IPL 2017: Rising Pune Supergiant had defeated Mumbai Indians thrice in the lead-up to the final, but lost to Rohit Sharma’s men in the final.
IPL 2018: Chennai Super Kings have defeated Sunrisers Hyderabad thrice in the lead-up to the final, but can Kane Williamson’s men overcome the jinx in the final?
One year later, things couldn’t be more different in the Indian Premier League and yet have an uncanny undercurrent of similarity.
When MS Dhoni and Kane Williamson walk out for the toss at Wankhede Stadium on Sunday, the scene will be quite similar last year when the team playing their home games in Pune had the numbers in their favour but ended up as runners-up.
If SRH are to repeat Mumbai Indians’ feat, here’s what they’ll have to do to reverse the jinx.
(To say Rashid Khan must have a great game would be too obvious, so that’s being left out of this piece)
A good start with the bat
Match 20: Sunrisers lost the first wicket with 0 on board
Match 46: Sunrisers lost the first wicket with 18 on board
Qualifier 1: Sunrisers lost the fist wicket with 0 on board
In their three defeats against the men in yellow, Hyderabad do not boast of a decent opening partnership. It was Ricky Bhui in the first match, Alex Hales in the second and Shikhar Dhawan in the most recent outing - the first wicket has fallen way too early for SRH’s liking in all three instances. And come the final on Sunday, only one of those three would likely be involved.
After sending Wriddhiman Saha to open against KKR at Eden Gardens in their latest match, it is likely that SRH will have to change that again if Saha’s issue with his finger is serious. Irrespective of who walks out with Dhawan, SRH would want a better opening to their innings than what they have managed against CSK in the three games so far. A job well begun, and all that.
Get into CSK’s middle order early
Chennai, despite pre-season doubts, have the best batting lineup in this IPL. They have had different players step up and be counted at different points in this season. Against SRH in the three games, Rayudu has two great games (scoring 179 runs in two games before getting out for a duck in the qualifier), Watson and Raina have a fifty to their names each, Dhoni has played a couple of good cameos and Faf du Plessis played one of the innings of this season.
The key for SRH would be to get into the CSK middle order early, like they did at the Wankhede on Tuesday, and put them under pressure. The CSK batting lineup has fired in unison mostly when they have had the platform from the top-order but take that away from them, and they are a side that could be vulnerable.
SRH, despite having the best bowling lineup of the season, do not have a tendency to take too many wickets in the powerplay but they must in the final to not allow the Chennai batting lineup to do too much damage later on in the innings.
Which brings us nicely to...
A supporting act for Bhuvi and Kaul
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Siddarth Kaul have been Hyderabad’s best pacers in the tournament overall but they have a had a bit of trouble with the third pacer slot. Basil Thampi, Sandeep Singh, and most recently, Khaleel Ahmed have been called upon to fill the absence of Billy Stanlake but for various reasons, they have proved to be expensive. Khaleel, a massive punt in the semi-final, could have proved to be an expensive gamble had Bhuvi and Kaul not bowled those fantastic two overs in the death and it remains to be seen if SRH would trust him again in the big final.
In the exhilarating finish at the Wankhede a few days back, the 17th over by Carlos Brathwaite proved to be a turning point as well. In the three matches against CSK, the third seamer has conceded 104 runs in 11 overs for SRH and that is an area that needs to be ironed out by the think-tank for the final.
Target Chennai’s weakness
Brathwaite provided a blueprint for it in the Qualifier, and took the initiative in the death overs when Dhoni decided to finish Dwayne Bravo’s quota before the death overs. Bravo conceding plenty of runs in the final two overs had been a problem for CSK all through the season, and that wasn’t changed when Shardul Thakur was entrusted the responsibility at Wankhede. It seems, irrespective of the name of the jersey on the back, death bowling is one definitive weakness of Chennai Super Kings and that must be an area on top of the list of things to do right for SRH if they are to emerge victorious in the final.
Middle order to step up
To say Sunrisers’ middle order has been a problem area for them would be an understatement. It’s the most obvious area of improvement for Williamson’s men. It was even a problem area for David Warner’s men in the past couple of seasons, and despite their stunning ‘moneyball’ recruitment strategies, one area that remains the Achilles’ heel for SRH. The middle order (from 4-7) averages 17.45 against CSK this year and that is a figure that needs desperate improvement.
Over-dependence on the top-order won’t be a problem if Williamson and Dhawan decide to take matters in their own hands, but if not, the onus falls on Shakib-al-Hasan and Yusuf Pathan, presuming the absence of the woefully-misfiring Manish Pandey, to lend the stability to the batting line-up that has seen their skins saved by the bowling attack on many a occasion this season.
The mental makeup
One would be very surprised if the fact that RPS lost the final last year to Mumbai after winning thrice earlier in the season isn’t part of Sunrisers’ team talk ahead of the final. At the highest level in sport, most big games are won or lost in the heads of the players, and the mental makeup of men in orange will need to look for positives entering the game. Another aspect that should cheer the Hyderabad side up is the fact that CSK – the most consistent team in the league, playing their seventh final – have lost five times at the final hurdle.
SRH will have to use these little nuggets of fact to fire them up. Coach Tom Moody said ahead of the semi-final against KKR that his side, despite their successes this season, have not played the perfect game. The perfect game is what they will have to play to break the run of defeats against Chennai Super Kings.