At a Chennai Super Kings promotional event, a few weeks ago, an emotional Mahendra Singh Dhoni couldn’t hold back his tears when speaking about his team’s suspension from the glitzy Indian Premier League (IPL).
“What’s important is that we go through everything with a smile on our face. But what is more important is, we are back!” he had said to a thundering applause.
And for almost 15 million fans following the team online and for thousands at ground zero – the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium – on Tuesday, would mark the end of a two-year hiatus to watch their favourite home team take centre stage in their home ground.
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What one can expect is a deluge of emotions from fans and players alike as Chennai Super Kings gears up to host Kolkata Knight Riders in its first home match this season.
Both the teams had contrasting opening matches with Chennai Super Kings snatching victory from the jaws of defeat while Knight Riders beat Royal Challengers Bangalore convincingly on Sunday.
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It is inevitable for CSK to tinker with the winning combination as Kedar Jadhav is ruled out due to a hamstring injury. The team could play Murali Vijay in the opening slot, partnering Shane Watson, and Ambati Rayudu could take up Jadhav’s slot in the middle order.
South African captain Faf du Plessis, who is recovering from a finger injury, will also be unavailable for the side’s first home game.
CSK’s bowling unit looks sorted with three spinners – Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja and Imran Tahir – headlining the unit. Dhoni is spoilt for options in Mark Wood, Deepak Chahar, Dwayne Bravo and Shane Watson to shoulder the seam bowling responsibilities.
The focus, however, would also be on Dhoni and Suresh Raina, who would be keen to get back in touch after a below-par performance with the bat against Mumbai.
Kolkata Knight Riders, on the other hand, has a formidable batting line-up. Dhoni’s first task would be to stop the marauding Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn before they rip through the home team’s bowling attack.
The duo, on their day, can take any bowling line-up to the cleaners and the Chennai think-tank needs to go the extra mile to prevent such a situation on Tuesday.
READ: Kedar Jadhav ruled out of IPL 2018
Dhoni can, however, take a cue from RCB’s costly mistake of letting Narine lose by not bowling over the wicket and sticking to a fixed line, without any variations. Narine’s struggle against bowling over the wicket and by making him face the quicker bowlers could be a point where Dhoni could have an edge.
The Knight Riders’ slow bowlers – Narine, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav – would be itching to spin a web around the CSK batsmen, considering the slow nature of the Chennai wicket.
Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana and Dinesh Karthik constitute a formidable middle order and with Andre Russell capable of dealing the blows during the death overs — the CSK bowling unit has a big job on its hands to keep the runs under check.
Vinay Kumar, Mitchell Johnson and Tom Curran, Mitchell Starc’s replacement, would shoulder the bowling responsibilities for KKR.
The Chennai City Police too would be on its toes to keep any untoward incidents at bay as political groups in the city have called for a boycott of the game. The city police would be providing an extra layer of security in and around the stadium and the fans can expect multiple layers of scrutiny to enter the stadium.