If Chennai Super Kings are capable of doing anything without a flourish, we won’t be seeing evidence of it on Tuesday. Having put up a red-carpet premiere in Mumbai on their return, MS Dhoni’s ensemble are ready for the full public release in Chennai. A full house awaits in the ground where they have a 70% win rate. Into this scene will walk Kolkata Knight Riders, who answered questions about their bench strength with a full display of the power of their starting XI against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday.
There’s little doubt that this game’s rhythm will be dictated by spin. Super Kings have spinners in abundance this year and the pitch will be in their favour. However, Knight Riders have historically been a team that relies on spin as well. Can their middle order of Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana and Dinesh Karthik counter the home team’s bowling-centric strategy to win the middle overs? They won’t have too many batting issues at the start and end of the innings.
This will be both teams’ second game of the season and while it’s too early to worry about the table, it’s an early chance to go to first place and set up the momentum for a winning streak for the two teams that copped most criticism after the auction.
In the news
Super Kings have lost Kedar Jadhav to a hamstring tear, and are waiting on Faf du Plessis, who has picked up a side strain alongside his finger troubles. Having both of them fortifying the batting with a promoted Dhoni would have been central to their strategy, with the belligerent confidence of Dwayne Bravo to follow. They’ll now be forced to rethink that plan. The good news is, M Vijay, who missed the last game because of a knock to the ribs in training, is set to return.
The likely XIs
Chennai Super Kings: 1 M Vijay, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Mark Wood/Lungi Ngidi, 11 Imran Tahir
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Chris Lynn, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Dinesh Karthik (capt & wk), 6 Rinku Singh, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Vinay Kumar/Shivam Mavi/Kamlesh Nagarkoti
Since IPL 2015, Narine has only been dismissed twice against spin and scores at a staggering strike rate of 247.2 against them. Super Kings’ opening bowlers in the last match – seamers Deepak Chahar and Shane Watson – will be a better bet than the spinners against him in the Powerplay, but they will set themselves up for an early wicket if they hand the new ball to whichever overseas fast bowler they choose – Mark Wood and Lungi Ngidi are two options.
Stats that matter
Knight Riders have only beaten Super Kings twice in Chennai in seven attempts
Dhoni continues to show signs of a weakness against right-arm spinners. Since 2015, his strike rate against offspin is 71.7 and against legspin it is 103. Only Suresh Raina (seven) has more IPL fifties than Dhoni (six) at this ground and no one has more 30-plus scores (18) than him
Andre Russell has been destructive against Dwayne Bravo in T20s – 175 runs off 88 balls and strikes a boundary against him every 3.52 balls
But Bravo fares much better against Karthik, whom he has dismissed thrice in seven innings and has only conceded 25 runs off 21 balls
Super Kings openers Shane Watson (117.81) and M Vijay (110.36) have significantly lower Smart Strike Rates than Knight Riders’ openers Narine (191.97) and Lynn (215.79).
Imran Tahir didn’t have a great time against Mumbai Indians, but he is likely to get another shot and is a good pick, especially on the dry pitch in Chennai. Tahir has the best career bowling strike rate in the IPL among all his team-mates – 15.2 – and has taken more than two wickets 17 times in 54 matches in all T20s since the start of 2017. He is also the leader on that front among his Super Kings team-mates.
“We feel like we’ve got the necessary backup or depth to be able to cover it. It’s certainly going to be a focus going forward. The players at the top of the order, Nos. 1-4, need to take the responsibility to try and score the bulk of the runs.”
Michael Hussey, Super Kings’ batting coach, on Jadhav’s injury and the focus on the top order