‘Pure total cricket’ of Kings XI Punjab meets Chennai Super Kings ‘careful planning’

Anand Vasu previews the Qualifier 2 Indian Premier League match that will determine Kolkata Knight Riders' opponent in the IPL Final.
Mitchell Johnson has taken four wickets for 58 runs in Kings XI Punjab's last two matches. Pawan Singh / The National
Mitchell Johnson has taken four wickets for 58 runs in Kings XI Punjab's last two matches. Pawan Singh / The National

Anand Vasu

And so it comes down to this. The most consistent, most fancied Indian Premier League team over seven seasons takes on the team that has played the most exciting brand of cricket in the latest edition.

Twenty20 cricket is considered the most fickle of all formats, but even over 240 balls, it is possible to have clear plans, pick the best men to implement them and set up an environment that breeds success. Chennai Super Kings have shown this over time.

What Kings XI Punjab have done, setting IPL 2014 ablaze in the process, is to show that conventional wisdom is an excellent guide, but it is by no means the only route to success. If Chennai are all about careful planning, efficiency and execution, Punjab have been about pure total cricket.

When the two teams square off at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Friday for Qualifier 2, which in any other tournament would be called a semi-final, it will be not merely a clash of world views, but a clash of two different types of fearlessness.

Chennai come to the game with pedigree, with a band of performers who have proven themselves time and time again. Chennai bank on the likes of Suresh Raina, who has now topped 400 runs in every edition of the tournament, of MS Dhoni, who finishes games better than anyone else around, of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum, who provide consistency at the top of the order, and even David Hussey, who sends constant reminders that the simplest approach is often the best.

No team bats as deep as Chennai, and this is not even counting on Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin to make contributions down the order.

Each man in the Chennai top seven has not merely the potential to kill a game singlehandedly, but has done so in the past.

In contrast, casting a glance at the Kings XI batting line-up will leave you focusing on two names. But, this is not so much because the others around them are pushovers, but because Glenn Maxwell and David Miller have achieved such spectacular highs that they remain etched in the mind longer than collective effort.

Maxwell has been the epitome of fearless cricket – something most individuals can unleash when all is almost lost, as Kolkata’s Yusuf Pathan and Mumbai’s Corey Anderson showed – but something that is next to impossible to bottle up and summon in more normal circumstances.

Maxwell’s strength has been a clarity of thinking at the crease, backing himself despite knowing full well that his method comes at great risk.

Twice in this tournament Punjab have shredded Chennai’s bowling attack. In Abu Dhabi, Maxwell made 95 off 43 as Punjab hunted down 206 with seven balls to spare. In Cuttack, Maxwell was at it again, pounding 90 off 38 as they put 231 on the board, and left Chennai 44 runs short.

From the first time he succeeded, it is been suggested that Maxwell simply could not keep doing it each time. That he will inevitably hit one straight up in the air early in his innings. Bowlers have come up with various plans to induce this error, but Maxwell has shown that there is a method to his madness.

The good news for Punjab is that Maxwell might be their ticket to 200-plus scores, but there is enough quality in the rest of the line-up to put on decent totals even when he fails. Manan Vohra has been imposing at the top of the order, Virender Sehwag has by no means been a burden, Wriddhiman Saha has risen to the occasion and George Bailey, like Dhoni, has hardly been needed.

Kings XI were flat in their qualifier against Kolkata, but that will only have reminded them of what needs to be done when they square off against Chennai. For their part, Chennai know what it takes to get across the line in such matches.

“The important thing is that we have handled pressure really well, over the last seven years. Whenever big days come, you have to go out there, enjoy yourself and express yourself,” said Raina after his team had beaten Mumbai Indians, while looking forward to the next challenge.

“It was a blessing in disguise [to not finish in the top two]. In this format you need to focus more on your strengths, look at your team and see what you need to do. The positive for Kings XI is that they just come and play they have no time to think [about what needs to be done]. We have one more day to analyse our strength, our game. Whoever panics is going to lose the battle.”

Traditionally, the team that panics the least is Chennai, but they are up against the one man who has made a name for himself setting a roaring tiger among the pigeons. It is hard to beat that when it comes to a perfect face-off.

Teams (from):

Chennai Super Kings: Dwayne Smith, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, David Hussey, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum, Mithun Manhas, Baba Aparajith, R Ashwin, Ishwar Pandey, Mohit Sharma, Samuel Badree, John Hastings, Matt Henry, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ronit More, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Vijay Shankar.

Kings XI Punjab: Virender Sehwag, Manan Vohra, Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, George Bailey (capt), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Akshar Patel, Shivam Sharma, L Balaji, Sandeep Sharma, Murali Kartik, Rishi Dhawan, Mandeep Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shaun Marsh, Parvinder Awana, Gurkeerat Singh, Anureet Singh, Beuran Hendricks, Karanveer Singh, Shardul Thakur.

Anand Vasu is a senior editor for Wisden India. Visit wisdenindia.com or follow them on Twitter @WisdenIndia.

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: May 29, 2014 04:00 AM

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