And then there were two. The IPL 2021 will go down in history as the uniquest season in the league’s 14-year existence in that it was held in two halves with one being in India and the second in UAE. Not that it was pre-planned. Covid-19, weather forecast were the major factors that forced BCCI to again turn to the middle-east for the completion of the world’s richest T20 league.
The two teams who have finally made it to the summit clash are Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders. CSK have been on a memorable journey after a disaster of a season last year when they failed to make the cut for the playoffs for the first time in their existence but bounced back in 2021 with the same set of players.
On the other hand, KKR are in the final stretch of an stunning turnaround. While CSK maintained their consistency throughout the season barring the minor and insignificant hiccup late in their campaign, KKR have seen a massive change in their fortunes.
From winning just two of their first seven matches, they have got the better of two of the most consistent teams of the season in the playoffs – Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals – to enter a third ever IPL final.
So when the two teams take the field on Friday evening one last time, the big question in everyone’s mind will be: What combination should they trust? Will they keep faith in the winning eleven? Or perhaps, throw in a surprise inclusion?
CSK captain MS Dhoni is someone who doesn’t believe in too many changes. In fact, in their final group match and the first qualifier, they played the same eleven. And this was after they had already made the cut for the playoffs.
The only change that one would have hoped for is the inclusion of Suresh Raina but Robin Uthappa stood up and performed against DC in the first qualifier. So, it’s likely that there won’t be any change even now.
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CSK Probable XI: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Faf du Plessis, Robin Uthappa, Moeen Ali, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (captain & wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Josh Hazlewood
KKR may also not want to disturb their winning combination with the latest inclusion Shakib Al Hasan doing more than a decent job. And the fact that among the current lot of KKR players, only he and Sunil Narine have the experience of playing an IPL final (two in fact, for KKR) before also works.
But then can you ignore a fully fit Andre Russell? The man who has time and again, singlehandedly turned the fate of contests in his team’s favour in the past? Sometimes, from the positions of no hope. Against a team like CSK, the presence of someone like Russell could give KKR a big confidence boost. A tough choice.
KKR Probable XI: Shubman Gill, Venkatesh Iyer, Nitish Rana, Rahul Tripathi, Eoin Morgan (captain), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Shakib Al Hasan/Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Lockie Ferguson, Shivam Mavi, Varun Chakravarthy