While Mumbai Indians haven’t had much to worry about except Lasith Malinga’s decision to pull out off the tournament citing personal reasons, Chennai have unfortunately been in the news for too many non-cricketing reasons. First, there was a massive scare in the CSK camp as 13 members, including two players, tested positive. Then, Suresh Raina, followed by Harbhajan Singh, decided to pull out off the edition, wanting to be with their family. While MS Dhoni has maintained calm amid the storm, it remains to be seen how the developments affect the franchise’s on-field performance.
Also, while CSK have been among the most consistent sides in IPL history, they have invariably come second against Mumbai in the much-admired rivalry. In fact, last season, Chennai lost all their three encounters against Mumbai Indians, who won the crown for a record fourth time. CSK would thus be keen to improve on their showing against MI, preferably with a victory in the opener.
In the absence of Raina, CSK will heavily depend on the likes of stalwarts Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni himself. They will have their task cut out against Mumbai though who have plethora of match-winners like Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya. In the bowling department Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult and James Pattinson should form a lethal trio. Chennai have an edge in the spin-bowling department though with Imran Tahir and Mitchell Santner. Mumbai do no possess the same quality of slow bowlers.
CSK Probable XI: Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (C&WK), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Imran Tahir, Deepak Chahar, Piyush Chawla, Shardul Thakur
MI Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (C), Quinton de Kock (WK), Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Chahar, James Pattinson, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi has traditionally aided slow bowling. Being the first match of the season though batsmen would hope for some respite
Weather in Abu Dhabi on Saturday is predicted to be bright and sunny. Temperature will be between 30-37 degrees Celsius and humidity around 49 per cent.