Unfamiliarity, Gujarat Titans Embrace Sweltering Chennai Heat, Chepauk Challenge

On Sunday night, the Gujarat Titans concluded their last league game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. By Sunday evening, they found themselves immersed in the sweltering humidity of Chennai, putting in the hard work a day ahead of the highly significant Qualifier 1 against the Chennai Super Kings.

With a tight turnaround time between games for the defending champions, their practice session on a travel day was kept relatively light. Notably, key players such as Hardik Pandya, Shubman Gill, Rashid Khan, and Mohammad Shami opted to skip the practice session. Instead, the support staff, led by Ashish Nehra, Vikram Solanki, and Mithun Manhas, prioritized providing opportunities for others to have a substantial hit in the middle.

Also Read: MS Dhoni Belts it in the Nets, CSK Prepare for Trial by Spin at Humid Chepauk

Only David Miller and Vijay Shankar had an extended session in the centre strip. Vijay, fresh from his 35-ball 53-run knock against RCB – coming in as an impact player – dispelled any doubts over his fitness and the home town boy could very well don a similar role.

Vijay Shankar (Pic Credit: Gujarat Titans)

Their initial No.3, after Kane Williamson was injured in the first game, Sai Sudarshan – also a local Chennai boy – has been sensational whenever he got the chance to bat higher. He got a good hit too in the nets adjacent to the ground with GT’s second-string pace attack of Pradeep Sangwan, Shivam Mavi and Dasun Shanka bowling in tandem.

But only one from Shankar and Sudarshan will make the cut, and considering the Moeen Ali, and Ravindra Jadeja threat, it is likely Shankar will get the nod.

However, GT, who have been near clinical in their campaign so far, do have one major issue to deal with. And that is the fact that this will be GT’s first-ever game at the Chepauk, making things rather interesting for Hardik Pandya and Co.

For CSK, as head coach Stephen Fleming eluded after that last league game against DC, the Chepauk track this year has been a mystery for them as well. They have won only four of the seven home games. Historically a slow track, it is likely that Dhoni will opt for the same pitch (5) that hosted Punjab Kings on April 30, in which 405 runs were scored with CSK ending up on the losing side by four wickets.

Also Read: From Gill to Conway, Here are the Players to Watch Out For IPL 2023, Qualifier 1

CSK would be vary of giving GT and spin-friendly track with Rashid Khan and Noor Ahmad on the opposition camp, but they will back on the likes of Jadeja, Moeen and Matheesha Pathirana.

And to counter this, GT had given Miller practically the whole session that started from 6:30 and went on till 10 in the night. While Shankar, Sudarshan, and Abhinav Manohar oscillated between the centre strip and the nets area, Miller had the pitch closest to the one to be used for the game tonight all to himself with spinners Sai Kishore and Jayant Yadav bowling at him.

(From left) Moeen Ali, Ashish Nehra and Gary Kirsten (Pic Credit; Gujarat Titans)

Miller did take mistime a few initially, but once he got going the empty chairs at the Chepauk bore the brunt of the brutal hitting. Miller particularly targeted the left-arm orthodox Kishore during the session and to good measure.

With no Shami, Yash Dayal and their two spinners on show, the nets were dominated by Mavi, Shanaka, Sangwan and Joshua Little, who was back after international duty before the RCB game but GT decided not to rush him.

But, against CSK there is a possibility of Little finding a place at the expense of Dayal, which would mean Shanka makes way for Manohar in the middle order. And going by how the practice session went by, it is likely Manohar makes the cut.

GT though did practice let into the night under hot and humid conditions which their team bus spotted leaving the MA Chidambaram stadium at 11:30 PM. And they will be back in just over 14 hours’ time faced with the daunting task of facing the partisan Chennai Crowd, the Sweltering Humidity and MS Dhoni.

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