Narine: Kolkata’s loss may be Chennai’s gain
The main talking point in this big Final of CLT20 will be ban on the mystery spinner Sunil Narine for suspected bowling action. Although the game of cricket is considered to be a team sport, the loss of a single player of such quality will definitely hurt Kolkata’s chances to such an extent that they’ll be going into the game as underdogs despite having won their last 14 matches. Narine will not play any role in the final unless the Knights include him as a proper batsman, which is highly unlikely to happen.
The Big Picture:
CSK and KKR played the first match of the tournament and its quite fitting that after three weeks, these two deserving teams will feature in the last match also. The Knights have been unstoppable in this tournament, winning all of their group matches and beating Hobart quite comfortably in the semis. On the other hand the road to the finals for the men in yellow has been a topsy-turvy ride as they had to rely on Perth beating Lahore to reach the semis. However, the Kings marched into the finals with a comprehensive victory, where they decimated Punjab in the semi-final.
Last time Chennai played Kolkata in the group stage of the tournament, they managed to score only 9 runs of Narine’s 4 overs and scored 148 in 16 bowled by the rest of the bowlers. Not only has he picked up wickets at crucial junctures, the pressure built by his tight and economical bowling has helped other bowlers to pick up wickets as well. Overall, he has been the most successful bowler for the Knights and their bowling department looks weaker without the presence of their premier spinner.
Nevertheless, their batting looks pretty solid with Robin Uthappa, Jacques Kallis and Manish Pandey in good form. Gambhir has struggled in the tournament so far, apart from the game against Lahore. He’ll be looking to make amends and provide a solid platform for the in-form middle order.
CSK are also enjoying a decent run of form, especially after they annihilated KXIP in the semi-finals and avenged their IPL losses. After smashing a 43-ball 90 against the Dolphins, Suresh Raina twice has been out cheaply in frustrating ways- run-out against Perth Scorchers and the other, a soft dismissal when he looped a catch at a strategically stationed short midwicket against Kings XI Punjab. He has been in good touch and will be determined to contribute more with the bat. With Narine out of the picture, he’ll not be afraid to step out and attack the spinners. Among the CSK bowlers, Ashish Nehra, has been a surprise package picking up wickets in every match, and he will want to add to his tally and claim the Golden Wicket award. Ravichandra Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are two important components in MS Dhoni’s arsenal, and Chennai’s hopes of securing the title for the second time will depend on them.
Most probably, Pat Cummins will replace Narine giving the Kinghts an extra seam bowler upfront along with Andre Russell and Jacques Kallis.
It’ll be interesting to see if Dhoni wins the toss and asks Gambhir and company to bat first. Kolkata always like to bowl first, contain the opposition to a meager total with the help of their spinners and then chase it down with relative ease. Although they did bat first against tthe Dolphins in an inconsequential tie and posted a big total, it will be quite difficult to do so against Chennai and to defend it without the services of Narine would be harder.
Stats and Trivia
With Narine not being in picture, Chennai definitely start off as favorites in the match as they are a stronger side on paper. But games are not played on paper. It will definitely be an intense match with both teams knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each other very well. The game in most likelihood would go down to the last over, or perhaps last ball. It’s a tough one to call but I’ll go the Whistlepodu this time, and I think the yellow army will win by a narrow margin.