Shrugging off the travails of last season, Chennai Super Kings has taken giant strides in reclaiming its halcyon days of the decade gone by with two emphatic wins on the trot in the 14th edition of IPL.
Its victory against Rajasthan Royals on Monday was particularly impressive as the Super Kings displayed shades of resilience and grit, attributes that set it apart from the other teams during its period of dominance.
Sterner tests lie ahead as on Wednesday, it will meet a formidable opponent in Kolkata Knight Riders. Despite two defeats in three games, the Eoin Morgan-led side can’t be written off for it boasts a couple of game-changers in its squad. That said, the Super Kings will be high on confidence and, on paper, it looks a better side in all facets.
The Chennai side’s English import, Moeen Ali, has fitted in seamlessly and received high praise from the team’s head coach Stephen Fleming following his all-round contribution against Rajasthan. The Super Kings’ team management can toy with the idea of sending Ali as an opener as his aggressive batting can push the run-rate up in the powerplay. Of CSK’s total of 188 against Rajasthan, Du Plessis’ 33 was the highest and this reinforces the point that, given more time in the middle, Ali can make a substantial contribution. Though Sam Curran and Dwayne Bravo chipped in with crucial runs in the end, the team’s cause would be better served by meaty knocks from the top-order. It is evident from the first three matches that skipper MS Dhoni needs a little more time to shake off the rust and he could consider batting a rung lower. The same applies to the misfiring opener Ruturaj Gaikwad who has struggled to make an impact so far.
As for Kolkata, it is coming off an embarrassing defeat against RCB, and its captain Morgan has serious thinking to do to ensure this doesn’t snowball into a major crisis. In hindsight, Morgan made a few questionable decisions with regard to his shuffling of bowlers. His choice of the batting order, too, has raised eyebrows with critics pointing out that had one of Shakib Al Hasan or Andre Russell opened, they could’ve given a head start in a mammoth chase of 205, but surprisingly they batted at 6 and 7.
CSK will be happy to field an unchanged side as this bunch of players has adapted pretty well to the Wankhede stadium. Meanwhile, speculation is rife that the Knight Riders is considering roping in Sunil Narine as a replacement for Shakib against Chennai. Given that the momentum is on CSK’s side right now, it remains to be seen what impact Narine’s inclusion will have on the outcome. The Dhoni-led side will start as overwhelming favourite against Kolkata.
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CSK (in batting order): Faf Du Plessis, Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ambati Rayudu, Sam Curran, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni(c/wk), Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar
KKR (in batting order): Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill, Eoin Morgan (c), Rahul Tripathi, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Sunil Narine, Pat Cummins, Harbhajan Singh, Prasidh Krishna, Varun Chakravarthy