Big picture

It felt like dystopian reality TV when it rumbled on, seemingly indifferent to the reality beyond its bubble, as India gasped for breath in the cruelest weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It's back now, and things are different. It's back at a time when the world seems to need it - or any cricket, really - desperately. After Old Trafford, after Rawalpindi.

Hello again, IPL.

There's a reassuring familiarity to the contest that will kick things off again. Mumbai versus Chennai, Rohit versus Dhoni, comfort food for a generation of cricket fans. The last installment of this rivalry produced an all-time T20 classic, and while events on the field may or may not be as exciting this time around, you'll hope that events off it are as dull and predictable as they possibly can be in the world we live in today.

In the news

Super Kings will be bolstered by the fitness of Faf du Plessis, who attended his first day of training on Saturday and will be available for selection after recovering from the groin strain that kept him out of the knockout stage of St Lucia Kings' CPL campaign. Dwayne Bravo is fit as well, CEO Kasi Viswanathan confirmed, but it is unclear yet if he will be able to bowl after nursing a groin injury through the second half of the CPL. He didn't bowl in any of St Kitts & Nevis Patriots' last five matches.

Sam Curran, however, only arrived in the UAE on September 15, and is yet to complete his mandatory quarantine period.

Likely XIs

Chennai Super Kings: 1 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 2 Moeen Ali, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Ravindra Jadeja, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 8 Shardul Thakur, 9 Deepak Chahar, 10 Imran Tahir, 11 Lungi Ngidi/Josh Hazlewood.

Mumbai Indians: 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Ishan Kishan, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Adam Milne/Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Jayant Yadav/Rahul Chahar, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Jasprit Bumrah.

Strategy punt

  • Mumbai often select the offspinner Jayant Yadav against teams with left-hander-heavy top orders, and they may well choose to do so against Super Kings, who are likely to have Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja batting through a bulk of their innings. Unlike in previous seasons, however, they might not leave out their legspinner Rahul Chahar in order to play Yadav.
    Against left-handers this season, Rahul Chahar has taken six wickets at 14.50 while only conceding 6.60 runs per over. Until the end of last season, he had averaged 59.60 and conceded 8.20 runs per over against left-handers.
  • Among all batters who have faced at least 50 balls in that phase during IPL 2021, Ruturaj Gaikwad has the lowest strike rate in the powerplay (91.48). Using the same cut-off, however, he has the best strike rate (189.65) of any batter in the middle overs.
    In the absence of du Plessis, Super Kings might have a tricky time finding an opening partner who complements Gaikwad's style. Should they bring in Robin Uthappa, or should they simply move Moeen up one position from No. 3, in the process also giving themselves a right-left combination?

Stats that matter

  • Adam Milne finished The Hundred as not just its leading wicket-taker but also as the only bowler to concede less than a run a ball through the tournament. Whether he plays against Super Kings or not, Mumbai will at some stage surely explore the possibility of playing him alongside Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah in a pace attack that could possibly cover every base.
  • Mumbai were the league's best six-hitting side by a distance last season, clearing the rope 137 times and leaving the Rajasthan Royals a distant second on 105. This season, however, Mumbai and Sunrisers Hyderabad are joint second-worst on that count, having only hit 43 sixes each in seven innings. Only the Delhi Capitals, with 32 sixes in eight innings, have done worse. Super Kings top the six-hitting table this season, with 62 in seven innings.
  • Among bowlers to have sent down at least 50 balls in the powerplay this season, Bumrah is the only one to have not taken a wicket. He's only conceded 54 runs in 60 balls, though, so the lack of wickets won't unduly worry him or Mumbai.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo