Chennai Super Kings v Royal Challengers Bangalore is more than a cricket match. It's a contest of cultures, high-profile franchises, personalities - and very different trophy cabinets. The 12th edition of the IPL couldn't have had a bigger match to get the season underway. Here's why:
It didn't happen in Chennai last year
Or the year before that. Or the year before that, as a Royal Challengers fan is wont to keep reminding a Super Kings fan. First it was Super Kings' suspension that kept this scrumptious fixture away from locals. Then, last year, an issue that's older than the two franchises - the Cauvery water dispute. On that front, it was a rivalry so old that Royal Challengers' merely being in Chennai might have been more dangerous than Royal Challengers attempting to play in Chennai.
Not that Pune was all puppies and rainbows, though, or Bengaluru for that matter. Royal Challengers lost both derby games last year. And the year before that. And the year before that...
Kohli v Dhoni up a notch
Gautam Gambhir doesn't think Virat Kohli is on the same level as Rohit Sharma or MS Dhoni when it comes to IPL captaincy, and that is just one of the things that increases the attention on him when he goes up against Dhoni in Chennai, which is not an easy task.
"Every team that comes to Chennai has to be considered underdogs because CSK have done so well at home. MS knows exactly what he wants from his team in these conditions. We all have seen that and are aware of it. It's very easy to be overawed by the support that CSK are going to get. In the IPL, people can get carried away by the support that a team like CSK gets at home but we have to focus on our basics," Kohli said on the eve of the match.
The southern monopoly
Chennai and Bengaluru have always been massive sporting centres in India, and at the moment are experiencing some shared joy.
Over the last year, the Bengaluru teams won in the premier badminton, kabbadi, and football leagues, while the Chennai teams won the volleyball league and the other football league. Fans, and some non-fans from both cities would be terribly disappointed if this pattern were to break.
The southern scarcity
But for all the storied history and legacies of legendary sportsmen, local players find little representation in franchise-based sports.
Royal Challengers have been notoriously short on Karnataka players for a long time, and no matter how many times you hear RCB chants during Bengaluru Tests, it's not a popular policy among their fans. This year, they've dipped below their average and have only a solitary local player - 18-year-old Devdutt Padikkal.
Super Kings aren't exactly brimming with local talent either. Like last year, they have only two Tamil Nadu players on their roster, and are possibly only getting away without too much trouble because home fans have long since adopted many players as sons of the soil.
Remember that Kohli over to Albie? RP Singh's epic no-ball to elicited 'Sir Jadeja' memes, Dhoni's stunning carve for six in a brutal takedown last year? Don't believe what @mipaltan says. CSK v RCB is a different rivalry. https://t.co/VgJxaYlGuB #IPL2019— Shashank Kishore (@captainshanky) March 22, 2019
'We're not old, we're experienced'
Stephen Fleming's brand new Super Kings side last year was the subject of much trolling because of how old they were. They started the tournament with a last-ditch win, and followed it up by chasing a gigantic total. Most of the trolling began to subside, and by the end of the tournament, Super Kings had out-trolled everybody. Before the start of the new season, Fleming reminded everyone.
"We bought, as you guys said last year, an old side. But we prefer to look it as an experienced side because recall does count. Being able to stand up to pressure situations and recall how you dealt with them in the past is a key component in a fast-moving game."
For Royal Challengers, whose captain has constantly cited poor decision-making under pressure to explain their below par recent form, there could be a slight hint in Fleming's statements.
Ee sala whistle podu
Kohli publicly disowned Royal Challenger's infamous "Ee sala cup namde" chant, both for this season, and retroactively for the last one. Not that they would have been heard over all the whistles anyway.