There might be nothing pleasant about the sultry evenings of April in Mumbai, but if the recent T20 games at the venue are anything to go by, a run-fest should be on offer at the Wankhede stadium. And once the floodlights will be on in all its glory inside the stadium, at Mumbai Indians’ home, Chennai Super Kings will be watched.
Almost half the side CSK are expected to field in the IPL 2018 opener were there donning the yellow jersey the last time the team had taken field. The halt had come following a final loss, and it is against the same opposition – Mumbai Indians – that they will resume their journey.
While the team has returned amidst a lot of fanfare, the question is, will they manage to bring the fans back as well. Wankhede Stadium, on Saturday, will hold their litmus test.
Mumbai hasn’t been as much an away territory for the Chennai Super Kings as they would’ve felt at some of the other cities. For the sea of blue the Wankhede Stadium still paints, no other team, apart from Mumbai Indians of course, could’ve claimed to be as popular as CSK here.
But things have changed, especially post-2013. Unlike in Chennai, loyalties haven’t been as strong in Mumbai. The fandom was created as much out of identities as it was of the star power of MS Dhoni. But with Dhoni’s magical powers in vain and identities embarrassed, the ink and paper are out to report whether Mumbai’s CSK fans are willing to embrace the team again or not.
But irrespective of the fact whether they have the fans coming in in as large numbers, there will surely be a familiarity factor despite the two-year hiatus. Internally, they have little work to do. The core, barring R Ashwin, has been retained. The bonding, understanding of each other’s game and accepting the ethos of the team should take little time.
And purely in terms of the game, they have as many as five players who have ample experience of playing at the Wankhede Stadium. In Harbhajan Singh and Ambati Rayudu they have two of Mumbai Indian’s long-serving players to go with Dwayne Bravo and Karn Sharma – both of who once wore the blue jersey. And then there is Mumbai’s local boy – Shardul Thakur, who will be leading their pace attack. At least three out of the five are expected to be playing the tournament opener.
But it will also go down to two distinct styles the teams have adopted when it came to their squad selection. In order to make good use of home conditions, CSK went heavy banking on spinners while MI have relied on forming a stronger pace attack. And that is where Mumbai could hold an edge over CSK in the opening clash.
Even as Mumbai Indians have left out three of their one-team players – Harbhajan, Rayudu and Lasith Malinga – they have much like CSK, retained the core. While on paper, they form a strong side, they are heavily dependent on the middle order – the Pandyas and Pollard – to resume the form they have displayed for the side all these years. If they fail to fire, it massively affects the balance and with it, the fortunes of the team.
As of now, eight of 11 players automatically select themselves, and there is a sea of options to fill in the remaining three. Among the newer faces for the side, Ishan Kishan, Evin Lewis, Pat Cummins and Mustafizur Rahman, if fit, could play a crucial role this season.
How well the newer guys shape up and the older guys find their mojo, will all be seen once the sun sets along the horizon of Marine Drive, a few hundred metres from the action.
What: Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings
When: April 7, 2018, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, 8:00 PM IST
What to expect: Even as it is going to be an evening game, the temperature wouldn’t drop below 28 degree Celcius for most parts of the match. And it is going to be humid.
The rivalry between the two sides is quite tight, with Mumbai Indians holding the edge – 12 wins in 22 fixtures.
Chennai Super Kings: Faf du Plessis is still nursing his wounded finger, suffered during the fourth Test against Australia. He will be unavailable for the opening game.
Probable XI: Shane Watson, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Karn Sharma/ Harbhajan Singh, Shardul Thakur, Mark Wood, Lungi Ngidi
Mumbai Indians: Pat Cummins has arrived in India but didn’t turn up for practice. Still jaded after a hectic tour of South Africa, he could be rested for the opening game.
Probable XI: Evin Lewis, Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan, Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Pradeep Sangwan, Mitchell McClenaghan, Rahul Chahar, Mustafizur Rahman, Jasprit Bumrah
Did You Know
– JP Duminy needs seven more runs to become the third South African after AB de Villiers (3473) and Jacques Kallis (2427) to score 2000 IPL runs.
– Among those who have played 50-plus innings in IPL, only Gayle (41.20), Warner (40.55) and Shaun Marsh (39.95) have higher average than Duminy (39).
– MS Dhoni will captain a side for the first time since Vijay Hazare Trophy 2016-17
What they said
“Great rivalry (against MI) and this is what the competition needs. We couldn’t ask for a better game to start with. A game of this intensity at this ground is always a thrill. (It is) hard to win (here), just as we are hard to beat at Chennai and that’s an aspect of successful teams, they defend their home patch well. Wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.” – Stephen Fleming, Chennai Super Kings’ head coach, on team’s return to IPL.
“I think we have more than just those two (Mustafizur and Bumrah). McClenaghan and Cummins have the ability to bowl hard and have done a really good job bowling at the back also. We aren’t just going to roll out the same plan every game with Jasprit and Fizz [Mustafizur] bowling at the back end.” Shane Bond, Mumbai Indians’ bowling coach.
Mumbai Indians (From): Rohit Sharma(c), Evin Lewis, Ishan Kishan(w), Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Pat Cummins, Jasprit Bumrah, Akila Dananjaya, Rahul Chahar, Suryakumar Yadav, Tajinder Singh, Mustafizur Rahman, Krunal Pandya, Saurabh Tiwary, Ben Cutting, Pradeep Sangwan, Jean-Paul Duminy, Mitchell McClenaghan, Sharad Lumba, Siddhesh Lad, Aditya Tare, Mayank Markande, Anukul Roy, Mohsin Khan, MD Nidheesh
Chennai Super Kings (From): Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni(w/c), Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Shardul Thakur, Karn Sharma, Mark Wood, Harbhajan Singh, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, Kanishk Seth, Lungi Ngidi, Dhruv Shorey, Murali Vijay, Sam Billings, Kshitiz Sharma, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Imran Tahir, N Jagadeesan