Around 30 metres from the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, lies a shop named ‘Dhoni Sports’. Chennai Super Kings skipper M.S. Dhoni is yet to pay a visit to the store — filled with cricket merchandise and equipments — but the owners aren’t complaining; brand ‘Dhoni’ is a great pull.
Some yards ahead, there is a gargantuan advertisement board with Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo endorsing a food delivery app. All the posters in and around have been ripped off, but this one stands bright without a wound.
Dhoni and Chennai define unconditional love.
And now that the Captain Cool is back for the home fixture against Sunrisers Hyderabad here on Tuesday, the worshippers will hope he carries the mortal combat approach unleashed on Sunday night against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Though Chennai lost by a run, Dhoni operated on freak mode smashing an unbeaten 84 off 48 balls — his highest score in T20 cricket.
Fairly successful against Sunrisers at home, Chennai does not have an instant worry as such, but as head coach Stephen Fleming pointed out, the side is too dependent on Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu. The top-order has been largely inconsistent. In the current edition, Sunrisers beat Chennai by six wickets in its first encounter.
Former Australia all-rounder Shane Watson — who scored a century in the IPL final in 2018 against Sunrisers — is still hunting for the magic tricks. The initial opening combination, Watson and Rayudu, failed on four occasions; 21 was the highest they could stitch.
Fleming tinkered with the order a bit to search for a better start. Faf du Plessis has been effective. The South Africa batsman smartly hid Watson’s shortcomings and helped him out of the shell.
“We have been bordering on being reckless trying to find form. I am not too happy with the way we have achieved all the wins,” Fleming told reporters after the narrow defeat to RCB.
The pitch has been under scanner for not playing up to the potential.
The opening game of the season saw RCB fold for 70. Kolkata Knight Riders could not get past 108; 175 has been the highest total so far this season.
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The spinners have been on full throttle for Chennai, led by Imran Tahir (16 wickets). Ravindra Jadeja (9 wickets) and Harbhajan Singh (7 wickets) have been menacing in crunch games.
Seamer Deepak Chahar (13 wickets) has stood out in the pace department. Sunrisers spinners Rashid Khan and Shahbaz Nadeem will be excited to bowl on this strip.
On the other hand, Sunrisers Hyderabad has been driven by its openers — David Warner (517 runs) and Jonny Bairstow (445 runs).
The brotherhood is about to end as Bairstow will leave for England’s World Cup camp after April 23. The game against Chennai will mark his farewell in this season.
Sunrisers’ middle-order has been a talking point, specially when the openers have fired in most of the games. World Cup-bound Vijay Shankar will be hungry for some runs. Yusuf Pathan and Deepak Hooda have been quiet too.
Kane not available
Skipper Kane Williamson, not in the best of form, will not be available for the fixture. He flew to New Zealand on Monday morning due to a personal tragedy in the family.
Williamson will be back for the game against Rajasthan Royals on April 27. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is likely to lead the side in his absence.
The India pacer did not have a great start to the tournament, returning without any wicket in the first three games, but he has found his mojo.
Also read: The Jonny Bairstow-David Warner partnership for SRH
As an overseas recruit, Shakib Al Hasan may get a call-up as Kane's replacement.
After the disastrous loss to Delhi Capitals, Sunrisers have bounced back with two wins on the trot to earn 10 points.
Currently on 14 points, Chennai will look to add more to its tally to maintain distance from Mumbai Indians and Delhi.
The groundsmen at Chepauk have been watchful throughout Monday as there was a drizzle in the afternoon, but the sky is expected to clear in 24 hours.
Since the IPL 2019 final has now been moved to Hyderabad, the cricket-crazy people of Chennai will ensure to have a slice of every game at the ground.