There is a thrilling sensuousness in witnessing contrasting forces — of equal pedigree — collide. And in a team sport, when two evenly-matched sides helmed by leaders with unique, yet similarly effective, styles compete with one another, the excitement level swells exponentially.
That prospect awaits the fans on Sunday when Chennai Super Kings takes on Kolkata Knight Riders for the IPL crown. But before that, on Satuday, the captains of KKR and CSK respectively — Gautam Gambhir and M.S. Dhoni — jointly addressed the media.
It was a fascinating exhibition of two different men with mutual respect for the other's methods. Gambhir took first strike elaborating on his serious on-field demeanour.
“I don't go out to make friends on the field. I play to win games. If I have to be aggressive on the field and if that aggression rubs on positively to the rest of the team, it's fine.”
He didn't hold himself back while hailing CSK's past achievements. “It's their backyard and obviously being two-time champions, they know how to win. But I always believe that at the start of a game things are even-stevens, especially in a T20 situation. I don't mind keeping a low profile before the start of a game. If we play to our potential, we will definitely be a tough side to beat.”
Dhoni was very much in character, staying composed and producing elaborately-packaged sentences. “When it comes to a sport, it's very difficult to guess where it's going. Result is something you get depending on what you do in those three, three-and-a-half hours. But there is obviously added pressure on each and every individual as it's a final.”
Team above captain
On the subject of captaincy, Gambhir stuck to his ‘team above captain' line. “I have always maintained that a successful team makes a successful captain not the other way around. I am picked to score runs — that's my duty. It's not like I am doing a favour to the team.”
Dhoni, on his part, made some interesting observations on Gambhir's captaincy. “Gautam is different to me as captain. Gautam is very expressive on the field. Even when the team is on top, he demands effort from individuals to wrap the game in the best possible manner. That's where his strength lies and he's done really well with KKR.”
The Indian captain emphasised the need to “express ourselves” in big games. “It's another opportunity for someone to be a hero and that's what I look at it as. Tomorrow somebody will be a hero, whether it is from our side or from the Kolkata side, we will have to wait and watch.”
For Gambhir, the final had a much deeper sub-text. “Whenever we walk out on the field, we don't play as individuals, we play for the team and the people of Kolkata who have supported us brilliantly throughout. It's not about Gambhir, Jacques Kallis or Shah Rukh Khan. Kolkata is known as the city of joy and hopefully we can bring joy on the faces of our fans.”
The pre-match media interaction may hardly have been akin to a weigh-in before a boxing bout but on match-day, there will be no inch given, none sought.