There will be a battle within the war when Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders clash at the MA Chidambaram stadium on Sunday. It will be a tale of the two captains — MS Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir. Considering the profile of the two players involved, the face-off could be of immense proportions from the national point of view.
While a minute is enough to alter one's life's path, a full year can be quite a handful. And over the last twelve months, the careers of Dhoni and Gambhir have drifted wide apart. Before the 2012 Indian T20 league, Indian cricket was lost in a passage of gloom. After the annihilation in Australia, the calls for Dhoni's head were turning louder. At that time, Gambhir was being touted as a possible replacement, to take over as India captain.
Finishing as the second highest run-getter in the 2012 league edition, Gambhir led from the front to help KKR lift their maiden title. And Gambhir's outfit achieved the feat by getting the better of Dhoni's boys in the summit clash.
Personally too, Dhoni had failed to have a similar impact to what his KKR counterpart had managed — the Indian skipper was 18th on the highest run-getters list. Post that triumph, Gambhir reiterated his desire to lead the country. "Absolutely, it is the biggest honour. I am ready for it. Ready for the responsibility of the challenge because you want to take different challenges as well," the opener had proclaimed.
Little did Gambhir know what was in store for him. In a long season at home, Gambhir flattered to deceive. He failed to put the big scores on the board. And the same player, deputy to Dhoni not long ago, was dropped for the home Tests against Australia early this year. The tables had turned. Dhoni slammed a dominating double-century against Australia at the same ground where his franchise will clash with Gambhir's KKR. That Test double ton had set the tone for the series as India whitewashed Australia 4-0 to exact sweet revenge.
Half way into the current T20 edition, the fortunes paint a contrasting picture from last season. On Saturday, Dhoni asked the 6ft 8" West Indies pacer Jason Holder to bowl to him. In a fearless display of batting, Dhoni played some audacious upper-cuts to negate the bounce the pacer extracted. After all, the CSK captain had the luxury of knowing that his team is peaking at the right time. With four successive wins, his team sits pretty at the second spot in the table. In contrast, KKR tasted victory against KXIP on Friday after three consecutive losses.
Apart from Gambhir's personal form, meek batting displays have meant the defending champions are languishing at third from the bottom. Their current position also means that every further slip-up will only make their play-offs route bumpy. With CSK having conquered the Eden Gardens earlier in the season, the advantage lies firmly with Dhoni's men.
But in a bid to win back his national place, Gambhir will be desperate to play a part in helping KKR breach CSK’s fortress.