|Brian Lara, during a charity match, in Dehradun, on Thursday, to raise funds for the Uttarakhand flood victims. (PTI)
Jaipur: A high-voltage clash is expected when Rajasthan Royals, who have turned the Sawai Man Singh Stadium into a fortress with a 12-match winning streak, lock horns with the formidable Chennai Super Kings in the first semi-final of the Champions League Twenty20, here, on Friday.
Royals breezed into the semi-final with an unbeaten four-match streak while CSK, the first team to reach the semi-finals, stumbled in their final group game against Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday.
Former champions CSK are aware that their opponents have not lost a single match in this venue in the last IPL. Going by the home side’s performance in the ongoing tournament, the record surely wears an invincible look.
Considering that they will be playing in front of the home crowd, the scenario is ideal for Royals captain Rahul Dravid, though he is also aware that the tournament’s toughest challenge awaits them.
The hosts know the conditions like the back of their hands and the strategies they made had been executed well. But CSK, led by India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, could be an altogether different proposition.
Royals would do well to not read too much into CSK’s defeat on Wednesday.
On a day when nothing went right after three successive wins, the famed CSK outfit crashed to an eight-wicket defeat after being bowled out for 118. While the CSK bowlers had no answer to T&T’s Lendl Simmons (63), they would hope to dish out a much better display with both bat and ball on Friday.
The visitors have tremendous depth in both batting and bowling. In Dhoni, they have a cool and shrewd captain who is also in blazing from with the willow.
Though he may not have done much against T&T, Dhoni’s 19-ball 63-run knock against Sunrisers Hyderabad is testimony to the kind of form he is in.
Suresh Raina and Michael Hussey are as solid as ever and Murali Vijay has also shown good form of late. Ravindra Jadeja has not been up to the mark but he can never be counted out.
The likes of Subramaniam Badrinath and Dwayne Bravo give their batting a lot of depth.
Their bowling too has a lot of variety in Jason Holder, Bravo, Albie Morkel, Ashwin and Jadeja.
On the other hand, the Royals do not have too many big stars but certainly have players who know their role.
In Dravid, Shane Watson and Brad Hodge they have the experience and class, which are supported by talented youngsters like Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson, Kevon Cooper and Ashok Menaria.
The hosts also have a lot of teeth in their bowling. Rookies Vikramjeet Malik, Rahul Shukla and Pravin Tambe have been surprise packages.
CSK coach Stephen Fleming feels they have to be at their best if they want to defeat Royals.
“Rajasthan Royals are a pretty formidable side at home and we need to be at the top of our game. We are aware of their record at home. We all know how tough it would be for us. We had some great games against them in the past. They will post a tough challenge for us,” Fleming said.
Asked about the loss to Trinidad, Fleming said Chennai kept on losing wickets at regular intervals.
“There were a couple of dismissals in the middle… We lost (Suresh) Raina and (Murali) Vijay in the middle of our innings.”