We’re into yet another season of the Indian Premier League, the 12th one and there couldn’t be a better opening game than the one scheduled. India’s two most favorite sons of the modern era go face to face as the defending champions Chennai Super Kings host the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk.
It was a fairytale comeback season for the Super Kings last year as they stormed their way to a record-equaling third IPL title. The hosts more or less have the same pool of players this year too and this stability as always is a big plus for the unit that’s well-gelled. Mohit Sharma was one the negligible number of picks at the auctions and he looks certain to start.
As was the case in 2018, Chennai’s strength lies in its batting firepower and depth. The flip side is the bowling which isn’t threatening, especially on flat batting pitches. While the leadership of MS Dhoni does help to use the resource to the fullest, the pace attack definitely lacks sting, particularly after Lungi Ngidi’s exit due to injury.
In contrast, RCB’s bowling in totality is a mystery with regards to their efficiency. Over the years, the batting department has been full of firepower and at the auctions this year, things were no different. Shimron Hetmyer and Marcus Stoinis were two brilliant additions with the former expected to make his IPL debut in the season opener.
With Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers leading the batting ammunition, RCB are also extremely batting-heavy, perhaps more than CSK and that’s actually saying a lot, considering the home side’s pace attack. All-rounder Shivam Dube is expected to play a key role this season and for a man in his maiden season, the expectations around him are immense.
Team selection is also paramount for RCB who have often failed to maximise the the player pool at their disposal. Ensuring batting depth without compromising on the bowling department will be key. CSK will be banking on last year’s formula of stacking their batting depth with all-rounders in the lower middle order providing balance.
The pitches at Chepauk have generally been good to bat on with some help for the spinners. However, the only game there last year saw a 200-plus target being chased down successfully and in general, the pitches haven’t been overtly supportive to the spin bowlers. A night game also helps to neutralize the factor to an extent.
With history against them in Chepauk, Kohli’s men do have a task at hand but we all know that the sport isn’t played with history lessons, no matter how frequently they tend to repeat. Also, CSK aren’t the best of fielding sides with the age and their bowling can be put under pressure. Temperament is a must to beat the reigning champions and the way RCB play might well set the tone for their campaign.
Probable playing XIs
Chennai Super Kings: S Watson, F du Plessis, S Raina, A Rayudu, MS Dhoni, K Jadhav, D Bravo, R Jadeja, I Tahir, D Chahar, M Sharma
Royal Challengers Bangalore: P Patel, M Ali, V Kohli, AB de Villiers, S Hetmyer, S Dube, W Sundar/ P Negi, C de Grandhomme, M Siraj, U Yadav, Y Chahal
Considering team form, statistical history and other factors, Chennai Super Kings have a 60-40 chance of winning this game. Their only weakness is the mystery around how the pace attack will function. If RCB can capitalize on that and hold their nerve, they do stand a chance.
Dream 11 Fantasy Team: