It’s time, the Indian Premier League 2023 is finally here and we have got Gujarat Titans v Chennai Super Kings to kick-off the two-month extravaganza.
It’s Hardik Pandya vs MS Dhoni. We have got someone who is yet to lose a tournament/series as captain going up against an individual who has won every single trophy during his tenure with the national team and the franchise.
The Titans are the defending champions, having won the competition in their very first year of existence. Meanwhile, the Men in Yellow were all over the place last season and just managed to avoid the wooden spoon on the basis of NRR.
But let us tell you one thing, you don’t take CSK lightly. You don’t take MSD lightly. The Ravindra Jadeja-captaincy combo didn’t really work out for Chennai, meaning Dhoni had to be brought back at the helm, and it could also turn out to be his last IPL season.
This could be Thala’s Last Dance but the Titans would do everything in their power to convince everyone that the last season wasn’t a fluke, and defeating his mentor will help Pandya make an early statement.
Things to watch out for
Gill needs to fire in Miller’s absence
Gujarat’s middle-order was their biggest strength last year, with the likes of Pandya, David Miller, Rahul Tewatia and Rashid Khan accumulating close to 1200 runs between them at a strike rate of 141.9. Meanwhile, their top-order had the third-worst scoring rate (7.5) and fourth-worst average (27.4), making things more difficult for the middle-order.
Also read: Attack on Hardik Pandya's Titan(s) at your own peril
The Titans will be without Miller in their first encounter and the onus will be on Shubman Gill to take his game to the next level. The young opener, who is now an all-format player for India, has been in astonishing form in 2023 and GT would want him to carry their batting line-up.
The 23-year-old’s first job would be to get that powerplay strike rate up from 118.13 to 135-140. His strike rates in the middle (144.97) and death overs (152.94) were pretty good but Gujarat would want him to be more aggressive in the powerplay, especially with so many uncertainties around him.
Wriddhiman Saha is decent in the powerplay but gives you nothing post the restriction. On top of that, he is now 38 and you don’t know what you are going to get from him. GT did get Kane Williamson in the auction but his strike rate is always going to be a concern. The last time Gill was in Ahmedabad in coloured clothing, he smashed his maiden T20I hundred and would now be eager to start the season on a high.
Powerplay sorted, death bowling not so much
The return of Deepak Chahar will serve as a huge boost for Chennai, especially when it comes to bowling in the powerplay. Despite Mukesh Choudhary’s heroics with the new ball, CSK had the fourth-worst average (32.4) and third-worst economy rate (8.1) in the powerplay last year.
Now with Chahar back, CSK won’t have to worry about getting early wickets. The right-arm seamer, who is returning from a long-term injury, has claimed 72.8 percent of his total 59 IPL wickets in the first six overs. Since IPL 2018, no other bowler has taken more wickets in the powerplay than Chahar.
Also read: The Last Dance for Thala Dhoni's army
Chahar will boost CSK’s powerplay bowling but who operates at the death? Dwaine Pretorius is definitely one of the picks for death but apart from that? CSK’s recruitment in that department has been rather dodgy – with none of the Indian pacers – quite equipped to bowl at the death. Among all the teams, Chennai ranked the worst when it comes to death bowling, with the least number of wickets (27) at that phase, and an economy of 10.5, averaging 22.2 in IPL 2022.
Pitch and conditions
The Narendra Modi Stadium has hosted three T20s since 2022 and the batters here have scored runs at an average of 23.8 and a scoring rate of 8.1, while a wicket has fallen every 17.6 deliveries. The seamers here have way better numbers than spinners.
The fast bowlers here have operated an average of 19 and a strike rate of 14.9, while the corresponding numbers for spinners are 41.9 and 29.3 respectively. The latter (8.6) have also been more expensive compared to the pacers (7.6).
India and New Zealand were involved in a T20I encounter earlier this year and the hosts managed to bundle out Mitchell Santner and Co. for just 66 after amassing 234/4 in the first innings. What was interesting was that all of those 10 New Zealand wickets were taken by fast bowlers.
Chennai will likely have five left-handers in their batting order, meaning GT could play Jayant Yadav ahead of R Sai Kishore. The off-spinner averages 160 against right-handers in the IPL but goes at an average of 37 and an economy rate of 7.2 against left-handers. Jayant could prove to be a nice defensive option against CSK’s batting line-up.
Gujarat can’t bowl spin to Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devon Conway in the powerplay. Both of them are quality batters of spin bowling but their numbers against pace are quite dull. In T20s since 2022, Conway has a strike rate of 107.38 against pace in the powerplay, while Gaikwad strikes at 111.26.
Miller is currently on national duty and would be missing the first game. Meanwhile, Yash Dayal (lower back issue) hasn’t played any competitive cricket since October 22 last year and there’s no update on when he will be match-ready.
Gujarat Titans (predicted XI) - Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Kane Williamson, Hardik Pandya (c), Matthew Wade, Rahul Tewatia, Rashid Khan, R Sai Kishore/Jayant Yadav, Alzarri Joseph, Shivam Mavi, Mohammed Shami.
Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana and Sisanda Magala are yet to join the CSK set-up, while Mukesh Choudhary is still recovering from a back injury.
Chennai Super Kings (predicted XI) - Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devon Conway, Ben Stokes, Ambati Rayudu, Moeen Ali, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Shivam Dube/Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Deepak Chahar, Dwaine Pretorius, Simarjeet Singh.