Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will aim to maintain its winning streak when it hosts Rajasthan Royals (RR) in an IPL 2023 match at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium here on Wednesday.
M. S. Dhoni can afford to smile ahead of his 200th IPL match as CSK captain after the seven-wicket demolition of Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium last Saturday, amid fitness setbacks to all-rounders Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali.
Deepak Chahar’s hamstring surrendered during the MI clash, but left-arm spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Mitchell Santner revelled with five wickets between them. Under-fire seamer Tushar Deshpande made amends, and Ajinkya Rahane smashed a sublime fifty on his CSK debut.
While Chahar is expected to face a lengthy break, Jadeja confirmed on Tuesday that Stokes will return in “four-five days”. Consequently, Dhoni could rope in an additional spinner at home. If available, Sri Lankan off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana – the leading T20 spinner (36 wickets) in the PowerPlay since 2021 – can deftly replace Chahar. Moeen, who has recovered from a stomach bug, is likely to start after bagging four wickets in the previous match in Chennai.
Meanwhile, CSK’s dominant Chepauk record will witness its first stern test of the season as the Royals hop in after thrashing Delhi Capitals by 57 runs. MI is the only visiting team to have trumped CSK (thrice) in the last 20 games at the venue.
Royals left-armer Trent Boult is the kryptonite to CSK opener Ruturaj Gaikwad, who has often sheathed an erratic middle-order with his blazing starts. Boult has dismissed Gaikwad thrice in four meetings, averaging 7.33; his pacy outswing could also test Gaikwad’s partner Devon Conway early on. The left-handed Kiwi has been troubled with the moving ball, exploited smartly in CSK’s season opener by Gujarat Titans’ Mohammad Shami and MI’s Jason Behrendorff in the last game.
Furthermore, local expert Ravichandran Ashwin and an in-form Yuzvendra Chahal will nag CSK in the middle-overs.
While inconsistencies linger in the batting, the Royals’ top order can threaten the spin-heavy Super Kings. Captain Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal form the best IPL top-three against spin since 2020, with a combined strike rate of 151.11.
Buttler remains the main threat and CSK does not possess proven artillery to take him down. The fiery opener’s IPL strike-rate shoots over 145 for left-arm spin and off-spin. Leg-spin has often kept Buttler quiet – 11 dismissals at an average of 26.81.
The same holds for Samson against wrist-spinners – the googly being his nemesis over the last few seasons. On Saturday, DC wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav dismissed Samson for a four-ball duck, his only delivery to the Kerala batter being a wrong’un that induced a mistimed slog to the long-on fielder. CSK’s only option is leg-spinner Prashant Solanki, who had a long bowling session in the nets on Monday. Solanki’s last IPL game for CSK was against the Royals in 2022, when he registered figures of 2/20.
Barring the ODI between India and Australia at Chepauk in March, recent white-ball games at the venue have witnessed appreciable bounce, with the ball skidding onto the bat. CSK’s 12-run win against Lucknow Super Giants last week bore a match aggregate of 422 runs – a record high in Chennai in 13 years.
Jadeja expects the surface to play on similar lines. “It was not like a typical Chennai wicket where the ball was keeping low and turning square. I’m hoping that this will also play the same, but it might be a little bit on the slower side,” he remarked.
The spin riches of both sides could hence come to the fore to make the contest something more than two sessions of slog-hitting.
CSK: MS Dhoni (c), Devon Conway, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ambati Rayudu, Subhranshu Senapati, Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Dwaine Pretorius, Mitchell Santner, Ravindra Jadeja, Tushar Deshpande, Mukesh Chowdhary, Matheesha Pathirana, Simarjeet Singh, Deepak Chahar, Prashant Solanki, Maheesh Theekshana, Ajinkya Rahane, Ben Stokes, Shaik Rasheed, Nishant Sindhu, Kyle Jamieson, Ajay Mandal, Bhagath Varma.
RR: Sanju Samson (c), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shimron Hetmyer, Devdutt Padikkal, Jos Buttler, Dhruv Jurel, Riyan Parag, Prasidh Krishna, Trent Boult, Obed McCoy, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Sen, Kuldip Yadav, R Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, KC Cariappa, Jason Holder, Donovan Ferreira, Kunal Rathore, Adam Zampa, KM Asif, Murugan Ashwin, Akash Vashisht, Abdul P A, Joe Root.