Williamson, Dhoni gear up for the mega-showdown today
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Captains Kane Williamson (left) and MS Dhoni. The two teams have faced each other thrice this season so far, with CSK winning all three. (BCCI)
Captains Kane Williamson (left) and MS Dhoni. The two teams have faced each other thrice this season so far, with CSK winning all three. (BCCI)

IT was everything you wouldn’t expect ahead of an IPL final, one of the most hotly-contested ones at that. It was also what you’d expect when you had two of the coolest captains at the press conference.

MS Dhoni and Kane Williamson traded compliments, tributes and jokes aplenty as they, along with coaches Stephen Fleming and Tom Moody, fronted the press ahead of the final of IPL 2018 in Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium today.
There were no jibes to get the early advantage, and there were no mind games at play, at least to the layman, and there was certainly no negative vibes.

When speaking about Rashid Khan, Fleming, more in hope than in his expert opinion, joked that Rashid could not put in two match-winning performances on the trot.
When Dhoni spoke about having many bikes and not using all at the same time, answering a question on why Harbhajan Singh was unused in the last game, Williamson cut in to remind Dhoni he had also asked him about his bikes and cars.

It also portended the sort of game that will unfurl in Mumbai a little less than 24 hours later. It wasn’t going to be the kind of game which pushes both teams to try and put the opposition beyond its comfort zones.

This was going to be a game of nerves, and a matter of who can hold theirs a lot more. Both Dhoni and Williamson are known cool operators. There won’t be much of an emotional outflow, and both teams, as reflections, are more than happy soaking in the pressure before going for the kill. Waiting. Watching. Gradually tightening the noose before striking.
It should have been an avenue for emotional outbursts. Dhoni had returned to CSK after the team spent two years in the wilderness.

After just one long-awaited game at home, they were sent away to play in Pune. However, without wasting much time he led them to another IPL final. Williamson probably wouldn’t even have made the starting XI if David Warner was in the squad. Just like Dhoni, he turned his team into world-beaters.
“The captaincy came fairly suddenly,” said Williamson. “It’s been an enjoyable experience. I think as a franchise, being involved for a few years the team has changed quite a lot in some ways with 14 new players.

(It was) exciting to learn something about myself and the guys in the team – different cultures, different parts of the world with Tom and the management. Davy (David Warner) is a big part of the franchise as a player and as a leader. He’s contributed so much in the last few years and obviously as events unfolded, things changed pretty quickly. But as a team, we gelled pretty quickly together to try and start operating well as a unit.”

“The emotional aspect was more at the start of the tournament,” reckoned Dhoni. “Once the tournament starts, you have to be more professional. I was saddened that we couldn’t play our home matches in Chennai but I was still happy that we played at least one match.
“I think it’s been an easy transition for our team given that Kane’s been part of the Sunrisers setup for a few years.

Those who were there in the previous years were very familiar with Kane as a person and a lot of people sort of forget the fact that even though you don’t have a type as a leader, he naturally offered his leadership around the group.
“Whether he was in the playing XI or not in the playing XI, I know for certain (that) Warner relied on him a lot with his advice on match-day or outside.

So, given that was the history, the actual transition was a very smooth transition. I think it’s just a case of his adapting to a new environment to captain and the IPL is a unique environment and he’s done that like duck to water,” added Moody.

It shows that emotions have certainly been ridden down for the big final. But there is scope for some hangover. CSK and SRH have already played three games this IPL. CSK have turned out winners in all three, although the first and the third were close for comfort. However, coming into the final both teams knew that the past games would matter for very little.

Asked how they could reverse their fortunes, Moody said: “Look I think we can all recall the last game we played. We could have won that game by 20 runs or lost it as we did. It was a remarkable comeback from CSK.

“I guess we got 90 percent of that game right and you got to give credit where it’s due. Faf played a remarkable innings and showed his class and experience to be able to see it right to the end. You know, I’m not looking at areas that we need to tighten up.

We just need to concentrate on our brand of cricket and make sure we bring that to the final tomorrow. And as long as we do that, I’m sure we’ll be competitive on the day.”
Let’s hope they are indeed. (Cricbuzz.com)

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