New Delhi: Former India captain Anil Kumble has backed defending champions Chennai Super Kings to go all the way against Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League season five final at the Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday.
Kumble, who is associated with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the capacity of a mentor, told CNN-IBN: “They are a champion side. Look at the individuals in the team. They have a great battery of international cricketers. All of them have a lot of experience. Yes, they were scratchy in the group stages but they have come back strongly. RCB, though, did them a favour [by not winning against Deccan Chargers]. And then in the playoffs, they literally bulldozed Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils.”
However, Kumble warned MS Dhoni's men against West Indian spinner Sunil Narine, who has taken 24 wickets in 14 matches at an economy rate of 5.20. “Kolkata’s bowling is really good, thanks to Sunil Narine, the mystery bowler. He ties up one end, that helps the other bowlers. He is one key figure in this match. A lot rides on how he fares.
“In the T20 format, one individual can turn it around for a team, like Murali Vijay did against Delhi. Playing at home will also stand them [Chennai] in good stead. Their track record at home is quite good. It’s a good wicket at Chennai. It’s a wicket where you win toss and bat first.”
The former legspinner also praised Dhoni and Kolkata captain Gautam Gambhir for showing their sides the way. "Gautam has led from the front. He has done really well with the bat. He is second only to Chris Gayle in the run-scoring charts. That has helped him in his captaincy. He has done exceptionally well. Dhoni, we know how consistent he has been; we know what he is capable of. He has come to the party at the right time in the matches against Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils. Both [CSK and KKR] are settled teams and that has been their strength."
Former India opener Aakash Chopra also played up Chennai’s chances. “When it comes to knockouts, there is no team like CSK. Yes for me, it’s advantage CSK. True, KKR have also played well in this tournament but against this CSK team, it’s going to take some beating.”
Former Mumbai opener Shishir Hattangadi, however, was of a different opinion. “Kolkata need Brendon McCullum and Yusuf Pathan to come good. Gautam is the only player in the team to have a strike rate of 130 plus. So these two have to fire today. But I’ll tell you one thing, there is a fight on hand. It’s not going to be a walkover for Chennai, for sure,” he said.