Dubai: If there was any doubt that the lack of fans may dampen the spirit of the Indian Premier League 2020, then the lung opener between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings dispelled it in no uncertain terms. There was no let-up in intensity as Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men showed a typical resilience to put an early win under their belt at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Saturday evening.
The records will say that Chennai, who lost both their openers Shane Watson and a rusty Murali Vijay with only six runs on the board, rode a brilliant 100-plus run parternership between Faf du Plessis and Ambati Rayudu to chase down a challenging target of 163 and win by five wickets. What the scoreboard will never say is how the three-time champions fought tremendous odds ever since Dhoni and the bunch of Indian players set foot in Dubai in the third week of August.
- IPL 2020 in UAE: Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings in pictures
- IPL 2020 in UAE: Steve Smith, Jofra Archer, Eoin Morgan and David Warner arrive in UAE
- IPL 2020 in UAE: Fans in Dubai enjoy opener between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings
- IPL 2020 in UAE: Cool runnings from Delhi Capitals and Kings XI Punjab
First, there was the disturbing news of two of their players - Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaekwad and more than 10 members of the support staff testing positive. Then the sudden departure of Suresh Raina, considered the 'Chinna thala' (deputy leader) of the team, under somewhat controversial circumstances and the pullout of senior spinner Harbhajan Singh were quite a body blow to the 'Yelloves' family.
Things came to such a pass that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decided to hold back to their release of the fixtures - not being sure if the former champions will be ready to play the opening match - customarily scheduled between the defending champions and the runner-up. No prizes for guessing, Dhoni - who kept a low profile ever since arriving here on the back of his international retirement - provided the team management the moral support to stick to their plans and go ahead.
Getting back to Saturday's action, Mumbai, the four-time champions who has the reputation of notorious slow starters - proved to be no different again. After getting off to a flying start with captain Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock adding 46 runs for the first wicket inside five overs, the chubby leggie Piyush Chawla foxed Rohit as the flamboyant batsman mistimed his drive to chip the ball straight to mid-off.
From there onwards, the Mumbai Paltans kept on losing wickets at regular intervals and could still manage a challenging target of 163 - largely due to a sledgehammer partnership of 44 runs between Suryakumar Yadav and Sourav Tiwary. However, they still were ''20 to 25 runs short," in the words of their captain and did well to drag the match to the last over.
Over to Match No.2 then, when Delhi Capitals play against Kings XI Punjab at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.