With the business end of the IPL looming, Chennai and Delhi find themselves poles apart heading into Saturday’s much-anticipated clash. While the ‘yellow brigade’ is fighting tooth and nail to stay alive, Delhi have virtually ensured a berth in the playoffs. For Virender Sehwag’s team, the aim is to ensure a top-two finish. His strokeplayers would also want to get a feel of the Chepauk track that will host the final on May 27.
A resounding victory against Hyderabad has left Delhi on a high and with the likes of David Warner firing on all cylinders, Chennai will face a tough test. The myth around ‘fortress Chepauk’ has been busted in this IPL and Dhoni knows the Warner threat all too well. Last October, playing for New South Wales, the Australian had launched a vicious attack on Chennai during the Champions League, ousting Dhoni’s men from the competition.
With Chennai’s bowling not at its best, Warner will be hoping to repeat the October burst that left the likes of R Ashwin and Doug Bollinger demoralized. This time around, Ben Hilfenhaus has joined the Chennai ranks and it’s up to another burly Aussie to keep Warner and Sehwag in check.
Chennai cannot afford to put a wrong foot at this stage. They have to win two of their last three games to have any chance of qualifying. If anything goes wrong on Saturday, the champions will be left to fight for survival away from home against two teams — Kolkata and Punjab — which have already beaten them in the competition once each.
On Thursday night in Jaipur, Chennai did manage a win but it wasn’t exactly an inspirational performance. There was a stage when they needed 46 off 24 balls and Albie Morkel cashed in on the inexperience of Pankaj Singh to turn things around.
The Delhi attack is much more balanced, with Morne Morkel leading from the front and Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav and Shahbaz Nadeem chipping in smartly. Dhoni knows the top-order can’t afford to falter the way it did against Rajasthan.
“Our top six need to perform. As the tournament is reaching the business end, the batsmen are coming under pressure early on. From now on, we need to bat freely to give ourselves a chance,” the captain said.
The team management is, however, worried about the illness of in-form batsman Faf du Plessis.