A blockbuster season-opener

Last Updated 22 March 2019, 17:13 IST

One of the most endearing images in the run-up to the 12th edition of the Indian Premier League was captured at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.

In an astonishing show of fandom, close to 12000 Chennai Super Kings (CSK) supporters had thronged the stadium just to see their team practice for a couple of hours. The incident was another example of CSK’s over-the-top fan following.

CSK’s home games were shifted to Pune due to Cauvery water dispute last season, and it’s only fitting that their fans are getting to see the first slice of action of the new edition at home on Saturday. And for the die-hard followers of the league, there couldn’t have been a better opening game than Chennai Super Kings facing Royal Challengers Bangalore: two teams set to renew their storied rivalry.

The match will serve as an acid test for RCB. Virat Kohli’s men will be greeted by a sea of yellow with the atmosphere expected to be deafening. And they will be facing the defending champions, a team that has enjoyed terrific success in the tournament.

The Challengers have lot to answer. They begin their campaign with their long-standing goal of breaking the title jinx. While there is still a long way to go before they can well and truly fancy their chances, RCB would want to get into a positive frame of mind at the earliest.

More than the defeats in the last two seasons, the manner in which they have come should worry the Challengers. In a forgettable campaign they finished at the bottom of the eight-team table two years ago while they could only manage a sixth-place finish in 2018. Both the campaigns were marred by an unsettled playing XI and lack of fighting spirit.

The Challengers will continue to have the luxury of Kohli and AB de Villiers – two of the best batsmen of this generation – at the top of the order. The attacking Heinrich Klaasen, Shimron Hetmyer and Shivam Dubey, depending on their opportunities, will have to deliver in the middle-order.

Hetmyer is a quintessential West Indies cricketer. The big-hitting southpaw is passionate, eccentric in approach and unusually gifted. RCB would hope the 22-year-old will live up to the hype around him.

RCB’s bowling, often slammed for its uninspiring show, will have to be disciplined. The onus is on the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee and Colin de Grandhomme to soak up pressure and be effective.

While he is currently in a different zone while batting, Kohli’s captaincy will once again face some stiff challenges. The Indian skipper will have to be tactically correct on the field and make the right calls on the team selection.

CSK have more or less maintained the same squad as last year. The big guns like skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina aren’t in the best phase of their careers. But time and again, they have roared back to form while representing CSK. Dhoni is spoilt for choices as far as the bowling is concerned.

The Super Kings have emerged victorious in the last six meetings of these two teams. Given the circumstances, RCB will know how much of a confident booster will a win on Saturday night be for their journey ahead.

(Published 22 March 2019, 17:11 IST)

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