While CSK enter this season on the back of their worst-ever performance in 2020 where they failed to make the playoffs for the first time, Delhi delivered their best-ever show as they made their maiden final, losing to Mumbai Indians. The CSK-DC encounter will be a clash of the two wicket-keeper captains Rishabh Pant and Dhoni. Pant, handed over DC’s reins in the absence of Shreyas Iyer who is out due to a shoulder injury remains untested when it comes to captaincy.
On the other hand, Dhoni is a seasoned campaigner who will be keen to get his side off the blocks in style. Pant may be new to captaincy but is known to engage in chatter each time he steps on to the field.
The 23-year-old made it clear that his side will look to bring in a surprise element against CSK. “I’ll apply my own experience and the learnings from Dhoni, and try to do something different against CSK,” Pant had said in the lead-up to the game.
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After a forgettable last year when they failed to notch up those big scores on a consistent basis, CSK’s batting power will be reinforced by the return of Suresh Raina, the team’s all-time leading run-getter with 5368 runs. With Ruturaj Gaikwad, Faf du Plessis and Ambati Rayudu likely to man the top-order, CSK will breathe easy.
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The three-time champions have healthy options in the allrounders department thanks to Sam Curran, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, K Gowtham and Moeen Ali. Dhoni may not be at the peak of his powers anymore, but the long hours at the nets ahead of the season should stand him in good stead. The medium-pacers Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur will look to make the new ball count. The side will miss Ngidi Lungi as the South African pacer is in quarantine.
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CSK’s opponents DC have a lot of firepower at the top. The in-form Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw are going to get the nod as openers. As for the middle-order, it will be interesting to see the combination DC choose given the varied options they have. There is the experience of Steve Smith and Ajinkya Rahane who can give solidity while there are power-hitters like Marcus Stoinis, Shimron Hetmyer and Sam Billings. Skipper Pant who is in great form is of course the trump card and can run away with games.
The bowling may be weakened as their premier pacers Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje are in quarantine and unavailable for selection. But the Indian pacers in the form of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav will be expected to step up. As far as the spin bowling goes, star offie R Ashwin will be their trump card and the 34-year-old was in good form last season taking 13 wickets from 15 outings at an economy of 7.66. Leggie Amit Mishra, who missed a majority of the 2020 season due to finger injury, too will be eager to be among the wickets again. The one big miss, though, will be Axar Patel, who won the game with three sixes in the last over the last time the two sides met.
The allrounder is out with Covid and the team will find it tough to get the right balance, which CSK have in abundance, due to his absence.
CSK sign Jason Behrendorff as Hazlewood’s replacement: Australian pacer Jason Behrendorff has signed up with the Chennai Super Kings as a replacement for Josh Hazlewood after the latter withdrew due to bubble fatigue. Behrendorff earlier represented Mumbai Indians in 2019 when he played five matches and picked as many wickets.