MUMBAI: If Chennai Super Kings were feeling left out of the Indian Premier League excitement, owing to a two-year ban, the tournament has rolled out the red carpet to welcome them back. The Super Kings will take on Mumbai Indians, the only team to have won more titles than them, in the opening match of the 11th edition at Wankhede Stadium on Saturday.Mumbai’s sultry air was crackling with anticipation on Friday. Two-time champions Chennai will be looking to announce their comeback. “I think we’ve prepped well. Just a lot of nerves around but no more than normal,” Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming said on the eve of the match.
“We’ve had the best part of 12 days leading into the competition. So we’re ready. But there’s still the element of getting into the tournament and getting the team selections right.”While the talismanic Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be back as Chennai captain, Fleming will miss the services of Faf du Plessis in this tie due to a finger injury. But the Super Kings are banking on the experience of Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, Harbhajan Singh, Shane Watson and Suresh Raina. Fleming, however, said that the playing XI hadn’t been decided upon. Fast bowlers Lungi Ngidi and Mark Wood, joined the team only on Tuesday.
On the other hand, Mumbai are also hoping to stamp their authority right away. The team has been known to start slow, but the three-time champions are a much settled side. In Rohit Sharma they have a skipper who leads from the front, other than impact players like Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah.
“Though we are the defending champions, but we don’t see ourselves as favourites. We see ourselves as equally good and striving to be better than others,” Mumbai coach Mahela Jayawardene had said on Thursday. “It was important for us to maintain the core. We have invested in a group of players, looking at the future. It’s about gelling together. Mali (Malinga) is here with us helping the young group.”
If there is one chink in the Mumbai armour, according to Fleming, it’s the spinners. “They’ve no standout spin options,” the former Kiwi skipper said. “We’ve got three or four. But we’ve also got the pace options. So we’re just looking for smarter technique and stack up in all different scenarios. It’s not just being spin-friendly as indicated.”The Wankhede pitch is not the most predictable, assisting pace bowlers early on. The dew at night has often thrown off visiting teams, and the toss may become a key factor. But, as the IPL always promises, it is bound to be another heady mix of spills and thrills to open this innings.