All eyes on IPL, battle royale between CSK & MI

Chennai: The much-awaited 13th edition of the premier T20 tournament, Indian Premier League (IPL) kicks off in UAE from today. And the champions Mumbai Indians (MI) take on the experienced Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the opener at 7.30 pm.

The afternoon matches will begin at 3:30 pm IST and evening matches will start at 7:30 pm IST. The match timings have been preponed by half an hour this season.

With Covid-19 threat on in India, the BCCI chose to hold the tourney in UAE amidst safety protocols. All the players of eight franchises have landed in UAE few weeks ago. After safety standard protocol rules, quarantine and mandatory tests, all have hit the ground for training.

Bio-bubble, social distancing, no saliva on balls, no spectators in stadium and periodic corona tests for players and staff members of the franchises have made this IPL unique and interesting to watch out for.

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) captain Virat Kohli emphasised that those involved in the IPL 2020 have come to grips with the bio-bubble that has been set up in host nation UAE. He also added that the intensity levels of the side would not drop during the IPL 2020 just because there would be no crowds.

Former Indian skipper Sunil Gavaskar said, “It’s an absolute delight to welcome back Indian cricket with the IPL and I hope this tournament can infuse positive energy into the lives of millions of people”.

“It has been the perfect platform to unearth talent and I hope this year too, we get to see that. The teams are stacked up really well and all eyes will be on the opening game between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings,” he added.

Three-time winner CSK take on defending champion and four-time winners Mumbai Indians at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi tomorrow. Much of the focus in the IPL will be on former India skipper MS Dhoni. Dhoni last played competitive cricket during the 2019 ICC World Cup where India reached the semifinals. On August 15, he announced his retirement from international cricket, thus bringing an end to a stellar career lasting more than 15 years.

“We will be watching MS Dhoni play after a year, and am sure everyone is waiting to see him back in action,” said Gavaskar.

CSK must be feeling the pinch following pullouts by the senior duo of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh due to personal reasons. While Ambati Rayudu and Shane Watson are expected to open the innings, Faf du Plessis can come in at No 3 followed by Dhoni, Madhav, Jadeja and Bravo.

CSK has been a spin heavy team and will go in with three specialist tweakers. Mitchell Santner and Piyush Chawla are the specialists in contention for first XI spots and they will have Jadeja for company. Lungi Ngidi and Deepak Chahar, who has recovered from COVID-19, are the frontline pacers who are expected to start.

Mumbai Indians Captain Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock will be opening the batting despite the franchise recruiting explosive Australian opener Chris Lynn for this season, coach Mahela Jayawardene said. Rohit and De Kock made a formidable opening pair last season as MI won their fourth title. The side has explosive stars like Pollard and Hardik. There is Bumrah to threaten batsmen. But they would miss the services of experienced Lasith Malinga, who pulled out of the tourney.

Sport-lovers are excited for the next 60 days it would non-stop competitive cricket involving big teams and big names. To watch the likes of ABD, Warner, Maxwell, Morgan, Dhawan, Rahul, Miller and more play is a delight, say fans.

While many predict Mumbai as favourites, a few bet their money on young Delhi side. And don’t forget there is Kolkata Knight Riders and the talented Sunrisers Hyderabad ready for the big test, say many.

 

NT Bureau