CSK vs GT: Young captains aided by wily heads, as last year’s finalists renew rivalry

Both the young captains together. Source (X)

Two young captains will be in focus, when Chennai Super Kings play Gujarat Titans at Chepauk on Tuesday. Both Ruturaj Gaikwad and Shubman Gill have made winning starts to their campaigns and they will look forward to building on their starts.

This is a game between the last year’s finalists but with a change. MS Dhoni is no longer the CSK captain, while Hardik Pandya has left Titans for Mumbai Indians. Dhoni, though, remains his team’s think-tank. In fact, the two young captains are aided by two old and wily heads. If for Ruturaj, this season is about learning on the job under Dhoni’s guidance, Gill has his coach Ashish Nehra to fall back on.

The way Nehra was in fast bowler Spencer Johnson’s ear and planned Tilak Verma’s dismissal in Titans’ opening game against Mumbai Indians was one of the highlights of the contest. At times, Nehra resembles a football manager, commanding his team from the technical area.

Dhoni, on the other hand, revels in his reticence. In the first match against Royal Challengers Bengaluru, he was setting the field – moving the man at point, adjusting deep third – while Ruturaj stood at mid-wicket. During the strategic time-out, Ruturaj was seen picking the brain of his predecessor. Having Dhoni by his side is a big advantage for a new captain. Virat Kohli benefited from it, when he took charge of the Indian team. And this is a fantastic opportunity for Ruturaj to grow as a leader, as the great man saunters into a golden sunset.

Thanks to Dhoni, every CSK match in Chennai comes with an overpouring of emotion. This year, it has reached an even greater height. Conversations with CSK faithful before the IPL opener had a common farewell theme. “This year is going to be Dhoni’s last,” they said. All CSK home matches this term will be part of an elongated farewell party.

The five-time IPL champions are masters at maximising the home advantage. The famous ‘Dhoni choke’ was on display against RCB as well, via Mustafizur Rahman’s cutters. Until Deepak Chahar is getting his Powerplay mojo back, new-ball bowling is probably CSK’s only weak area. They have an excellent spin attack and their batting has all the bases covered.

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On paper, Titans are weaker this term. Losing Pandya is a massive blow and the challenge for Gill is to make his team greater than the sum of its parts. Titans can respond to CSK’s spin-threat with their own Rashid Khan, while left-arm spinner Sai Kishore, who had an excellent Ranji campaign, was impressive against MI. The arm ball that trapped Rohit Sharma leg-before, had some fizz.

The shortest format of the game doesn’t allow any favourites, for things can change in three-four balls. But CSK are better-balanced and they have Dhoni.

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