Neither T20 nor T10, the IPL final reduced to a 15-over chase due to late Monday evening showers saw Chennai Super Kings winning their fifth title by five wickets in a nail-biting last-ball finish that ended at 1.30 am on Tuesday in front of a packed Ahmedabad crowd. Ravindra Jadeja got the 10 runs needed off the final two balls.
With the reduced overs, bowlers having one fewer over to bowl, batters in need of taking off at a faster pace, all the action in the powerplay was frantic. Mohammed Shami and Hardik Pandya didn’t find much swing, Rashid Khan not any turn. Devon Conway and Ruturaj Gaikwad lined up against the leg-spinner and zoomed to 52/0 inside the 4-over powerplay. Their quick start brought CSK’s target down to 119 in 11 overs; that’s 11-an-over with all wickets intact. An everyday chase in a T20 game. GT fought well to take the match deep.
Like Chennai Super Kings, the secret of Gujarat Titans’ success has been their continuity. But one batting spot where they have been experimenting with is at No. 3. Sai Sudharsan. The 21-year-old left-hander showed early spark but has featured in only half of GT’s games. The Tamil-Nadu batter chose the game that mattered the most, making a statement with a spectacular 96 (47b, 8x4, 6x6).
A statement to his own team, why he should have played more and to opponents CSK, his home city’s franchise, who once looked past the TNPL find after having him in their junior side.
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Sudharsan, who belongs to a sporting family – his father R Bharadwaj is a former India sprinter and mother Usha was a volleyball player. He was picked by GT for his base prize of ₹20 lakh before IPL 2022.
Looking fluent from the time he came out to bat in the eighth over after Shubman Gill’s dismissal, Sudharsan launched Maheesh Theekshana in the 15th over for two big sixes, one off a full toss and another down cow corner. In the next over, the left-hander brought up his 50 in 33 balls.
Before Sudharsan came to the crease, CSK’s powerplay bowling had been largely lacklustre. The bowlers frequently sprayed down leg or pitched it too full. Dhoni’s sharp catch to send Shubman Gill (39) back off Ravindra Jadeja helped apply the brakes. GT were 86/1 mid-innings. But the wicket was too flat for CSK’s spinners to have anywhere close to the kind of stranglehold they are used to in the middle-overs. Between Theekshana and Jadeja, the spin duo conceded 74 runs in 8 overs.
GOES BIG AT THE DEATH
It may feel like a long time back, but Sudharsan had tamed Anrich Nortje’s pace on a challenging Ferozeshah Kotla track at the start of IPL 2023. In his unbeaten 62, he had pulled out the ramp and scoop against Nortje’s express pace.
But in the last match against Mumbai Indians, Sudharsan slowed down as the death overs approached. He was retired out for the swashbuckling Rashid Khan. Here, he managed to correct that too. Come the 17th over, he made room and attempted to reverse scoop Tushar Deshpande over short fineleg. The six came off a leading edge but his intent was amply clear. Once Sudharsan had improvised to mess up with Deshpande’s head, the pacer began to bowl wider.
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Three back-to-back boundaries followed. The wider Deshpande went, the more gaps the left-hander was able to find, two on either side of mid-off and one through covers. The 20-run over gave the necessary impetus GT’s death overs assault needed. It wasn’t Deshpande’s day and he ended up leaking another 18 runs in his next, which was maximised against by Pandya.
Sudharsan continued his onslaught in the final over. Against Pathirana, one of the best death over bowlers of the tournament, Sudharsan knew exactly what was coming. He was standing deep in the crease. The Malinga-clone missed his yorkers twice and was picked off for two sixes. Pathirana found his yorker length in the third ball. That brought Sudharsan’s innings to an end. He ended four short of a hundred but had the stamp of approval from his captain. The duo punched gloves, leaving Sudharsan to accept the applause of the crowd; 71 runs came in the final five overs to take GT to 214.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rasesh Mandani loves a straight drive. He has been covering cricket, the governance and business side of sport for close to two decades. He writes and video blogs for HT.