The streaks Of white in M.S Dhoni’s stubble are all too visible now. Non-stop cricket and the pressures that come with it have started showing on the India captain's face.
As the Chennai Super Kings led by him take on the Sachin Tendulkar-led Mumbai Indians in the inaugural match on Saturday, Dhoni knows he has to stay ahead of the rest. The warm handshake with Tendulkar on the eve of the match will be forgotten when the two appear on the field.
Agreed that both teams would be missing their home fan support base, but this is unlikely to hamper either the fireworks or the manic frenzy once the teams get on the field.
The Mumbai Indians would be desperate to begin on a winning note unlike last year, when they lost the first four matches, which eventually cost them a semifinal berth.
With the IPL shifting to South Africa, team strategies have changed and, whosoever has a better pace attack, would have an advantage. But with the cricket season here having ended, one is not sure how the pitches will behave. Pitch curator Avin Flint said on Friday that most of the grass would be shaved off. Sounding an ominous warning, he said that teams batting under floodlights would be at great disadvantage.
So, the toss will be crucial.
Also, a lot would also depend on the ‘local’ cricketers in both sides.
Speaking to HT, Mumbai Indians’ batsman Sanath Jayasuriya said, “Last time, Tendulkar did not play initial matches, but now that he is raring to go, we have come with the mindset of winning every match.” But Dhoni should not be perturbed by the comments. He has Andrew Flintoff — bought for a huge $1.55 million, Matthew Hayden, Jacob Oram and the likes to do the job.