Dhoni's Chennai take on Kohli's Bangalore in fight for IPL final berth
The Qualifier 2 clash in Ranchi on Friday between Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Royals Challengers Bangalore (RCB) will not only be a battle between two heavyweight Indian Premier League (IPL) teams but also of high-profile skipper duo of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli.
Kohli succeeded Dhoni as the Indian Test captain after the latter's exit following the third Test match of the Australia series last year. India lost the four-match series 2-0.
The two skippers employ a vastly different mode of leadership which adds an intriguing sub-plot to the contest.
While Kohli's brash, aggressive, meeting fire-with-fire persona - and flaunting his high-profile relationship with Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma - often lands him in trouble on-and-off the field, Dhoni is the embodiment of calmness, earning global praise for captaining in a composed manner. Their each move will be as keenly followed as the outcome of the match.
CSK will approach the match at the JSCA International Stadium, the first one at the ground this season, psychologically in a better position after beating RCB in both the group stage matches.
The winner of the match will meet Mumbai Indians (MI) in the final in Kolkata on May 24. Mumbai beat Chennai in Qualifier 1 by 25 runs on Tuesday.
Two-time champions CSK's proven record of winning crunch matches also holds them in good stead. But Friday's match is a one-off game with the current form of the vast array of star players of both teams crucial in determining the end result.
The loss against Mumbai was demoralising but Chennai must shake off the disappointment as they are getting another chance at biting the cherry.
Meanwhile, RCB are in hot form, beating Rajasthan Royals comprehensively by 71 runs in the Eliminator in Pune on Wednesday.
Their 'holy trinity' of blasters Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers have given a good account of themselves in the competition. Besides, Punjab batter Mandeep Singh has provided good support, chipping in with crucial runs at important junctures.
They will again look to posting a strong total and then successfully defending it through a combined bowling effort of pacers, led by Aussie Mitchell Starc and spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.
CSK need to find a solution to the departure of their batting mainstay, Kiwi Brendon McCullum, who has left the team after the group phase to fulfil his national commitments.
His departure, was amply evident in the Eliminator where they failed to chase down a 188-run target. They are, though, not short of batting firepower with Faf du Plesis, Suresh Raina and Dwayne Bravo all having the skill and experience to come good in a knockout match.
But it's their tendency to give away runs when under pressure that Dhoni will be more concerned about. Veteran pacer Ashish Nehra has been steady, but he has been a lone fighter without the necessary backing from the rest of the bowlers.