Dhoni v Ashwin: once long-term team-mates, now rivals

Big Picture

Two matches, two last-gasp wins and two injuries. Having squeezed out maximum points so far, Chennai Super Kings now run into a revamped Kings XI Punjab side captained by an old friend in R Ashwin. Kings XI have had a seesawing start to the season: they mowed down Delhi Daredevils but came up short against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday. They have a little less than 48 hours to address their weaknesses, particularly their batting.

Despite losing wickets in a cluster, Kings XI’s batsmen kept going after the bowlers and were ultimately bowled out with four balls unused in their innings. Such an approach works only if you have a fail-safe option in the batting line-up. Yuvraj Singh is past his prime while Karun Nair, Aaron Finch, and Marcus Stoinis are largely hit-or-miss batsmen. Ashwin, however, has indicated that the side will not curb its aggression after just one loss.

Super Kings’ middle order is rickety as well, and the injuries to Suresh Raina and Kedar Jadhav have forced them to dig deep into their reserves. Ambati Rayudu has given the team bright starts in both games, so, perhaps, there is a case for him to stay at the top. Super Kings will have to choose between a fit-again M Vijay and Delhi’s Dhruv Shorey, who is uncapped in the IPL, for the middle-order slot thrown open by the absence of Raina.

In the news

  • Raina will miss a Super Kings match for the first time in his career.

  • Jadhav’s replacement David Willey joined the squad on the eve of the match.

  • Lungi Ngidi will not be available for Sunday’s clash, having flown back home to South Africa following the death of his father.

  • Ngidi’s captain at South Africa Faf du Plessis, who is recovering from a finger injury and a side strain, is “close” to full fitness, according to coach Stephen Fleming.

The likely XIs

Kings XI Punjab 1 KL Rahul (wk), 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Aaron Finch/David Miller, 4 Yuvraj Singh/Manoj Tiwary, 5 Karun Nair, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin (capt), 9 Andrew Tye, 10 Mohit Sharma, 11 Mujeeb Zadran

Chennai Super Kings 1 Shane Watson, 2 Ambati Rayudu, 3 M Vijay/Dhruv Shorey, 4 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 5 Sam Billings, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Dwayne Bravo 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Shardul Thakur, 11 Imran Tahir

Stats that matter

  • Axar Patel has a perfect record against Shane Watson, having dismissed the Australian allrounder five times in five IPL matches

  • MS Dhoni has struggled against spin, managing only 367 runs off 349 balls with a dot percentage of 45.6 since IPL 2015. Ravindra Jadeja has fared worse against spin, scoring only 157 off 161 balls in the same period.

  • Mohit Sharma has bagged 25 wickets between overs 16 and 20 in 43 IPL games since 2015. He also tends to leak runs in the same phase, though, as his economy-rate of 9.4 suggests.

Strategy punt

If Rayudu continues to open for CSK, Ashwin could do well to bring himself on right away. The spinner has dismissed Rayudu four times in 48 balls while giving away only 53 runs.

Fantasy pick

That he can bowl legspin with accuracy too has amplified the threat posed by Ashwin. He struck with a loopy legbreak in the 12th over on Friday, removing Sarfraz Khan, and bowled a total of four legbreaks in the match for just one run. In Kings XI’s tournament opener against Delhi Daredevils, Ashwin had ventured four legbreaks and conceded three runs.


“There is obviously a lot going on. The positive is we have two wins out of two. There haven’t been great performances but scrapping and fighting wins, which at the start of a tournament is more valuable.”
Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming

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