Friday, April 17, 2009

Dhoni and Tendulkar lead starcast in opener

The formidable Andrew Flintoff makes Chennai stronger.

Match facts

April 18, 2009
Start time 12.30pm (10.30GMT)

Big Picture

On last year's form, Chennai Super Kings will be favoured to make a winning start to their IPL campaign on Saturday, but Mumbai Indians have a couple of key factors going in their favour which could well make all the difference. Sachin Tendulkar, who missed the first part of the tournament last year, is fit and available from the start this time. Shaun Pollock will be missed with the ball, but his presence as mentor and Jonty Rhodes' as fielding coach could be key, especially since both will be familiar with South African conditions.

The big addition in the Chennai ranks is Andrew Flintoff, who will be available for the first part of the tournament. His bowling, especially, could be hugely vital for a team which struggled occasionally in that area last year. MS Dhoni has gained plenty more leadership experience since last June, and he'll also have the vast tactical knowledge of Stephen Fleming, the coach, to tap into.

Unlike some of the other line-ups, both sides have been pretty low-key so far, keeping the frills out and concentrating on the cricket. Chennai arrived early in South Africa to acclimatise to the conditions, while Mumbai have been in the news mainly for the announcement of their South African coaches. For a tournament which has been in the news for so many non-cricketing reasons, it can't be a bad thing that it kicks off with teams high on talent but low on controversy.

Player form guide

Chennai: Suresh Raina sparkled in New Zealand, scoring an unbeaten 61 in a Twenty20 game and consistently getting the runs in the ODIs too. Dhoni has been consistent too, while Flintoff is coming off a superb matchwinning five-for in the last ODI against West Indies.

Mumbai: Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh were outstanding with the ball in New Zealand, while Tendulkar was prolific in the Tests and the ODIs. JP Duminy has had a quiet series against Australia, though he managed quick cameos in the third and fourth ODIs.

In from the cold

Matthew Hayden last played an international game in early January this year, and it remains to be seen if he can replicate the form he showed for Chennai last year, when he hammered 189 runs at an average of 63 and a strike rate of 144.

Watch out for

Harbhajan v Murali: Harbhajan had an excellent tour of New Zealand, and he loves to bowl in the short formats. Muralitharan didn't do the damage he was expected to in the last IPL, and this is an opportunity to make amends.

Flintoff v Mumbai openers: It remains to be seen if Flintoff gets the new ball, but the fans could be in for a treat if he gets an opportunity to bowl at two of the most prolific ODI batsmen, Tendulkar and Jayasuriya.

Friendly fire

MS Dhoni v Sachin Tendulkar: They are easily the two biggest names in Indian cricket, but come Saturday, and they will walk out for the toss captaining rival teams to kick off a high-profile tournament. Knowing the respect they have for each other, though, there's little chance of anything more unsavoury than the odd friendly banter.

Team news

Chennai need to decide on the opening partner for Hayden. The contenders are Parthiv Patel, Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan and M Vijay. The first two played last year, but neither was entirely convincing. The other issue is deciding on their four foreign players. Matthew Hayden, Andrew Flintoff and Albie Morkel are near certainties, but Muralitharan might pip home boy Makhaya Ntini for the fourth spot.

Chennai Super Kings (probable) 1 Matthew Hayden, 2 Parthiv Patel, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 5 S Badrinath, 6 Andrew Flintoff, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 L Balaji, 9 Joginder Sharma, 10 Manpreet Gony, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan.

Mumbai's batting appears fairly well settled, but at least one bowling spot is up for grabs. With Sanath Jayasuriya, Duminy and Dwayne Bravo almost sure to play, the fourth foreigner's spot will probably be a tussle among Dilhara Fernando, Lasith Malinga and Kyle Mills. Malinga could add firepower to the attack, but his inconsistency might tilt the scales in favour of Mills.

Mumbai Indians (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 JP Duminy, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Abhishek Nayar, 7 Yogesh Takawale (wk), 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Dhawal Kulkarni, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Kyle Mills.

For Morkel, Duminy and perhaps Ntini, it'll also mean playing the IPL opener within hours of finishing the day-night ODI against Australia in Johannesburg.

Head-to-head record

The two teams split the two games they played in 2008, with each team winning at home: Chennai squeaked through by six runs at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, but Mumbai took revenge in convincing fashion, winning by nine wickets at the Wankhede Stadium.


"Whatever has happened is over and done with. We all make mistakes learn from them. I've moved on as a cricketer and I'm looking forward to doing well for the IPL for Mumbai Indians. Keeping my fingers crossed that I perform the way I have been."
Harbhajan Singh isn't looking back at what was a forgettable IPL 2008 for him

"The expectations have definitely increased this time after we finished runners-up last time. If you compare us to the other teams, I think our team is well-balanced and definitely one of the favourites to win the tournament."
Suresh Raina has high expectations from the Chennai team

Indian Premier League 2009