Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings are used to playing tournament openers and finals. If MI boasts of the maximum number of titles, CSK is the only side in the history of the Indian Premier League to qualify for the playoffs in each season it has played.
Three-time winner CSK will take on defending champion MI in the opening match of the 13th edition of the IPL at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
The two sides last met at the IPL 2019 final when MI held its nerve to clinch the title for a record fourth time by just one run.
Even before the tournament started, CSK had to deal with a series of blows. A couple of players and members of the support staff had tested positive for COVID-19 and then, vice-captain Suresh Raina pulled out of the league for personal reasons. Veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh too made himself unavailable.
But CSK skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who announced his retirement from international cricket, is a master of risk-management. He is expected to deploy the right arsenal to come out stronger.
MI has been based in Abu Dhabi and is aware of the conditions but CSK is directly walking into the match without prior knowledge of the wicket. Rohit Sharma’s team will miss the services of Lasith Malinga but it has the bases covered with star players such as Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya.
In a long tournament like the IPL, notching early points on the board is crucial and both teams will like to grab an early initiative and set the tempo.
Besides the opening combination of Quinton de Kock and Rohit, MI will bank on youngsters Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav in the middle-order followed by Kieron Pollard to finish the innings.
The bowling, spearheaded by Bumrah looks sharp with the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Trent Boult and Rahul Chahar playing supportive roles.
CSK will bank on the experienced duo of Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis and then allow the likes of Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav and Ravindra Jadeja to flourish in the middle, with Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo taking charge of the finishers' role. The absence of Raina might open up a vacancy for Ruturaj Gaikwad.
CSK bought seasoned leg-spinner Piyush Chawla and he could actually hold the key in the spin-friendly conditions. The fast bowling unit will be led by Deepak Chahar with Shardul Thakur steaming in from the other end.
Both sides have faced each other 28 times with Mumbai winning 17 times and Chennai 11.
Chennai Super Kings: M. S. Dhoni (captain), N. Jagadeesan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, K. M. Asif, Ravindra Jadeja, M. Vijay, M.S. Dhoni, 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.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (captain), Sherfane Rutherford, Suryakumar Yadav, Anmolpreet Singh, Chris Lynn , Saurabh Tiwary, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jasprit Bumrah, Lasith Malinga, 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.
Match No. 1: Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Time: 7:30 PM IST
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