CSK did not begin their campaign on an impressive note, going down to Delhi Capitals by seven wickets. The loss raised worries over whether CSK’s campaign would go down the wrong road like last season. They, however, recovered to post impressive wins over Punjab Kings (PBKS) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) in their subsequent matches.
It has been the reverse with KKR. They began their tournament by defeating Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) by 10 runs in an impressive all-round effort. Since that game though, they have looked out of sorts. KKR collapsed in the chase against Mumbai Indians (MI), despite being in the ascendancy for most part. They choked in the end. In their most recent encounter against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), they came second best by a distance, losing by 38 runs. KKR will have to lift their game to a higher level to compete against CSK.
MS Dhoni’s men have been smart and suave in the recent wins. Pacer Deepak Chahar shone brightly with the ball against PBKS, in conditions which offered assistance to him. In the last game against RR, their bowling was outstanding. They won the game by 45 runs despite RR looking in the ascendancy at the halfway stage in the chase. Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja will brilliant with the ball, turning the game around with his unplayable delivery to Jos Buttler and then adding the wicket of Shivam Dube.
As CSK coach Stephen Fleming rightly pointed out, England all-rounder Moeen Ali has added a much-needed versatile dimension to the team that the franchise were missing last year. Ali has been consistent with the bat at number three, delivery the 30s and 40s at a swift pace. Sam Curran, the other England all-rounder, has also chipped in nicely with both bat and ball. The one worry for CSK will obviously be the form of Ruturaj Gaikwad. It remains to be seen how long the management will back him.
KKR need to find a method to win. In the first match, Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi set up a nice total for them and they eased to victory. Their form augurs well for KKR. As for Shubman Gill, he has made a concerted effort to be aggressive. He has succeeded in his endeavour, but the franchise will expect bigger scores from him at the top of the order. The middle and lower-order is a massive concern for KKR. Skipper Eoin Morgan, Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell have all been struggling.
In the bowling, they were bludgeoned by Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers in the last match. While Russell was butchered at the end, Harbhajan Singh, Varun Chakravarthy and Shakib Al Hasan also went for plenty. It remains to be seen how they fight back.
KKR: Shubman Gill, Rahul Tripathi, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan (C), Dinesh Karthik (WK), Andre Russell, Shakib Al Hasan, Pat Cummins, Varun Chakravarthy, Harbhajan Singh and Prasidh Krishna
CSK: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Faf Du Plessis, Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (C/WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Sam Curran, DJ Bravo, Shardul Thakur, and Deepak Chahar
--Renin Wilben Albert