Cricket-Chennai stand between Gujarat and IPL history
By Amlan Chakraborty
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Revenge will fuel Gujarat Titans' title defence when they clash with four-time winners Chennai Super Kings in Sunday's Indian Premier League (IPL) final in Ahmedabad.
Gujarat, who won the title in their debut season last year, topped the group stage this season but went down to Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Chennai in the first qualifier on Tuesday.
Hardik Pandya's men bounced back from that defeat to thrash the league's most successful team, Mumbai Indians, in Friday's second qualifier to set up a rematch with Chennai at Gujarat's home ground in Ahmedabad.
Gujarat also have the personnel to become the first IPL franchise to win the league in their first two attempts.
Opener Shubman Gill, the seasons leading scorer, is in sublime form having smashed three hundreds in his last four innings.
"He is a superstar and is going to do big things to franchise cricket and Indian cricket," Pandya said of his India team mate Gill.
The top three bowlers this season -- Mohammed Shami, Rashid Khan and Mohit Sharma -- are also from Gujarat.
While seamer Shami has been particularly impressive in the powerplay overs, Rashid has spearheaded Gujarat's spin attack claiming crucial wickets at important junctures.
"When things are not going the way I like, he is someone who comes and changes momentum and makes sure we keep getting wickets," Pandya said of the Afghan spinner.
"We have spoken enough about Rashid but sometimes I am short of words for what he does."
Chennai will have an opportunity to match Mumbai's five IPL titles in what could be their talismanic leader Dhoni's final season.
Like in his time as India captain, Dhoni has brought out the best in his team mates with his inspiring leadership.
While Devon Conway and Ruturaj Gaikwad have been their leading scorers, Shivam Dube has transformed into Chennai's six-hitting machine.
In the bowling department, Matheesha Pathirana and Tushar Deshpande have emerged as death-overs specialists.
"You use them in a manner where they have most chances of performing and, at the same time, groom them in the areas where they're not very strong," Dhoni said of his leadership approach.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Kim Coghill)