It's Kings versus Superkings in Mohali

MS Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings take on Yuvraj Singh-led Kings XI Punjab, in their opening IPL match today in Mohali.

updated: April 19, 2008 10:12 IST
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In what promises to be an intriguing battle, Chennai Super Kings take on Kings XI Punjab, in their opening Indian Premier League T20 tournament, at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium (PCA) in Mohali on Saturday.

Neither team is prepared to spell out their playing eleven, although it is more than likely that the home team would unleash Brett Lee on a greenish pitch in a bid to blast out the opposition.

Easier thought than done considering the array of talent that the Super Kings have in their ranks with Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Stephen Fleming and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni all renowned for their big hitting prowess as also all-rounder Jacob Oram.

In contrast, skipper Yuvraj would be looking to the Sri Lankan duo of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara besides Ramnaresh Sarwan (West Indies) to provide momentum to their batting while himself positioned in the middle-order.

As for strategies, Super Kings, their approach to the tournament is to win the opening four matches and position themselves as serious challenges to the title.

"That is how we are looking at just now. Early wins will set us up for latter half of the league and also boost the morale of the team. We would like announce ourselves as serious challengers for the trophy and the sooner we do it the better," said VB Chandrasekar, the man instrumental in putting the team together.

Once it is accepted that the T20 format is a lottery, then it puts the contest in perspective. It is no rocket science that while batting, a wicket in hand is worth more than 10 runs on the board in the "super slog overs" (16 to 20), early breakthrough is needed to put the opposition under pressure.

The theory is simple, but the execution is not, given the uncertainties of the game. It could also boil down to holding one's nerves to finish the game, something that Michael Hussey is famous for. As such, he could well hold the key for Super Kings and for sure, the hosts would be putting a premium on his wicket.

But look out for some "mini battles" like Lee vs Hayden, Muralitharan vs Jayawardene/Sangakkara that could well highlight this fixture.

The absence of South African stars, fast bowler Makhaya Ntini and all-rounder Albie Morkel could hurt Super Kings in crunch situations, but they have the firepower in batting to compensate.

Having said that, watch out for some of the young guns who will be keen on making an impression and in the process, lend a different dimension to the game. After all, the youngsters, a mixture of district and India under-19 players, are the future and they might just as well set a trend that could be a pointer to the way T20 would evolve.

Super Kings have some exciting talent in Suresh Raina, S Badrinath and Anirudha who could all lift the team with their youthful energy. Much the same could be said of the Punjab team that boasts of a couple of talented young cricketers like Ajitesh Agral and Karan Goel who can back up the experienced seniors.

Overall, both teams appear evenly matched and only the brave would hazard a guess as to the outcome. But for sure, there will be no lacking in fireworks.