Saturday (April 6) could perhaps be the first time fans at the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai might be in a dilemma on who to support. Do they support Chennai Super Kings, or do they cheer for the franchise with most representation from the city, Kings XI Punjab? Predominantly former, with warm welcomes for the local lads R Ashwin, M Ashwin and Varun Chakravarthy is perhaps the most likely scenario.
So, who is the home side? Both teams have three wins in four games. Both teams have players who know the conditions well. Both teams have spinners who can utilise the Chepauk pitch's slowness. Knowing captain Ashwin, it won't be a surprise if he plays both M Ashwin and Varun, unleashing all types of spin against a Chennai batting that's struggling slightly at the moment.
The Super Kings' problem in the batting starts right at the top. Ambati Rayudu is in poor form, and Shane Watson hasn't done much of note other than a 44 against Delhi Capitals. Suresh Raina has been on and off, unable to go past starts.
MS Dhoni bailed them out in Chennai's previous home game, against Rajasthan, with a stellar half-century. But CSK know that can't be done always, as they found out against Mumbai Indians. They are not known for making too many changes, but they could be strengthening their batting against Punjab. Dwayne Bravo injured his hamstring in the previous match, making things complicated for Dhoni and co.
Chennai struggled with their death bowling in Mumbai, but they've got the attack to do the job at home. Imran Tahir has been in wicket-taking form. Harbhajan Singh comes into picture when the opposition has left-handers in the top order, as Punjab do in Sam Curran, Chris Gayle and David Miller. Ravindra Jadeja is always around, and CSK also have the option of playing Mitchell Santner.
Punjab will be coming to Chennai on a high having got out of jail against Delhi Capitals. They seemed down and out before Mohammed Shami and Curran, who picked a hat-trick, led them to a win out of nowhere. They're now heading to a ground where their main strength - spin - will be in action too. A 4pm start means dew won't be a factor, so expect spinners to have a ball.
If the batsmen can show application that's needed on such tracks, it could be a well-fought contest.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
R Ashwin v MS Dhoni - Chennai's son v adopted son
CSK's fans are unlikely to forget the times when Dhoni and Ashwin plotted together to dismiss the then RCB's Chris Gayle frequently. Dhoni would often toss the new ball to the off-spinner, who would respond with Gayle's and other big wickets regularly. But those things are in the past, with Ashwin moving to Punjab after CSK completed their ban.
Ironically, last season, Ashwin unleashed Gayle on his former team to come out on top in their first clash. Dhoni outwitted Ashwin in the second meeting, unleashing 'chaos' by promoting Deepak Chahar and Harbhajan Singh in the batting order. They're 1-1 head to head at the moment, and this battle of the captains will be a mouth-watering contest in front of fans who love both equally.
TEAM NEWS/AVAILABILITY UPDATES
CSK: Dwayne Bravo's hamstring injury that rules him out for two weeks adds to the concerns for the franchise. They already lost two key foreigners in Lungi Ngidi (injury) and David Willey (personal reasons) and this loss is a big blow. CSK have all-rounder Scott Kuggeleijn as replacement for Ngidi and he could be in line for a start. They might also be tempted to bring in Faf du Plessis to give a struggling Ambati Rayudu leeway by pushing him to the middle order.
KXIP: Like CSK, Punjab too sweat over the fitness of their West Indian star, Chris Gayle. If he's fit, Hardus Viljoen could be the guy to make way. Who will open the batting, though? Sam Curran slammed a 10-ball 20 against Delhi opening the batting. Mystery spinner Varun also injured his finger during the game against KKR, and missed the following two matches. If he's fit, R Ashwin would be itching to give him a go.
CSK: Harbhajan Singh, Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo, MS Dhoni (c), Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Murali Vijay, Karn Sharma, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu, Imran Tahir, Faf du Plessis, Deepak Chahar, Sam Billings, Mohit Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Dhruv Shorey, Scott Kuggeleijn, Monu Kumar, Mitchell Santner, Chaitanya Bishnoi, N Jagadeesan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, KM Asif
KXIP: Chris Gayle, Moises Henriques, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Mayank Agarwal, Mandeep Singh, David Miller, Mohammed Shami, Karun Nair, Lokesh Rahul, Murugan Ashwin, Ankit Rajpoot, Nicholas Pooran, Sarfaraz Khan, Hardus Viljoen, Andrew Tye, Sam Curran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Agnivesh Ayachi, Darshan Nalkande, Varun Chakravarthy, Arshdeep Singh, Simran Singh, Harpreet Brar
chennai super kingscricket scoreCSK v KXIPiplipl 2019ipl live scoreKings XI punjabLive Cricket Scorelive scoreWhen and where to watch
First Published: April 6, 2019, 8:38 AM IST