The astute tactician in Mahendra Singh Dhoni will dig deep into his reserves to counter Indian cricket’s new ‘Crown Prince’ Shubman Gill as four-time champions Chennai Super Kings will meet their match in current title holders Gujarat Titans in Qualifier-1 of the IPL in Chennai on Tuesday.
Gill, who almost single-handedly knocked out a star-studded Royal Challengers Bangalore with a century for the keeps, has overshadowed Virat Kohli and will certainly force one of India’s greatest captains to go back to the drawing board and make plans for him.
Gill is in the midst of a dream season and what will be Dhoni’s tactical ploy to stop the dashing ‘Mohali Marauder’ is there to be seen.
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This season, Gujarat Titans haven’t played at the Chepauk, which hasn’t behaved in a singular manner during CSK’s seven home games and that prompted head coach Stephen Fleming to raise apprehensions about what to expect.
What makes this battle even more interesting is the fact that GT is a team that seems closest to being a proto-type of what CSK had been all these years in IPL.
A solid management and an administration team that stays in the background and never interferes in cricketing matters, which is left to the trio of Ashish Nehra, Gary Kirsten and Vikram Solanki.
A captain, who swears that his understanding of leadership is cut from Dhoni’s ‘captaincy cloth’, and head coach Nehra, who just like his former teammate doesn’t believe in too many changes even if a couple of games go wrong.
They don’t field players based on their auction worth — remember CSK bought Krishnappa Gowtham for nearly ₹10 crore and he got a single game as he didn’t fit the combination.
Similarly, GT has current India T20 pacer Shivam Mavi on its roster for a whopping ₹6 crore but the team management has preferred veteran Mohit Sharma, who is executing the slower deliveries beautifully. It’s all about who fits what role.
So, it becomes more interesting when two teams with similar philosophy are pitted against each other.
The teams which don’t make long-term promises that are difficult to fulfil but focus on immediate process and know the roles of players required for slots.
For Gujarat, tackling the slowness of the Chepauk track will be a challenge and how well they negotiate Deepak Chahar’s powerplay overs and Matheesha Pathirana’s slingers at the back-end, will determine the outcome of the match.
And herein, Pandya and Nehra will find Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanaka’s inputs handy as he has handled both Pathirana and spinner Maheesh Theekshana for the national team.
While Shanaka might be used more as an all-rounder, Titans depending on the toss can also try out left-arm spinner R Sai Kishore, who knows these conditions well.
There is a chance that Irishman Joshua Little will be back in playing XI in place of Shanaka and Sai Kishore comes in place of Yash Dayal, who is yet to get back his confidence after the five sixes assault on him by his statemate Rinku Singh.
For CSK, a good start by the crack pair of Devon Conway and Ruturaj Gaikwad will be important. But at the Chepauk, even Ajinkya Rahane could become a factor while Shivam Dube would love to add to his 33 sixes for the season.
Conway and Gaikwad have provided brisk and substantial starts for CSK, but the middle order hasn’t exactly got going. With GT bowling led by Mohammed Shami and Rashid Khan (24 wickets each so far) things won’t be easy for the home team’s batters, Conway and Gaikwad included.
How the CSK opening duo handles the relentless Shami may prove vital and it would be important for the under-performing middle-order to step up in a crunch game.
The pitches at Chepauk so far have been a bit up and down, with a few being slow in nature while some have been good to bat on. CSK head coach Fleming said as much after the win over Delhi Capitals, claiming that the team is unsure about the conditions (at home).
If a sluggish pitch is rolled out for the match, the spinners in the two teams would have a huge part to play. If CSK has Ravindra Jadeja, Moeen Ali and Theekshana, the Titans boast of a line-up that includes Rashid and Noor Ahmad.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (c/wk), Akash Singh, Moeen Ali, Bhagath Varma, Deepak Chahar, Devon Conway, Tushar Deshpande, Shivam Dube, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Ravindra Jadeja, Sisanda Magala, Ajay Mandal, Matheesha Pathirana, Dwaine Pretorius, Ajinkya Rahane, Shaik Rasheed, Ambati Rayudu, Mitchell Santner, Subhranshu Senapati, Simarjeet Singh, Nishant Sindhu, Prashant Solanki, Maheesh Theekshana.
Gujarat Titans: Hardik Pandya (c), Shubman Gill, David Miller, Abhinav Manohar, Sai Sudharsan, Wriddhiman Saha, Matthew Wade, Rashid Khan, Rahul Tewatia, Vijay Shankar, Mohammed Shami, Alzarri Joseph, Yash Dayal, Pradeep Sangwan, Darshan Nalkande, Jayant Yadav, R. Sai Kishore, Noor Ahmad, Dasun Shanaka, Odean Smith, KS Bharat, Shivam Mavi, Urvil Patel, Joshua Little and Mohit Sharma.
Match starts at 7.30 p.m.