Under normal circumstances, Kolkata Knight Riders would have gone into the final of the CLT20 against Chennai Super Kings at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore as favourites. But, Sunil Narine's ban for the final, after he was reported again in the semis, has added an new twist to the tale. It is a known fact that Narine is a key weapon in KKR's bowling attack. In fact, Narine has been so successful for KKR that the team looks incomplete without him. Even when not taking wickets, he keeps troubling the batsmen with his pace. KKR would undoubtedly miss him in the final.
Now that Narine has been banned for the final, KKR would have to rework their bowling strategy, which so far has been woven around their spinners. In fact, in the semis against Hobart Hurricanes, the slow bowlers sent down 16 of the 20 overs, and were successful in restricting the opponents. Apart from Narine, Kuldeep Yadav has continued to remain impressive. Piyush Chawla has alternated between an attacking and defending bowler very well. Yusuf Pathan has chipped in nicely too. However, with Narine out, they have no replacement as spinner, and pacer Pat Cummins might have to be brought in.
Although Narine's loss is a big blow, KKR would like to believe that they have men to do the task, especially with the bat if a huge challenge is on offer. Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir have been in reasonable form though they failed in the semis. Further, Jacques Kallis played himself into form with a wonderfully composed knock against Hobart under pressure. Manish Pandey has also been consistent in the middle order. They would like a handy contribution from Yusuf Pathan as well in the big game. Of course, some better application from the lower-order under pressure will help.
Chennai, on the other hand, will be hoping for their batting to get their act together in the final. The top three failed in the semis, with Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina all going cheaply. If they get going in the final, especially against a Narine-less attack, Kolkata could be put under immense pressure. Dwayne Bravo will once again be a key performer, with both bat and ball. In the semis, his sizzling knock under pressure was game-changing. Faf du Plessis also batted well to help Chennai recover.
Bowling hasn't been Chennai's superior weapon this season, but they did get their act wonderfully well against Kings XI Punjab. Ashish Nehra and Mohit Sharma ensured that there was no recovery in store for Punjab after having conceded a big total. Ravichandran Ashwin, however hasn't been as effective as the previous seasons. Seems like opposition bowlers have got used to his style of bowling. At best, he has been economical without being threatening. As mentioned earlier, Bravo would play a key role, as would the other spinners like Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina.
--By A Cricket Analyst