The Kaveri derby. A rivalry between two South Indian cities entangled in rich cultural history. An event which means much more than just a game of cricket for the people of the two cities, it is time for Chennai SuperKings V Royal Challengers Bangalore, it is indeed time for the IPL!
The first game of the IPL, sees two of the biggest modern-day cricketing personalities, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli facing off. There are so many subplots to the game. It is seen as a battle of the captains, but the biggest of them all has to be Dhoni, the cool head against Virat, the aggressor. Virat taking over the captaincy of the Indian national team from Dhoni, was seen as a passing of the proverbial baton. Despite relinquishing the captaincy, Dhoni has always lent a helping hand to Virat with the Indian team, and the two have shared somewhat of a master-apprentice relationship. The IPL throws up a great opportunity for us to conceive how far Virat has come as a shorter format captain in the past year, even more so because there’s a World cup lurking in the near future. The intrigue for this fixture is even higher, as RCB are facing CSK in Chennai after nearly four years.
Last season saw the return of the Chennai SuperKings into the IPL fold, following a two year exile, and the game at the Chinnaswamy could not have been any better, from a neutral’s perspective (although the result of the game left many a RCB heartbroken), as CSK won a last over thriller from a seemingly hopeless situation. The away game of the season was not much of a contest, as CSK steamrolled RCB in what was a disappointing result in Pune. Following two defeats of contrasting nature, RCB will be out for revenge against their IPL arch-nemeses, seeking to kickstart their campaign on the front foot against the reigning champions, and putting the demons of previous season to bed.
Parthiv Patel(WK), Virat Kohli(C), AB De Villiers, Shimron Hetmyer, Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal
Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Sam Billings, MS Dhoni(C/WK), Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, David Willey, Deepak Chahar
Strengths and weakness – RCB
The strength for RCB this season, and even more so in this game will be the batting, which boasts of a much stronger middle-order with the inflection of Hetmyer and Shivam Dube later down the order. Not only will the introduction of the two most expensive investments for RCB this year in Hetmyer and Dube provide options in the middle order, but will also ease a bit of the pressure off the stars in Kohli and AB De Villiers, allowing them to flourish in a slightly less pressured atmosphere.
Although the bowling looked better in the second half of the previous season, the main concern will again be how the fifth bowler’s quota will be managed. If the fifth bowler cannot be trusted upon to bowl an over or two in either powerplay or at the death, the lack of wicket-taking ammunition in the middle overs could prove to be costly.
Opposition analysis – CSK
Chennai will be reliant on their star studded batting lineup comprising of Rayudu, Watson, Raina, Dhoni and Billings for the first game of the season. Kedar Jadhav’s rise as a late-order finisher in the past year, has given the Chennai batting lineup an even more ominous look this season.
It was not all rosy for last season’s champions CSK, as their bowling, particularly at the death was a cause for concern. Bravo did not have his best year with the ball, while their Indian fast bowling options often came under the hammer. The protea Ngidi was a respite for Chennai in the pace department, but he has been ruled out of this year’s tournament and his absence could potentially pose a challenge for Chennai.
Player battles to watch out for
Hetmyer V Harbhajan
It is a difficult task to pick just one batsman from a batting-hefty lineup such as that of RCB, but with the focus always being on Virat and AB De Villiers, there is an opportunity for Shimron Hetmyer to come good. If picked in the starting eleven, Hetmyer who will be making his IPL debut, will not only provide variety in the middle order, with him being left-handed, but will also be someone who can not only negotiate spin bowling competently but also reverse some pressure too. The latter attribute, in a spin-friendly venue like the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai, will come in especially handy.
Chennai’s fast bowling looks a little thin with Lungi Ngidi ruled out of the tournament, and CSK having to rely on David Willey until they source a replacement. Having said that, expect Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja to be tormenters-in-chief in the middle overs, on a slow Chennai track. Hetmyer V Harbhajan will be a fascinating watch!
Watson V Umesh
Shane Watson, who was the player of the tournament in the recently concluded Pakistan Super league, is in impressive form again. Chennai will be looking at Watson to provide an explosive start, while the rest of the accumulators in Rayudu, Raina and Dhoni bat around him.
For RCB, Umesh Yadav will be expected to be the impact wicket-taking bowler. In the powerplays, if RCB can manage to snare out the Chennai top 3 cheaply, the task during the middle overs can subsequently become so much more easier. Umesh Yadav’s pace against Shane Watson could well set the tone for how the innings goes.
Even though Chennai won both the games last year, new season always brings with it uncertainty. The auction and the trading window affords the teams with an opportunity to bring in new players, and iron out some of the flaws in their line-ups. RCB have managed to do that with the acquisitions of Shivam Dube and Shimron Hetmyer, who will play a key role in the middle order. The batting wears a much more healthier look to it, while the bowling options during the middle overs could be a concern. As for Chennai, their stability has always been their strength, and playing under Dhoni, they will always be a force to reckon with. Although Chennai has a team which can bat upto no.11, their bowling attack seems a bit flimsy. In a battle between two batting heavyweights, the team which outperforms the other with the ball and on the field will come up trumps.