Chennai Super Kings v Rajasthan Royals, final, IPL May 31, 2008

Stage set for blockbuster finale

Match facts

Sunday, June 1
Start time 20.00 (local), 14.30 (GMT)

Shane Warne's leadership has been the story of the IPL (file photo) © Martin Williamson

The Big Picture

As the summer blockbuster comes to an end, two of its biggest superstars clash in the finale in Mumbai. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, captain of the Chennai Super Kings, is the highest-paid player in this league but his counterpart in the Rajasthan Royals, Shane Warne, has delivered better results; his success at this year's tournament would be the equivalent of the box-office returns of a Shahrukh Khan starrer.

A win for Dhoni would justify his US$1.5m price tag but would also be a last-minute twist to the fairytale ending that would hand Warne the trophy. Warne's dual role as captain and coach of Rajasthan has been the story of the season: an entire team costing less than two-and-a-half times Dhoni's price, whose owner's low-budget strategy even got the thumbs down from the IPL's chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi, was moulded into a successful unit.

However, don't write off Dhoni just yet. His first stint as captain was at the World Twenty20 in South Africa, where an unfancied India claimed the title, and here his team were written off after the exodus of international stars, but Dhoni and Co have battled the odds to reach the final.

One factor in Chennai's favour is that Graeme Smith, whose batting has been the cornerstone of several Rajasthan innings, has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Also, Rajasthan were routed by the Mumbai Indians at the DY Patil Sports Academy, the venue of the final, and Warne termed the surface "easily the worst of the IPL" as the ball stopped before coming on to the bat.

On form, Rajasthan are favourites and their confidence will be boosted by their two earlier victories against Chennai. However, after convincingly knocking out the formidable Kings XI Punjab in the semi-finals, Chennai won't be too worried about the underdog status.

Form (last five completed matches, most recent first)

Rajasthan Royals: WLWWW
Chennai Super Kings: WWLLW

Watch out for ...

  • Dhoni v Warne: Both are unconventional captains. And both thrive in big-match situations.

  • Sohail Tanvir: Tanvir has been lethal in the tournament and Chennai are his favourite opponents - he has taken nine wickets in his previous two encounters against them.

  • Rajasthan's power-hitters v Muralitharan: Several of Rajasthan's big-strikers, including Shane Watson and Yusuf Pathan, favour the arc between square leg and mid-on. How Muttiah Muralitharan handles the threat will be intriguing.

    Team news

    Warne termed the loss of Smith as "huge" but Kamran Akmal's presence softens the blow. Akmal's inclusion could force Mahesh Rawat, who was their wicketkeeper in the semi-final, to sit out. Niraj Patel, who has impressed in the limited opportunities he has got, could be drafted in to strengthen the batting order.

    Rajasthan Royals (probable): 1 Niraj Patel, 2 Swapnil Asnodkar, 3 Kamran Akmal (wk), 4 Shane Watson, 5 Mohammad Kaif, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Ravindra Jadeja 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Shane Warne (capt), 10 Siddharth Trivedi, 11 Munaf Patel.

    Chennai are likely to retain their winning XI unless Dhoni decides to pick Joginder Sharma, who bowled that dramatic final over against Pakistan in the World Twenty20 final last year, over L Balaji, who had a poor outing in the semi-final.

    Chennai Super Kings (probable): 1 Parthiv Patel (wk), 2 S Vidyut, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt) 5 Chamara Kapugedera, 6 S Badrinath, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Manpreet Gony, 9 L Balaji/Joginder Sharma, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Makhaya Ntini.

    Stats and trivia

  • Fifteen of Sohail Tanvir's 21 wickets have come during the last five overs of an innings, a period during which he's conceded only 5.85 an over, the best economy-rate among bowlers who've bowled at least 20 balls between overs 16-20.

  • After a lacklustre run, Suresh Raina has peaked at the right moment - his unbeaten fifties in the previous two games have secured important wins.

  • 7.91 - The average run-rate at the DY Patil Stadium, where three IPL matches have been held. The average run-rate of the tournament is 8.31.


    "I would be lying if I say I am not feeling the pressure, but we are ready for it [the final]."
    Mahendra Singh Dhoni after Chennai's emphatic semi-final victory

    "The wicket at the DY Patil has helped seamers more. It's a bit up and down. We have a well-balanced attack to do well there."
    Shane Warne fancies his bowlers' chances

    "On form [Rajasthan] Royals are on a roll but Chennai can be dangerous as they proved against us."
    Tom Moody, Kings XI Punjab coach, sits on the fence when asked to pick the IPL winner

    Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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