IPL 2018: Chennai Super Kings seek warmth in new home vs Rajasthan Royals
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IPL 2018: Chennai Super Kings seek warmth in new home vs Rajasthan Royals

Chennai Super Kings, forced out of their home fortress due to the Cauvery water dispute, will face Rajasthan Royals for the first time in three years on Friday, but at new home Pune.

cricket Updated: Apr 19, 2018 18:21 IST
Bihan Sengupta
Bihan Sengupta
Hindustan Times, Pune
IPL 2018,Rajasthan Royals,Chennai Super Kings
Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, the two teams that returned in IPL 2018 after serving bans in the aftermath of the 2013 spot-fixing scandal, will come face to face for the first time this season, keen to regain lost momentum in Pune on Friday. (AFP)

If one steps into Mumbai during the Indian Premier League season, it’s hard to ignore the involvement that the city has with defending champions Mumbai Indians.

Besides the emojis and pictures of their top stars on hoardings of nearly every major road in the city, those fancy one-liners behind buses and autos have also been replaced with catchy taglines of the three-time champions.

Move 150-km southeast, and there’s hardly anything that lets one feel that they’re at the home of Chennai Super Kings. With the Cauvery water dispute forcing a shift in Chennai’s home games this season, the only typical non-marketed strategy that seems to have worked is: “Dhoni khelega”.

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Unlike Chennai Super Kings, the local crowd finds more connect to Mumbai Indians — the other team from the state.

Thus, when the sides lock horns against each other here on Friday, sans Dhoni, Rajasthan Royals might not have to deal with too much pressure from the crowd — an unthinkable situation down south.

Work in progress

The fact that these two sides will clash after three years is another story though. It has been a pretty decent run so far for both the sides. With two wins each, they occupy the middle slots of the table and seem to plug in the loose holes as they move forward.

The Royals, too, may have had their winning momentum thwarted against Kolkata Knight Riders but will take a lot of heart from their opening pair of Ajinkya Rahane and D’Arcy Short finding form and managing a 54-run partnership. That Short has been several gears lower than what he was in the Big Bash League is a different story altogether.

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For Chennai, Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, Sam Billings, Dwayne Bravo and MS Dhoni — batsmen who’ve played all their games so far — have all had at least one innings to show for, including a 44-ball 79 from their skipper that went in vain in their last nail-biting finish against Kings XI Punjab.

Loose ends

While it’s still early days in the season, both teams perhaps need fix a few issues before the tournament moves towards the business end. And bringing in Ravindra Jadeja ahead of the big-hitting Dwayne Bravo can’t be an option for Chennai.

The management might look at the southpaw as a finisher but it cost them dear in the last game and had almost choked them at the death against KKR.

Both sides have had contrasting runs in terms of team selection though. While the Royals have stuck to the same Playing XI in all their four games, Chennai have experimented with changes in their top order and with their bowling options.

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For the Royals, they desperately need to find bowling momentum going forward. They haven’t bundled out the opposition even once so far and with 14 wickets in their four games, they’ve been the most ineffective bowling attack.

Krishnappa Gowtham and Ben Laughlin have been their best bowlers with both picking up three wickets each but while the former’s been hammered at 7.8 runs per over, the latter has been sent to the cleaners at 10.39 in his 11.5 overs.

First Published: Apr 19, 2018 18:21 IST