IPL 2021 Final: CSK vs KKR Game Plan – Can CSK overcome the KKR juggernaut?

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The final match of the IPL 2021 tournament between the blockbuster teams, Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders, could all be about match-ups. Here, we take a look at a key game plan that could play a role in the final of IPL 2021 – CSK vs KKR.

KKR have made a terrific comeback in the UAE leg of IPL 2021. They won five out of seven matches in the league stage and finished at fourth position in the points table, and now they are in the finals after winning two matches in the playoffs. The performances of their top-order as well as that of their spin-trio and Lockie Ferguson have massively contributed to KKR’s success since the resumption of the tournament.

Although KKR openers haven’t upped their scoring rate as much (and the decks have played a part), they’ve yielded more consistent returns, and with the likes of Rahul Tripathi and Nitish Rana clicking, they’ve also shielded their vulnerable lower middle-order. Their bowling attack has been by far the best in the U.A.E. leg, as they’ve utilised the favourable conditions very well.

 

While Shivam Mavi’s economy of 7.5 isn’t poor, the economy of the other bowlers is simply excellent, and all barring Shakib have been among wickets as well. Their variety spin trio has ‘choked’ the opposition batting units by maintaining a very good economy, and that has rewarded them with wickets.

CSK’s top-five vs KKR spinners

KKR’s bowling unit will have a tougher task in the final – for a couple of reasons. The first point is that a fresh pitch is likely to be used in this match, and spinners haven’t enjoyed playing in Dubai as they’ve in Sharjah. Also, CSK have got some fine players of spin in their top-five to counter the KKR spinners.

 

KKR might start with Shakib in the powerplay, and Ruturaj Gaikwad should try to attack him. Against spinners this season, the opening batsman is averaging 62.5 with a strike rate of over 157. In this second half, Gaikwad has accumulated 173 runs at 9.43 RPO while being dismissed just once. The right-hander is well-equipped to step out of the crease and smash spinners: 71 runs off 27 balls without being dismissed this season. So, Gaikwad is placed well to disrupt the lines and lengths of Shakib and even other spinners.

And, if Lockie Ferguson charges up with his pace, Faf du Plessis – who is averaging 62 with a strike rate of about 142 against pacers in the powerplay this season – should lead the charge. Faf should ideally shield Gaikwad from Ferguson as the Indian opener has been dismissed thrice in just 8 balls against bouncers since 2020.

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Cometh the middle overs, Varun Chakravarthy could be a serious threat. In four games against CSK, Varun has taken five wickets at 19.4 runs apiece with an economy of just 6.06. His googly can be an effective weapon against all the CSK batters. Even though Gaikwad is a good player of spin, his numbers are mediocre against googlies: 37 runs off 38 balls with 2 dismissals since 2020. So, CSK should play him defensively and attack others.

Moeen could play a key role in upping the tempo in the middle overs; however, he won’t find it easy against Varun and Narine. But, the southpaw can get some quick boundaries and provide some momentum to his side, and with CSK’s batting depth, it’s worth the risk.

Robin Uthappa had a fine outing in Qualifier 1, and Rayudu has shown some good intent this season. Against spinners this season, the middle-order batsman has scored 88 runs at a strike rate of 137.50 while being dismissed just once. CSK could also try promoting Shardul Thakur or Deepak Chahar to get some quick runs.

So, overall CSK have good resources to tackle the KKR spinners, particularly in Dubai.

Test KKR’s vulnerable middle-order, CSK:

KKR openers have provided stable starts to their team in this leg, and Rana & Rahul have been decent as well. The Indian top-four made up for the poor form of Eoin Morgan and Andre Russell’s absence. Also, Dinesh Karthik hasn’t contributed much while Shakib hasn’t got enough game time with the bat.

KKR would be obviously tempted to bring in Russell – but who makes way for him will give some headache to the KKR management.

As such, CSK should aim for an extraordinary powerplay with the ball and put KKR’s middle-order under pressure. And, that’s a fair demand because they’ve got two ‘specialist’ new ball pacers in Deepak Chahar and Josh Hazlewood.

However, Deepak Chahar hasn’t been among wickets in the powerplay for a while now. The Indian pacer has picked up just three powerplay wickets in his last 11 IPL innings, going wicketless in as many as nine powerplays! His powerplay record in the UAE. isn’t great either. So, that could be a concern for CSK.

 

Josh Hazlewood didn’t start well in the first three matches, however, he has been decent in the last few games. In four out of his last five matches, he has maintained an economy of 7.33 in the powerplay, and has snared 4 wickets an average of around 25.

Both should look to utilise the new ball movement, and if the deck is a bit slow, the slower balls could be a good option against Shubman Gill.

If KKR are two or three down in the powerplay, they could well be in trouble. They should target the CSK spinners in the middle overs. Their LHBs should take on Jadeja and the likes of Rana, Tripathi and Narine can get some quick runs against Moeen as well. To ensure that the KKR batters aren’t very aggressive, a terrific powerplay is an absolute must for CSK.



I am a freelance cricket writer for The Quint, Cricket.com, CricXtasy and Sportskeeda. My articles, which generally revolve around the Indian cricket team and the IPL, present a data-driven analysis. Cheering for the Indian cricket team and Data Analysis are my hobbies. I tweet at @mainlycricket.