Even when he wasn't playing, wasn't anywhere near the Indian team for major parts of the last 12 months, the focus was forever on MS Dhoni. Why should it change now that he's back?
There is raging debate over the Chennai Super Kings captain pushing himself down the order, and while he isn't the type to respond to them, here is a stat that is worth remembering. In the IPL, any time Dhoni bats at No. 5 or above, his team has a win percentage of at least 57. When he comes in at No. 6 and below, that figure drops to 37 or worse.
The Delhi Capitals may well be happy that all the focus is on their opposition. They have a strong core of young Indian batsmen who are learning all the time and a strike bowler who basically rejects the concept of pressure. Maybe, just maybe, that's enough to secure what will be only their third victory over the Super Kings since 2013.
In the news
- Ambati Rayudu (hamstring) and Dwayne Bravo (knee) are recovering from injuries and won't be available for selection.
- Capitals said they wanted to wait and see how R Ashwin and his injured shoulder pull up in training on Thursday before making a call on his playing the game tomorrow.
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Faf du Plessis, 3 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 4 Sam Curran, 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Shardul Thakur/Karn Sharma, 10 Piyush Chawla, 11 Lungi Ngidi/Imran Tahir
Delhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Shimron Hetmyer, 4 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin/Amit Mishra, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Anrich Norje, 11 Mohit Sharma
- Since IPL 2018, Rishabh Pant has an average over 40 and a strike rate above 150. Only four other men are in the same bracket and he hits harder (166) than every single one of them. Even AB de Villiers (164). But if Lungi Ngidi keeps his spot and ups his game, the threat can be managed. His head-to-head against Pant in the IPL goes six balls, seven runs and two dismissals.
- Although Shane Watson hasn't quite come off yet, it can be frightening when he does. Since IPL 2018, he has a strike rate of 185 and hits a boundary every 3.8 balls - and that's between overs seven and 15, when fielding restrictions are relaxed. So the Capitals will need a plan, which might well revolve around Axar Patel (38 balls, 42 runs, five dismissals) or Amit Mishra (68 balls, 79 runs, six dismissals)
Stats that matter
- Among players with a minimum of 100 runs in the IPL since 2019, Sam Curran's strike rate of 194 is second-best, only behind Andre Russell.
- The IPL's greatest ever bowler, Lasith Malinga, picked up at least two wickets for eight matches straight in 2012. No one's beaten that streak just yet, but Kagiso Rabada has already matched it. He really has been that good in the IPL.
- Dhoni needs two sixes to get his tally up to 300 in T20 cricket.
- The average score in Dubai over the last one-and-a-half years of T20 cricket is 153. Fast bowlers take twice as many wickets as spinners (four per game vs two per game), but spinners have been better at keeping the runs down (6.7 vs 7.7)
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo