Former Chennai Super Kings guards who have a spontaneous crack at owning the big stage at the right moments, will start as favorites against a solid Delhi Capitals line led by ‘young pretender’ Rishabh Pant in what promises to be a Exciting debut IPL qualifier here on Sunday.
Capitals were the best team in the league and their 20-point finish at the group stage was indicative of their consistent performances that they didn’t dip because of the forced break of COVID-19.
Similarly, CSK are now back in familiar locations of second chance rounds, something they have done 11 out of 12 times although losing three games on the bounce would not have entertained their all-powerful sprinter Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
On the other hand, DC got a rude jolt from the last ball of Kona Bharat six in their last group league match against Royal Challengers Bangalore. The position of their pole did not change but it did enough to shake them away from their stupidity.
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CSK has, over the years, been a finalist eight times and won on three occasions that speak volumes of the team’s ability to up their game when it is most needed.
That’s the reason why CSK is not one of those franchises that releases new talent from dozens like other franchises. Ruturaj Gaikwad is an exception as it could be called pure CSK product after more than a decade.
Dhoni has a simple cricket philosophy — reliant on long-established and battle-hardened individuals and so has always punished things like Ravindra jadeja, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo and Faf du Plessis.
These are players, who have been there and done it. People who can manage spells and gain pressure situations that more often than not lead to wins.
Add Josh Hazlewood or Moeen Ali, who is also a regular in that mix and the former India captain knows exactly what kind of combination he needs to put on the park.
As much as one talks about team effort, no one knows more than Dhoni that T20 is perhaps one form of cricket, where individuals win games.
Dhoni knows that even though his batting form (96 runs in 14 games) was abandoned years ago (since 2015-16) and IPL legend like Raina (160 in 12 games) is a pale shadow of his was once devastating, still has Gaikwad (533 runs) and Du Plessis (546), who more often than not provided solid starts and the Jadeja threat (227 runs) is thriving final.
Similarly, Shardul Thakur (18 wickets in 14 games) has given runs at an expensive economy rate of 8.57 but the innovations have remained important. No one knows more than Dwayne Bravo (12 wickets) about how someone can deceive the batters by changing the speed of his deliveries at the time of death.
Hazlewood has not found form but Dhoni has huge patience among players he believes in and is banking on that devastating Aussie debut that can wreck havoc.
It could happen against the Delhi Capitals, as their batting despite 10 wins, has not exactly inspired confidence at the highest level. Prithvi Shaw (401 runs) and Shikhar Dhawan (544 runs) have had their share of starts but in the UAE leg, they have not exactly dominated.
The Panthers (362 runs) have been crappy at best and Marcus Stoinis’ absence due to injury affected their balance as they had no big hit during the death except Shimron Hetmyer.
DC’s strength has been their bowling attack – Avesh Khan (22 wickets), Axar Patel (15 wickets), Kagiso Rabada (13 wickets) and Anrich Nortje, who have grabbed nine wickets but an economy rate of 5.59 over six games.
DC’s bowling attack has been right on the money without being shipped to cleaners but Pant would hope that the law of averages doesn’t catch up with them and Nortje and Rabada can upset Gaikwad with short balls, which has been a point weak batter of Maharashtra.
But yes, even Dhoni would admit that Raina and Rayudu in what would be their final season for CSK, wanted to make some tangible contribution with the willow.
Even the skipper himself needs to put his hand up as he has no longer been able to handle raw speed.
Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, KM Asif, Deepak Chahar, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, N Jagadeesan, Karn Sharma, Lungi Ngidi, Mitchell Santner, Ravindra Jadeja, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shardul Thakur, R Sai Kishore, Moeen Ali, K Gowtham, Cheteshwar Pujara, Harishankar Reddy, Bhagath Varma, C Hari Nishaanth.
Capitals Delhi: Rishabh Pant (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Prithvi Shaw, Ripal Patel, Shikhar Dhawan, Shimrom Hetmyar, Shreyas Iyer, Steve Smith, Amit Mishra, Anrich Nortje, Avesh Khan, Ben Dwarshuis, Ishant Sharma, Kagiso Rabada, Kulwant Khejroliya, , Pravin Dubey, Tom Curran, Umesh Yadav, Axar Patel, Lalit Yadav, Marcus Stoinis, Ravichandran Ashwin, Sam Billings and Vishnu Vinod.
Game begins at 7:30 PM IST.
This story was published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the heading has been changed.