For a better part of IPL III, it was as if the Deccan Chargers had failed to decipher the team anthem.
Instead of drawing inspiration and soaring higher to the tunes of “Go Chargers”, the defending champions appeared to be down and out even before the tournament neared its business end.
With five matches remaining, Adam Gilchrist’s men were placed seventh and their hopes of retaining the trophy had all but evaporated.
Then came the spectacular turnaround. With five victories in as many outings, the Hyderabad franchise not only made the knockouts, they finished second in the league stage.
No wonder, when they enter the DY Patil Sports Stadium to face the Chennai Super Kings on Thursday for a place in the final, they will carry the favourites’ tag.
But their quest to become the first team to defend the crown won’t be easy. After all, the Super Kings have emerged as the most consistent outfit across three editions. Despite the Chargers’ recent unbeaten run, there isn’t much to choose between the two teams. Both have failed to be consistent over a period of time and this has reflected in their performance.
When it comes to the big stage, the onus will be on two Australians. Despite retiring from international cricket, Adam Gilchrist, the Chargers’ skipper, and Matthew Hayden, the Super Kings’ opener, set the stage on fire in the first two editions.
Though they have hardly lived up to the billing in the third edition and have crossed the 50-run mark just once, the southpaws cherish a big-match situation.
Gilchrist has been in the news for his innovative captaincy and Hayden has caught attention with his Mongoose bat.
In all likelihood, the mini-battle between the two Australians will seal the deal. Gilchrist, and the Chargers, have a slight advantage in this respect as they have played here before. Though they didn’t taste success in their two ‘home’ games this year, Gilchrist’s explosive century against the Mumbai Indians in the inaugural edition will be remembered for years.
If he can charge himself up for another biggie on Thursday, Dhoni, who will become the only skipper to feature in the semifinals of three editions, and his men will be in trouble.