Chennai Super Kings is facing topsy-turvy times in defence of its title. Not that the other nine teams in the Twenty20 spectacle of the expanded IPL have been runaway winners. Even the smart and strong Mumbai Indians has fallen a victim.
Languishing at the lower half of the points table, CSK rallied to grab two vital points at Chepauk on Monday night, and moved to the top half. The tournament is at the halfway stage and awaiting more hard and fierce encounters.
Having tasted its third victory and gained some momentum, CSK is ready to lock horns again with the Pune Warriors in one of the back-to-back matches at the D.Y. Patil (DYP) Sports Stadium here on Wednesday.
The variety the pitch brings at the venue would be a far cry from the one experienced at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium. So far the curator at the DYP has earned some good words from visiting team captains. It has encouraged batsmen and bowlers endowed with skill to prosper.
Manish Pandey has served the four-match ban and has played his first match this season, but Pune is feeling the absence of Sri Lankan all-rounder Angelo Mathews, bought at $950,000 at the auction and also left-hand seamer Ashish Nehra. Moreover Graeme Smith is down with a hamstring niggle and has not played the last two matches.
With Pandey eligible to play, the Warriors will have to rework its combination and offer an opening position to Robin Uthappa in order to make capital of the mandatory power-play overs at the start.
Yuvraj (129), Ryder (135) and Uthappa (102) have played their part in five matches, but repositioning of the batting order is a priority that Warriors' captain Yuvraj Singh and coach Geoff Marsh would mull over before the 4 p.m. start. Smith's availability would be crucial.
CSK would be keen to overcome the ups and downs story. Not to mince words, coach Stephen Fleming, articulated his sentiments, especially on his team's catching and fielding against Mumbai Indians here last week. But he also fervently hoped that the batsmen and bowlers would fulfil their potential, rise to the occasion and that Morkel would pull his weight sooner than later.
Clearly CSK's strength has been its batting depth. Michael Hussey (193 runs) has proved to be a thorn in the flesh of the opponents. S. Badrinath (172) has been such a wonderful team man and the likes of Murali Vijay (180), Dhoni (137) and Suresh Raina (119) have emerged with timely knocks. What's awaited now is the news of the severity of the troubling hamstring to Vijay; if he's declared unfit then S. Anirudha may open with Hussey.