Mentor Gambhir up against Leader Dhoni in a strategic showdown at Chepauk

Chennai will witness two of the best cricketing brains going about their business on Monday night. (Source:

Two seasoned strategists with a history of facing off both as teammates and rivals, MS Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir, meet once more, but this time in altered roles. Dhoni no longer captains Chennai Super Kings (CSK), while Gambhir doesn’t lead Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) either, but their influence remains unmatched. While it’s uncommon to attribute too much of a team’s success to mentors, when those figures are Dhoni and Gambhir, their impact cannot be overlooked. This dynamic will be at the forefront as CSK and KKR clash at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Monday, keeping the spotlight firmly on their strategic showdown.

Gambhir has been the focal point of attention since the onset of IPL 2024. Departing from LSG, he returned to his beloved KKR as a mentor before the mini-auction. Gambhir overhauled the team, introducing players like Mitchell Starc, while also securing Phil Salt as a replacement for Jason Roy. He reinstated Sunil Narine as the opener, a tactical move that is yielding significant dividends. Additionally, he entrusted young Angkrish Raghuvanshi with the number 3 batting position in his debut game. With numerous changes implemented, including successfully using Anukul Roy and Vaibhav Arora as impact players, the results speak for themselves after three IPL matches; Gambhir’s KKR currently hold the second position on the points table of the lucrative league, remaining unbeaten alongside Rajasthan Royals.

In the past, Gambhir famously employed a close-in field to contain Dhoni in Kolkata. It was Gambhir’s KKR that initially found a way to challenge MSD’s formidable batting style, ultimately restricting his scoring prowess. While circumstances have changed over the years, Gambhir’s determination to surpass the Dhoni legacy remains as fervent as ever. Expect no cordiality from the KKR mentor; he is still capable of deploying Varun Chakaravarthy or Sunil Narine to bowl in the death overs against Dhoni, should CSK’s Thala step up to bat.

Gambhir famously led KKR to their first IPL title in 2012, thwarting MSD’s bid for a third successive win. The match took place at Chepauk, where Gambhir has historically found ways to disrupt Dhoni and his team. This time, however, Gambhir will exert his influence from the sidelines, with Shreyas Iyer assuming leadership on the field. Despite not holding the captaincy, MSD remains a key figure within the team, providing guidance to captain Ruturaj Gaikwad. Additionally, Gambhir will face the challenge of a boisterous crowd chanting ‘Dhoni Dhoni Dhoni…’ throughout the match.

With an unblemished record so far, Gambhir’s team enters the contest with confidence. While CSK has been dominant at home, their performance away from home has been lacklustre, compounded by a recent defeat to SRH. Returning to their home ground, CSK faces a formidable opponent in a KKR side that has displayed cohesion. The defending champions could be boosted by the returns of Mustafizur Rahman’s and Matheesha Pathirana.
Moreover, their batting lineup has yet to fully utilise its potential. The outcome of the match will largely hinge on the individual battles on the field.

Shivam Dube has shown significant improvement in facing pace bowlers, but his ability to neutralise spin is remarkable. This could lead Shreyas Iyer to reserve Chakaravarthy for the death overs, mindful of Dube’s past success against him.

One way to stop Dube is by deploying Harshit Rana and Mitchell Starc during the middle overs. By introducing Varun Chakaravarthy and Sunil Narine early in the innings, KKR can put brakes on CSK’s powerplay scoring, as top-order batters Ruturaj Gaikwad and Ajinkya Rahane have struggled against slower bowlers. Even Dhoni has faced difficulties against spinners.

Given Gambhir’s strategic approach, using spinners in both powerplay and death overs cannot be discounted. Although it might require KKR to venture out of their comfort zone, they have a history of doing so, particularly at Chepauk.

CSK will face numerous challenges that they must overcome, but KKR cannot afford to be complacent, given CSK’s dominant record on home turf. This game will be more about the strategies. On paper, there’s not a lot to separate between the two teams; it’ll all come down to whether the Dhoni effect trumps KKR or Gambhir’s men breach the Chepauk fortress once again.

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