IPL 2018: The battle of the heavyweights

Faf du Plessis to skip game due to injuries, all eyes on youngster Ishan Kishan and the experienced core of CSK.

On a regular summer afternoon, the Marine Drive boulevard on the Arabian Sea usually remains barren. With the sun blazing, the sea is far from romantic. But, on Friday, the stretch witnessed a couple of uncanny incidents — a traffic snarl and youngsters armed with smart phones ready to shoot their heroes.

It’s that time of the year again — when the heat becomes bearable and patience, immense. The 11th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is set to raise curtains at the Wankhede Stadium here on Saturday.

Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) — the three-time and two-time title-holders respectively — will flex their muscles in an encounter that will also bring in a wave of nostalgia.

Read - Mumbai Indians: Gearing up its offence for its defence

CSK, returning after a two-year suspension, maintained its core squad with Murali Vijay back at the top of the order. Its last game in the IPL, coincidentally, was against the same side in the final of 2015. The men in yellow have retained old faces who are expected to fire their bullets. It is still not clear who will open the batting for CSK, but it has options in Vijay, Sam Billings and Shane Watson to name a few.

The smile is back: M. S. Dhoni, back again in his yellow jersey, at a training session at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday. Photo: Vivek Bendre

 

Faf du Plessis not available

Watson, the experienced IPL customer, will also play the all-rounder’s role along with Dwayne Bravo, another old-timer. CSK’s middle-order duties will depend on Suresh Raina, who looked in good touch at the nets. Lungi Ngidi and Faf du Plessis have joined the franchise but the South African skipper will not be available for the opener. He is nursing injuries he picked in the long summer back home.

 

Apart from skipper Rohit Sharma, MI will also rely on players who form their focal point. The franchise played its trump card (Right To Match) at the auctions, bringing back Kieron Pollard and Krunal Pandya, who is always an underdog for his batting abilities down the order.

There is, of course, Hardik Pandya — the gutsy all-rounder to take stock of the middle order. India’s death bowling specialist Jasprit Bumrah will lead the MI bowling attack. But all eyes will be on Ishan Kishan, the southpaw from Jharkhand who may open the batting.

CSK had a two-hour net session before the ground was invaded by a troop of entertainers to prepare for what is likely to be a glitzy opening ceremony.

MI is known to be a poor starter; it has lost five of its opening fixtures. But CSK does not have a great record here. The M. S. Dhoni-led team has managed only two wins out of seven games at the Wankhede.

However, the occasion is different now; thanks to the hiatus, the team would be doubly hungry to show its wares.

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