Sights firmly set on a hat-trick of titles, defending champions Chennai Super Kings will open their campaign against last year's Champions League Twenty20 winner Mumbai Indians in the inaugural match of the Indian Premier League V here tomorrow.
The season's lung opener at the M A Chidambaram stadium could not have got any better as two of the strongest teams in the tournament will set the tone for the high-octane Twenty20 tournament over the next eight weeks.
Banking on their home advantage which enabled them to win back-to-back titles, the Chennai outfit, led by talismanic Mahendra Singh Dhoni, will be hoping for their third consecutive IPL crown, but for that to happen they will have to pull out all stops to ensure a winning start to their campaign as their rivals -- Mumbai Indians -- appear to hold a slender edge. Dhoni, who led Chennai to two IPL titles and final and semi-final appearance once, besides the 2010 CLT20 crown, however, would like to put behind Team India's recent poor run and utilise the Twenty20 event to ease the pressure.
Besides the big-hitting Dhoni, Chennai's batting looks solid with Suresh Raina, S Badrinath and M Vijay being joined by all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, whom the India Cements-owned team bought for a whopping USD 2 million during the IPL V auctions.
However, Chennai would miss the services of opener Mike Hussey and fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus for the initial part of the tournament as they are busy representing Australia in the Caribbean till the end of this month.
MS Dhoni (CSK) looks on as Rohit Sharma (MI) plays a stroke. Photo: AFP
Another Australian Doug Bollinger, who has recovered from an injury, and South Africa's Albie Morkel are expected to form the pace attack for now, while the spin department will be spearheaded by local boy Ravichandran Ashwin. Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, will be under a new captain in Harbhajan Singh after Sachin Tendulkar relinquished the position yesterday.
With a few new additions to the team, Mumbai looks a solid side this year and would be desperate to annex their maiden IPL title, which eluded the outfit for the last four years. Mumbai's confidence is high after Harbhajan led it to the CLT20 victory last year in the absence of an injured Tendulkar.
For Tendulkar, who would play a pivotal role in Mumbai's batting line up along the likes of Rohit Sharma, it would be a special moment to play on his favourite ground in what is his first appearance on Indian soil after completing the historical 100 international centuries. With the pressure of 100 international ton off his back now, Tendulkar is expected to fire on all cylinders and entertain his fans in the upcoming event.
Mumbai, owned by Reliance Industries, had strengthened their team by bringing in wicket-keeper batsman Dinesh Karthik and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha through transfer window. Mumbai also added Herschelle Gibbs, Mitchell Johnson, Robin Peterson, R P Singh and Thisara Perera to their squad through the auctions, while Sri Lankan speedster Lasith Malinga and Munaf Patel will hold the aces in the pace department.
In big-hitting Kieron Pollard, Mumbai has a devastating batsman who can change the complexion of any match single-handedly. Though any team would like to start on a winning note, newly-appointed Mumbai skipper Harbhajan has downplayed the factor, saying he believed in finishing well.
The wicket also holds the key to the outcome of the match with indications that it would offer bounce and aid to speedsters and spinners alike.
Chennai Super Kings (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Abhinav Mukund, Ganapathi Vignesh, Joginder Sharma, Kuthethur Vasudevadas, Murali Vijay, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati, Srikkanth Anirudha, Subramaniam Badrinath, Sudeep Tyagi, Suresh Raina, Vijaykumar Yo Mahesh, Wriddhiman Saha, Albie Morkel, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger, Dwayne Bravo, Francois Du Plessis, George Bailey, Michael Hussey, Nuwan Kulasekara, Scott Styris, Suraj Randiv.
Mumbai Indians (from): Harbhajan Singh (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Aditya Tare, Ambati Rayudu, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik, Munaf Patel, Pawan Suyal, Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, Sushant Marathe, Tirumalasetti Suman, Yuzvendra Singh Chahal, Rudra Pratap Singh, Aiden Blizzard, Clint McKay, Davy Jacobs, James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Herschelle Gibbs, Mitchell Johnson, Robin Peterson, Thisara Perera, Amitoze Singh, Kuldeep Yadav, Rahul Shukla, Sujit Nayak, Apporv Wankhade, Jaydev Shah, Richard Levi.