After much anticipation, the Indian Premier League ( IPL) 2020 will kick-off on Saturday with the heavyweight clash between defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) and three-time winners Chennai Super Kings (CSK) at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
The match will be a repeat of last year’s final where Mahendra Singh Dhoni led-Chennai were narrowly edged out by Mumbai by just one run. With their victory last year, Mumbai Indians became the most successful franchise in IPL history with four title victories, while Chennai Super Kings are second close behind them with three crowns.
MS Dhoni, who had announced his retirement from international cricket last month, will be inching for a victorious return to cricket. The veteran wicketkeeper-batsman hasn’t played in more than an year ever since India’s dismal loss to New Zealand in the World Cup semifinals last year. He will look to come out all guns blazing in his return to professional cricket.
While both sides boast of robust squads, it must be highlighted that this year the two giants are missing some crucial names from their lineups. Chennai will miss the services of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh (both opted out for personal reasons).
Meanwhile, Mumbai Indians will have some big boots to fill after the withdrawal of their bowling spearhead Lasith Malinga from this year’s edition.
These are big match players, who can turn the game around single-handedly on their day. Malinga was the trump card for Mumbai in the last year’s final. With CSK needing just nine runs from the final over and five wickets in hand in 2019 IPL final, the Sri Lankan star turned the tide in Mumbai’s favor when he picked up two wickets and conceded just six runs to grasp victory for his side from the jaws of defeat.
The 37-year-old fast bowler is also the highest wicket-taker in IPL history with an astonishing 170 wickets from just 122 games at a miserly economy rate of 7.14 The Rohit Sharma-led side had immediately announced the signing of Australian seamer James Pattinson as his replacement.
But even in Malinga’s absence, Mumbai’s pace battery brags of the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult, Mitchell McClenaghan, Dhawal Kulkarni, James Pattinson and Nathan-Coulter Nile. Bumrah’s death bowling craft is second to none and Mumbai will rely on his able shoulders to spearhead their attack this year.
CSK too will miss the services of Suresh Raina, their highest run-getter in IPL history and the second-highest in general behind Virat Kohli . Raina has been the yellow franchise’s linchpin in the middle-order over the years, playing several crucial knocks as per the demands of the situation. The side are yet to name a direct replacement for Raina.
The slow pitches of the UAE will assist the spinners if the past records in the country are anything to go by. Several experts believe that we will witness low totals in this edition, thanks to the pitches being a turners paradise.