CHENNAI: With one eye on the 50-over World Cup in England and all the resultant chatter about workload management in recent days, the build-up to the 12th edition of the IPL has been relatively subdued.
At the MA Chidambaram Stadium here on Saturday, though, the glitz and glamour associated with the annual T20 extravaganza should be back in focus. And what better way to do that than pitting MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, the two current superstars of Indian cricket, against each other in the opener?
While both Dhoni and Kohli enjoy iconic status wherever they go, their respective IPL franchises have traversed starkly contrasting journeys so far. CSK, of course, have been the most successful side in the IPL with three titles to show for their efforts. RCB, on the other hand, are one of just three current teams to have never won the tournament.
This history is reflected in the two sides’ head-to-head record, CSK leading 14-7 in 22 IPL meetings with one being a no-result. It will be no surprise then if the contest on Saturday stays true to form.
“Every team that comes to Chennai has to be considered underdogs because CSK have done so well at home. MS knows exactly what he wants from his team in these conditions,” Kohli said on Friday.
By virtue of being defending champions on their return last season, CSK have a well-oiled side that is acutely aware of its strengths and weaknesses. Along with the uber-cool presence of Dhoni, they have the likes of Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina and Kedar Jadhav that add plenty of heft to the side. The spinners, led by Ravindra Jadeja, will be itching to come to the party, meanwhile, on a Chepauk pitch that has historically favoured their ilk.
“Traditionally, there is a bit of turn there. It looks dry. Even though it is a home game, it takes a little bit of time to understand the conditions,” CSK coach Stephen Fleming told reporters.
With Faf du Plessis, Mitchell Santner and Imran Tahir joining the side on Friday evening, CSK are at near full strength with David Willey the only player yet to arrive. They are willing to take their time, meanwhile, on finding a suitable replacement for pacer Lungi Ngidi.
“They all are available for selection. Ngidi is a big loss. He was the find last year for us. We have got a squad, though, that can cover his absence. We are taking our time on his replacement at the moment,” the former New Zealand captain informed.
RCB, too, have all their players available barring the Aussie duo of Marcus Stoinis and Nathan Coulter-Nile, who will join up once their ODI series against Pakistan is done on March 31.
Kohli, who batted for over an hour at the nets along with AB de Villiers, seems confident that they have a more balanced squad that can go that extra mile this season. Before all that, however, they have the might of CSK in their own den to overcome.
Source : timesofindia