BANGALORE: Will Kings XI Punjab reign supreme or Kolkata’s Knights in shining armours regain the title? The drama and the answers will unfold in the electric atmosphere that the Chinnaswamy Stadium will conjure up for the IPL final on Sunday night.
The disappointment of the match being shifted from Mumbai will be forgotten as the crowd begins the countdown and the first ball is bowled.
Kolkata Knight Riders will be playing their second final, having won the trophy in 2012. Kings XI Punjab will figure in their first and Priety Zinta will be itching to lay her hands on the trophy which comes with a cheque for Rs 13 crore. The runners-up will bag Rs 8 crore, the third placed team Rs 5 crore and the fourth Rs 4 crore.
Punjab have had a terrific tournament, winning 11 of their 14 games and almost each one convincingly. Kolkata finished second on the league table with a late surge after overcoming initial disappointments. But they beat Punjab once in the league and again in Qualifier 1. Punjab had one win over them.
So who will triumph in this fourth clash between the two this year? The tournament has produced five champions in seven years with only Chennai Super Kings winning it twice. But Kolkata have tasted success and will be hungry for more.
Punjab can bat deep down the order. The flamboyant Glenn Maxwell, the dashing Virender Sehwag and the aggressive David Miller are among the top ten run-getters this season.
In contrast, Kolkata’s Bangalore star Robin Uthappa tops the charts with 655 runs. Skipper Gauram Gambhir is second in his team’s ranks with 312 but way down the pecking order. Punjab also have the supremely confident skipper George Bailey, Rishi Dhawan, the impressive Manan Vohra, Wriddhiman Saha, Akshar Patel, even Mitchell Johnson to fall back upon.
Kolkata’s batting order isn’t that inspirational. Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan or Shakib Al Hasan have produced big scores at times but aren’t comparatively consistent.
But Kolkata do score on the bowling front. Spinner Sunil Narine, the second highest wicket-taker, can wreck havoc, having chosen the final ahead of a national camp. Morne Morkel, Umesh Yadav, Shakib and Piyush Chawla surely look more formidable.
Sandeep Sharma, Johnson, Akshar, Dhawan, Laxmipathy Balaji or Parvinder Awana do not command the same respect. Suresh Raina tore them apart despite Chennai losing Qualifier 2.
But if Punjab can hoist 200-plus totals, the bowlers have the luxury of going through the motions. Sehwag produced a blazing 122, only the second century this season after Lendl Simmons’ effort for Mumbai Indians. Maxwell is roaring away, Miller and Bailey can slam anyone to the roofs.
Given the nature of the wicket, a run feast is in store. The tournament’s brief history, the pitch, the line-up all point towards a new champion. But Kolkata have come so far and can go further. A rip-roaring final is in prospect with Punjab, indeed, having a slight edge. and can go further. A rip roaring final is in prospect with Punjab, indeed, having a slight edge.