Bangalore: Ravi Shastri, a former India captain, spoke to The Telegraph on Saturday evening, ahead of the IPL VII final featuring the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP).
Q Is the stage set for a classic final?
Because KXIP have been trend-setters with their fearless brand of cricket and KKR have done remarkably, winning eight matches in a row. The top two finishers (league stage) have made the final, which is a reward for their consistency. Not over one or two weeks, but over six. It’s great for the tournament.
If you were a betting man, which team would you bet on?
I wouldn’t bet, because it’s going to be an even final... Had it been in Calcutta, I would have given KKR the edge, but it’s on neutral territory. Of course, KKR will take comfort from having beaten KXIP twice in this edition.
Do KKR have a slight advantage, having won the 2012 final?
They will certainly be confident, having registered a record eight wins in succession. However, to make the final, KXIP have punched above their weight and have been playing as if they have nothing to lose. That makes them dangerous.
Could being in the final for the first time be the biggest motivation for KXIP?
That’s possible... Look at the way KXIP stopped the Chennai Super Kings last night, with Viru (Virender Sehwag) rolling back the years.
Generally, what makes the difference in a final?
Temperament provides the cutting edge... The ability to withstand pressure... Finally, rising to the big occasion. It’s about going that extra yard, raising the bar.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of KKR?
Bowling is definitely KKR’s strength... Right now, I really don’t see a weakness. If they had one, they wouldn’t have won eight in a row.
Batting has been KXIP’s strength... An inexperienced attack is their weakness.
The key players...
Robin Uthappa and Sunil Narine for KKR, Viru and Glenn Maxwell for KXIP.
Both captains have led well, haven’t they?
I agree. Gautam Gambhir (KKR) and George Bailey (KXIP) are very good captains, but their calmness will be tested. I say that because I see the final as being absolutely even.
What will you remember IPL VII for?
The brand of cricket displayed by KXIP... For me, they are and will remain the team of this IPL... Also, the way crowds all over embraced this edition... On the eve of the last final, everyone was talking of other things. This time, it’s cricket, nothing else.
Finally, your thoughts on Sehwag’s 122 off 58 balls and Suresh Raina’s 87 off 25 in the thrilling Qualifier 2...
Two of the best innings across all editions of the IPL... Raina hasn’t been picked for the Test series in England, but I’d add him as the 19th player... I see him as an option for the No.6 position.