Abu Dhabi: Mumbai vs Chennai IPL Express to clash on Sep 19


Denzil Fernandes

Abu Dhabi, Sep 16: The magnificent Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in the capital city, here, is all spruced up and set to sizzle in the searing heat when last year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) Champions, Mumbai Indians (MI) clash swords against last year’s (IPL) Runners Up Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the opening match of the IPL-13 tournament this Saturday.

There are eight teams vying for the coveted honours at three different venues in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Delhi Capitals, Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders, Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore have travelled to the UAE to play in stadiums where there will not be a single spectator to watch the highly paid international cricketers playing for their franchises.

The deadly coronavirus has created havoc and ensured that no sporting activity takes place without strict medical procedures. Under the circumstances, the mighty IPL has suffered with no gate money and hitting the spectators badly by forcing them to sit at home to watch the action. The players will miss the roar over a sizzling sixer or the silence when a wicket falls. The showgirls will be missing and the gala glitz of an enjoyable and crowded IPL may be lacking.

Despite the drawback due to the pandemic, there will be no dearth of talent and competitiveness when the teams battle in the middle.

As an apt appetizer, it is befitting to see two IPL heavyweights, MI and CSK opening the proceedings on Saturday September 19 and rightly so. Soaked in the heat of the desert, teams will sweat it out in the 53-day cricket carnival.

The next day, Sunday, Delhi Capitals will meet Kings XI Punjab in Dubai. In all, Twenty-four IPL matches will be held in Dubai, 20 in Abu Dhabi and 12 in Sharjah. There will be 10 doubleheaders with matches in the afternoon and evening. For the first time in the history of the tournament, the finals will be played on a weekday namely Tuesday.

With such a lot of ‘virtual’ preparation monitored by their respective coaches, all the eight teams in the IPL look good to prevail on their day. However, the opening match in Abu Dhabi looks like an ideal trendsetter, to say the least.

Both teams have an impressive record in the IPL.

They are proven masters with MI having won the tournament four times earlier and CSK lifting the trophy at least three times in the past. CSK however, has been the runners up five times while MI once, as runners up at other times. So far, they have played 30 times with MI winning 18 times. Most of the players in both teams are highly paid and have been with the franchise for long.

On paper, MI look slightly superior to CSK with no problems, unlike CSK whose few team members were tested positive for the virus during the medical checks. Added to that, top scorer Suresh Raina and spinner Harbhajan Singh withdrew from the IPL citing ‘personal reasons’ at the last minute. For CSK skipper M S Dhoni it will be a herculean task to replace these former Indian stalwarts easily. But then, ice-cool Dhoni who retired from international cricket earlier in August will find ways to bolster his side with suitable players.

CSK under its dynamic captain M S Dhoni has been a force in all the earlier editions of the IPL so far. It has reached the playoff stage in the 12 seasons which says a lot about the durability of CSK.

The side is full of big names like Australia’s Shane Watson, South African Faf du Plessis, young Indian Ruturaj Gaikwad, India’s Ambati Rayudu and the great finisher in successful skipper Dhoni. Established spinners like India’s Piyush Chawla and Karn Sharma, South Africa’s Imran Tahir along with Kiwi Mitchell Santner are expected to play an important role while all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja (India), England’s Sam Curran and West Indian Dwayne Bravo have to deliver for CSK to progress. Utility man, Kedar Jadhav will also come in handy for Dhoni if there is a need. The pace department will have South Africa’s red hot Lungi Ngidi, Australian Josh Hazlewood, India’s Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar, New Zealander and long time coach Stephen Fleming has been with CSK from 2009 after playing for them in 2008 earlier in the IPL. The Dhoni-Fleming combo has been very successful to say the least.

MI skipper Rohit Sharma has been leading from the front with his explosive batting. It is said that the match scorer finds it easy doing the scoring since Rohit scores mostly in huge sixes and fours. Likewise, they have Australia’s Chris Lynn, South Africa’s Quinton de Kock, dangerous Kieron Pollard from West Indies, the Pandya brothers, bowling great Jasprit Bumrah who form the nucleus of the side. As if this is not enough, there are others like Rutherford (West Indies), Nathan Coulter-Nile (Australia) and Mumbai bred Suryakumar Yadav to bolster the side. Spinning the ball will be Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya to deliver. Top bowler Jasprit Bumrah will unsettle the batsmen with his awkward style of pace.

Chief coach Mahela Jawaywardene has been with MI from 2017 and knows to get the best from his boys.

All in all, both CSK and MI are equally matched although the Mumbai team may have a slight edge. But with a captain like seasoned Dhoni, the team’s recent setbacks may be forgotten and a determined CSK may rise to the task.

The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi is an ideal setting for the tournament’s opening encounter where the two top favourites will clash on the opening day in what may be a forerunner for the grand finals in November.

Chennai Super Kings: M S Dhoni (captain), Narayan Jagadeesan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, K M Asif, Ravindra Jadeja, M Vijay, Josh Hazlewood, Kedar Jadhav, Karn Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Ambati Rayudu, Imran Tahir, Deepak Chahar, Faf du Plessis, Shardul Thakur, Mitchell Santner, Dwayne Bravo, Lungi Ngidi, Sam Curran, Monu Kumar, Shane Watson, Sai Kishore, head coach: Stephen Fleming.

Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (captain), Sherfane Rutherford, Suryakumar Yadav, Anmolpreet Singh, Chris Lynn, Saurabh Tiwary, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell McClenaghan, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult, Mohsin Khan, Prince Balwant Rai Singh, Digvijay Deshmukh, Hardik Pandya, Jayant Yadav, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Anukul Roy, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ishan Kishan, Quinton de Kock, Aditya Tare, head coach: Mahela Jayawardene.

  

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