Returning to the fray after serving out a two-year suspension, two-time winners Chennai Super Kings will take on reigning champions Mumbai Indians in the tournament opener of the Indian Premier League in Mumbai on Saturday. The much-anticipated clash, expected to be watched by a capacity crowd at the Wankhede Stadium, looks set to raise the curtains on the decade-old T20 League in grand style after a formal opening ceremony.
MI, led by Rohit Sharma, appear to face an arduous task against the star-studded Chennai side, led by their charismatic skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni who is back at the helm following the team's two-year ban in 2016 and 2017 IPL seasons along with Rajasthan Royals.
The visitors would surely like to begin their campaign with a bang against their arch-rivals in the latter's backyard. To give an extra dimension to the contest will be the sight of veteran offie Harbhajan Singh turning out in CSK yellows against a side which he served with distinction for ten long years.
Mumbai will bank on their skipper Sharma, who has kept the number of his batting position under wraps for this game, but his role will be crucial. Rohit has showed that when he gets going then no bowling attack can stop him in the limited over formats and he would hope for a big knock in the first game to boost his and the team's confidence.
Apart from him, they have a good batting line up with the likes of West Indians Elvin Lewis and Kieron Pollard, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Siddesh Lad.
The role of Pandya brothers Hardik and Krunal as all-rounders will also be crucial. But this time Mumbai will miss the services of not only Harbhajan but also pacer Lasith Malinga as a player although the Sri Lankan continues his association with the hosts as their bowling mentor.
Mumbai also have one of the finest death bowlers currently in the world in Jasprit Bumrah. Coach Mahela Jayawardene would expect other bowlers like Australian Pat Cummins, Bangladesh pacer Mustafizur Rahman to deliver and aid Bumrah.
Mumbai's spin department is inexperienced with young spinners Rahul Chahar, Anukul Roy and Sri Lankan Akila Dananjaya expected to deliver the goods on a track expected to provide spin as well as bounce.
On the eve of the game, MI skipper Sharma said that whichever team handles the pressure well, will come out victorious.
The CSK and MI share a great bond and a great rivalry over the years. Again not expecting anything, it will be the same again, both the teams will be fighting very hard in that first game and whoever will absorb the pressure will win the game, Sharma said yesterday.
Chennai, on the other hand, have a more settled team as they have retained their core players like Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja. They also have other experienced players in Murali Vijay, Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, South African Faf Du Plessis, Sam Billings and Shane Watson to share the burden.
On the bowling front, Harbhajan, Karn Sharma and Mumbai and India pacer Shardul Thakur are well versed with the conditions at the Wankhede.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (C), Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Mustafizur Rahman, Pat Cummins, Suryakumar Yadav, Krunal Pandya, Ishan Kishan, Rahul Chahar, Evin Lewis, Saurabh Tiwary, Ben Cutting, Pradeep Sangwan, Jean-Paul Duminy, Tajinder Singh, Sharad Lumba, Siddhesh Lad, Aditya Tare, Mayank Markande, Akila Dananjaya, Anukul Roy, Mohsin Khan, MD Nidheesh, Mitchell McClenaghan.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (C), Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Faf du Plessis, Harbhajan Singh, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Kedar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu, Deepak Chahar, KM Asif, Kanishk Seth, Lungi Ngidi, Dhruv Shorey, Murali Vijay, Sam Billings, Mark Wood, Kshitiz Sharma, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma, Shardul Thakur, N Jagadeesan.
(With PTI Inputs)