Charged-up Deccan eye slot in final

Charged-up Deccan eye slot in final

Defending champions from Hyderabad take on Chennai Super Kings in second semifinal

Charged-up Deccan eye slot in final

Requiring toChennai Super Kings’ M Vijay and M Muralitharan share a light moment during a practice session for their IPL T20 semi-final match at MAC Stadium in Chennai on Tuesday. PTI win their last five games if they were to give themselves the chance of defending their crown, Adam Gilchrist’s men embarked on a sensational run culminating in an 11-run triumph over the Delhi Daredevils in a virtual quarterfinal last Sunday.

Their reward for the stirring late charge is a semifinal showdown at the DY Patil Sports stadium on Thursday night with the Chennai Super Kings, who themselves left it until the final over of their league campaign to secure qualification.

The force is with the Chargers, but the Super Kings can hardly be taken lightly. Mahendra Singh Dhoni has had to contend with tremendous form swings, personally and from a team perspective, but through it all, he has held his poise and gone about his business with little fuss. His rare public show of unbridled emotion upon blasting his team past the victory line against Kings XI Punjab was indicative of just how much it meant to him to make it to the last four. Having got there, Dhoni is unlikely to allow his mates to rest on their laurels.

That the Super Kings have got this far without consistently significant contributions from the likes of Dhoni himself, Matthew Hayden and big-hitters Albie Morkel and Justin Kemp should boost their confidence. Just what heights they will touch if the power-strikers come to the party is a frightening and fascinating thought.

Suresh Raina, the classy left-hander who is a wonderful mix of timing and power, has been the rock around which their batting has revolved, while the Tamil Nadu duo of Murali Vijay and S Badrinath has had its time under the sun.

Destructive best
With Dhoni showing signs of returning to his destructive best and the law of averages suggesting a big one from Hayden, the Super Kings will quietly fancy their chances even though it’s the Deccan Chargers who have had the better of the head-to-heads in this tournament, winning both showdowns hands down.

Without a permanent home ground – the Chargers have played their ‘home’ ties here at the DY Patil stadium, in Cuttack and Nagpur – the Hyderabad outfit was the most travelled team during the league phase. Fatigue is certain to have set in, but it is difficult to see it playing an important part in a match as significant as the semifinal.

Like Hayden, Gilchrist too has struggled for runs, thereby leaving Rohit Sharma, Andrew Symonds and T Suman with too much to do. Fortunately for the Chargers, Rohit and Symonds have been on top of their games; most influential, though, has been leading wicket-taker Pragyan Ojha’s incisiveness and parsimony on tiring surfaces.

A relatively fresh track at this venue will ask different questions of Ojha, and it will be interesting to see how well the left-arm spinner responds considering that his four overs have been Gilchrist’s permanent fallback options. Dhoni has a fallback option of his own in R Ashwin, the strapping off-spinner who has grown in stature over the last fortnight. With new ball and old, Ashwin has taken wickets as well as stemmed the flow of runs, standing out as the one redeeming constant in a sea of bowling inconsistency best illustrated by the game of musical chairs involving Lakshmipathi Balaji, Sudeep Tyagi, Joginder Sharma and Manpreet Gony.

Neither side will have very fond memories of this ground – the Super Kings lost the 2008 final to the Rajasthan Royals here, while the Chargers were beaten this seaon by the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Mumbai Indians at home away from home matches. Game on, then!