MI vs CSK Preview - The quintessential IPL blockbuster to kick things off
IPL 2020: The beauty of IPL lies in its simplicity. On the face of it every match is like a ride in an amusement park, except a few damp squibs, which finishes fast and provides enormous excitement.Updated: Sep 19, 2020, 18:04 IST
As the Indian Premier League (IPL 2020) gets underway in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, one can’t help but say ‘Thank God’. With the pandemic playing havoc and good news hard to come by, IPL will be a much needed distraction, well, at least for die hard cricket fans. The beauty of IPL lies in its simplicity. On the face of it every match is like a ride in an amusement park, except a few damp squibs, which finishes fast and provides enormous excitement.
The opener will pit defending champions Mumbai Indians against Chennai Super Kings, undoubtedly the ‘Clasico’ of the IPL. I might be accused of blasphemy by the purists but watching these two teams battle it out is quite akin to watching Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on screen together. There is intensity, mutual admiration and loads of talent on display.
What makes this clash unique is the ‘battle of the best’ factor. With 7 titles and 13 final appearances between them, these two bring up the creme de la creme of the league. But unlike the past, when there has been little to choose between the two outfits, there seems to be a clear favourite this time.
Rohit Sharma’s team has got the better of Dhoni’s men in the last five meetings and it is not for nothing. CSK is an ageing band with their leads well past their sell by date. Hence, they succumb in front of a well oiled machine like the Mumbai Indians.
But the likes of Dhoni, Bravo and Watson love to make journalists and naysayers - both are not to be clubbed together - eat their words. But the reality is these players will depend more on muscle memory than form and that is where lies the problem. Add to that the absence of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh, both guaranteed starters, and CSK have a gaping hole in their arsenal. Mumbai Indians too are without Lasith Malinga but they still have Jasprit Bumrah to fall back on.
Mumbai Indians’ batting is their stronger suit, with captain Rohit leading the pack. Quinton de Kock and Kieron Pollard add muscle, while the likes of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan provide quality Indian talent. The Pandya brothers are the engine room of this unit and can deliver the goods with both bat and ball.
CSK will rely heavily on the duo of Watson and Dhoni for the blitz. Faf du Plessis could well play the sheet anchor while Ambati Rayudu will have to step up in the absence of Raina. Bravo and Jadeja can provide extra cover with the bat but they can’t be asked to do the heavy lifting. Kedar Jadhav could spring a surprise or two, fitness permitting.
The yellow camp looks more in charge with the ball in hand. Imran Tahir and Jadeja are more than reliable with their spin while now recovered Deepak Chahar is expected to spearhead the pace attack with the wily Bravo providing an able support cast. Dhoni can also punt on Lungi Ngidi, who will increase the quality of CSK’s pace attack manifold.
Mumbai’s bowling department will be led by Bumrah and he needs to be at his sharpest best. Rahul Chahar is an able tweaker and he will have to pick up wickets since Krunal Pandya is more in the space of a protector than an enforcer. Trent Boult has been added to the squad but Mumbai might opt for the other Kiwi, the tried and tested Mitchell McClenaghan, who has been a star for the franchise.
It will be interesting to see how the Abu Dhabi pitch behaves, but if it is a belter where the ball comes on to the bat through the 40 overs, then the scales are tipped heavily in favour of the defending champions.