HYDERABAD: M.S. Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings shrugged off their ‘Dad’s Army’ label to reach Sunday’s IPL final against the Mumbai Indians with both teams looking to clinch a record fourth title.
Chennai hammered Delhi Capitals, the kid stars of the Indian Premier League, by six wickets on Friday to reach a record eighth final in the Twenty20 tournament.
The 37-year-old Dhoni is one of 11 members of the 25 man Chennai squad aged over 30.
Australian Shane Watson is 37 and fellow opener Faf du Plessis, a relative team youngster at 34. Both plundered fifties off the Delhi bowling as Chennai powered past the 147 target with an over to spare and just four wickets lost.
Dhoni, winner of three IPL titles and still a key member of India’s World Cup squad, is not bothered by questions about his age.
“I don’t mind that because all this increases the anticipation,” Dhoni said at the start of the game against Delhi, who were referred to as the ‘Kid’s Army’.
Their captain Shreyas Iyer is 23 and wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, the likely successor to Dhoni in the national side, just 21.
Dhoni has reliable old warhorses on every front to take on the Mumbai Indians, who beat Chennai last Tuesday to secure their place in the final.
The 35-year-old West Indies paceman Dwayne Bravo, returned figures of 2-19 to restrict Delhi to 147 for nine.
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir, the eldest member of the squad at 39, has 24 scalps and is just one away from overtaking fellow South African Kagiso Rabada of Delhi as the IPL’s top wicket-taker.
“We know what to do in different situations, we’ve made the most of our experience,” Watson said after his team’s 100th IPL win.
“Mumbai Indians have a great team, not too many holes in their team,” he acknowledged.
Mumbai, led by India’s star batsman Rohit Sharma, will be counting on their rivals’ fatigue to help them win.
Dhoni’s side will get only 48 hours to get to Hyderabad for the final and recover to take on a side with what appears to be the right mix of youth and experience.
With standout 20-year-old Ishan Kishan in the middle-order and the Pandya brothers – Hardik and Krunal – as well as big-hitting Kieron Pollard, Mumbai finished top of the table after a slow start to the season.
“They are a superstar team. If anyone does anything of repute anywhere in the world of cricket, they buy him,” cricketer-turned-analyst Pommie Mbangwa said on the online Cricbuzz chat show.
“Yet somehow after a certain period of time they have managed to settle on some sort of formula that gets them winning games,” said the former Zimbabwe paceman.
Mumbai, owned by Nita Ambani – who is married to India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani – has the bragging rights against Chennai this season after beating them three times, in the league and playoffs.
They have also met in three IPL finals, with Mumbai winning two.
Mumbai won their finals in 2013, 2015 – both against Chennai – and again in 2017 when they beat Rising Pune Supergiant.
Chennai won theirs in 2010 against Mumbai, in 2011 and again in 2018 after coming back from a two year ban over an illegal gambling scandal involving one of the owners of the franchise.