KOLKATA: In the backdrop of M.S. Dhoni`s on-field argument with umpires, Chennai Super Kings will start as overwhelming favourites when they take on Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in an Indian Premier League clash at the Eden Gardens here on Sunday.
Chennai captain Dhoni was fined 50 per cent of his match fee for an unprecedented confrontation with the umpires during their encounter against Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur on Thursday.
Former cricketers came down heavily on India`s two-time World Cup winning captain, saying Dhoni`s act set a wrong precedent.
Chennai went on to win the match, their sixth victory in seven outings as they gunned down a modest 152 run target in a dramatic final over.
A sharp departure from his `captain cool` image, it remains to be seen whether the first-of-its kind incident in Dhoni`s career ruffles his feathers or not.
Sitting pretty at the top of the table, Chennai have so far ticked all the boxes with every passing game. Dhoni has led the team from the front, racking up 214 runs in five innings at an average of 107.
The 37-year-old has looked like his vintage best, finishing off ties for the side and hitting those trademark sixes to roll back the years.
Dhoni is also the team`s highest run getter. Chennai have been playing as a unit with the likes of Faf du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Shane Watson and Kedar Jadhav all coming good in some matches or the other.
With the ball, Deepak Chahar has been in sensational form, setting the record the other day for most dot balls in an innings. The Rajasthan pacer is the second highest wicket taker so far this season with 10 scalps.
Often termed as a team of oldies, spinners Harbhajan Singh and Imran Tahir have showed why experience is needed with good displays with the ball.
Harbhajan has been the surprise package, taking seven wickets from four matches and finding himself inside the top-10 wicket takers` list.
Coming to the hosts, KKR have lost two games in a row now, and there are chinks in the armour which skipper Dinesh Karthik needs to fix as soon as possible.
In their first meeting, KKR were swept aside by Chennai and another defeat on Sunday would not help their cause as other teams are fast catching up on the second spot.
KKR have injury and sickness issues too with Chris Lynn and Karthik suffering from flu, Sunil Narine injured and Andre Russell also picking up a niggle.
Russell has been the team`s go-to man and his possible absence might hurt the home team big.
KKR lost to Delhi Capitals on Friday night with Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant making short work of their bowlers. One good sign is Shubman Gill hitting form after he was asked to open the batting. Now it remains to be seen whether the 19-year-old is given another shot at his favoured position or not with the team having plenty of them to stake a claim.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Dinesh Karthik (captain), Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite, Joe Denly, Lockie Ferguson, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Harry Gurnley, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Nitish Rana, Sandeep Warrier, K.C. Cariappa, Shubman Gill, Rinku Singh, Shrikant Mundhe, Nikhil Naik, Anrich Nortje, Prithvi Raj, Prasidh Krishna.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (captain & WK), Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Murali Vijay, Kedar Jadhav, Sam Billings, Ravindra Jadeja, Dhruv Shorey, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Rituraj Gaikwad, Dwayne Bravo, Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Santner, Shardul Thakur, Mohit Sharma, K.M. Asif, Deepak Chahar, N. Jagadeesan (wk), Scott Kuggeleign