The action for the Punjab Kings now shifts to the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, as KL Rahul and co. prepare to take on Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday in the 2021 VIVO Indian Premier League. The Chepauk Stadium, as it is more commonly known, will play host to Punjab Kings for their next two games, as the team management would be optimistic for a better return in those matches with a few returning stars and top quality spinners augmenting their chances.
Homecoming for Shahrukh and Murugan
Two of Tamil Nadu and Chennai’s brightest cricketers in Shahrukh Khan and Murugan Ashwin return back to the familiarity of their home stadium in Chepauk. Shahrukh has already given fans a glimpse of his explosive batting with that fighting knock against Chennai Super Kings, and Anil Kumble and the rest of the management would feel that knock was just the trailer of things to come.
“He (Shahrukh ) reminds me a bit of Pollard actually. When I was with Mumbai Indians, Pollard in the nets was dangerous. I used to bowl a bit (in the nets), and the first thing I used to tell him was don’t hit straight,” Anil Kumble had said in an interview to Punjab Kings.
The 25-year-old batsman made a name for himself at the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, where his explosive cameos helped Tamil Nadu to the title. Shahrukh boasted the highest strike rate in that tournament, and followed that up with two match winning fifties in the Vijay Hazare Trophy as well against Punjab and Jharkhand.
The new Punjab Kings recruit is yet to play a T20 game at the Chepauk Stadium, but averages 90.50 in First Class cricket at that ground. Apart from that, Shahrukh would have played countless age group and franchise games at the Chepauk Stadium, and would be well suited to use the pitch conditions and ground dimensions to his advantage.
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Murugan Ashwin also would be licking his lips at the prospect of bowling some leggies back in his home ground. He ended with figures of 0/23 in his four overs the last time he played an IPL game at Chennai, and also picked up eight wickets in the 2019 Tamil Nadu Premier League, bulking most of his games at the Chepauk Stadium that season.
While IPL 2021 doesn't have any teams playing games at home, Punjab Kings could be at an advantage playing twice in Chennai with these two homeboys primed to shine.
The Chepauk Stadium has historically been very conducive to spin bowling, and Punjab Kings would be keen to use that to their advantage in the coming week with many top quality spinners in their ranks.
Jalaj Saxena, who made his IPL debut on Sunday, would be eager to test his myriad variations at the Chepauk Stadium. The 34-year-old has year after year shown consistency in domestic cricket on those dusty tracks of the country, and would be hopeful to put all that experience to good use in his games against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians.
Ravi Bishnoi is another spinner Punjab could turn to for those two games. The leg spinner has a tendency to pick up wickets, and could benefit from the bigger boundaries and slower tracks of Chennai. The former India U19 player picked up 10 wickets in IPL 2020, and Anil Kumble and co. would hope he can have another wicket-laden season.
Apart from these two, Punjab have Saurabh Kumar and Harpreet Brar, both of whom come off the back of very successful domestic seasons. Several all-rounders like Deepak Hooda, Utkarsh Singh and Shahrukh could also chip in with their handy off-breaks, giving skipper KL Rahul plenty of choices at Chepauk.
While IPL 2021 doesn't have any teams playing games at home, Punjab Kings could be at an advantage playing twice in Chennai with two homeboys rearing to go and a quality spin attack.