The Chennai Super Kings have built their empire on the mostly slow and spin-friendly pitches of the MA Chidambaram Stadium, where they found ways to control the pace of the fast-moving format. In 2018, their “Dad’s Army” proved that age was just a number. In 2019, they came within one ball of a repeat. But when the tournament moved to the UAE in 2020, they struggled to adapt, mainly because their squad was built for a particular set of conditions.
While IPL 2021 is being played in India, little has changed for the Super Kings with no team playing at home through the season. The Super Kings are playing their first five games at the Wankhede Stadium, where the conditions are in stark contrast to those at Chepauk. But while they lost their opening match to the Delhi Capitals despite scoring 188, they showed a glimpse of a changed approach when Moeen Ali and Suresh Raina kept playing attacking cricket despite the loss of two early wickets. They know they need more of that.
Their opponents for Friday, the Punjab Kings, began their campaign with a last-ball win against the Rajasthan Royals. Apart from the result, they ticked a few other boxes as well. KL Rahul batted freely for his 50-ball 91, Chris Gayle was also among the runs, and Deepak Hooda, promoted to No. 4, smashed 64 off just 28 balls. While their overseas fast bowlers Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith were expensive, the Punjab Kings would believe they are very close to nailing their best XI.
In the news
The Super Kings will have to manage without Lungi Ngidi and Jason Behrendorff as both remain unavailable because of quarantine rules.
Punjab Kings: 1 KL Rahul (capt, wk), 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Chris Gayle, 4 Deepak Hooda, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 Shahrukh Khan, 7 Chris Jordan, 8 Jhye Richardson, 9 Ravi Bishnoi, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Arshdeep Singh
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 2 Faf du Plessis, 3 Moeen Ali, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Ambati Rayudu, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 8 Sam Curran, 9 Dwayne Bravo, 10 Shardul Thakur, 11 Deepak Chahar
- In the Super Kings’ last game, their bowlers were taken to the cleaners by Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan. Ideally, they would like to have an out-and-out fast bowler in their XI as a wicket-taking option, but with Ngidi and Behrendorff unavailable, going with legspinner Imran Tahir may not be a bad option. Tahir could replace Faf du Plessis, and that won’t necessarily weaken their batting as they had Deepak Chahar slotted at No. 11 against the Capitals. In du Plessis’ absence, Ambati Rayudu can open with incumbent Ruturaj Gaikwad.
- Death bowling was the Achilles heel for the Punjab Kings last season. While Meredith can bowl at a fierce pace, Chris Jordan is a more proven customer and can pair with Arshdeep Singh at the death. Plus, Jordan also provides the lower-order batting cushion that the Punjab Kings need; their batting ability could otherwise nosedive after No. 6.
Stats that matter
- 91, 91, 100*, 94. Those are KL Rahul’s last four T20 scores at the Wankhede Stadium. Overall, in seven T20s innings at this venue, Rahul has 428 runs at an average of 71.33 and a strike rate of 152.85.
- In the two matches played at the Wankhede stadium so far this IPL, seamers have picked up 20 wickets in 56.4 overs (a wicket every 17 balls). Spinners, on the other hand, have just two scalps in 22 overs (a wicket every 66 balls). However, both seamers and spinners have conceded more than ten an over.
- Last season, the then Kings XI Punjab managed just one wicket across their two games against the Super Kings. The Super Kings trounced them by ten wickets in Dubai and by nine in Abu Dhabi.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.