The first season finalists will take a go at each other as the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings meet at the Wankhede Stadium in what will be these two sides’ 24th meet. The start of the season did not bore fruits for either of the sides as the Delhi Capitals mauled the Super Kings before the latter gave quite a similar treatment to the Punjab Kings.
But it has been that kind of a season so far for Dhoni’s men: all or nothing. During their 7-wicket beating against Delhi, the only part they looked at in the game was a phase they made a reputation to be the biggest strugglers of (read: middle-overs). Bolstered by the presence of Suresh Raina, the side showed good intent and broke a pattern to emerge well out of the tricky phase that had become their Achilles heel last season. But for the remaining game time, it was a case of a feeble deer trying to run for its life against a voracious lion.
The table turned against Punjab, where the CSK of the old seemed back. Dominant, fierce, brutal, and ruthless. It took only four overs for their bowling attack – or rather Deepak Chahar – that was taken apart by the Shaw-Dhawan duo the other night mercilessly, to leave the Kings panting and gasping for breath. And had it not been for a valiant effort from a young, uncapped No.6 batsman in Shahrukh Khan, they might have imposed the embarrassment of surrendering for a sub-100 total on their opposition.
‘Lack of intent’ was the moot point in every discussion involving Chennai in 2020, and while a conscious effort has been visible in the approach of Raina, Faf du Plessis, and Moeen Ali across CSK’s two games thus far, the same has been missing in Ruturaj Gaikwad – the same player who was the one to instead show intent in the previous season, when he battled with COVID-19, recovered, got a string of low-scores, and followed that with a string of half-centuries to paint a promising picture.
His two lean outings notwithstanding, Gaikwad has got the backing of the team management and the coach Stephen Fleming, who was clear in his articulation as he conveyed the team’s “we back our players” philosophy.
Chennai’s opponents on Monday, the Royals, have been a drum over-brimming with drama. They started their campaign with a dramatic last-ball defeat against Punjab Kings, who pulled of a heist in the face of skipper Sanju Samson’s destructive 63-ball 119. The Royals had a heist of their own against the Delhi Capitals, when a Ben Stokes-less top-order produced returns of 2, 9, 4, 2 before David Miller steadied them and the league’s most expensive buy, Chris Morris, bailed his team out of some serious trouble and took them across the line in a chase that had seemed a distant dream once.
Stokes’ absence has given Jos Buttler a go at the top, and while not just him but the entire order of Rajasthan fell for nothing in the previous game, they would not want to leave things until the last over in every game. So far, that has been their story.
Pitch and conditions
The Wankhede track has produced contrasting results in the outing so far. Two high-scoring encounters followed by two low-scoring thrillers with plenty of early wickets for both sides. If a similar sticky wicket is on the offering, things might continue the same way contrary to the popular reputation of a batting paradise that the venue is known to be.
Playing Combinations for CSK vs RR
Chennai Super Kings
Chennai did not have either Lungi Ngidi or Jason Behrendorff available in the previous game, although their coach Fleming informed that the former is going to come in the side soon. It remains to be seen if he features on Monday.
Predicted XI: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Faf Du Plessis, Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (C and WK), Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Sam Curran, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar
The additions of Jayadev Unadkat and Mustafizur Rahman bore instant results for Rajasthan. A change in their combination seems unlikely.
Predicted XI: Jos Buttler, Manan Vohra, Sanju Samson (C & WK), Shivam Dube, David Miller, Riyan Parag, Chris Morris, Rahul Tewatia, Jayadev Unadkat, Chetan Sakariya, Mustafizur Rahman
CSK VS RR Head to Head
Played – 23 | Rajasthan Royals – 9 | Chennai Super Kings – 14 | N/R – 0
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