IPL 2020: Wait is over as Mumbai, Chennai kick off cricket extravaganza

The Mumbai Indians will be looking to get a fifth star embroidered on their jersey at the end of this sojourn

  
A leather cricket ball on bat. Image used for illustrative purpose.

A leather cricket ball on bat. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Getty Images

After 2,334 days, it is back. After six years, four months and 20 days, the Indian Premier League (IPL), the world's most popular franchise cricket league, is ready to get up and running in the UAE on Saturday.

Those many years, months and days ago marked the last game to be played during the first leg of the IPL in this country in 2014.

In that instance, the general elections in India forced the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to shift the first phase to the UAE. This time, the Covid-19 pandemic meant they have had to relocate the entire tournament.

Although fans, both India and the UAE, will be deprived of seeing these stars from close quarters, they will yet be treated to a sumptuous fare for the next 53 days.

And there could be no better way to lift the curtains on this gig than a fixture to drool over. Mumbai Indians, the defending champions, led by the 'Hitman' Rohit Sharma, go up against talisman MS Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings.

Theirs has been a famed rivalry and they will renew that, and while we cannot say that all roads will lead to the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, what is for sure is all the eyeballs will firmly be on Abu Dhabi.

The last time that these two teams met, it was one for the ages, with the Mumbai Indians performing a houdini act, on an energy-sapping night in Hyderabad. The Mumbai Indians nicked the thriller by one run in the final last May, to smash and grab a fourth title.

The Mumbai Indians will be looking to get a fifth star embroidered on their jersey at the end of this sojourn, while the Chennai Super Kings will try to go all out in denying them that and add a fourth crown to their trophy cabinet.

As far as the head-to-head record goes, the Mumbai Indians enjoy a better ratio with 17 victories from 28 matches, with the Chennai Super Kings winning 11. And the Mumbai Indians have aced the past five encounters.

But then, statistics take a backseat in a face-off such as this one. It should be a fierce battle by all accounts between two of the best and most successful franchises in the IPL.

The Mumbai Indians, though enjoy a slightly better advantage, with a full-strength to call upon. Skipper Rohit Sharma confirmed that he will open with Quinton de Kock, despite the acquisition of the hard-hitting Australian Chris Lynn. They have the likes of Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, with Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Lasith Malinga's replacement James Pattinson making up a potent bowling attack.

If anything, Malinga's absence is a big void and it remains to be seen how they can make up for it.

The Chennai Super Kings, meanwhile, had a delayed start to their training but they made up for the lost time by practicing hard for the big day as well as the tournament.

MS Dhoni, the former India skipper, can call upon the rich experience of Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Kedhar Jadhav, Ambati Rayudu and Imran Tahir. But they have been hampered by the withdrawals of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh, two key men.

The wait has been long but this contest will more than make up for it.

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