Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
Eight pm prime time on Indian television, and two IPL teams clashing. Sounds straight out of the Indian summer. Only, this is the fag end of the southwest monsoon, and the Champions League T20 proper is kicking off after a qualification round which had no such marquee match: Kolkata Knight Riders, the defending IPL champions, against Chennai Super Kings, the multiple IPL winners, in Hyderabad, a regular IPL venue.
MS Dhoni went straight out of the World T20 into the IPL earlier in the year, and now he's flown straight into the Champions League after a long and hard tour of England. Given the kind of maddening schedule he faces, Dhoni likes to have the cocoon of stability around him. Super Kings' reputation as one of the most consistent T20 sides has been built on the stable combination they have fielded over the years. Which is why Dhoni was glad to have Dwayne Bravo back after the allrounder missed the IPL due to injury and upset the balance of the side, something the captain lays so much importance on.
Dhoni and Super Kings' powerful stability is a contrast to Gautam Gambhir and Knight Riders' explosive volatility. Gambhir began IPL 2014 with scores of 0, 0, 0 and 1 before reeling off three successive half-centuries. Knight Riders suffered two extreme embarrassments against Rajasthan Royals. They first converted a strong chase into a tie, and went on to lose in the Super Over. Barely a week later, they went from 121 for 0 to 123 for 6 in eight deliveries. That woke them up. They reeled off nine wins on the trot, including chasing 200 in the final.
How the opening match of the tournament plays out could depend on which version of Knight Riders turns up, and how Super Kings' attack, which was quite expensive in the IPL, is able to stand up.
Kolkata Knight Riders: WWWWW (completed games, most recent first)
Chennai Super Kings: LWWLL
Watch out for
Faf du Plessis' last nine innings include three centuries, two nineties, and two fifties. Those scores may have come in ODIs and Tests on his home continent, but such a red-hot streak can make light of changes in formats and conditions.
In his only match so far for Knight Riders, Pat Cummins uprooted Dwayne Smith's off stump with a curling away swinger. It was only his second delivery in the IPL. With the injured Morne Morkel out of the tournament, Knight Riders will need Cummins' pace to unsettle batsmen.
Stats and trivia
- The head-to-head is 9-5 in favour of Super Kings
- Knight Riders' nine-successive wins are the most by an IPL side
- R Ashwin is two short of 150 T20 wickets
"We don't get 10 days before the start of the tournament. It is usually pretty fast."
MS Dhoni says the Champions League T20 is not like the IPL
Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo