Ahmedabad, Mar 30 (IANS): Gujarat Titans were the flavour of IPL 2022. The newly-created franchise, in its debut season, ran all the way to the trophy, making for a delightful story as all departments of the game clicked in unison throughout the tournament.
Now, Hardik Pandya & Co would be eager to begin from where they left off at their home ground Narendra Modi Stadium last year -- secure wins in emphatic fashion. IPL 2023 opener will see the Titans face off against four-time champions Chennai Super Kings in Ahmedabad on Friday.
IPL 2023 has a lot of new initiatives like 'impact player' and announcing teams after the toss. But at the same time, there is a return to the good old comfort of the home-and-away format, which had been held back for the last three seasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It gives the teams' thinktanks a chance to create game plans specific to their home venues and cash on to the advantage of playing at home for an easier path to the playoffs. Against the backdrop of this, Friday's tournament opener will be a clash of the team which is itching to build a fortress against a side that has been in the IPL since its inception and know a thing or two about building a stronghold at the home venue.
The Titans enter the competition by retaining a major part of their core, apart from adding players like Kane Williamson, Shivam Mavi, K.S Bharat, Odean Smith, and Joshua Little. Their bowling looks sorted with Mavi, Mohammed Shami, Alzarri Joseph, Jayant Yadav, Rashid Khan and R. Sai Kishore in their ranks.
With David Miller unavailable for the first game due to his commitments with the South Africa ODI team, Hardik, along with Williamson, Shubman Gill, Rahul Tewatia, and Wriddhiman Saha will require to step up with the bat.
For Chennai, it is also a time to take a fresh guard after the captaincy swap and a ninth-place finish last year. With many people expecting this season to be the last for M.S Dhoni as a player-cum-captain in the CSK yellow, it will make the team more determined to give its best on the field.
The return of Deepak Chahar, who missed last year due to a back injury, will serve as a huge boost for Chennai, especially when it comes to bowling in the Power-play. But they need to figure out who will be their death-overs bowlers, especially with away matches like Friday's game.
With Mukesh Choudhary a doubtful starter due to back injury, and the Sri Lanka duo of Maheesh Theekshana and Matheesha Pathirana, plus South Africa pacer Sisanda Magala arriving only after April 8 due to international commitments, CSK need to see who are their death overs bowlers.
In terms of batting, Ruturaj Gaikwad's opening with Devon Conway is a no-brainer. With Robin Uthappa retiring, it will be interesting to see who will be the Indian batter in the line-up apart from Dhoni himself. Ben Stokes, Ravindra Jadeja and Moeen Ali are fine all-rounders who can win matches on their batting abilities.
Overall, IPL 2023 is set for a glittering start through a highly-anticipated clash between a captain aiming to prove that last season's triumph wasn't a fluke and a senior statesman calmly going about his way with an eye on glory and make the potential last-dance a memorable one.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (captain & wk), Moeen Ali, Bhagath Varma, Deepak Chahar, Devon Conway (wk), Tushar Deshpande, Shivam Dube, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Ravindra Jadeja, Sisanda Magala, Ajay Mandal, Mukesh Choudhary, Matheesha Pathirana, Dwaine Pretorius, Ajinkya Rahane, Shaik Rasheed, Ambati Rayudu, Mitchell Santner, Subhranshu Senapati, Simarjeet Singh, Nishant Sindhu, Prashant Solanki, Ben Stokes, Maheesh Theekshana
Gujarat Titans: Hardik Pandya (captain), Shubman Gill, Rahul Tewatia, Mohammed Shami, Shivam Mavi, Yash Dayal, R Sai Kishore, Abhinav Manohar, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Jayant Yadav, Vijay Shankar, KS Bharat (wk), Mohit Sharma, Darshan Nalkande, Urvil Patel, Sai Sudharsan, Pradeep Sangwan, Rashid Khan, David Miller, Matthew Wade (wk), Alzarri Joseph, Kane Williamson, Josh Little, Odean Smith, Noor Ahmad