Having tasted blood in their own den, the Chennai Super Kings, with a Lion as their motif, are hungry for another kill in the Indian Premier League (IPL) that concludes on Saturday when the grand finale between the host team and the winner of Friday's qualifier-2 between the Royal Challengers
Bangalore and Mumbai Indians will be played.
Fortified by the fact that they have won all the seven home games this season, the Super Kings have already made it known that they are not unduly concerned whom they play on Saturday as they have the team to deliver the spoils.
IPL's most consistent team after reaching the semi-finals all four seasons, thrice finalists (including 2011) and winners last year, the Super Kings have the pedigree of a Derby winner with Mahendra Singh Dhoni firmly in the saddle, guiding the thoroughbred with the sure touch of a champion jockey.
Should Dhoni opt for an unchanged eleven for the sixth consecutive game Saturday, then eight players who figured in the 2010 IPL final are likely to be in the Super Kings team with Michael Hussey and newcomers to the side, Wriddhiman Saha and Dwayne Bravo, completing the combination,
In fact, stability through continuity besides enviable balance has been the major contributing factor to the Super Kings’ consistency and success in the IPL with Dhoni keeping faith in his frontline players despite failures. It is a luxury other captains do not have as the Super Kings story has been about team rather than individual effort.
Even the loss of Sri Lankan off-spinner Suraj Randiv (away in England for the Test series) earlier this month, has not greatly affected the team with West Indian all-rounder Bravo proving an adequate replacement.
Thus, the Super Kings are brimming with confidence, big-match experience, class and more importantly character that has seen them come through difficult moments during the season, notably on Tuesday last when they recovered from seven for two to chase down a target of 176, against the Royal Challengers.
At this stage in the competition, it matters little that the away record of the Super Kings, with three wins in eight matches, pales in comparison with their strong showing at home where they have been invincible.
"We were smart enough to pick up a side that will play well at home. There will surely be some advantage because we are conditioned to play at home," said coach Stephen Fleming while asserting that his team had no preferences about whom they meet in the final.
"We were up against both RCB and Mumbai, and both have match winners in their sides. There is no preference because both are tough opponents. It is very even and close call," said Fleming on the eve of the final.
The extreme heat and humidity of peak summer can test the fittest of teams and the seven that had visited Chepauk over the past six weeks, fell prey as much to the Super Kings' superiority as the conditions.
Further, the scheduling of the IPL this year has been such that it has been a mad dash at the finish and both Mumbai and Bangalore are bound to feel the strain, especially since there is not even a day's break between Qualifier-2 and the final.
Thus, going into Saturday's summit match, the Super Kings will be the fresher of the two teams, courtesy a three-day break between Qualifier-1 and the final.
Although both Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers have beaten the Super Kings, of late neither team has been successful in a knock-out environment. Last year, Mumbai went down in the final by 22 runs and earlier this week, the Royal Challengers lost in the qualifier.
Besides the weather, the sea of yellow at the MA Chidambaram Stadium that will be filled to capacity with vociferous Super Kings fans can be quite intimidating for a visiting team but uplifting for the home side.
By the looks of it, the Super Kings appear all primed to continue their reign in the IPL.
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