Friday, April 17, 2009


Chennai Super Kings: Led by perhaps the best captain in world cricket today, the Chennai Super Kings will start the second edition of the Indian Premier League as one of the favourites. Mahendra Singh Dhoni did justice to the most expensive cricketer of the world last year by taking his team to the final and this year the charismatic skipper would be looking to do one better than their run to the silverware in 2008.
Key players: At the start of the tournament, the Chennai Super Kings are looking as one of the strongest contenders. The recently retired Matthew Hayden is available for the whole tournament and he may prove destructive at the top. South African all-rounder Albie Morkel is fresh from his exploits against Australia and will be one of Dhoni's trump cards. The young Suresh Raina will also play a crucial role in coach Stephen Fleming's strategy.
Debutants: Andrew Flintoff is on a high after his hat-trick against the West Indies and the burly all-rounder will bolster the formidable Chennai line-up with his presence and he may prove to be the decisive factor in the six games that he will play. Aussie George Bailey comes into the mega event with the reputation of a destructive batsman and a handy medium pacer. Thilan Thushara's swing can be a handy weapon too.
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Flipside: The absence of Mike Hussey and Jacob Oram will hit the Super Kings hard, which leaves their middle order looking vulnerable. Raina, S Vidyut, Parthiv Patel and S Badrinath hardly have any experience in South Africa. Though the young Indians clicked last year, it might be a different ball game on the bouncy South African wickets.
Mumbai Indians: Their brush with injuries and controversies made it Mission Impossible for Mumbai Indians, but the costliest IPL team has much to prove this season. Captain Sachin Tendulkar is back in full fitness and, although they'll miss Shaun Pollock's experience on the field, the South African will be key for their younger players in unlocking the tricky conditions as mentor.
Key players: Tendulkar has been in vintage form of late, and his opening partnership with the explosive Sanath Jayasuriya will be key to their run-scoring potential. Harbhajan Singh, too, has hit a purple patch, and his bowling in the T20 version will be their most potent weapon while containing their opponents. Dwayne Bravo's all-round abilities will add balance to their eleven.
Debutants: Jean-Paul Duminy's presence in the middle order, along with Shikhar Dhawan, will most certainly be more assuring than Robin Uthappa's in the first season. Zaheer Khan's form can make or break their bowling. Graham Napier, who hit a record 16 sixes in a T20 game, will become an obvious choice when other international stars leave.
Flipside: Bravo leaves mid-May, which does not leave them with many all-round options of his quality. Besides Dhawal Kulkarni and Abhishek Nayar, not many local Mumbai players made a mark in the first season, which could hamper their fortunes.
Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings last season: Mumbai Indians saved their best for the Super Kings last season. Although they lost the first game by a slim six-run margin, they bounced back by hammering them by nine wickets which included a Sanath Jayasuriya century. Given their added strength this season, they can inflict serious damage on Chennai.

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