IPL opener: Three things that will decide MI v CSK

Image Courtesy: IPL

The wait is finally over as defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) get ready to start their title defence against the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. The 13th edition of IPL finally kicks off in Abu Dhabi after a five-month delay much to the relief of cricket fans all around the globe and there could not be any better fixture to get the proceedings underway.

MI against CSK promises to be a humdinger as both sides possess match-winners in their repertoire.

The two teams have won a combined seven titles from the 12 IPL seasons played thus far. They’ve headlined four finals and played five other playoffs games. In games at neutral venues, the head-to-head stands at 5-5 but the four-time champions Mumbai Indians lead 18-12 in all contests. CSK does not have a good record against the defending champions, but they have the best spinning outfit in the competition and that could be the gamechanger for them.

For Mumbai, stars like Quinton de Kock, Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard will pit their talents against household names in MS Dhoni, Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi and Faf du Plessis.

All to play for: MI captain Rohit sharma (L) and CSK captain MS Dhoni.

IPL: Both sides missing players

Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai Indians are notoriously known to be slow starters. They grow in the campaign as the tournament progresses in the latter stages-so this match could work as a catalyst for them. Mumbai Indians boast of a really powerful squad and will not make things easy for the mighty Chennai Super Kings.

In the absence of their star man Lasith Malinga, Mumbai will pin their hopes on Jasprit Bumrah. Bumrah’s climb to the top has been nothing short of phenomenal and MI will have big hopes of him. His action belies his accuracy and many batsmen have found out too late. His job could be two-pronged — having to get rid of the top-order and then take care of the death overs — but he has made light work of such stuff in the past.

Chennai Super Kings, on the other hand, have lost their key players in Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh before the start of the tournament whereas the non-availability of Ruturaj Gaikwad is also a concern for this side. The Super Kings lack in the batting department but their bowling looks settled with the likes of Imran Tahir, Deepak Chahar, Piyush Chawla, etc. Chennai looks a little weak on paper but they always surprise everyone in each and every edition.

Unlike CSK, Mumbai Indians isn’t jittery about the presence of any cricketer at this stage. They are sitting pretty, they have seen the wicket, they are based out and practising out of Abu Dhabi only and they are the defending champions.

Strengths & weaknesses

The four-time winners Mumbai Indians will again bank on Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik and Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard to take them over the line but they have added firepower too.

The addition of Trent Boult, Nathan Coulter-Nile, and Chris Lynn has definitely made the side stronger. Rohit has confirmed that he will open the innings for his side and the Pandya Brothers along with Kieron Pollard will handle the all-round department. Such potency should ideally tide over any prospective storms, not just against CSK but throughout the duration of IPL 2020.

For CSK, In that scenario, the likes of Ambati Rayudu, Faf du Plessis and Kedar Jadhav might have bigger roles to play, considering the experience they bring to the fore. Yet, it is worth noting that none of the aforementioned trio has particularly set the world ablaze in recent times.

Elsewhere, there is also the small issue of MS Dhoni and Shane Watson having not played competitive cricket for a bit. However, Dhoni’s leadership skills alone make the Super Kings a formidable unit.

It will be interesting to see how the Abu Dhabi pitch behaves, but it has traditionally been tough for the batters. The pitch is touted to assist the spinners and run-making may not be all that easy, especially against the spinners. The long boundaries won’t make life any easier for the batters either. Assessing the track correctly at Abu Dhabi is another factor considering it is slightly different in nature from Dubai and Sharjah.

Additionally, it is late summer in the UAE, meaning that the pitches could just be a tad on the slower side – something that could make run-scoring difficult. Temperatures though would test the players to the hilt, with those expected to hover around the late 20-degree Celsius range, even at night.

Of late, MI have been CSK’s Achilles heel. It was no more evident than the 2019 season which saw CSK losing all four matches including the play-offs and the final. MI are the only team against which they have lost more matches than they have won. While MI have been on top of their preparations ever since they landed in UAE, same can’t be said about CSK. Going by that, MI start as clear favourites, but count MS Dhoni and CSK out of the equation only at your own peril!

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Brett Lee believes CSK will have the upper hand in UAE conditions with their variety in the spin department