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Cricket news - Dhoni uncertain as CSK fight to play at home

Will Dhoni be fit for Chennai's final home game this season?

Everything, eventually, like with life, is one cyclone away from becoming a literal damp squib. So let's make the first and the most basic mistake: ignore the meteorological departments warnings of a certain 'Cyclone Fani', which might or might not hit Tamil Nadu's coast, and assume that the IPL working committee strikes a four-hour truce with the clouds.

So then, as the rest of the ensemble fight around to get a foot into the play-offs, the Capitals have come visiting in a proper first world clash - for a top two spot for themselves - which at the end of next week both these teams could just as well have irrespective.

Chennai's points table at a similar stage suggests an exact repeat of 2018, 16 points in 12 games, but apparently points tables too, like scorecards, don't tell you the real story. You could feel 2018 in your bones. There was something special waiting to be written, some force from somewhere orchestrating, pre-marking one player to turn star per match. It's needed 2019 for the world to realise that it's only when MS Dhoni pulls up his back and sits out, or catches a virus, the realisation of how shallow the entire haze of good hope has been around this creaky outfit actually dawns.

Maybe net run-rate is a more ideal way of judging campaigns, which by 2018's standards, CSK has been off negatively by 0.366. Nevertheless, none of this seems to have had an impact on the confidence with which they went through their pre-match practice, wrapping up a three-hour schedule in less than two hours, allowing DC to use up their side of the ground as well.

Delhi, meanwhile, just aren't used to where they're sitting in the points table. It's not everyday that they don't have to scrap for every decimal point in the net run-rate at this stage in the tournament, hope that every other result too goes their way and step onto the field with only some leftover pride to save. It certainly hasn't been this rosy for seven long years. This dominance must feel new.

They've easily been the most heartwarming story of this IPL, a new name, new colours and finally some well-retained players yielding the fruits of maturity. Had it not been for some stunning middle-order collapses, they could easily have had a couple of more wins in their kitty.

When: Chennai Super Kings vs Delhi Capitals, May 1, at 8:00 pm IST

Where: MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

What to expect: The cyclone warnings mean a generous cloud cover has engulfed the city. Not that it's any less hot, or humid, but there's a slight threat of scattered showers in the afternoon. A 24-percent chance if Google is to be believed.

While Chennai, the team, may still have been a predictable affair, the Chepauk strip just hasn't. The groundsmen though were braving flying balls from the practice nets on either side of the pitch, with batsmen from both sides hell bent on slogging everything out, as they diligent went about doing everything they could - watering generously, heavy-rolling, but still refusing to entertain any sight of grass on it. To be fair, the pitches here have become better as the tournament has gone on, and this cloudy weather would certainly help reduce evaporation.

Team news:

Chennai Super Kings: Stephen Fleming did confirm the return to full fitness of both Faf du Plessis and Ravindra Jadeja. Their real worry, MS Dhoni, remains dodgy. He didn't turn up for practice, and Fleming confirmed the call regarding his availability would be taken only tomorrow.

Mitchell Santner was seen having an extended hit in the nets, and irrespective of how fickle CSK's bowling changes have been, it would be cruel to drop a guy after he's produced figures of 4-0-13-2. Perhaps he could continue in place of Dwayne Bravo, who's had a pretty ordinary season thus far.

Probable XI: Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis/Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina (c), Ambati Rayudu (w), Kedar Jadhav, Mitchell Santner/DJ Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Harbhajan Singh, Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir

Delhi Capitals: They clearly don't have injury worries, with Shikhar Dhawan quick to dismiss any in the press conference. Despite an extended net session, they seem good to field their same XI. Sourav Ganguly, the mentor, seemed to take special interest in Sandeep Lamichhane, marking out areas on the pitch and making him bowl to one stump in the net as he watched closely from behind. Now all this effort should mean than Sandeep's starting tomorrow.

Probable XI: Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer (c), Rishabh Pant (wk), Colin Ingram, Sherfane Rutherford, Axar Patel, Amit Mishra, Kagiso Rabada, Sandeep Lamichhane, Ishant Sharma

What they said:

"Dhoni is has been pretty sick during this week. We will make a call on him tomorrow. He is progressing which is good. While missing someone like Dhoni, you can't pretend that you have a replacement for him. That would be wrong. We haven't over-analysed it. It's very simple; if Dhoni's not playing other players need to step up." -- CSK head coach, Stephen Fleming, analyses both options, leaving it for tomorrow to take a call on MS Dhoni's fitness

"We want to carry forward this momentum. Also one game isn't going to make a huge difference. You don't want to disturb the momentum just to give a game to a player because he hasn't played. The momentum carries much more value than bringing in an individual and giving him a chance at this stage of the tournament." -- Shikhar Dhawan, clearly isn't in favour of any experimentation just before the play-offs.

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