IPL 2022: Battle of wits between Dhoni and Pandya on the cards

Pandya seems to have imbibed the best qualities of leadership from the former Indian captain, writes Ayaz Memon



Hardik Pandya of the Gujarat Titans plays a shot during the match against the Rajasthan Royals. (BCCI)
Hardik Pandya of the Gujarat Titans plays a shot during the match against the Rajasthan Royals. (BCCI)

By Ayaz Memon

Published: Sun 17 Apr 2022, 12:31 AM

The Chennai Super Kings, who opened their account this season with a resounding win over the Royal Challengers Bangalore, run into a mighty hurdle against table-toppers Gujarat Titans tonight.

While the defending champions have lost four of their five matches so far, Titans have won four from five, which gives a clear idea of how the two teams have been faring and the hardship confronting CSK.

Chennai’s problems are located in the niggardly form of their major players. Opener Ruturaj Gaikwad has fallen on hard times, Moeen Ali has been delivering cameos instead of big match-winning knocks, Ambati Rayudu’s run-making has been unusually mellow, MS Dhoni is showing the rigours of age and the team’s leading player, Ravindra Jadeja, looks weighed down by the burden of captaincy.

Dwayne Bravo, while still hugely skilful as a bowler, has not contributed much with bat.

Robin Uthappa and Shivam Dube have been the unlikely heroes for CSK, batting with vigour, refusing to be consumed by the general mediocrity that had enveloped the team.

It was their blazing partnership that took CSK to a formidable 216 runs which proved too much for the Royal Challengers Bangalore to overhaul in the team’s previous game.

To sustain the winning momentum against GT, though, CSK need runs and wickets from star players.

The Titans have emerged as the best team in the tournament, starting with three wins, losing one, which turned out to be a blip as they came roaring back to beat the Rajasthan Royals — another formidable team — and regain their place on top of the points table.

Unlike CSK and Mumbai Indians, Gujarat’s players are all pulling their weight which has made the major difference to the team’s results. Only Matthew Wade from the top order has still to make a worthwhile contribution, but Shubman Gill, David Miller, Abhinav Manohar and Hardik Pandya have more than compensated for this.

In bowling, Mohammed Shami, Lockie Ferguson and Rashid Khan, with their vast skills and enormous experience, have kept the Titans on top against even the best batting sides.

In bowling, Pandya has played a significant role in the Titans maintaining a winning momentum for three weeks. He has completed his full quota in all matches.

Having spent almost two years battling injury, the star all-rounder seems to have found his rhythm, which should delight not just GT fans but also India’s selectors, coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma.

Pandya’s captaincy has had as much impact for GT as his all-round performances. He has been shrewd tactically.

And by leading from the front, he has been able to command respect.

In many ways a protege of MS Dhoni, Pandya seems to have imbibed the best qualities of leadership from the former Indian captain.

Dhoni no longer leads CSK, but he’s still the prime influencer for his team on the field.

The battle of wits between him and Pandya should make this contest hugely interesting.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator


More news from Cricket