The UAE leg of the IPL can be called a success. The grounds were more or less packed right through the first leg and there was entertaining cricket on offer too. Now it’s the homecoming of the tournament and the battle resumes at Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s hometown, Ranchi, with the match between the Chennai Super Kings and the Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday.
Chennai are one of the form teams of IPL 7 with four wins in five matches in the Middle East. Kolkata have been inconsistent, with the latest loss coming in the Super Over against against Rajasthan Royals. It’s not easy to get over the shock after losing a match on boundary count and the frustration showed as skipper Gautam Gambhir abruptly cut short a post match TV interview following the defeat against Rajasthan. If they needed a fresh start, they have been given the opportunity as the IPL returns to India.
Home away from home
The problem for Kolkata, though, will be that Ranchi may well be considered a home venue for the Super Kings, thanks to their captain’s connection to the city. The JSCA International Cricket Stadium has a capacity of 39,000 and a full house is expected to cheer on Dhoni and the men in yellow. “As the match starts at 8pm, we expect a big turnout. Tickets are priced fairly and the response is excellent. The fans will come and support Chennai because they love Dhoni,” a Jharkhand association official said.
By all accounts, the pitch is expected to be full of runs. At the same time, the Ranchi wicket can be unpredictable. This venue played host to two IPL matches last year. The first one, between Kolkata and Bangalore was a low-scoring affair with the latter limping to 115 for nine batting first and Kolkata winning with only four balls to spare.
The next one saw Pune and Kolkata score 333 runs between them. Chennai spinners revel in their home conditions at Chepauk and though the conditions here may be different, the team seems to have players for all occasions. Medium pacers Mohit Sharma and Ishwar Pandey have impressed while Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith looked to be in imperious batting form during the first leg. Whatever the conditions, Chennai must feel they have a settled unit. Coach Stephen Fleming echoed similar feelings. “Mohit Sharma’s seam bowling is one of the reasons why we’ve won four games in UAE. Of course, the openers have been outstanding but we very much have an Indian bowling line-up except Hilfenhaus and they’ve been performing very well as a group,” he said.
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