He was so out of touch they dropped him. They won’t do that again. There’s more chance of a Martian invasion than Murali Vijay being dropped for Sunday’s Indian Premier League final.
The local hero finally came through when it mattered most. The fist pump celebration said it all. This was not a dignified raising of the bat in acknowledgment of a milestone. It was a mixture of personal relief and defiance of his critics. The message was received loud and clear.
It has been a season-long battle. Prior to his brilliant, match-winning century against the Delhi Daredevils, Vijay had flattered to deceive. His patchy form mirrored that of his team — so much was expected of the Chennai Super Kings but inconsistency appeared the only constant.
We should have guessed what transpired. CSK has a habit of saving its best for the business end of the season. After earning a stay of execution, MS Dhoni’s team has been irresistible — first crushing the Mumbai Indians and then humbling the hitherto dominant Daredevils.
Virender Sehwag will be kicking himself for a while. The Delhi skipper chose to leave out Morne Morkel, the IPL’s leading wicket taker, to accommodate all-rounder Andre Russell. Then, having won the toss, he asked Chennai to bat. Two hundred twenty-two runs later, the highest total of the season, Sehwag was left to rue the decisions he had made before a ball was bowled.
The Super Kings are on a roll. They will take that momentum, and the favourites tag, into the championship game against a Kolkata Knight Riders team appearing in its first IPL final. KKR will be the fresher of the two teams after a five day rest but Chennai has the edge in several departments.
Despite the busier schedule CSK knows it has hit top form at the perfect moment. Confidence among the players will be sky high and Chennai has the benefit of home advantage. The Knight Riders will not only have to keep their nerve but also do their best to quiet a sold out partisan crowd.
In any sport there is no substitute for experience. Chennai has been here before and knows exactly what it takes to successfully close out a tournament. CSK is hungry for a third straight IPL title and having cruised through two eliminators the charge towards a championship hat trick may be unstoppable.
Kolkata cannot be counted out. The Knight Riders won by five wickets on their last visit to Chennai after restricting the home side to less than 140. Jacques Kallis and Sunil Narine bowled beautifully before captain Gautam Gambhir led the successful chase. All three will need to click again if the underdogs are to have their day.
It is just possible Chennai has peaked one game too early. It will be tough for Vijay to follow up his masterful hundred but we shouldn’t forget it was his opening partnership with Mike Hussey which sealed last year’s silverware. Lightning, though, rarely strikes twice.