Much has changed since Chennai Super Kings last played Rajasthan Royals in 2015. Shane Watson has switched camps. Suresh Raina has missed an IPL game in yellow jersey. Ajinkya Rahane hasn’t conformed to the hold-my-end-up-and-let-the-rest-hit-around-me norm. And the MA Chidambaram Stadium will not host CSK’s home matches this season.
It’s the last two of those that have the most bearing presently. This new-found aggression of Rahane has been abrupt. T20 logic dictates that your most effective batsmen get the maximum opportunities to score. With a smart strike-rate of 109, Rahane didn’t fit that bill. But with 72 runs off the last 39 balls he has faced, Rahane has understood the need of the hour better. It is a significant shift in strategy, which could have a ripple effect on the rest of the batting line-up.
This isn’t the first time that CSK have had to move to a new home – MS Dhoni’s hometown of Ranchi hosted them in 2014 and 2015. But with 34 wins in 48 IPL matches, the MA Chidambaram Stadium has for long been a stronghold, and how they adapt to a forced change of venue will be key to the remainder of their season. With a run rate of 13.22 in the last five overs so far, CSK have redefined death-overs batting, with each of their innings being characterised by manic late surges. But it is their bowling – they have conceded an average total of 188 so far – and fielding that will worry them the most.
In the news
MS Dhoni batted through a back injury in their previous match against Kings XI Punjab, but he trained with the team on the eve of the game against Royals. Raina, who had missed CSK’s previous match because of a calf injury, also resumed training and could return to the team on Friday.
David Willey, who was Kedar Jadhav’s replacement player for CSK, was seen bowling extensively in the nets on match eve. Does that mean an IPL debut for the England allrounder?
Like Short, Ben Laughlin has fared poorly, going at 10.39 an over. Royals have a potential replacement in Jofra Archer, although it isn’t clear yet if he has recovered from the side strain that kept him out of much of the Pakistan Super League and the start of the Indian Premier League.
The likely XIs
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Ambati Rayudu, 3 M Vijay/Suresh Raina, 4 Sam Billings (wk), 5 MS Dhoni/Dhruv Shorey, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Shardul Thakur, 11 Imran Tahir
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 2 D’Arcy Short/Heinrich Klassen, 3 Sanju Samson, 4 Rahul Tripathi, 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 K Gowtham, 8 Shreyas Gopal, 9 Dhawal Kulkarni, 10 Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Ben Laughlin/Joffra Archer
While opening with spin has become a common theme this season, CSK will want to have enough overs of spin left when Ben Stokes arrives. In four innings this season, Stokes has fallen twice to spin, and has managed only 22 runs off the 25 balls from spinners.
Royals have steered away from using their spinners in the slog overs so far, but they may be forced to change that. Laughlin and Jaydev Unadkat, their two strike bowlers, have fared poorly in this phase. While Laughlin has conceded 46 runs off 3.5 overs and doesn’t have a single wicket, Unadkat has fared worse, going at 16.5 an over while also being wicketless.
Stats that matter
Both teams have had an equal level of success and failure in Pune. While CSK have won one and lost one, Rajasthan Royals have won and lost two games each.
While CSK have an overall record of 11 wins and six defeats against Royals, the last five matches between these two teams have been more closely fought, with CSK winning three and Royals winning two.
Ben Laughlin has dismissed Dwayne Bravo on each of the three occasions he has bowled to the batsman in T20s. Off the nine balls he has faced from Laughlin, Bravo has seven runs.
Sanju Samson needs 66 more runs to become the fifth batsman to score 1000 runs for Royals in the IPL.
Imran Tahir has an excellent record in Pune, averaging two wickets per match, with an average of 15.1 and economy rate of 7.8.
Both Sanju Samson and Ben Stokes’ only T20 centuries have come in Pune.
Big hitter, electric fielder, and a bowler who can give you four overs: Ben Stokes is an excellent T20 package. Even if he does fare badly in one of those areas, there are plenty of other ways he can help you recover those points.
Sanju Samson has a good record at Pune, where he scored his only T20 century. That, coupled with his current form – he has scores of 49, 37 and 92* in four innings – should make him a tempting pick.
“It looks a good pitch to me. Nice covering of grass, more grass than probably what we are used to seeing on an Indian pitch.”
Michael Hussey, Chennai Super Kings’ batting coach