IPL Qualifier 1: Chennai Super Kings face evenly matched Gujarat Titans

CSK and GT have similar strengths but Dhoni‘s brigade may have a slight edge at the Chepauk as the two lock horns in Qualifier 1
CHENNAI: There’s a feel of a final before a final to this one. If ever there were two teams evenly matched on all fronts in the IPL, it’s Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans.

Gujarat won the first time they met in the opener, but CSK have come a long way since then. They have matched the Titans’ consistency and now that it’s at Chepauk, MS Dhoni’s boys will have a slight edge. While their knowledge and understanding of the dimensions of the ground and the nature of the pitch are crucial, the wave of ‘yellow’ cheering them from the stands does become a factor while playing at home.
Add to that a third unstated factor. Dhoni, in all probability, is playing his last IPL match at Chepauk. The captain has not announced it so that the focus of the team doesn’t get shifted in a wave of nostalgia, but he knows better than anyone else that his knees are not good enough for top-flight cricket anymore.
His teammates, too, would love to ensure that Dhoni leaves Chepauk, which has given the 41-year-old so much, a winner.


But standing in the way is a team that matches CSK man for man. If CSK have a brilliant opening combo, Titans have Shubman Gill, who is coming to Chennai on the back of a match-winning century against RCB.
CSK’s spin troika of Ravindra Jadeja, Maheesh Theekshana and Moeen Ali will be matched by the Afghan wrist spin duo of Rashid Khan and Noor Ahmad. And the magnificent new slinger Matheesha Pathirana will get top competition from the wily old Mohammed Shami. TOI takes a look at the factors that can decide the outcome of the game.


Titans’ middle-order against CSK’s experience
If CSK manage to get Gill out early, there is a feeling that the Titans middle-order could be put under pressure. Hardik Pandya hasn’t been in his best batting form while Dhoni knows how to deal with domestic players like Vijay Shankar and Rahul Tewatia.


In a situation like that, it becomes mandatory for David Miller to come good. The South African has the experience and the quality to take the CSK attack apart and Dhoni would hope the slowness of the pitch and the experience of his bowlers will come in handy against the dasher.


Pressure on Titans’ ‘lesser’ bowlers
While Rashid, Shami and Noor are extremely good, the pressure will be immense on the likes of Mohit Sharma and Yash Dayal.
While Mohit spent his heyday at CSK, Dhoni knows everything about the pacer. It is a given that CSK batters will look to target him, along with Dayal, who was taken apart earlier in the tournament by Rinku Singh with five consecutive sixes in the last over.
It will be interesting to see if Titans gamble with left-arm finger-spinner R Sai Kishore, who plays for Tamil Nadu and understands the Chepauk conditions. CSK have shown time and time again that the pitches here are good for finger-spinners and Sai Kishore as a surprise option (if he is bowling well enough at the nets), won’t be a bad idea.


GT vs CSK IPL 2023 Qualifier 1: Chennai take on Gujarat at Chepauk

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Nehra vs Dhoni in battle of wits
One may think that it’s Hardik vs Dhoni, but it’s more about coach Ashish Nehra that gives Titans a look and feel that is similar to CSK’s. Nehra had his last blaze of glory playing at CSK and he picked up some of the intricacies of running a successful franchise from Dhoni. Continuity, banking on experienced players and being great chasers (GT have only lost three matches chasing in two years of IPL) are all hallmarks of CSK and Nehra has been able to recreate that at the new franchise.
Now, playing for the first time at Chepauk, Nehra’s strategizing will find an able match in Dhoni’s skills as a captain. It’s to be seen who wins this battle of wits and becomes the first team to make the IPL 16 final.


IPL 2023: How GT, CSK, LSG and MI qualified for the playoffs

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Watch IPL 2023, Qualifier 1: Chennai Super Kings ready for Gujarat Titans challenge

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