Dubai: Friday’s clash between the Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad will see at least two keen cricketing minds at work as MS Dhoni goes up against David Warner at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, on Friday.
The former Indian skipper, who has retired from all forms of international cricket, is still a force. And the respect he commands is still evident.
In contrast, Warner has a rather weird fact against his name: the left-handed opening batsman is the first Australian cricketer in 132 years to be selected for a national team in any format without experience in first-class cricket. But, the Paddington-born, who turns 34 later this month, has endeared himself with the SRH faithful, especially during the lockdown period.
Warner was the cornerstone earlier this week as the SRH finally succeeded in getting their team combination right while registering their first triumph of this edition of the IPL — a well-deserved 15-run win against the Delhi Capitals.
While the big-hitting teen Abdul Samad came in place of Wriddhiman Saha to make the difference, it was the opening pair of Warner and Jonny Bairstow who set things moving, although a bit slow despite some clever running between the wickets.
Manish Pandey and Kane Williamson followed, with the New Zealand captain signalling his return to fitness and form with a 26-ball, 41 runs and along with it the highest strike rate for any batsman making 25 or more runs in the match.
So now that SRH have got their winning template in place, one would expect them to persist with leaving out Mohammad Nabi while including fellow Afghan Rashid Khan to lend support to Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the bowling section.
The one thing that may go against the Chennai Super Kings could be their one week away from the IPL. But such is the schedule, and the CSK side has shown they mean business as they took to the gym and the nets till Thursday morning to get ready for their match against SRH.
The CSK lot will be refreshed, no doubt, but yet they too will need to stick to a tested batting line-up, especially after the void created by the pre-tournament departure of Suresh Raina.
If Ambati Rayudu has recovered from his hamstring injury, CSK can slot him either at number 3 or 4 with Faf du Plessis — who has already crossed the 2,000-run mark in the IPL — next or they can also open with him.
Perhaps, the Kings XI Punjab fielding coach Jonty Rhodes got it absolutely right when responding to a fan tweet, the South African said: “Of course, I miss Raina. Chennai and the IPL is not the same without Mr IPL. Don’t get me wrong, no player is bigger than the game, and the IPL continues giving young Indian stars the opportunity to display their talents; but yes, I miss watching him play.”
What Chennai desperately need is a sixth bowler as Ravindra Jadeja has consistently been going for a lot of runs in the competition. If Chennai can drop a batsman and bring in Shardul Thakur, it will provide more balance to their side.