The first promo from the broadcaster Star Sports for this year’s Indian Premier League featured Rishabh Pant telling MS Dhoni, his idol and the man who made him pursue the dream of becoming a wicketkeeper-batsman, that he will “make Captain Cool lose his cool. I am coming to show my game to you, Mahi Bhai.”
And if Pant’s blitzkrieg on Sunday at the Wankhede Stadium against Mumbai Indians is anything to go by, we should be in for a treat at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Tuesday.
Make no mistake, the shrewd tactician that is Dhoni will already be plotting a way to stop Pant’s fireworks when Chennai Super Kings face Delhi Capitals in the fifth match of the season.
It will be a battle where experience will be pitted against youth and astuteness will square off against flamboyance when Dhoni faces his heir apparent on what is expected to be a sluggish Feroz Shah Kotla track – the kind CSK and their skipper thrive on.
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Pant has once again set the tone for this IPL campaign with a magnificent 78 off 27 balls in Delhi Capitals’ 37-run away win against Mumbai Indians.
CSK, with their experience of winning important moments, will certainly make Capitals wary. The defending champions will be a different challenge for the Capitals, who don’t have an enviable record against Dhoni’s men at their home ground.
It is also worth noting that the rest of the Delhi top-order struggled against MI, and Shreyas Iyer and Co would be looking to get among the runs against CSK.
The nature of the Kotla track does make CSK the favourites, with their spin troika of Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja and Imran Tahir having already hit the straps in the low-scoring opener against the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
A look at Pant’s track record indicates that he has had problems against slow bowlers and Dhoni, who has seen enough of the youngster, will love to exploit the chinks in his armoury. The Kotla pitch, which gets slower with passage of play, might force Dhoni to start with his pacers and keep Harbhajan and Tahir for the overs when Pant is expected to be in action.
Harbhajan, after his man of the match performance against RCB, will be relishing the challenge of bowling to a left-handed batsman, who loves to play his shots. Having disposed off Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in the first match, ‘The Turbanator’ won’t mind showing Pant the dug-out way.
While CSK will expect their batsmen to score more freely at the Kotla than they could manage during their laborious run-chase in the opener, Capitals would want their opening bowlers Trent Boult and Ishant Sharma to be a bit more economical.
As both teams have started their campaign on a winning note, there is an added edge to what was already going to be a highly-anticipated clash.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (captain & wk), Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Murali Vijay, Kedar Jadhav, Sam Billings, Ravindra Jadeja, Dhruv Shorey, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Rituraj Gaikwad, Dwayne Bravo, Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Santner, Shardul Thakur, Mohit Sharma, KM Asif, David Willey, Deepak Chahar, N Jagadeesan (wk).
Delhi Capitals: Colin Ingram, Manjot Karla, Prithvi Shaw, Sherfane Rutherford, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Amit Mishra, Avesh Khan, Bandaru Ayyappa, Harshal Patel, Ishant Sharma, Kasigo Rabada, Nathu Singh, Sandeep Lamichhane, Trent Boult, Axar Patel, Chris Morris, Colin Munro, Hanuma Vihari, Jalaj Saxena, Keemo Paul, Rahul Tewatia, Ankush Bains and Rishabh Pant.
Match starts at 8 pm.
(With PTI inputs)