Chennai Start Favourites in Dhoni Land
By Sanatan Pani | Published: 02nd May 2014 08:02 AM |
Forced to start in UAE due to the general elections, the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League is back where it belongs. After completion of a trouble-free first leg, during which 20 matches were played at three venues (Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi), the Indian leg, featuring the remaining 40 games, is all set to commence here at the JSCA International Stadium on Friday.
Before a ball has been bowled, two-time champions Chennai Super Kings start favourites against Kolkata Knight Riders, who captured the title in 2012. The capital of Jharkhand is not only an adopted home venue of the Chennai team, it is also the hometown of their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Past record and recent performance too are loaded in favour of Chennai.
After an inauspicious start, which saw them go down to Kings XI Punjab, Chennai have bounced back in style, registering emphatic wins against Delhi Daredevils, Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai Indian and Hyderabad Sunrisers. They are placed second on the table with eight points from five matches. If Dhoni and his boys do not commit harakiri against Klokata, they will move a step closer to the knockout stage.
Chennai are reaping the benefits of the judicious deal they made at the auctions. The inclusion of Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum and Ishwar Pandey has made them stronger and balanced. Openers Smith and McCullum have done a magnificent job, notching up one hundred-plus and two fifty-plus partnerships so far. Among the leading run accumulators, Smith is following Punjab’s Glen Maxwell at the second place with a total of 240 runs, including two fifties, while McCullum follows Smith at No 3 with 193, including two half-centuries.
With the duo delivering the goods in each and every match, the contributions of Suresh Raina, Faf du Plassis, Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja have become insignificant.
The bowling department also seems to be balanced. Pacers Ben Hilfenhaus, Mohit and newcomer Pandey have been consistent and they have been nicely supported by spinners Jadeja and R Ashwin.
On the other hand, Kolkata are struggling at fourth position with four points from five games. They beat Mumbai and Bangalore but lost to Delhi, Punjab and Rajasthan. The horrible form of captain Gautam Gambhir has become a major worry. He scored only one run in his first four innings and his 44-ball 45 in the last match against Rajasthan went in vain as Kolkata lost on boundary count after the scores were tied after the stipulated 20 overs and one Super Over.
Among other prominent players, big-hitter Yusuf Pathan, speedsters Morne Morkel, Umesh Yadav failed to live up to their reputation. However, thanks to the impressive all-round show of senior pro Jacques Kallis, batsmen Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn, Suryakumar Yadav, opening bowler Vinay Kumar and key spinner Sunil Narine, they are in a better position than four other teams.
Gambhir’s poor form may have weakened the morale of the team, but the out-of-the-world catch by Lynn provided them with renewed confidence. The Ranchi match will be the first meeting between the two teams.