“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.”
~George Bernard Shaw
Venue: JSCA Stadium, Ranchi
Result: An explosive Ab de Villiers powers Royal Challengers Bangalore to a thrilling victory against the Chennai Super Kings here at Ranchi.
Venue: JSCA Stadium, Ranchi
The Chennai Super Kings enter Qualifier 2 as the only team in IPL history to have notched up successive victories in both the Eliminator and the second Qualifier. Will history repeat itself this time around in RCB’s bid for a maiden IPL trophy, or will the Super Kings continue to hold the elusive record? Whenever these two sides have met, we have had a thriller on the cards. This time, the stakes are sky-high as the teams battle out each other, with the winner advancing to the Finals of IPL-8.
As far as the track record is concerned, the Super Kings have the upper hand. Not only does their head-to-head stand at 11-7, but Chennai have also beaten Bangalore comprehensively in both the league fixtures this year. However, history can only so far have a bearing on the future outcomes, as it sets the initial condition, the build-up to the final show. The other major governing factor is form, and purely based on form, the Royal Challengers Bangalore have the edge over their southern rivals.
The Royal Challengers have won 6 out of their last 8 completed games, and thrashed the Rajasthan Royals by a massive 71 runs in the Eliminator. Staring down the barrel after both Gayle and Kohli had departed, RCB looked to be in major trouble, before the young Mandeep Singh (54 off 34) conspired with Ab de Villiers (66 off 38) to hand RCB the coveted victory. The middle-order, which has been RCB’s weak link thus far, finally rose to the occasion, and established that RCB is a force to be reckoned with. If teenager Sarfaraz Khan and keeper Dinesh Karthik also make handy contributions, Chennai will have a lot to worry about.
Although the Chennai Super Kings stumbled against the Mumbai Indians in the first Qualifier, they had plenty of positives to feel good about. In fact, the defeat would act like an added incentive, spurring them on to strive even harder. The Chennai Super Kings were the table-toppers at the end of the league stage, and the team is filled with match-winners who, on their day, can single-handedly turn the game around in CSK’s favour. Suresh Raina looked to have regained his touch, while Faf du Plessis showed what he is capable of. Dwayne Bravo has been the unheralded hero for CSK this season, silently making his way to the top of the list of Purple Cap contenders, with brilliant performances this season.
CSK will have to make do without the services of Kiwi Brendon McCullum, who left for national duty before the Playoffs. His replacement, Michael Hussey, got off to a decent start, but could not make the best of it. RCB’s weakness lies in their tendency to succumb under pressure situations, and CSK will look to exploit that to the fullest. Chennai will have to prevent the Top 3 from going all guns blazing, or else the dependable Kohli, the dangerous Chris Gayle and the genius Ab de Villiers can prove to be a formidable trio. Mitchell Starc has brought about a turnaround in RCB’s fortunes, with some impeccable bowling, but he will face an uphill task against CSK on Friday. The CSK side isn’t just filled with batting heavyweights, but the team also bats deep with Bravo, Ashwin, Jadeja and Pawan Negi all capable of hitting a few out of the park.
It will also be a battle between the two Indian skippers MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. Dhoni, the man with the midas touch, has taken CSK to towering heights, and led the team to become the most successful side in the history of IPL. His captaincy is lauded by the cricketing fraternity, for its sheer ingenuity and simplicity. Virat Kohli has led from the front, inspiring a bunch of youngsters and veterans alike, with passion that he wears on his sleeve. The biggest example of his leadership lies in how he steered the side to an unexpected victory – and consequently a place in the Playoffs – with a terrific performance against the Sunrisers.
With the stakes being so high, the teams will inarguably deliver spectacular performances. Will the Super Kings reach yet another finals, or will RCB succeed in spoiling their party? Will the star-studded Bangalore side be able to overcome the Chennai challenge, or will they choke under pressure again? It is creativity vs consistency. It is power vs supremacy. It is, yet again, expectations vs history. Either way, records will be broken, and new ones created, when these two sides clash in what promises to be an epic battle.