Sunil Narine’s suspension hangs heavy over the final of the Oppo Champions League T20. Sometimes, an individual’s value to a team can be overstated, but there can be no denying that when Kolkata Knight Riders meets Chennai Super Kings at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Saturday, it will do so without its most lethal weapon.
Since he first joined the side in 2012, Narine has accounted for over a quarter of the wickets KKR has taken in all competitions.
The Trinidadian has led the wickets column at this tournament with 12 — dismissals effected at a mere 5.30 runs an over. KKR’s success has largely been predicated on Narine’s ability to deliver four frugal overs; no side at the CLT20 has managed a total in excess of 157 against it.
So when the off-spinner was reported a second time for a “suspected illegal bowling action” on Friday, and automatically banned from bowling in the final, KKR’s chances of winning the competition took a nasty hit.
That is not to rule out the possibility of victory, however. KKR climbed out of a miserable trough in the league phase to win the IPL earlier this year; Saturday’s fixture will prove to be another test of mettle.
The strategy has been to muzzle the opposition with a spin-heavy attack: chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla and Yusuf Pathan will thus have to shoulder greater responsibility now.
Their task will be far from simple against a CSK side that has relentlessly marched into yet another final. M.S. Dhoni commands a team loaded to the brim with big-hitting batsmen.
In the semifinal win over Kings XI Punjab, the side had appeared in trouble before Dwayne Bravo turned things around with his breakneck half-century.
Ashish Nehra, who at 35 appears to be experiencing a mini revival, and Mohit Sharma have been CSK’s stand-out bowlers.
Coach Stephen Fleming said last week that if the team’s bowling unit had appeared weak, it was partly because of comparisons with the batting.
CSK last won the CLT20 in 2010 and must be favourite to win a second title, worth $2.5 million. KKR, though, will hope its winning streak, now at 14, lasts one match longer.
When the two sides met in the group stages in Hyderabad, KKR won with an over to spare. Although it was Andre Russell’s blitz that secured victory, it was difficult to ignore Narine’s bowling figures: four overs, nine runs, one wicket.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (capt), Suresh Raina, Ashish Nehra, Mithun Manhas, R. Ashwin, Ishwar Pandey, Pawan Negi, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohit Sharma, Dwayne Smith, Dwayne Bravo, John Hastings, Brendon McCullum, Samuel Badree, Francois Du Plessis
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (capt), Yusuf Pathan, Robin Uthappa, Piyush Chawla, Ranganath Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine, Jacques Kallis, Ryan Ten Doeschate, Morne Morkel, Patrick Cummins, Andre Russell.