Big Picture

It must be tough being Rajasthan Royals right now. Two defeats in two matches in IPL 2019 so far, when they could have won both with better luck and cool-headed execution. If the batting crumbled against Kings XI Punjab with the total within reach, the bowling fumbled against Sunrisers Hyderabad with 198 to defend. These losses will sting more because Royals need to stack up wins in the first half of the IPL more than others, as they'll be losing most of their star overseas contingent in the second half.

They need a turnaround fast because three losses in a row could become crippling, but they face possibly the toughest match to do that: Chennai Super Kings in Chennai. Expertly marshalled by MS Dhoni, Super Kings haven't even felt the need to play their full quota of overseas players in their two matches so far.

They have now lost David Willey too, after Lungi Ngidi went out with an injury earlier, but seem to be going along fine. They will be reinforced by Scott Kuggeleijn next week, but in the meantime, they have the option of including Mitchell Santner, whose left-arm spin and organised batting could be very useful on a spin-friendly surface - though why change a winning combination?

Rajasthan might consider bringing in someone like Mahipal Lomror, who offers a left-arm spin option, in place of Rahul Tripathi, given the conditions. Alternately, they could drop one of Jaydev Unadkat or Dhawal Kulkarni, and bring in a leggie, one of S Midhun or Riyan Parag.

The pitch is going to be in focus for this game, given what transpired in the opening match, with both Dhoni and Virat Kohli not quite happy with the track that didn't let balls come on to the bat. There will be a different surface used, but Chennai has traditionally been friendly to spin anyway. The groundstaff tried to mitigate against that, with a tent-like structure covering the pitch from Wednesday to Friday so that it's not baked too much by the harsh sun.

Likely XIs

Chennai Super Kings: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Ambati Rayudu, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Harbhajan Singh, 11 Imran Tahir

Rajasthan Royals: 1 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 2 Jos Buttler (wk), 3 Sanju Samson, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Rahul Tripathi/Mahipal Lomror, 7 K Gowtham, 8 Jofra Archer, 9 Shreyas Gopal, 10 S Midhun, 11 Dhawal Kulkarni

Strategy punt

  • Kane Williamson deployed Rashid Khan early to get Jos Buttler, and Dhoni might well want to consider doing the same with Imran Tahir. Buttler's stats against pace are more spectacular than that against spin, and against a quality leggie early on, he might be at his most vulnerable.

  • Ajinkya Rahane has so far used Jofra Archer as first-change, but he might want to consider hustling Super Kings' top order with Archer's 145 kph-plus thunderbolts. In their match against Delhi Capitals, Kagiso Rabada's searing pace had the Super Kings batsmen in a bit of a tangle. Moreover, none of the expected starting XI of Chennai have faced too much of Archer. Shane Watson has played 20 balls from him, the most among the batsmen, getting 27 runs and getting out once.

  • The Super Kings spin attack is already potent, and Royals might want to consider the merits of that strategy. Virtually every frontline batsman in both sides have lower strike rates against spin than pace in IPL matches since 2015. Add in the expected nature of the pitch, and Royals could well drop a pacer for a spinner.

Stats that matter

  • Royals have won only one match at Super Kings' home ground - and that was back in the inaugural IPL season in 2008, when they won the trophy. Since then, Super Kings have triumphed five consecutive times over Royals at home.

  • Royals have the worst away record since IPL 2018, having won only two of nine games.

  • Chepauk has been the most spin-friendly of all IPL venues since 2015, with spinners having the best average (22.8) and economy rate (6.6) among all grounds here.

  • This will be Suresh Raina's 150th match for Super Kings. It will also be the 50th IPL match at Chepauk.

  • Sanju Samson needs 1 run to complete 2000 runs in IPL. He's also among the best 'starters' in an IPL season: since 2015, considering only the first five games of the season, Samson has 534 runs - more than anyone else.