In the IPL’s inaugural edition in 2008, M.S. Dhoni was the only wicketkeeper to lead a side. On Saturday, his opposing number will be a fellow gloveman whom he has inspired and mentored.
When Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings begins its campaign against Rishabh Pant’s Delhi Capitals at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, the limelight would perhaps be more on the young skipper than the ageing lion. Pant’s brutal onslaught across formats over the last four months has been a feature of andhar bahar game’s success. He will be hoping to repeat his heroics, leading his IPL franchise for the first time, in Shreyas Iyer’s absence.
Dhoni may not mind the spotlight being on his counterpart. The veteran knows that he has an uphill task to revive CSK’s fortunes. Had it not been for a hat-trick of wins at the end of last season, powered by the promising Ruturaj Gaikwad, it would have finished at the bottom of the table.
Since then, Suresh Raina, whose absence hurt the team in the UAE, has returned, while Robin Uthappa’s addition has bolstered its dodgy batting. Despite having let go of Shane Watson and Harbhajan Singh, CSK still retains many of the old guard. It will be interesting to see whether the next generation, including the likes of Sam Curran and Gaikwad, proves it can carry the legacy forward.
Despite last year’s hiccup, Super Kings will enter the tournament on a confident note. Pant’s Capitals, however, will not be able to field their best XI in their tournament-opener.
The South African pace combo of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje will be unavailable since they are serving the mandatory isolation period. All-rounder Axar Patel, recovering from COVID-19, will be missing too. The only solace Capitals have is the return of Amit Mishra to partner the veteran R. Ashwin in the spin department.