By: Chandrashekar Bhat
Ravindra Jadeja starred with bat and ball as Chennai Super Kings beat holders Gujarat Titans by 15 runs on Tuesday (23) to enter the IPL final that could be skipper MS Dhoni’s farewell.
Four-time winners Chennai posted 172-7, a total their bowlers defended as they bowled out Gujarat for 157 in a play-off believed to be the last home match at the MA Chidambaram Stadium for the 41-year-old Dhoni.
The left-handed Jadeja returned figures of 2-18 with his spin bowling following his 22 runs, which boosted the Chennai total after Ruturaj Gaikwad’s 60 on an awkward pitch for batting.
Fireworks lit up the sky as Chennai made their 10th Indian Premier League final.
“IPL is too big to say it’s just another final,” the captain said on presenter Harsha Bhogle’s question on the Sunday final being “just another final” for Dhoni’s team.
“Used to be top eight teams to compete with the best players available in the world, but now it’s 10 teams, so now it’s tougher. It’s hard work of two months because of which we are standing over here. Lot of character showed by the individuals.”
Dhoni also stalled suggestions that he was about to retire, saying he will take “eight, nine months” to decide on his IPL future.
“The small auction will be around December, so why to take the headache right now. I have ample time to decide,” he said.
Gujarat, led by Hardik Pandya, will have another shot at making the final, which is on Sunday (28) in Ahmedabad, when they take on the winner of the second play-off between Lucknow Super Giants and five-time champions Mumbai Indians.
The spotlight remained on Dhoni, who is India’s most decorated player, leading his country to two World Cup triumphs including the inaugural T20 crown in 2007 and has played mentor to younger heroes including Virat Kohli.
Dhoni has attracted huge crowds across venues with fans turning up in Chennai’s yellow as a tribute to the cricketing great.
His home venue was nearly packed to capacity as fans cheered every move of their hero, who raised the noise when he came into bat.
But the crowd soon fell silent as the superstar, who has been troubled with a knee injury in this season but has not explicitly said he is retiring, fell to Mohit Sharma for one off two balls.
Earlier Gaikwad registered his fourth half-century of the season as he capitalised on a reprieve on two when he was dismissed in the second over only for the delivery to called no-ball.
He hit back with a six and four and soon converted Chennai’s modest start to a strong opening stand of 87 with New Zealand’s Devon Conway, who made 40.
Chennai wobbled after Gaikwad’s departure but Jadeja’s 16-ball cameo, which included two sixes, and one hit over the fence by England’s Moeen Ali in the final over fired Chennai to what turned out to be a winning total.
Gaikwad was named man of the match for his 44-ball knock and a good diving catch in the deep.
Shubman Gill attempted to drive Gujarat’s chase with his 42 but the rest of the batting faltered.
“We were quite spot on but we made some basic errors. I felt we were exactly 15 runs short,” said Gujarat skipper Pandya.
Fast bowler Deepak Chahar, who took down Gill, and the Sri Lankan duo of Maheesh Theekshana and Matheesha Pathirana also took two wickets each.
Rashid Khan attempted to pull a rabbit out of the hat with his 16-ball 30 but fell in the 19th over and Pathirana sealed the deal on the final ball.