Two sides who have had completely contrasting fortunes in the IPL will face each other in the second match of IPL 8 on Thursday. Chennai Super Kings have gone into every season as one of the favourites. And, while they have actually won only two of the seven IPLs held so far, they have been finalists more than once. In fact, CSK have been the most consistent side in the tournament over the years, qualifying for the play-offs/ knockouts each and every time. Delhi Daredevils, on the other hand, have failed to find a winning combination. From Virender Sehwag to Mahela Jayawardene and Kevin Pietersen, they have constantly kept changing captains and players. This season too they will be led by a new captain -- JP Duminy.
At a glance, it is clear that Chennai have a much better chance of winning since they have numerous game-changers. The names begin right at the top in the batting department. Brendon McCullum was in precious form during the World Cup, and he would only be keen to continue his splendid batting run. It may be recalled that eight years back it was McCullum who kicked off the IPL, with a never-before witnessed attack, smashing 158. His opening part Dwayne Smith may have had a horrid World Cup, but he is a different player in the IPL. In Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo, they have players who can singlehandedly win games. Then of course, there is Mike Hussey, who can alter his game as per the demands.
Chennai have some serious talent in the bowling department as well. There is Mohit Sharma, who had a brilliant World Cup. Among the other options, the experience of Irfan Pathan would come in handy even as promising newcomers like Matt Henry and Kyle Abbott will be keen to make a mark. In Dwayne Bravo, they have a pace bowler who can mix it up very well, and test the batsmen. Above all, spin remains Chennai's major strength. Ravichandran Ashwin may not be as novel as he was when he arrived eight years back, but he remains highly effective. And, while Ravindra Jadeja continues to disappoint for India, he always finds ways to succeed when it comes to Chennai.
In contrast, Delhi do not have a lot of star power. They have gone for the big fish by purchasing Yuvraj Singh for a record prize. And now, the owners of Delhi would hope that Yuvraj repays them. The Indian selectors may have lost faith in him, but Yuvraj has a chance to prove his critics wrong. His batting will be particularly crucial from Delhi's point of view. Among the other important names the batting department are skipper JP Duminy, Mayank Aggarwal, Quinton de Kock and the big-hitting Albie Morkel. The latter's performance would be crucial since he can play the typical T20 cameo.
Looking at Delhi's bowling, they would depend highly on Mohammed Shami who, like Chennai's Mohit, had a World Cup campaign to remember. He could prove extremely useful with his pace and yorkers. There is also the veteran Zaheer Khan, but at 36 one wonders how much of an impact he can have. Nathan-Coulter Nile, Gurinder Sandhu and Jaydev Unadkat are other options in the bowling department. Imran Tahir is a good choice for spin, and then there is also Amit Mishra, who did very well last year. In spite of their positives, they will find it hard to go past Chennai.
--By A Cricket Analyst