CSK fortress looms in front of RCB

CSK fortress looms in front of RCB

Vettoris men will have to break Super Kings unbeaten home run

CSK fortress looms in front of RCB

All season long, the defending champions have been undefeated at the MA Chidambaram stadium, feeding off their familiarity with the conditions, the presence of personnel brilliantly equipped to make the most of those conditions, and a committed fan following.

Seven wins on the trot at what is unmistakably their stronghold is an awe-inspiring piece of statistic, though that will not necessarily count for anything on Saturday, when Mahendra Singh Dhoni will attempt to become the first captain to lead his side to back-to-back Indian Premier League titles with victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore in the summit clash.

The Super Kings’ vast legion of fans will approach the title clash with some trepidation, mindful that all good things must come to an end. They will fear the inopportune snapping of their winning streak at home, but such thoughts will hardly occupy the mind-space of either Dhoni, his extraordinary set of trail-blazers or their phlegmatic coach Stephen Fleming, the former New Zealand skipper who has been such a wonderful foil to the understated captain.

Well-rested and their batteries recharged after the three-day break following their victory over the Challengers in Qualifier 1 on Tuesday, the Super Kings will be itching for that one final onslaught to cap off another memorable season. Like last time when they left it dangerously late before clinching their semifinal slot, the Super Kings have had their ups and downs this time too. As intimidating as their home record is, they have travelled very ordinarily, winning just three of eight matches, and needed a Herculean late charge from Suresh Raina, Albie Morkel and the skipper himself to avoid having to come through Qualifier 2 to the title round.

That’s where they will have a distinct edge over the Challengers. Notwithstanding the significant drop in temperature, an 8 pm start on both days and the absence of the travel that Challengers skipper Daniel Vettori calls the most difficult part of the IPL, it will be difficult physically, mentally and emotionally for the Bangalore side to play two high-voltage games in as many days.

Plenty of intensity and energy would have been expended in merely trying to make it to the finals at the expense of Mumbai Indians, so the Challengers will need one giant effort to turn up in full steam less than 24 hours after coming through Qualifier 2. Of course, the stage, the setting and the stakes will ensure they will inevitably lift themselves, and welcome the opportunity of not merely ending the Super Kings’ home dominance, but also laying their hands on the IPL trophy for the first time ever.

That the final will be held on the same strip on which the Super Kings have stitched together their remarkable run this season will make further demands on their rivals. Everything points to a Super Kings encore, but sport generally has a habit of mocking the script.