It’s that time of the year again as one of the most exciting tournaments in world cricket is set to get underway. The defending champions will face arch-rivals Chennai Super Kings in the opener of the 10th edition. CSK will be returning to the IPL after being banned for two years.
Both teams have retained the core of their batting lineups. However, CSK should be a little concerned about their attack and the options they possess. Mumbai have all their bases covered, but they will still be wary of Chennai’s remarkable consistency in the IPL. Having won two titles each, both are two of the most successful teams in the tournament. The opener is set to be a cracker of a game.
Chennai Super Kings
MS Dhoni (c), Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Faf du Plessis, Harbhajan Singh, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, Kanishk Seth, Lungi Ngidi, Dhruv Shorey, Murali Vijay, Sam Billings, Mark Wood, Kshitiz Sharma, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma, Shardul Thakur, N Jagadeesan.
Rohit Sharma (c), Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Mustafizur Rahman, Pat Cummins, Suryakumar Yadav, Krunal Pandya, Ishan Kishan, Rahul Chahar, Evin Lewis, Saurabh Tiwary, Ben Cutting, Pradeep Sangwan, Jean-Paul Duminy, Tajinder Singh, Sharad Lumba, Siddhesh Lad, Aditya Tare, Mayank Markande, Akila Dananjaya, Anukul Roy, Mohsin Khan, MD Nidheesh, Mitchell McClenaghan.
Where the teams stand
Chennai Super Kings
Dhoni returns to the yellow outfit to lead a side similar to the one he captained a few years back. Jadeja, Raina, du Plessis, Vijay, and Bravo all return to the squad. CSK have always had a good balance of all-rounders in their ranks, but not this season. Watson, Bravo, Jadeja, and Kedar Jadhav all fit the role, but there will be concerns about the former two. Bravo is 34 now, hasn't played competitive cricket for the last two months, and his statistics in the IPL are shockingly average. His bowling and batting average in the IPL are both 23, which is far too low for a player of his apparent stature. His recent performances have not been commendable either, with his bowling far outshining his batting. The same applies for Watson, who is 36 but has marginally better statistics. Either or both might be picked anyway, but expectations from them must be limited for now.
Given the suspect nature of these two all-rounders’ capabilities, the Chennai bowling attack runs the risk of being pedestrian at best. Their management has roped in Lungi Ngidi, Mark Wood, Tahir, Karn Sharma, Harbhajan Singh and Shardul Thakur along with a host of youngsters. Evidently, CSK has a superb spin attack, but against an Indian batting-heavy Mumbai, their effectiveness might be insubstantial. None of their pacers are remotely world-class unlike Mumbai’s, but CSK has a knack for bring out consistency from their youngsters and the team as a whole. They will not be pushovers despite the bowling attack problems.
Mumbai arguably have the best squad in the tournament. They have several big-hitters in the squad. Pollard, Evin Lewis, Ben Cutting, Suryakumar Yadav and the Pandya brothers are all big-hitters of the ball. The downside of having such players in such numbers is that they fall short of stable batsmen who can anchor the innings if needed. There are a few capable of it, including Pandya and Lewis, but their style of play is more suited to bludgeoning the ball than defending it. Duminy, Saurabh Tiwary, Ishan Kishan, and Sharma can play second fiddle to the hitters, but the management need to find the right balance between the two groups.
Having said that, if this team gets going with the bat, it could be a treat like no other. When it comes to their attack, Mumbai far outweighs CSK. They boast the likes of Mustafizur Rahman, Pat Cummins, McClenaghan, Pradeep Sangwan, and of course Jasprit Bumrah. The Pandya brothers, especially Hardik, can bowl as well along with Cutting and Pollard. Bumrah, Cummins, and Rahman are three of the best bowlers in the circuit worldwide, and they will be very valuable to Mumbai's cause. The latter two look likely to make the cut along with Lewis and Pollard as the four foreign imports. On paper, Mumbai are easily the better squad. They have a much better attack, and a power-packed batting lineup that might prove to be too much for the boys in yellow.
Mumbai win. Big-hitters against a weak bowling lineup is a dangerous proposition, especially if it is at the Wankhede Stadium.
Who will triumph in the first IPL game of the 2018 season? Let us know in the comments and poll below.