And so it begins! The theatre of cricket dreams, the battleground of tacticians, where talent meets opportunity. The IPL starts today with the biggest ever rivalry in franchise cricket – MI vs CSK. There could not have been a better way to begin the festival that IPL is.
Before I start with the preview, if any of you is playing the Fantasy IPL , then you can click here to join my league and compete with me! Even if you haven’t made your team yet, you can click there and start making your team. Trust me, it is really fun!
Now, on to the preview. If we look at the history between the two teams, it is hard to deny that MI has an edge over CSK. Out of the 30 times that the teams have met, MI have won 18, while CSK have won just 12. In fact, MI is the only team in the whole IPL with an overall winning record against the Chennai Super Kings. So clearly, MI has found the secret sauce which is needed to do well against CSK.
Chennai Super Kings
Talking particularly about this year, the CSK side has a number of concerns. Firstly, a majority of their players haven’t played competitive cricket in over a year! You could forget how you even play in that long a time! Captain Dhoni himself hasn’t played cricket ever since that fateful India vs New Zealand semi-final back in 2019 June. So needless to say, the CSK players will be seriously out of practice coming into the game. Another concern is the withdrawal of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh from the IPL. Ok, Bhajji doesn’t hurt them too much considering there were games last season where they didn’t need to give him even a single over of bowling, but Raina is a big loss. He was referred to as ‘the heart’ of the CSK side. Hence the title. He was their only leftie in the top order. With him gone, Ravindra Jadeja is the only other left-handed option. Jadeja will have to play an instrumental role in CSK’s batting this season, because I have a feeling they may use him as a floater in the top order from time to time. With Raina’s exclusion, Dhoni has a great opportunity. He can now bat really high up the order, at No.4 or even No.3. Whatever happens, I think it’s safe to say that CSK will struggle a bit to find the right balance in their batting lineup.
CSK’s bowling on the other hand, looks absolutely set from the get-go. CSK are known for their wide array of spinners, and the UAE pitches are tailor made for them, and especially the Abu Dhabi pitch where this game is. CSK’s spin trio of Imran Tahir, Piyush Chawla, and Ravindra Jadeja wouldn’t miss bowling here for a thousand gold bars. It will be especially interesting to see how the MI batsmen cope with the reigning purple cap holder Tahir. I personally expect him to be a menace on this pitch, and perform exceedingly well whenever CSK plays here.
The defending champions are looking extremely strong once again this year. The opening partnership of Quinton De Kock and Rohit Sharma looks great. Although, one may question how well De Kock can adapt to the spinning conditions. Next they have Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan forming a dependable middle order. And then they have their holy trifecta of Ps – Pollard, Pandya, and Pandya. Kieron Pollard is coming into the tournament right after playing, and winning the CPL. He has that form with him, so MI might just promote him higher up the order, and give him the preference above the Pandya brothers. But then again, the impact of overseas stars will probably be stunted, because of the conditions.
Their bowling has two facets to it. The first is their pace battery. How often do you find players like Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult, Nathan Coulter-Nile, and Hardik Pandya, all in the same team?Never. I don’t want to give undue credit, but this MI team might just have the best pace attack in any IPL team ever. Too bad they won’t be playing on the flat Wankhede track. The Abu Dhabi pitch makes their spin attack that much more important. Unfortunately their spin ‘attack’ is non-existent. They just have one spinner to show for it. And that is Rahul Chahar. Now for anybody playing fantasy IPL here in any form, my tip to you is – take him. Take him and run, he is an absolute steal at the price they are giving him for. I’m telling you, this will be his breakthrough year, and next year he won’t be as cheap anymore. They also have Krunal Pandya, but he is a part-timer, and won’t exactly be a wicket-taking option (except against AB De Villiers, bunny alert!).
It is really tempting to go for CSK. What with their spin trio from above, and the possibility of a Cinderella story with MS Dhoni, and the possible story of an ‘against all odds’ story because they’ve lost two of their best players. But I have to be practical here, and I have to go for MI. If the teams are compared, MI has a very clear upper hand. The only chance CSK has to beat MI, would be to trigger a collapse with their spinners. But if the MI batsmen show some respect and fend off the spinners, I think they will have this one in the bag.