Dhoni 6, Pietersen 0. That’s the scoreline between them when the two captained India and England respectively for a series in India Bangalore Royal Challengers’ Anil Kumble celebrates with teammates after taking a wicket against Rajasthan Royals.
But when the two maverick leaders of Team Chennai and Royal Challengers clash in the fifth match of the Indian Premier League at Port Elizabeth on Monday, Dhoni will know that basking in the glory of that 6-0 lead will be suicidal.
Having lost the tournament-opener to Mumbai Indians by 19 runs, Chennai, last year’s runners up, will be hoping to get on the points table on Monday.
They will be up against a buoyed up Royal Challengers outfit after their crushing 75-run win over defending champions Team Jaipur in Cape Town on Saturday.
Both teams will need to keep the conditions of Port Elizabeth in mind when they decide on the combination. Port Elizabeth has always been a slowish wicket which tends to keep a bit low.
The spinners, who very much called the shots on Day 1 of the tourney, could be in business again at St George’s Park. May be, it’s a chance for Dhoni to drop one of his seamers, probably Thilan Thushara and get in the Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan.
In hindsight, Dhoni will rue the absence of the explosive Albie Morkel in the first match who could not play as his kit was misplaced by the airline in Johannesburg.
His sharp seam bowling and lusty hitting could just have meant the difference between victory and defeat. The Royal Challengers though will be keen on maintaining the momentum they gained from their massive win over Team Jaipur.
They looked a renewed outfit under no-nonsense coach Ray Jennings and new captain Kevin Pietersen. The latter’s eyes could just light up seeing the inclusion of Muralitharan in the Chennai outfit as it was against his bowling that he had first tried the ‘switch hit’.
KP will only be keen to repeat the stroke, which caused so much debate in cricketing circles, in the shortest form of the game. The Team Chennai vs Royal Challengers clash will also witness a battle within a battle as Pietersen will face off against Andrew Flintoff, his fellow Englishman and fellow $1.55m-man in IPL 2.