IPL4 gets under way with champs CSK against underachievers KKR

Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni of Chennai Super Kings in action

By Jamie Alter

 

Chennai:  Apr 8, 2011

 

Not even a week after India sparked mass euphoria by winning the World Cup, national captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will strive to lift another trophy when he leads a star-studded Super Kings into the money-spinning T20 tournament. It is time, thus, to throw off the India blue and put on the Chennai yellow, if you’re a Dhoni fan.

 

The nucleus of Dhoni’s team remains the same. Chennai’s owners forked out the big bucks to retain Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Murali Vijay, Subramanian Badrinath, Shadab Jakati, Michael Hussey, Doug Bollinger and Albie Morkel. More than any other team, Chennai will be the most familiar with each other. To boot, they have the likes of Tim Southee and Nuwan Kulasekara in their bowling ranks, as well as the veteran New Zealand all-rounder Scott Styris. Dwayne Bravo’s fitness is being monitored.

 

The batting remains solid, even though Matthew Hayden has bowed out. Murali Vijay is a fine T20 player, Raina already something of an IPL legend at No 3, followed by Dhoni and the reliable Badrinath and the explosive Morkel. Hussey is yet to link up with the squad due to his Australia commitments, but Styris is a worthy replacement. Muttiah Muralitharan’s absence is a blow, but in Ashwin and Jakati, CKS have two able spinners.

 

Chennai know all about success, having reached the final twice and won the IPL and Champions League T20 once apiece. They have a loyal fan base and the best PR campaign of the league, and look the most balanced side of the IPL. Dhoni’s stocks have risen exponentially with each season he’s captained CSK, and now that he’s the leader of a World Cup-winning side, the stakes have only increased. Yet again, CKS are the team to beat.

 

Their opponents, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), have been perennial underachievers, finishing sixth, last and sixth in their three seasons, winning no more than seven games in a single season. The lack of success prompted the management to make wholesale changes during the offseason. A new chief executive was named, Sourav Ganguly, their icon player, was dumped and superstars such as Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum and Shane Bond swapped for Gautam Gambhir, Yusuf Pathan, Jacques Kallis and Brett Lee. KKR now look very formidable with the acquisition of the aforementioned four names, who are each match-winners, and it remains to be seen who Gambhir takes over the reins from Ganguly and whether he is embraced by Kolkata’s passionate fans.

 

As over the past three seasons, KKR’s domestic players remain a worry. Manoj Tiwary and Laxmi Ratan Shukla have overall been disappointing, putting pressure on incumbents like Rajat Bhatia, Pradeep Sangwan and Manvinder Bisla to perform. Jaidev Unadkat, after shooting to international prominence, is another Indian player from whom much is expected.

 

On paper, this is a very keen contest with two star-studded teams squaring off at arguably India’s greatest cricket venue. The fact that KKR look a stronger side adds to the competitiveness, but it remains to be seen how that translates onto the field against a superb T20 side. 

 

Teams:

 

Chennai Super Kings (Probable): Murali Vijay, Abhinav Mukund,  Suresh Raina, Subramanian Badrinath, MS Dhoni (c&wk), Scott Styris, Albie Morkel, Shadab Jakati, Yo Mahesh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Doug Bollinger.

 

Kolkata Knight Riders (Probable): Gautam Gambhir (c), Manvinder Bisla, Jacques Kallis, Eoin Morgan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Jaidev Unadkat, Laxmipathy Balaji, Iqbal Abdullah.

 

Time: 20.00 local (14.30 GMT)

 

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine. His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now. His twitter handle is @jamie_alter)

 

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