Kolkata v Chennai, IPL 2012, final, Chennai May 26, 2012

How Dhoni and Gambhir have shaped their sides

Gautam Gambhir, recently deposed as India vice-captain, took the chance to show he can lead a side, while MS Dhoni has stuck to the formula that has worked so well in the IPL for him


Their leadership has been an extension of their personalities. Dhoni has remained his usual unflappable self despite the ups and downs of Super Kings' performances this season. Whether it was a victory gained after a last-ball six or a heavy defeat, Dhoni didn't jump for joy or look crestfallen.

Sample Dhoni quote before final: "We, at CSK, put a lot of emphasis on the players going and enjoying the game, and expressing themselves. I don't believe in instructing players on how they need to play, because every player has a unique style."

Gambhir, though, has been the intense and combative person that has earned him several brushes with the authorities during his international career. After Knight Riders failed to chase down 135 against Kings XI Punjab and they slid to their third defeat in five games, Gambhir could barely control his temper at the press conference, strongly criticising the bumbling middle-order and asking them to take more responsibility. There was also a tiff with Mahela Jayawardene over a disputed catch, the sort of incident Dhoni is unlikely to be involved in.

Sample Gambhir quote before final: "When you go out on the field, you don't go out to make friends. You go out to get results for your teams. And for that if I have to be aggressive on the field [so be it]. That's what I play cricket for; I play to win the game and not just to compete."


Their batting form almost perfectly reflects that of their teams. Dhoni rarely sparkled in the league phase but was at his irrepressible best once the playoffs began, mirroring the Super Kings' performance. While there were glimpses of his destructive abilities, such as in the home game against Pune Warriors, there were also some uncharacteristically sluggish innings. In the playoffs though, Dhoni has played some of the shots of the tournament, including the longest hit of the season and two of his trademark helicopter sixes as Super Kings brushed aside the opposition.

Gambhir, on the other hand, has been one of the most consistent batsmen this tournament - the second highest run-scorer in IPL 2012, only twice in his last 11 innings has he been dismissed for less than 25 - matching Knight Riders' steady position near the top of the table. He has been the bedrock of Knight Riders' batting, helping offset middling seasons from four of their other main batsmen - Brendon McCullum, Jacques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary and Yusuf Pathan.

Team changes

Dhoni might have adopted the much-discussed rotation policy for the experienced India openers during the CB series in Australia earlier this year, but when it comes to the IPL, he hasn't shuffled the XI much. His biggest team composition calls have been regarding his openers. M Vijay was cast aside after a faltering start to the season, during which time South Africa's Faf du Plessis briefly held the orange cap. As the tournament progressed though, and Michael Hussey arrived from the West Indies, Dhoni reverted to Super Kings' tried-and-trusted opening pair of Hussey and Vijay, benching du Plessis. The move paid off with Hussey playing a vital innings against Mumbai Indians, and Vijay overpowering Delhi Daredvils two days later to send Super Kings to their third straight final. The only other major area of experimentation was with a fast bowlers' slot, and that too was settled after Ben Hilfenhaus' successive Man-of-the-Match performances.

Unlike Super Kings' history of success, Knight Riders have had a more rough time over the five seasons. After three years of failing to making the playoffs, Knight Riders bet big on Gambhir in 2011, making him the highest earner in the mega-auction. He delivered too, getting the team into the Champions League T20, and this year has seen unprecedented success.

Like Dhoni, Gambhir has also believed in backing a core group of players - seven members have played at least 14 out of 16 matches this season. His persistent backing of Yusuf, despite a hugely underwhelming league phase, worked as Yusuf put in a game-changing cameo in the playoff against Daredevils.

Still, with several new players acquired, there has been plenty more fiddling around with the XI than Chennai, whose major changes were forced due to problems with player availability. Knight Riders experimented with Manvinder Bisla as a wicketkeeper and top-order batsman, but as the season progressed zeroed in on three of the overseas slots - two of their expensive signings this year, mystery spinner Sunil Narine and wicketkeeper-batsman Brendon McCullum, joined Jacques Kallis in the first XI. The identity of the fourth took even longer, before Shakib Al Hasan's convincing performances clinched him an extended run in the side and the XI began to look more settled.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Axe on May 27, 2012, 15:42 GMT

    Lucky CSK. Didn't have to bat second in all the knock out against against MI and DD and now KKR in final. Also. CSK is with full strength and KKR had to change the line-up because of injury like DD had to which cost DD the match, so CSK have the advantage that too in front of home crowd. Should be a cake walk for them !!

  • SUNIL on May 27, 2012, 13:51 GMT

    both teams are in final becoz of talent and playing well..Luck played only a small part to pip the other teams whn all are on equal points.. I go with CSK for the strong mental capability of their top 4 or 5 players like Dhoni, Bravo, Ashwin, Ben, Badri. botht team are equal for talent..but it mental strength during pressure tht one team pips other for cup. backing CSK 60-40 for a WIN

  • Dummy4 on May 27, 2012, 13:28 GMT

    Shakib, Narine, Kallis, Brett lee......

  • Dummy4 on May 27, 2012, 13:23 GMT

    Guys the simple fact of the matter is you cant call CSK's campaign pure luck or pure talent... Its a combination of luck, skill and peaking at the moment when it is absolutely needed. I have not seen another team in the league who play as a unit so meticulously like CSK does when its required to...

  • Dummy4 on May 27, 2012, 12:30 GMT

    @skepticaloptimist. You mean to say the 8 wins we had was lucky ? You dont understand something we had 8 wins with a better runrate and no other team got that; how are we lucky ? If somebody says CSK is lucky to get into playoffs its plain rubbish.

  • Senthil on May 27, 2012, 12:18 GMT

    As much as I think Shakib is a wonderful player, KKR will consider CSK have four left handed batsmen who all hit the ball long. It may not make automatic choice sense to include Shakib.

  • Senthil on May 27, 2012, 12:14 GMT

    @Rashed Zaman Tonmoy - I used the exaggeration only to highlight a point. A batting unit likes to target some bowlers and take less chances against others. Spinners have got respect because of their quality, not just because they bowl spin, because a team like CSK would have weighed their options and decided who to go after. Even in this scenario, it is that consolidation phase where spinners bowl and get the respect - just after a break and just before the last five overs.

  • Dummy4 on May 27, 2012, 12:09 GMT

    The slight edge that Narine adds to the bowling is neutralized by an extremely talented fielding unit that Chennai has. 8 of the Chennai players are among the best fields IPL has produced. Batting is very deep and everyone is in form.

    In fast bowling, CSK is better placed than KKR with Hilefenhaus, Bravo, Morkel better than any fast bowling combination in KKR. In spinners, Narine adds an extra dimension, but so to some extent does Ashwin who has singlehandedly won matches and has among the lowest economy rates in IPL. The supporting spinners - Jakati, Jadeja, Raina are better than KKR's.

    Thus, CSK deserves to win this better than KKR. Better variety in bowling, strong fielding, great batting depth and intensity backs CSK.

  • Chandrasekar on May 27, 2012, 12:06 GMT

    CSK cannot be considered as a lucky team. they cannot be blamed for the way the matches were scheduled.

  • Dummy4 on May 27, 2012, 12:03 GMT

    I wanted MI to win because of Sachin but that did not happen coz of poor captaincy and inconsistency.but now i dont understand the hue and cry over kolkatta. I mean yes they played well and yes they are a good team but why the whole bengal starts behaving as if KKR happens to be their national team ! It is not a war , its a game .. Well regards to CSK , agreed results were in their fevor thats why they are here but why dont u see that they rise to the occassion every time they are under a hammer just like their captain MSD. If it was Sachin who showed the world in nineties that Indians can compete against the best , Dada in early 2000's that Indians can beat any team , it is Dhoni who showed that India can hanlde pressure cooker situations much better than their opponents,give Dhoni his due credit for rising to the occassion every time needed. I hope it wd be a nice contest. But I believe mentally strong CSK shall be the favorites! :)

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