PHOTOS of the IPL 2023 final between Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Monday.
Under the stewardship of the iconic Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Chennai Super Kings embellished their already fabulous record in the IPL with a fifth title triumph, beating Gujarat Titans by five wickets in a thrilling summit showdown in Ahmedabad on Monday.
Dhoni has been the cynosure of all eyes ever since the Indian Premier League began this year and in a fitting end to the finale, the captain finished with a record-levelling fifth trophy.
B Sai Sudharsan slammed 96 in 47 balls as Gujarat Titans posted 214 for four after being asked to bat first.
Set a revised target of 171 in 15 overs after rain interrupted play at the start of the second innings of a final that was pushed to the reserve day owing to heavy downpour, CSK completed the task in the last ball, in what could turn out to be Dhoni's final outing in the T20 league.
Ravindra Jadeja struck a six and a four off Mohit Sharma in the final two balls to win it for CSK and even as the players in the yellow jersey run onto the field, Dhoni remained in the dugout, his eyes closed.
Neither the juggernaut of the Gujarat Titans nor bad weather for two days could stop Dhoni's men from drawing level with their arch rivals Mumbai Indians, in terms of most IPL trophy wins.
It remains to be seen whether Dhoni would return to lead CSK once again next year or not, as the entire IPL and even the final was all about Dhoni-mania.
The fans filled the Narendra Modi Stadium to the brink for two days, remained undeterred when the weather went awry, waited for a truncated match to start well beyond midnight on Monday — all this to see Dhoni winning the IPL again.
In the end, CSK prevailed over the defending champions via the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern Method.
Ruturaj Gaikwad (26) and Devon Conway (47) knocked off 74 runs from the target in only 6.3 overs. Shivam Dube stayed till the end with an unbeaten 32, but lost Ajinkya Rahane (27), Ambati Rayudu (19) and Dhoni (0) in quick succession to see CSK's chances diminish.
Needing 13 to win from the final over, CSK could only manage three singles off the first four balls.
But Jadeja turned the tables on GT's best death bowler, Mohit Sharma (3/36), smacking him for a six and a four on the last two balls to seal the deal for his side.
Even though a knee injury hampered his movement, the venerable Dhoni did not let it make it apparent whenever he was on the field.
And he remained as sharp as ever behind the wickets. Be it marshalling his troops or giving instructions, Captain Cool basked in the glory of playing in front of yellow-clad stands, whichever part of the country he travelled to this IPL.
In the final, so what if he was dismissed for a first-ball duck, promoting himself up while trying to finish the game for perhaps one last time.
But who knows, he had probably set the game in favour of his side by stumping the new 'prince' of Indian batting, Shubman Gill (39), in only a mind-boggling 0.12 seconds off Jadeja's bowling.
After a spell of heavy passing showers, the target was revised.
Two pitches at either end of the centre had soaked in a lot of water, with huge puddles visible on the surface after the covers were taken off.
The ground staff was forced to use the traditional method of soaking the water through pieces of cloth and bucket, while later a lot of work was done in terms of putting different kinds of soil and heavy rolling.
Meanwhile, it was a boy from Chennai but not in yellow, who nearly dealt the decisive blow in the summit clash as he raced away to a belligerent 96 from only 47 balls, studded with eight fours and six sixes.
Sai Sudharsan delivered a stunning performance after Gill had an ordinary game by his lofty standards.
Gill did finish with record second highest (890 runs) for any batter in IPL history, but the limelight was hogged by the lanky, skinny boy from CSK's den Chennai.
While Pandya produced another stunning performance to bolster his chances as a long-term India captain in limited-overs cricket, it was runners-up GT's bowling line-up which delivered the goods as much as Gill's magic with the bat.
A big moment arrived in the game as early as in the second over when Tushar Deshpande had Gill flicking a delivery on the leg side, as if executing a well-planned delivery, but with no success.
Deepak Chahar, positioned at short fine leg, spilled a regulation chance but Gill could not hurt CSK the way he did Mumbai Indians a few nights ago, in Ahmedabad.
Saha piled further pressure on the bowler, collecting 16 runs off the third over and providing the Titans momentum.
Gill followed with three consecutive fours off Deshpande, but Chahar's poor luck continued when he spilled a tough return catch off Saha's bat.
The two drops indeed proved costly as GT reached 62 for no loss after the powerplay.
However, the brilliance of Dhoni ended Gill's sensational IPL with the bat, stumping the batter off Jadeja (4-0-38-1) in the seventh over.
Saha brought up his second fifty of this IPL in the 13th over but his 64-run stand with Sai Sudharsan ended in the 14th over, with Chahar getting him caught by Dhoni.
Saha hit five fours and a six to make 54 from 39 balls.
The second highest run-scorer for Gujarat Titans this season, Sudharsan accelerated to his third fifty in this IPL, bringing it up with consecutive fours off Matheesha Pathirana.
The young left-handed batter from Chennai recovered well from a sedate start to accelerate after the 14th-over mark, hitting three fours and a six off Deshpande and two sixes against Theekshana.
In fact, Sudharsan was on 36 from 25 balls when Saha was dismissed, and on the next 21 balls he faced, the 21-year-old smacked 60 runs.
However, in the final over, Sudharsan's carnage ended as Pathirana pinned him in front of the wickets for his first breakthrough in the game.