Chennai Super Kings captain, MS Dhoni, rightly pointed out after losing to Delhi Capitals in its opening match that his team could have done with an extra 10-15 runs that would have acted as a buffer.
Just to accentuate the point he was making, those were the exact amount of runs that enabled Punjab scrape past Rajasthan Royals. The runs apart, CSK’s sloppy effort in the field was also to blame as Prithvi Shaw was let off twice and those dropped chances proved costly.
Moeen Ali's inclusion was pivotal in avoiding a middle-order collapse that CSK suffered from in the previous edition, so his is a welcome addition. But Chennai has to bat with positive intent from the beginning as Punjab’s promising left-arm pacer, Arshdeep Singh, can replicate what Avesh Khan did for Delhi by choking the flow of runs besides accounting for key scalps. Singh maintained his composure under mounting pressure with a clinical spell that helped Punjab avert defeat by a slender margin. The seasoned Mohammed Shami also made his presence felt after making a comeback from an injury. Since Punjab has a paucity of stock bowlers to tighten the screw in the middle overs, the Preity Zinta-owned team will look to rein in the CSK batsmen in the first six overs. The Kings boast of Nicholas Pooran, Chris Gayle and KL Rahul to make a mockery of a target in the range of 180-190, if CSK fails to make optimum use of the batting powerplay.
Chennai can also toy with the idea of promoting Sam Curran up the order with Ruturaj Gaikwad. The strategic benefit of this move will be an interesting duel between the southpaws (Arshdeep and Curran) in which Curran will most likely succeed, and psychologically CSK's batting depth will bear a menacing look. Curran's valuable 35-40 runs is much needed in the powerplay and his attacking style would calm the nerves of Gaikwad. Dwayne Bravo, with his wealth of experience, would be the right choice in place of Curran's usual position to anchor the innings along with Jadeja if Dhoni chooses to demote himself, given his waning form.
Punjab can bring in the death-bowling specialist Chris Jordan in place of either Jhye Richardson or Riley Meredith. The Kings would also consider utilising the services of Shami or Arshdeep's spell in the first six overs thereby exerting maximum pressure on the three-time champions and handing the ball to Jordan for two overs in the middle and two in the death. That scenario could potentially land CSK in a catch-22 situation. All of these permutations and combinations have to complement the conditions in order to yield the desired result.
With both the teams having already played at Wankhede, they would be better equipped with astute tactics for their second game. They may stick to the tried and tested formula of winning the toss and bowling. In what promises to be a game of fine margins, CSK and Punjab will be keen on plugging the holes in every aspect of the game. Both teams look evenly matched cancelling out their strengths and foibles, but Chennai may fancy its chances of recording its first win in IPL 2021.
CSK (in batting order): Sam Curran, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, Moeen Ali, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, MS Dhoni, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Karn Sharma.
PK (in batting order): Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Deepak Hooda, Shahrukh Khan, Chris Jordan, Jyhe Richardson/Riley Meredith, Murugan Ashwin, Arshdeep Singh, Shami Mohammed