IPL 2022: Game of nerves for grand finale
The duopoly of Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings has been broken. For the first time since 2016, the IPL will get a champion from outside the traditional powerhouses.
Who will be wearing the crown on Sunday? Will Hardik Pandya’s Gujarat Titans make history in their debut season? Or, will Sanju Samson lead Rajasthan Royals to glory, replicating Shane Warne’s feat from 14 summers back?
An intriguing decider is on the cards at the Motera in Ahmedabad, with no clear favourites emerging on match eve.
For sure both sides have their set of stars and game-changers who would all factor in. But what will eventually matter is a smarter and calmer approach, which usually turns out to be key in such high-octane clashes. In that respect, the Titans do have an edge over the Royals. Pandya’s men came up trumps on each of the two occasions the two sides clashed this season.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s formula of taking the game deep has also been the strategy of the Pandya-led Titans and that has been witnessed in quite a few matches of theirs, especially when chasing tricky or bigger targets. Their nature of staying calm and presenting a calculative approach has worked wonders, which was in show during a critical stage of the Qualifier I against the Royals.
Obviously, conditions at the Motera will differ from the Eden, where the wicket was a lot more sporting. That said, if the likes of skipper Pandya and David Miller can play their game, the Royals’ bowlers will continue to be under pressure regardless of the nature of the pitch.
After a lean patch, Jos Buttler, albeit with a bit of good luck, has resumed bossing around with the bat. In Qualifier I, he hit an unbeaten 89 versus the Titans and followed that up with a 106 not out in Qualifier II against Royal Challengers Bangalore. With the Englishman back to his best, the Titans have their job cut out.
However, there were occasions during Qualifier I when pacer Mohammed Shami and leg-spinner Rashid Khan had kept Buttler quiet. They remain the Titans’ best bet to restrict Buttler, while others like Pandya and Yash Dayal should ensure from the other end that the Royals opener remains under pressure.
Apart from having the assurance of captain Pandya, whose cool, relaxed leadership has helped the Titans, the in-form Miller’s “changed mindset” against spinners has also benefited the team greatly.
That said, the Royals can show a little more faith in left-arm seamer Obed McCoy if Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal again struggle against Miller. Besides, Miller didn’t find the Windies quick too easy to put away, especially in the penultimate over of Qualifier I.
McCoy’s pitched-up deliveries and variation of pace could again come in handy.
How effectively the quicks, particularly those of the Royals, execute the yorker will be an important factor. Lasith Malinga, the Royals’ fast bowling coach and a yorker-specialist in his playing days, had worked with both Trent Boult and Prasidh Krishna on this area ahead of Qualifier I. It’s time to put them to use.
Hardik Pandya vs Prasidh Krishna
Prasidh Krishna picked up three wickets against RCB in Qualifier 2 on Friday. On a pitch that offered bounce and seam movement, the pacer got good purchase from the wicket with his short deliveries. His contest with Hardik Pandya would be crucial. Not only has he impressed with his captaincy, Hardik has also created a new role for himself with the bat at No. 3. Hardik’s composed batting had won them the battle at Eden Gardens and Prasidh would seek to settle scores on Sunday.
Rashid Khan vs Jos Buttler
Jos Buttler, the Orange Cap holder with 824 runs, will pose the biggest threat to the Titans on Sunday. The England opener’s ability to accelerate without taking too many undue risks sets him apart. No doubt Rashid Khan will have to play a big role. Against the same opposition in Qualifier 1, Rashid finished with 4-0-15-0, while Buttler made 89 after a slow start. Rashid’s match-up with the Royals batters, who have the best run rate (8.50) against spin, could have a huge impact on the final.
David Miller vs Yuzvendra Chahal
David Miller has been the standout finisher for the Titans with the bat. The South African has had his best IPL run since 2013. Against the Royals in Qualifier 1, he hit three consecutive sixes in the final over to win the game. But how he tackles the Royals’ spin duo of Chahal and Ravichandran Ashwin could decide the flow of the game. The Titans have the third-worst run rate (7.76) against spin this season. Chahal, tied with Wanindu Hasaranga (26) for most wickets this IPL, can also seal the Purple Cap on Sunday.
Sanju Samson vs Mohammed Shami
Sanju Samson’s 55 off 27 balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad has been his highest score this season. The Royals captain has failed to build on the starts but that won’t stop the Titans from being wary of the right-hander. That’s because once Samson gets into the groove, he can quickly finish off games with his strokeplay. Titans’ Mohammed Shami has 11 wickets in the Powerplay, the most by any bowler this season, at an economy rate of 6.57. Shami’s battle with Samson could be interesting