IPL 2020: In the time of lockdown, reliving the MI-CSK rivalry

Had it not been for Covid-19, the IPL would have begun today: CSK pacer Deepak Chahar and MI wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan recall their debut games.

Rohit Sharma and Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the toss for the IPL 2019 final; Mumbai Indians had won the match by 1 run.   -  FILE PHOTO/K.R. DEEPAK

It’s a Sunday evening and the Wankhede Stadium is all set to host the inaugural fixture of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020.

It’s a big game tonight: defending champion Mumbai Indians taking on Chennai Super Kings. The captains -- Rohit Sharma and Mahendra Singh Dhoni -- are about to walk in for the toss.

We have a packed house. The fans are chanting ‘Rohit, Rohit…’ as the Mumbai Indians captain gets ready for the big-ticket clash. A new season is here, and with that, it’s time to renew the Mumbai-Chennai rivalry.

The match referee is out with the coin. The captains are coming too. There is a huge cheer coming in from the Sachin Tendulkar Stand. The countdown has begun. Three. Two. One…

This is how this Sunday, March 29, would have looked like had the IPL gone ahead with its original schedule. But now, there is silence!

With the country witnessing a 21-day lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the tournament has been suspended till at least April 15. And even after that, there is no clarity whether the IPL will at all happen.

But that doesn’t stop the fans or the players from reliving the Mumbai Indians-Chennai Super Kings rivalry. Stuck at home, they cherish the memories and wonder when will the two teams lock horns again?

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India pacer Deepak Chahar has spent a couple of seasons with Chennai Super Kings and the young gun — who is coming back from an injury — was looking forward to the season. “Playing against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium is a different ball game together. It is the biggest game of the tournament, and the fans wait for the clash. This time too, the IPL would have started with the two teams taking on each other and that would have been a big game,” Chahar told Sportstar from his Agra residence on Saturday.

For the past few weeks, the 25-year-old speedster hasn’t stepped out but he has made it a point to catch the highlights of old IPL fixtures. “It is always special to play against Mumbai in an IPL fixture. We all look forward to that, but now, things are beyond one’s control and we hope that we come out of the crisis,” Chahar said.

Deepak Chahar.   -  FILE PHOTO/K.R. DEEPAK

 

Even though chances are slim, Chahar hopes for at least a curtailed version of the IPL. The swing specialist from Rajasthan, who has been one of the most consistent performers for the yellow army in recent years, remembers the moment when he first played against Mumbai Indians. “As a youngster, you just want to give your best. It doesn’t matter who are the opponent players. Every team has stars and your job is to play to your potential, because as a youngster, you have a lot to prove.”

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“When you are seasoned campaigner, it’s about winning matches against strong teams (like Mumbai). Every time you play against them, the idea is to pick up wickets, deliver the best and help the team win. Those are really important games…” Chahar said.

Under Dhoni’s leadership, the Chennai players make sure that they put in their best effort to tame Mumbai.

But what’s the scene in the Mumbai Indians camp?

Ishan Kishan, who has been with the Mumbai outfit for the past couple of years, agrees that the MI-CSK rivalry is intense, but also enjoyable.

“It’s always fun playing against Chennai. They have some of the top players who know how to take away the game from the opponents. So, it is fun,” Ishan said.

Ishan, who led India U-19 team to the final of the World Cup in 2016, also admits that being the opening game of the season, an MI-CSK clash is always a high-voltage affair. And things would not have been any different this season either. “Since it would have been the first match, there would have been a lot of pressure on both the teams. Even though we miss playing IPL, right now, it is important that we think about helping others and stay safe,” the wicketkeeper-batsman from Jharkhand said.

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While fans call the MI-CSK game the ‘biggest match’ of the tournament, the Mumbai Indians players ensure that they don’t take added pressure. “People do call it the biggest match, but instead of taking extra pressure, we think about what we have done in the past and how we have practiced before the game. That helps us,” he said.

“A lot of preparation goes on before the games, so it is important that we execute that and go out with a positive intent. We know we have come up with a plan and we just try to execute that against them (Chennai Super Kings). It is always an exciting game,” the youngster said.

Ishan Kishan.   -  FILE PHOTO/K.R. DEEPAK

 

Ishan still remembers his first big game, and how the seniors like Hardik Pandya-Krunal Pandya motivated him. “I was asking everyone about how to go about it and they told me to stay calm and focus on the natural game. That was the whole idea and it helped me stay calm and focused,” he said.

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Even though there is no clarity on whether the tournament will go ahead, Ishan is keeping himself ready. “As of now, I am working out at home. I have bowling machine, so I bat a bit, and also train a bit. It’s important to be safe at such times…” he said.

The novel coronavirus has brought everything to a standstill this time around. And even though the players miss the CSK-MI rivalry, they hope that people stay safe and the situation improves soon.

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