, 4 Ajinkya Rahane, 5 Moeen Ali, 6 Ambati Rayudu, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 9 Deepak Chahar, 10 Tushar Deshpande, 11 Maheesh Theekshana, 12 Matheesha Pathirana

Pitch and conditions: Win the toss and bat?

Ahmedabad has been a high-scoring venue this season, with an average first-innings total of 193 across eight games. Five of those games have been won by the team batting first.

Overall this IPL, teams batting first have been more successful, winning 40 games and losing 32 so far. Given it’s the final, and dew is not expected to play a big role, both Titans and CSK may prefer having runs on the board.

The weather is expected to be cloudy but there is no serious rain threat. (ESPNcricinfo)

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