Date and time: September 19, Saturday; 19:30 IST
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings, IPL 2020 preview
A sense of uncertainty has, unsurprisingly, characterised the build-up to IPL 2020. Thirteen members of the Chennai Super Kings contingent testing positive for COVID-19 was reason enough to be concerned. It not only pushed back their scheduled start to practice but also cast a shadow over the season starting with the tournament’s most decorated fixture: Mumbai Indians against Chennai Super Kings. Adding to the suspense was the nagging wait for the official fixture release, coming a mere 13 days before the season opener. All along, however, the season had been scheduled to begin on September 19. Notwithstanding the many variables at play, that and the opening fixture have remained unaltered.
Much has changed since last December’s auction set the ball rolling for the new season, which had been scheduled to start on March 29 before the pandemic forced it to be indefinitely suspended.
At the time, Thala and Chinna Thala hadn’t officially retired from international cricket, the season was to be played in India, IPL was touted to be the stage for World T20 selection for a number of domestic and international Indian players, and life was, well, normal.
ICC’s official postponement of the T20 World Cup, scheduled to be played between October and November in Australia, opened a window in an already disrupted cricket calendar for the IPL to reschedule the season and stage the tournament outside India given the spike in coronavirus cases. UAE emerged as the most likely destination and, for the second time, is hosting the world’s biggest T20 competition. This time an entire season after staging 20 matches of IPL 2014, which had to be partly shifted out due to the general elections in India.
CSK and MI will start the season without some of their key players who have withdrawn due to personal reasons. Suresh Raina pulled out of the season and returned to India days after travelling with the CSK squad to the UAE. Harbhajan Singh, too, withdrew himself citing personal reasons, with the franchise not replacing either of their first-choice personnel as yet. For Mumbai, Lasith Malinga has opted out of the season, with reports that he wants to be with his ailing father at home in Sri Lanka. Australian pacer James Pattinson has been drafted in as Malinga’s replacement.
Such is the wealth of options in the two squads that the absence of one or two of their key players shouldn’t destabilise CSK or MI. However, it’s worth reminding that a majority of the players (in all the eight franchises) would be playing competitive cricket after a six-month shutdown enforced by the pandemic.
The prospect of MS Dhoni returning to competitive cricket is exciting, but this will be his first competitive fixture since his last international match at the World Cup in July 2019 (that’s 437 days of no competitive cricket). Not just Dhoni but how players such as Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu and others respond to high-pressure situations could dictate the results more than the conditions would under normal circumstances.
Playing coming into IPL 2020—Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Imran Tahir, Mitchell Santner, et cetera, who starred with ball or bat for their respective CPL franchises—with match practice behind them would need to shoulder more responsibility early in the season while other players potentially feel their way into competitive cricket.
These are not to suggest we won’t get a contest or the tournament might not be competitive, but it’s possible that at least some players would need time to hit their strides. Mumbai captain Rohit has suggested players will be wary of sustaining injuries coming off a lengthy break and adapting to the intensity of an IPL season with no cricket in the lead-up will be a challenge.
MI vs CSK head to head
Mumbai Indians hold an 18-12 head-to-head record against Chennai Super Kings in 30 meetings across the IPL and the Champions League T20. In the IPL, the teams share a 17-11 head-to-head record in Mumbai’s favour.
In terms of titles won, Mumbai lead Chennai by 4-3.
MI vs CSK Abu Dhabi pitch report and conditions
Pitch conditions and the weather in the UAE have, understandably, been among the major talking points in the build-up to the season. Pitches are widely expected to be conducive to spin and be on the slower side.
That might not entirely be the case, however, at least at the start of the season. Pitches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah are unused, giving curators plenty of time to water and roll them to ensure the top surface isn’t loose and the wicket offers good pace and bounce.
When a part of IPL 2014 was held in the UAE, we witnessed a mixture of above-par, par and below-par scores. CSK played two matches at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, winning and losing one each. They lost a high-scoring match in which an aggregate of 411 runs were scored; Kings XI Punjab successfully chased down CSK’s 205 for four and won with seven balls to spare.
Abu Dhabi weather forecast for September 19
A maximum of 41-degree Celsius is forecast for Saturday, with a low of 29-degree Celsius. The forecast is for clear weather with the humidity at 34 per cent.
Dew could be a factor too, in matches starting at 6pm local time, which means teams will prefer chasing. Expect the captain winning the toss to opt to field first.
MI vs CSK predicted playing 11, fantasy XI
Aussies Chris Lynn and Nathan Coulter-Nile were Mumbai Indians’ major acquisitions at last December’s IPL auction. The latter could walk straight into Mumbai’s playing 11 for the IPL 2020 opener against CSK given that he’s not just a strike bowler but also a handy batsman lower down the order, as he showed at the 2019 World Cup with a 94 against the West Indies to rescue a floundering Australian innings.
Left-arm pacer Trent Boult was traded in from Delhi Capitals, who also let go Sherfane Rutherford to the Mumbai franchise in exchange for Mayank Markande, before the auction. The MI team management face a tough choice between Boult and fellow Kiwi Mitchell McClenaghan. The rest of last season’s title-winning line-up pretty much picks itself.
Predicted Mumbai Indians playing 11: 1 Rohit Sharma (c), 2 Quinton de Kock (WK), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Ishan Kishan, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Rahul Chahar, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan
Super Kings are similarly settled, though they added Piyush Chawla, Sam Curran, Josh Hazlewood and uncapped Tamil Nadu left-arm orthodox spinner R Sai Kishore to their squad at the pre-season auction.
It’s now emerged that Sam Curran and Hazlewood would be available for selection for the fixture against MI if they clear the one mandatory test on Friday before they can start training with the rest of the CSK squad. The quarantine rules, however, vary between Emirates, with those flying to Abu Dhabi from England having to isolate themselves for six days before they can start training with their teams.
Maharashtra batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad, CSK’s chief executive officer Kasi Viswanathan told ESPNcricinfo, will be unavailable for Saturday’s IPL 2020 opener having not cleared the two mandatory COVID-19 RT-PCR tests before he’d have to undergo medical tests prior to being able to train with the squad.
With Raina absent and Gaikwad unavailable, Rayudu is likely to slot in at No. 3 with Faf du Plessis partnering Watson at the top of the order. Tahir and Santner are in a two-way battle for the overseas spinner’s slot with Chawla potentially playing ahead of Karn Sharma and as the lead spinner (in Harbhajan’s absence) after being bought by the franchise for Rs 6.75 crore.
Predicted Chennai Super Kings playing 11: 1 MS Dhoni (c & WK), 2 Shane Watson, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Mitchell Santner, 10 Deepak Chahar, 11 Shardul Thakur
Fantasy team line-up: 1 Rohit Sharma (c), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Shane Watson, 4 Kieron Pollard (vice-captain), 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Jasprit Bumrah, 10 Rahul Chahar, 11 Deepak Chahar
MI vs CSK match prediction
Mumbai hold a psychological edge over Chennai since Rohit Sharma took over as captain midway through IPL 2013. They won each of the teams’ four meetings in IPL 2019, repeating a feat they had managed in the 2013 season, when they won their first title. But with a majority of the core players in the two sides returning to competitive cricket after a six-month hiatus, an even contest is likely.