After almost two months of action, the 2022 edition of the Indian Premier League is at its deciding point, where newbies Gujarat Titans and inaugural champions Rajasthan Royals will square off against each other to lift the glittering silverware at the Narendra Modi Stadium here on Sunday.
For Gujarat, winning the trophy at their home ground will be the perfect ending to their season of firsts, where they exceeded every pre-tournament expectation, becoming the table-toppers and then earning a direct ticket to the title clash.
For Rajasthan, making an appearance in the final after winning their only title in 2008, it will be a golden opportunity to pay a superb tribute to their leader of the inaugural trophy run and leg-spin legend, Shane Warne.
The Hardik Pandya-led side were written off by many even before the tournament had begun while their mega auction strategy wasn't deemed great. Many wondered if Pandya, fighting his own battles with form and injury and out of action since the 2021 Men's T20 World Cup, can inspire the new entrants while taking care of his own game.
Moreover, England opener Jason Roy pulled out of the tournament citing bio-bubble environment. Despite all odds, Gujarat stunned everyone with their consistency, becoming the first team to enter the playoffs and eventually, be in the final. Gujarat's reasons for success have been all performing as a collective and chipping in with role clarity.
"The balance we have in the team, which has helped to take us in this position because it was very clear to each and every player what is my position, where I will bat and even knew that this is the situation I will face in the game and be fully prepared for that. There was no confusion in the players' minds that what will be the responsibility in my team and what role I will play.
"It was very clear from game one, which was really important for the bowling unit too, that 'yes, this is my responsibility, this is where I will bowl'. So, that's really more important than you having the best teams. The balance of the team has been top-class, that's how we got here," said leg-spinner Rashid Khan on how Gujarat have been successful in the tournament.
Apart from Pandya the batter and his captaincy being the surprise package of the tournament, openers Shubman Gill and Wriddhiman Saha, middle-order aggressors David Miller and Rahul Tewatia, pace spearhead Mohammed Shami, along with other members in the attack and Rashid Khan doing his own thing with ball and bat, have been great contributors to Gujarat's success in different stages of the mega event.
On the other hand, Rajasthan had a great auction strategy where they got highly experienced players and are now seeing the results with them now in sight of bagging just their second IPL trophy. The Sanju Samson-led side will also be buoyed to reverse the 0-2 head-to-head trend against Gujarat in IPL 2022.
Their spin base is covered by leading wicket-taker and purple cap winner Yuzvendra Chahal with senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin showing his all-round exploits while the pace attack of Trent Boult, Prasidh Krishna and Obed McCoy have been operating at an optimum level.
Their top order has revolved around orange-cap holder Jos Buttler, who's now got four centuries in the tournament, equalling Kohli's record with an unbeaten 106 in the Qualifier 2 against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday apart from Shimron Hetmyer's finishing exploits.
Overall, there is very little to separate between Gujarat and Rajasthan apart from their road to the final. But Sunday's title clash will be the one to decide the difference between Gujarat and Rajasthan in taking the silverware home.
Gujarat Titans: Hardik Pandya (captain), Rashid Khan, Shubman Gill, Mohammed Shami, David Miller, Wriddhiman Saha, Matthew Wade, Rahul Tewatia, R. Sai Kishore, Yash Dayal, Alzarri Joseph, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Lockie Ferguson, Abhinav Manohar, Noor Ahmad, Dominic Drakes, Jayant Yadav, Vijay Shankar, Darshan Nalkande, Pradeep Sangwan, B. Sai Sudarshan, Gurkeerat Singh Mann and Varun Aaron
Rajasthan Royals: Sanju Samson (captain), Jos Buttler, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ravichandran Ashwin, Trent Boult, Shimron Hetmyer, Devdutt Padikkal, Prasidh Krishna, Yuzvendra Chahal, Riyan Parag, KC Cariappa, Navdeep Saini, Obed McCoy, Anunay Singh, James Neesham, Corbin Bosch, Kuldeep Sen, Karun Nair, Rassie van der Dussen, Dhruv Jurel, Tejas Baroka, Kuldip Yadav and Shubham Garhwal