CHENNAI: AS far as new beginnings go, it couldn’t have been more contrasting. On one hand was defending champions Chennai Super Kings, who were beginning a new era under Ravindra Jadeja. On the other side was the new-look Kolkata Knight Riders under their new captain, Shreyas Iyer. On an evening where the Wankhede Stadium rolled out a pitch with a bit of spice for the Indian Premier League opener involving the last year’s finalists, it was Kolkata who looked as hot as a red chilli.
It is too early to say what is working and what is not for Chennai and vice-versa for Kolkata, but if one goes by the early indications, the four-time champions appeared a bit under-cooked. From the moment they lost last season’s Orange Cap winner Ruturaj Gaikwad in the first over to Umesh Yadav – who made the most of the moisture on the pitch by getting the ball to swing – Chennai were on the back-foot. And Kolkata’s think-tank had a big role to play in it.
For a team that doesn’t shy away from giving the new ball to spinners – mystery spinners especially – Kolkata held them back for Chennai’s middle-order. With Umesh able to extract purchase from the strip, he took care of Chennai’s openers Gaikwad and Devon Conway. With no Moeen Ali, the key player who attacked the spinners in the middle-overs last season, Chennai only had Robin Uthappa and Ambati Rayudu to rescue them. Shreyas strangled the duo by operating Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine from both ends. The pressure was beginning to build and it brought the wicket of Uthappa, who was stumped brilliantly down the leg side by Sheldon Jackson.
Chennai were 49/3 in 7.5 overs when Jadeja walked in. Chennai needed to buckle-up. On a pitch where even 160 could have been a competitive total, they needed Rayudu and Jadeja to steady them before leaving it to the likes of Shivam Dube, MS Dhoni and Mitchell Santner to launch a late assault. But a mix-up between Jadeja and Rayudu left the latter stranded short of the crease. 52/4 in 8.4 overs, Chennai sent in Dube and Kolkata responded by bringing in Andre Russel, who wasted no time in sending a short-ball that produced a wicket.
61/5 at the end of 11 overs meant Chennai resorted to limiting the damage. Boundaries dried up as Jadeja and Dhoni were content enough to rotate the strike as Shreyas ensured the latter faced as many deliveries as possible from Varun and Narine. Kolkata sent down 48 deliveries without conceding a boundary in this phase before Dhoni got one off Umesh in the 16th over.
That sort of changed the momentum a bit as Chennai scored 47 off the last three overs with Dhoni posting a 38-ball 50. That they still managed only 131/5 in the end showed the damage Kolkata inflicted on Chennai in the beginning and the middle.
Chasing a moderate total, opener Ajinkya Rahane showed the way with 34-ball 44 as Kolkata romped home to get their season off to a winning start.
Brief scores: Chennai Super Kings 131/5 in 20 ovs (Dhoni 50 n.o, Uthappa 28, Jadeja 26 n.o, Umesh 2/20) lost to Kolkata Knight Riders 133/4 in 18.3 ovs (Rahane 44, Bravo 3/20).