Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK), the two most successful Indian Premier League franchises (in terms of titles won), will clash in the first match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021's second leg in Dubai on Sunday. Roughly three months after the first leg was suspended due to breach in the bio-secure bubble, the season returns to much fanfare -- quite literally -- as spectators will return to stadium for the first time in IPL since 2019.
In a blockbuster resumption, the second-placed Chennai Super Kings will eye displacing Delhi Capitals at the top of the table, while Mumbai Indians will eye more consistency and aim for a repeat of their previous season in the UAE, when they lifted the title.
While CSK are second on the points table with five wins from seven matches - 10 points - MI are fourth with four wins -- eight points -- from seven games.
Over the past many seasons, MI have started slowly but ramped up their performance towards the end of the tournament.
In the ongoing season, they seemed to have got into dominating phase in the sixth and seventh matches before Covid-19 brought the tournament to a halt. It will now be interesting to see how they start afresh.
MI's two key Indian players -- Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah -- have just returned from the Test series against England and how quickly they acclimatise to conditions is going to have a bearing on the performance of their team.
For CSK, Shardul Thakur will turn up with renewed confidence having churned out a match-winning performance in the fourth Test that India won at The Oval.
CSK could have the edge as they will be rested and better prepared.
Opening batsman Faf du Plessis will again be vital at the top along with Ruturaj Gaikwad. The South African batsman is the third highest run-getter in the league with 320 runs from seven matches at an average of 64.
In the duel in the first leg, Mumbai Indians came out winners by four wickets. Although CSK scored 218/4 in 20 overs in Delhi with half-centuries from Moeen Ali, du Plessis and Ambati Rayudu, MI rode unbeaten 87 off 34 balls to win on the last ball of the match.
Knowing the power-hitting strength and batting depth of the two teams, a high-scoring match could be likely.
The match and the remaining matches will also be a chance for Rohit to strengthen his credentials as a capable captain.
A lot of focus will be on him as he will be against a team led by arguably India's best short-format skipper, MS Dhoni.
Venue: Dubai International Stadium, Dubai
Time: 7:30 PM (IST)
Chennai Super Kings: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, Shardul Thakur, Lungi Ngidi, Deepak Chahar, Imran Tahir, Faf du Plessis, Robin Uthappa, Karn Sharma, Josh Hazlewood, Jason Behrendorff, Krishnappa Gowtham, Mitchell Santner, Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore, Hari Nishanth, N Jagadeesan, Cheteshwar Pujara, KM Asif, Harishankar Reddy, Bhagath Varma
Mumbai Indians: Quinton de Kock (wk), Rohit Sharma (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Rahul Chahar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult, Adam Milne, Jayant Yadav, Chris Lynn, Piyush Chawla, Dhawal Kulkarni, Saurabh Tiwary, Aditya Tare, Roosh Kalaria, James Neesham, Anmolpreet Singh, Anukul Roy, Arjun Tendulkar, Marco Jansen, Yudhvir Singh
(With inputs from IANS)