The Big Picture
So, here are we! After weeks of euphoria, build-up, and razmataz, the 12th edition of the Indian Premier League is finally here, and what better way to kick-off the tournament with the defending champions Chennai Super Kings squaring off against the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Chepauk.
Both sides' share a celebrated rivalry which might not be reflected statistically; the Challengers are yet to win a match against CSK since 2014, but over the years it has given fans moments to savor. For, who can forget, Albie Morkel annihilating Virat Kohli's bowling to seal a memorable win for the Men in Yellow in 2012 or RP Singh's no-ball to Ravindra Jadeja  or MS Dhoni nailing Mohammad Siraj over backward point last year.
All of the above moments resulted from RCB's inability to seal the initiative from the position of strength, which has been their story, really, during the course of the 11 editions of the IPL.
They now return to the M.A Chidambaram Stadium, a ground where they are yet to win a game since 2008; a ground where they lost both IPL as well as CLT20 Final in 2011.
RCB's Achilles heel over the years has been their over-dependence on Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers and their bowlers' inability to back up the good work done by their batters. This year they have got potency in their middle-order with the addition of Shimron Hetmayer while Shivam Dube's all-around ability gives them a handy balance. But, the onus will once again be on their bowlers.
Nathan Coulter-Nile, who will miss the first few games due to International duty will boost their bowling unit while Navdeep Saini, after impressing in the domestic season is another welcome addition.
In the end, it will all boil down to the teams' ability to seize the crucial moments in which their opponents Chennai Super Kings, are master at. Last year, CSK displayed their versatility as a group after their matches were shifted from their spin-favoring fortress of the Chepauk to Pune. The biggest strength for CSK over the years has been their talismanic leader in MS Dhoni.
Last year, Dhoni wound the clock back with his vintage batting but it was his tactical nouse that was the game-changer for CSK. The way he marshaled his troops- an aging side, could be a case study in itself. One of the hallmarks of a great side is they do minimal changes to their side and retain a core that serves them for a period of time. In Watson, Rayudu, Raina, du Plessis, Jadeja and Dhoni, CSK's core is as solid as it gets.
Kedar Jadhav, who missed the entire tournament after sustaining a hamstring injury, will bolster their squad which also welcomes back all-rounder Mitchell Santner, who too missed the last season due to injury. Lungisani Ngidi's injury comes as a major blow but with Chepauk assisting the spinners substantially in the past, spin is expected to rule the roost as far as CSK is concerned.
After the Eden Gardens, the pitch at the M.A Chidambaram has assisted the spinners the most in the history of the IPL, and with CSK boasting of a plethora of spinners in their ranks, expect spin to rule the roost.
Do you know?
- CSK has a 14-7 lead over the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the head-to-head encounters.
- RCB is yet to win a game at the Chepauk since 2008; they are also yet to win a match against CSK since 2014.
- This will only be the second IPL game at the Chepauk in the past four years.
- CSK's record at the Chepauk in their last 13 IPL games is- Won 12, Lost 1.
- Kohli's 732 runs and his counterpart MSD's tally of 710 is the most by a batsman against CSK and RCB respectively.
Chennai Super Kings-
Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Deepak Chahar, David Willey, Shardul Thakur
Royal Challengers Bangalore-
Parthiv Patel, Moeen Ali, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Shimron Hetmyer, Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Navdeep Saini, Tim Southee