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  5. RCB vs CSK: Playoffs spot, swansong(s) at stake in a blockbuster which is more than just Kohli vs Dhoni

RCB vs CSK: Playoffs spot, swansong(s) at stake in a blockbuster which is more than just Kohli vs Dhoni

Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will be fighting for a playoff spot in the 2024 edition of the IPL against the Royal Challengers Bengaluru. It may not be a must-win for CSK as even a close loss will be enough for them to make it to the top four but RCB are on a hot streak with five successive wins.

Written By: Anshul Gupta @oyegupta_ New Delhi Published on: May 18, 2024 12:31 IST
CSK and RCB lock horns for a playoffs spot in probably the
Image Source : BCCI/IPL CSK and RCB lock horns for a playoffs spot in probably the biggest game of IPL 2024 to date

It's not often that an IPL match has riding a lot on it including a playoff spot, prestige, swansong(s) and multiple narratives on play starring two of the henchmen of Indian cricket in the past decade and a half. But as bizarre and unique storylines as they go, it was probably written in the stars that either Virat Kohli and his famed RCB (Royal Challengers Bengaluru) will suffer heartbreak at the hands of Chennai Super Kings or his hero MS Dhoni's illustrious career will come to a stuttering halt a year after he led his Yellow Army to a fifth IPL title.

It's a blockbuster of the highest order. There's a narrative that it could be MS Dhoni's swansong in the IPL but he said that he would finish at Chepauk, so will it be? Another is that of RCB, who are chasing their first tile for 17 seasons now and after a campaign that seemed like it could be a long one when the Faf du Plessis-led side couldn't buy a win, are on a hot streak of five wins and one more with a certain margin, they could see themselves in the top four competing for the title. Then there's a third narrative, that of weather, which hasn't been auspicious in the past week, whether it was Ahmedabad, Hyderabad or even in Mumbai and Bengaluru was certainly not going to be left alone.

There have been passages of rain in the Garden City, especially on May 15 and 16 (Wednesday-Thursday) but it was surprisingly dry on the eve of the match despite the forecast of showers. The match day has begun expectedly dry with a shade of sunlight and every stakeholder, from the broadcasters to the fans, the sponsors, the players and the teams will be hoping for it to stay throughout the day, especially in the evening when there is a prediction of scattered rain in parts of the city.

Now coming to the game, it could be the last MS Dhoni vs Virat Kohli game, which the latter admitted to in a candid interaction with one of the broadcasters ahead of the clash. Hence, sentiments are at play too. Does anyone have an edge? Logic would say RCB, who haven't dropped a game since the 1-run loss to Kolkata Knight Riders, which is almost a month and CSK have had a stop-start campaign as their last six games read L W L W L W.

But expect CSK to be at their best since it's a virtual knockout, the team who has won the joint-most finals. Both teams will be without their England internationals, Moeen Ali and Will Jacks. Jacks may have played only a couple of substantial knocks, but with the fearlessness he provided to the order, going with his off-spin, gave a cutting edge to RCB's balance. RCB have a readymade replacement in Glenn Maxwell, but the Australian has been woefully out of touch. Will he find his mojo back in a must-win clash?

Who will CSK go with in Moeen Ali's absence? Mitchell Santner seems like a direct replacement but he bats in the lower order and that could mean a promotion for someone like Sameer Rizvi, who has been in and out of the side as per convenience. The top order has been a concern for CSK. Daryl Mitchell has found his hands but Rachin Ravindra is too inconsistent and the same goes for Shivam Dube too, especially in the last four games. Thankfully, with CSK going back to the Theekshana-Rachin combo, their Indian pace bowling attack has stepped up as Simarjeet Singh's presence has added that much-needed zing to the side that was left hanging in the air with the departures of Matheesha Pathirana and Mustafizur Rahman

In the bowling department, which has been RCB's Achilles Heel for many seasons, they have found their footing in the last few games as well. Swapnil Singh is doing the job at the start with Mohammed Siraj, Yash Dayal and Lockie Ferguson being able to control the opposition while Cameron Green and Karn Sharma doing their job. However, the biggest reason for their turnaround has been Rajat Patidar. The Madhya Pradesh batter, who has dismissed spinners from their presence has been the lifeline of RCB's batting with those quick fifties and single-handedly ballooning scores of 170 to 190 and 180 to 210. Patidar against Jadeja/Santner could be the game.

The teams are so closely matched, even in the players they are missing, that it is difficult to pick between the two. But it has all the ingredients of being the game for the season because if RCB lose, it could be the end of Dinesh Karthik in the IPL and even Faf du Plessis, who turns 40 in a couple of months. Or if CSK lose, will this be Dhoni's last or the destiny has another fairytale ending in store?



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