At some point across these next two months, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is going to walk out to bat at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
And that particular scene — which you’ve already envisioned now — is automatically going to find itself in the Top 10 moments in IPL history.
There is epic, and there is EPIC. The cheer Dhoni will receive from his Chennai crowd when he strides out to bat at Chepauk is going to be epic in a way we’ve never ever witnessed before.
Just how loud will the cheer be? We got a little glimpse of it last week, at the Chepauk, when CSK opened a couple of stands and allowed the fans to witness the practice sessions.
The anticipated cheer is essentially going to be this x 1000. No exaggeration, given now that the eternally-sealed stands at the venue have been opened.
So, that’s there.
And oh, yes, it is Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) who CSK will be taking on tomorrow.
Damn it, MS. You’re not supposed to be bigger than the game but we can’t help ourselves.
Things to watch out for
Will CSK find comfort at home?
Home domination has been the cornerstone of CSK’s success and them getting to play at Chepauk is why many had them making the Top 4. Historically, the venue’s been a fortress for the Super Kings. They tend to win five or six of their seven home games and eventually end up making the playoffs owing to the same.
Undoubtedly, Chennai would be delighted to be back home but there’s also pressure attached to all the Chepauk matches, for CSK have to win them. Not for the first time, their side’s been specifically built for the spin-friendly conditions of Chepauk so Dhoni’s men, really, can’t afford to slip up at home if they have playoff ambitions.
Many have been willing to give them the benefit of doubt post the GT loss but doubts will start to arise should they also get beaten in their own backyard.
Mark Wood’s workload management
Let us make something clear — there is absolutely zero chance that Mark Wood plays all 14 league games. Nada.
It’ll be safe to assume that he’ll be rested for at least four or five matches, if not more, but what will be interesting to see is how LSG manage him.
Do they play him as much as they can in the first half, secure the Ws and use him sporadically in the second, or do they take no risks and never give him more than two games in a row? Or do they play him according to the venue and conditions?
Should it turn out to be venue-specific, then you feel it’ll only make sense to rest him at Chepauk, where spin rules the roost.
But then again this Mark Wood, no ordinary pacer, so why would you want to rest him in the form he’s in, with having just bowled one of the best spells of fast bowling ever seen in the IPL?
A tricky call awaits the Super Giants.
Pitch and conditions
No IPL games have been played at the Chepauk in four years but we know this: it is a spinner’s paradise.
The last time the IPL was played at the Chepauk, in 2019, spinners accounted for 61.20% of the wickets to fall — by some distance the highest proportion for the slower bowlers at any venue. The second-most spin-friendly venue in IPL 2019 was Delhi but there, the tweakers accounted for only 49.40% of the wickets.
Different formats, but in the last international game played at Chepauk — the third ODI between India and Australia two weeks ago — spinners ended up picking 66.66% of the wickets.
Both CSK and LSG, who have plenty of spin options at their disposal, will certainly be licking their lips heading into this clash.
Chepauk, in IPL 2019, also proved to be a very low-scoring venue. The average batting-first score at the venue of 144 was the lowest among all grounds.
> Against DC, Lucknow used Krishnappa Gowtham as an impact substitute but there’s every reason in the world for the franchise to start with him on Monday, in place of Jaydev Unadkat. Not only because of the Chepauk factor but also due to CSK having as many as five left-handers in their Top seven. Instead, LSG can look at someone like an Amit Mishra being an impact sub. It is worth noting that Mishra, in his IPL career, has taken 11 wickets in eight matches at Chepauk at an average of 16.6 and ER of 6.5.
> Moeen Ali taking the new ball for CSK, against Kyle Mayers, should be a no-brainer. Mayers possess brute power but the southpaw has a hideous record against off-spinners, averaging 23.3, striking at 97.8 and being dismissed a staggering 15 times. In the powerplay, the SR drops further to 92.5. Considering just how well Moeen has fared against left-handers in T20s of late (30 wickets @ ER 6.4 since 2021) it’d almost be a blunder to not start with him against Mayers.
Considering it’s Chepauk, expect both sides to add an extra spinner to their ranks, either as an impact sub or by taking the spot of an Indian seamer. Hence expect Gowtham, Mishra, Prashant Solanki and Nishant Sindhu to all be in contention to play.
As far as availability is concerned, CSK and LSG will continue to be without the services of Maheesh Theekshana and Quinton de Kock respectively.
CSK likely XI: Devon Conway, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ben Stokes, Ambati Rayudu, Moeen Ali, Ravindra Jadeja, Shivam Dube, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Mitchell Santner, Deepak Chahar, Rajvardhan Hangargekar
Likely impact sub: Nishant Sindhu / Prashant Solanki for Ambati Rayudu (or vice-versa)
LSG likely XI: KL Rahul (c), Kyle Mayers, Marcus Stoinis, Deepak Hooda, Krunal Pandya, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Ayush Badoni, Mark Wood, Krishnappa Gowtham, Ravi Bishnoi, Avesh Khan
Likely impact sub: Amit Mishra for Kyle Mayers or Ayush Badoni