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IPL 2023 Final: In battle between Mentor Dhoni and protege Hardik, CSK face Gujarat Titans (preview)

In a battle between mentor Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his protege Hardik Pandya, the four times champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will lock horns with defending champions Gujarat Titans in the all-important final of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 at Narendra Modi Stadium, here on Sunday.

Interestingly both these sides — CSK and GT — had kicked off the season at the same venue, so IPL 2023 has come full circle.

The Titans had beaten CSK in the opening game. However, earlier this week, CSK levelled the score with a comprehensive win in Qualifier 1 in Chennai. And now, it’s time for the final showdown between the two teams, which are built around the same philosophy.

If one observes closely, both these teams keep things simple, back their players, and create a relaxed team environment. Even Hardik Pandya has praised the CSK team environment recently but on the field, he will look to trump Dhoni.

Pandya has always said he has learnt a lot, not just about cricket but also life, from Dhoni and there is a brotherly relationship and mutual admiration between the two. After losing Qualifier 1 to CSK, Pandya lauded Dhoni’s captaincy.

“That’s the beauty about Dhoni. With his mind and the way he uses the bowlers, it fee’s like he’s adding 10 runs. We kept losing wickets, he kept changing the bowlers, credit to him. Would be nice to meet him on Sunday,” Pandya had said after the game.

Sunday’s game will be Dhoni’s 11th IPL final (his tenth with CSK) and no player has featured in more summit clashes. On the other hand, Pandya has been a part of five finals before 2023, with an amazing record of winning on all occasions (four with Mumbai Indians and one with Gujarat Titans)

Meanwhile, CSK will have a chance to equal the historic number (five) of titles with Mumbai Indians while Titans, who surprised everyone by emerging as champions in their debut season, will be keen to make it two in two.

As far as playing combinations are concerned, both teams are expected to be unchanged. The focus will be once again on Shubman Gill, who is in red-hot form and would love to continue that in the summit clash. For CSK, Deepak Chahar’s swing will be vital to counter Gill, who needs 123 runs to break Virat Kohli’s record for most runs (973) in an IPL season.

On the other hand, Titans pacer Mohammed Shami has a favourable match-up against Devon Conway and Ruturaj Gaikwad. He has dismissed Conway three times in three innings, with the Kiwi batter managing just five runs across 12 balls. Gaikwad has never fallen to Shami but has scored at a strike rate of just 69.69 (46 off 66 balls) against him.

There are many other interesting match-ups between the players of both sides and it will be interesting to see how it plays out on a high-scoring venue.

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.

Squads:

Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (c), Ravindra Jadeja, Tushar Deshpande, Matheesha Pathirana, Devon Conway, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ambati Rayudu, Subhranshu Senapati, Simarjeet Singh, Deepak Chahar, Akash Singh, Prashant Solanki, Maheesh Theekshana, Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Dwaine Pretorius, Mitchell Santner.

Gujarat Titans: Mohammed Shami, Abhinav Sadarangani, Rahul Tewatia, Noor Ahmad, R Sai Kishore, Jayant Yadav, Hardik Pandya (c), Vijay Shankar, Darshan Nalkande, Yash Dayal, Alzarri Joseph, Shubman Gill, Pradeep Sangwan, David Miller, Wriddhiman Saha, Matthew Wade, B Sai Sudarshan.

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