Royal Challengers Bangalore will face defending champions and table-toppers Chennai Super Kings at home on Sunday in Match 39. When these two franchises last met each other in the season opener at Chepauk on March 23rd, the Super Kings crushed Virat Kohli's men, who were bowled out for just 70 runs in 17.1 overs, by seven wickets.
With Chennai coming off a rare defeat against Sunrisers Hyderabd and RCB thumping Kolkata in their last game at Eden Gardens, this 'Super Sunday' contest between Kohli and MS Dhoni promises to be an exhilarating game of cricket.
A victory for Chennai would confirm their playoffs berth while the Royal Challengers will be trying to maintain the winning momentum to have any chance of making the playoffs. Let us look at three major changes expected for this epic clash as both the franchises are expected to tinker their XI.
#1 MS Dhoni in for Sam Billings
Dhoni who picked up a back spasm during the game against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens on April 14, missed CSK's clash against Sunrisers Hyderabad three days later. This was only the fourth instance of the former Indian skipper missing an IPL game in ten seasons for Chennai Super Kings.
The last time Dhoni had to sit out for the Men in Yellow was nine years back in 2010 against Royal Challengers Banglore. Fans were surprised when Suresh Raina walked out for the toss and confirmed that Sam Billings would replace the legendary wicket-keeper batsman at Hyderabad.
It was evident that Chennai missed Dhoni - the batsman, wicket-keeper and of course the captain as they tasted their second defeat of the 2019 IPL against Kane Williamson's men. Playing his first game of this season and that too replacing Dhoni, Billings did not trouble the scorers as he was dismissed for a duck in four balls. Behind the stumps, he only took a catch to dismiss all-rounder Vijay Shankar off Imran Tahir.
Stand-in skipper, Raina said after CSK's loss against Sunrisers, "He (Dhoni) is feeling a lot better now and probably will play in the next game against RCB". Dhoni, who is expected to return to the XI for Sunday's epic encounter will hold the key, having amassed 230 runs in eight matches at a strike-rate of 137.54 with two fifties.
The charismatic skipper will be looking forward to sealing a victory at the Garden City, thereby assuring CSK's playoffs berth.
#2 Mitchell Santner/Scott Kuggeleijn in for Karn Sharma
Leg-spinner Karn Sharma, who won the IPL title in the last three editions, played his first game of this season against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday. Karn, who knows the conditions at Hyderabad very well having played for them from 2013 to 2016 was roped into the CSK XI instead of Mitchell Santner.
It was a wise decision from the Chennai management but it did not yield the desired results as the leggie gave away 33 runs in just 2.5 overs at an economy of 11.65 apart from picking up the wicket of Deepak Hooda. Against RCB, he is expected to make way for either Mitchell Santner or Scott Kuggeleijn, depending upon the conditions.
#2 AB de Villiers in for Heinrich Klaasen
Heinrich Klaasen, who played for Rajasthan Royals last season replaced his compatriot AB de Villiers in the RCB XI against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens. Though the wicket-keeper batsman did not get an opportunity to bat, his fielding efforts against Dinesh Karthik's men won plaudits. De Villiers who was hit on the helmet during RCB's encounter against Mumbai at the Wankhede had to sit out for the game against Kolkata Knight Riders.
At the toss, skipper Kohli admitted, "AB is not well and we don't want to risk him". Considering the magnitude of the game against CSK, the legendary Proteas batsman is all set to replace Klaasen to galvanize the hosts' batting. Watch out for the superman from South Africa on Sunday evening!