Gujarat ‘Titans’ brace for ‘Royal’ fight of Rajasthan’s rock stars

Ahmedabad: Two leaders, who are minefields of talent in their own right, one team that has made fun of all gambling opportunities and the other that is trying to complete a cycle that started 15 summers ago, IPL final between Gujarat Titans and Rajasthan Royals is about this and much more.

When IPL started more than two months ago, no one would have believed that two captains running away from a title fight toss Hardik Pandya and Sanju Samson

“Remember the Titans,” a 2000 Hollywood film starring Denzel Washington, is considered one of the best sports films about the proverbial underdog story, which always has a capital letter.

It’s unknown if Titans skipper Hardik saw it, but for him and head coach Ashish Nehra, this two-month journey has been nothing short of spectacular. They have caused many people to eat a simple pie because many, including experts, called them a team of no-hopers after the auction.

A team that looked like a clunky outfit with only a few good players like David Miller, considered past their sell-by date, or one-match miracles like Rahul Tewatia, it didn’t look very good on paper.

But then you wouldn’t call cricket a ‘game of glorious uncertainty’ if everything were decided on paper.

A again fit Hardik took over the leadership as fish go into the water showing the way with his performance and the reason why he will always be an asset to Indian cricket.

Miller, who played his best cricket at least five years ago, showed his 2.0 version that stunned everyone. Tewatia showed that those five sixes in Sharjah were not just a flash in the pan.

Rashid Khan knew he would be well-read, so he became all the more frugal. Wriddhiman Saha na Rahul Dravic‘s hard talk had reached a dead end in his career, but was given a new lease of life and at least one more season to look forward to.

Gujarat is not known as a state for its sporting achievements.

It has produced players like Parthiv Patel or one of India’s greatest ever pacesetters in Jasprit Bumrah, but just as Tamil Nadu never had an emotional connection to a team before CSK appeared on the horizon, so is Gujarat.

Come Sunday, expect a partisan and rowdy crowd to sing “Aava De” and that’s the impact Titans have had on their fans.

History will always give examples of sports teams binding a community and maybe Titans can strike that chord with the Gujaratis.

For Titans, if this is about crafting a niche for the home crowd then Rajasthan would be happy to do it for someone who would watch from the stars.

Shane Warne – Rajasthan’s forever first Royal had used the early year IPL stage to show the Australian cricket establishment what Ian Chappell had always claimed: “Shane Warne was the best captain Australia never had”.

With the Ravindra Jadejas, Dinesh Salunkhes, Swapnil Asnodkars and Niraj Patels, Warne had led the then cheapest team in the tournament to victory.

Thirteen summers have passed, but there is no flesh-and-blood Warne to watch his beloved team complete a cycle of life and sport.

Sanju may be one of those rare Indian cricketers, who has a huge following despite not having played even 20 international matches for the country.

In terms of talent quotient, there is little to choose between Sanju and Hardik.

Sanju’s battle like a pendulum swinging between heroism and madness.

With one ball he can boldly throw away Kagiso Rabada or a Josh hazlewood for a six and the next throw could be a horrific shot that would leave his biggest supporter tearing his hair in frustration.

But captaincy has led him to explore another aspect: a manager’s skills.

It’s not easy to lead a pack with bona fide stars like Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuzvendra ChahalJos Butler, Trent Boult along with young guns Yashasvi Jaiswal or Prasidh Krishna but Sanju handled it well.

It will be a great battle in which Buttler will not only fight a Lockie Ferguson or a Yash Dayal with over 800 runs, but will also withstand the pressure of the crowd: about 1,11,000 fans would be cheering for the hosts.

likewise, Shubman Gill would like to own the big stage and show what he can do when the canvas is as big as the IPL final.

Prasidh Krishna is a handful when his team bowls first, but how will he react to a raging Miller when he has to defend in a tense situation?

What will Hardik’s tactics be against a cunning Chahal and an experimental Ashwin during the Midovers? Or will Buttler take risks against a Rashid Khan?

We’ll get all those answers in the next 24 hours.

There will be heroes, there will be heartbreak, but most of all maybe a match that everyone will remember for a long time.

Selection:

Gujarat Titans: Hardik Pandya (c), Abhinav Manohar, David Miller, Gurkeerat Singh, B Sai Sudharsan, Shubman Gill, Rahul Tewatia, Vijay Shankar, Matthew Wade, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Wriddhiman Saha, Alzarri Joseph, Darshan Nalkande, Lockie Ferguson, Mohammed Shami, Noor Ahmad, Pradeep Sangwan, Rashid Khan, Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore, Varun Aaron, Yash Dayal.

Rajasthan Royals: Sanju Samson (c), Jos Buttler, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ravichandran Ashwin, Trent NSE 1.86% Boult, Shimron Hetmyer, Devdutt Padikkal, Prasidh Krishna, Yuzvendra Chahal, Riyan Parag, KC Cariappa, Navdeep Saini, Obed McCoy, Anunay McCoy , Kuldeep Sen, Karun Nair, Dhruv Jurel, Tejas Baroka, Kuldip Yadav, Shubham Garhwal, James Neesham, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rassie van der Dussen, Daryl Mitchell, Corbin Bosch.

Match starts at 8pm.

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