Seldom does it happen that a Purple Cap winner from one edition of the IPL doesn’t get to play a single game of the next at the half-way mark. That’s exactly what has happened to Chennai Super Kings leg-spinner Imran Tahir. With 26 wickets, Tahir was the season’s highest wicket-taker in 2019, but this year his role has been confined to warming the bench and carry drinks on the field for the rest of his teammates, even though he clarified it’s something he doesn’t mind doing ‘as long as the team is winning.’
But here’s the thing. CSK isn’t. They’ve been on a downward spiral and even though they beat Sunrisers Hyderabad in their previous game to move up a position, the three-time IPL champions are still pretty much hovering in the second-half of the table. MS Dhoni had said that although he wants to include Tahir in the Playing XI, the team combination doesn’t allow him to. Whether Dhoni takes that gamble against Delhi Capitals on the small ground of Sharjah remains to be seen. Keeping that in mind, here’s presenting CSK’s probable XI for their DC clash.
1 Shane Watson: Despite being pushed down at No. 3, Watson proved he is still a force to reckon with. The former Australia all-rounder may have struggled to rotate the strike, the fact that he scored 42 of 38 balls at a position he hasn’t batted a lot in his career shows there’s gas left in the tank. But due to his strike-rate taking a bit of a blow, expect Watson to move back up as opener.
2 Faf du Plessis: Faf du Plessis has been among the runs and it can be gauged from the fact that despite falling for a golden duck in the previous game, the batsman is currently placed third in the list of this year’s highest run-scorers. It was at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium that du Plessis nearly took the team home against Rajasthan Royals with an epic 72, and a repeat here will certainly boost CSK’s chances.
3 Sam Curran: Dhoni may be tempted to play his wild card Sam Curran at No. 3 this time around. Calling Curran a ‘complete cricketer’ for CSK in the last game, it is evident how much Dhoni values Curran as an asset with both bat and ball and he will be hoping the 22-year-old can give his side those 15-45 runs he talked about.
4 Ambati Rayudu: Rayudu has gotten starts in all three previous games, with scores of 30, 42 and 41 and his untimely dismissals have hurt CSK. Rayudu missed the last game against DC and given the small boundaries of Sharjah, who knows? Maybe the Rayudu that set the IPL 2018 on fire rises to the occasion.
5 N Jagadeesan: Young N Jagadeesan scored a valuable 33 against Royal Challengers Bangalore, hence it was a surprise when Dhoni dropped him for an additional spinner in Karn Sharma. Well, considering the leg-spinner’s final over that nearly cost CSK the game, CSK should be better off playing an extra batsman than another leggie.
6 MS Dhoni (Capt/Wicketkeeper): The last two games, Dhoni has kept getting out the ball after hitting a six. The CSK batsman clearly hasn’t been at his best, but the last time CSK found themselves in such a situation, losing the first five matches out of seven, it was their captain, who led from the front. The team needs Dhoni now more than ever and it’s about time their ‘Thala’ answers the call.
7 Ravindra Jadeja: Jadeja is proving his credentials with both bat and ball. The new finisher for CSK has shown spark, scoring an unbeaten 21 against RCB which nearly took the side home and another valuable 25 not out that took CSK to a total they were able to defend. CSK will expect the all-rounder to maintain his consistency.
8 Dwayne Bravo/Imran Tahir: To be honest. If Dhoni is tempted to play two spinners, this is the ideal time for Tahir to come in. His ability to break a partnership almost every time makes Tahir a threat. Bravo’s role this season has mostly been confined to bowling, and even though he has picked up wickets, CSK can take the gamble everyone expects them to.
9 Piyush Chawla: Barring one match, Piyush Chawla has been consistent for CSK, picking up a wicket in every game except the last one, where he bowled just one over. Expect a longer spell from him this time around, especially after the way he had Prithvi Shaw out stumped the last time CSK and DC played each other
10 Deepak Chahar: The 2020 IPL is nowhere near the kind of season Deepak Chahar had last year, but the fast bowler has shown gradual improvement each match. Barring a couple of matches, Chahar has bowled economical spells and will be expected to keep DC quiet in the Powerplay
11 Shardul Thakur: Like Chahar, Thakur has had bursts of good spells for CSK. The fast bowler celebrated his birthday Friday. Will he deliver a special like his idol Sachin Tendulkar did all those years ago at this very venue?