Wednesday’s match against the Royal Challengers Bangalore will see the Chennai Super Kings play at home after three matches. Halfway into their campaign in IPL III, they have played five away games and two at home. From now on, the equation will be reversed.
Unfortunately, for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men, the schedule will bring little cheer unless the results, too, get reversed. The most consistent team in the first two editions of the League has lost five of the first seven matches. Both home games ended in defeat with the Deccan Chargers and even the Kings XI Punjab silencing the huge crowds at the Chepauk.
In the world of IPL, patience and interest wear thin. The Tamil film industry is already claiming that its decision not to let theatres show IPL matches live to protect its business was correct.
Of course, the Chepauk will be far from empty on Wednesday, but the Super Kings will hope the fans cheer them and not the Royal Challengers. The last time the teams met in IPL III — in Bangalore — a Robin Uthappa special and four wickets from R. Vinay Kumar won it for the hosts.
In fact, Dhoni could not have possibly picked a stronger team to try and begin the fight-back. Led by Anil Kumble, the man Dhoni succeeded as India Test captain, the Royal Challengers have had a five-day break to get over their loss to the Delhi Daredevils. The only team above them on the table, the Mumbai Indians, are a touch too dependent on one man. The Royal Challengers, even without Jacques Kallis, look formidable. And Kevin Pietersen, too, is back.
The Super Kings will desperately want their big man, Matthew Hayden, to fire, whatever the size of his Mongoose bat.
That their pace attack was a problem was something a cab-driver could have told you before the League started. But the way coach Stephen Fleming and bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad have tried to solve it has been mystifying.
Albie Morkel has played all seven matches and Lakshmipathi Balaji six, but Sudeep Tyagi, Manpreet Gony and Joginder Sharma have been chopped and changed far too often. And one hopes Makhaya Ntini, fresh from playing in South Africa’s domestic T20 competition, likes a paid holiday.
However, a win can still change a lot of things for the Super Kings.