The wait is finally over.
In less than 24 hour’s time arch-rivals Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) – two heavyweights with seven Indian Premier League (IPL) titles between them across 12 seasons – will lock horns in Abu Dhabi to kick start the most-awaited cricket extravaganza of this dreadful year.
Possible team strategies
Mumbai Indians: The defending champions Mumbai Indians are based out in Abu Dhabi since their arrival in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They have had multiple practice sessions at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. Hence, we can expect Rohit Sharma’s boys to be more familiar with the conditions than CSK, who have travelled from their base in Dubai to play in this fixture.
For Mumbai, the major problem in this IPL is the lack of experience in their spin-department. Under normal circumstances they play their home games at Wankhede Stadium, where the extra bounce on the pitch helps their pace attack to thrive. But now since the COVID-19 has forced this unexpected desert safari of IPL on scratchy surfaces of UAE, the Mumbai Indians will be out of their comfort zone for sure. In fact, back in 2014, when a portion of IPL took place on these pitches, Rohit and Co. lost all their five matches.
This year, the team will heavily depend on the young leggie Rahul Chahar. He alongside Krunal Pandya will be the premier spin options for Rohit. Meanwhile, the absence of Lasith Malinga should allow Mumbai to play Trent Boult right from this inaugural fixture and fans will be eager to watch him bowl alongside Jasprit Bumrah.
With Rohit and Quinton de Kock opening and the presence of quality all-rounders like Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal in the middle-order, Mumbai’s batting looks well sorted. Also, if they play Nathan Coulter-Nile then there will be an extra batting option down the order.
Chennai Super Kings: Chennai, in hindsight, won’t actually mind the slowness of the pitch. Their team is tailor-made for these slow-low conditions and when it comes to operating the slow bowlers, MS Dhoni is a master of this art. There is a barrage of quality spinners in the CSK camp and in this opening fixture, we might see at least 12 overs of spin from the ‘Yellow Brigade’.
Meanwhile, opener Ruturaj Gaikwad is yet to recover from COVID. Hence, Ambati Rayudu should bat at the top alongside Shane Watson whereas Faf du Plessis can take Suresh Raina’s place at No. 3.
For the overseas’ all-rounder’s slot, Dwayne Bravo should get the nod ahead of Sam Curran.
Due to COVID, the Sheikh Zayed Stadium hasn’t hosted any formal cricket match for quite a while now. As a result, a fresh pitch will be used for this high-profile tournament opener. So, don’t be surprised if a few deliveries from the likes of Deepak Chahar, Trent Boult or Jasprit Bumrah extract some sort of lateral moment out of the surface. Though, it won’t last any further than the initial 10-15 deliveries.
If we look at stats, Abu Dhabi has only witnessed one 200-plus total in the 45 T20 Internationals played over there.
Chennai Super Kings: Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Faf du Plessis, MS Dhoni (C & WK), Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (C), Quinton de Kock (WK), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah
Game starts: 7.30 PM IST I 6 PM local time
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