Both teams experienced contrasting fortunes in IPL 2020. CSK finished a disappointing seventh, failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first time. Meanwhile, DC ended just short of glory, faltering against Mumbai Indians in the final.
In the head-to-head battle, CSK have a 15-8 win-loss record against DC. Ahead of the 24th game between the duo, let's have a look at three player duels that could be key in the outcome of the game.
#1 Rishabh Pant (DC) vs Moeen Ali (CSK)
In the absence of DC's regular captain Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant has been asked to step up and lead the side.
It would undoubtedly be a challenge for the 23-year-old. But both head coach Ricky Ponting and assistant coach Mohammad Kaif have opined that leadership could only elevate Pant’s batting.
On Saturday against CSK, the left-hander will get a chance to prove his coaches right. Pant has played some daring strokes against fast bowlers in international cricket recently. Against CSK, though, he is likely to come up against spinners when he comes out to bat.
It is no secret that Pant likes to dominate slow bowling, so he could step out with an attacking mindset against CSK.
While CSK have leg-spinner Imran Tahir and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja in their ranks, MS Dhoni could utilise off-spinner Moeen Ali against the aggressive Pant.
A smart operator, Ali was purchased by CSK in the mini-auction earlier this year for INR 7 crore as much for his big-hitting ability as for his spin-bowling prowess.
With his angle, Ali can spin the ball away from the left-hander. And if CSK can get their field placings right, they could trap the DC captain by forcing him to play a stroke to a fielder. Ali comes in having tasted success against India in the ODIs, so he should be quietly confident of a productive IPL campaign with CSK.
#2 Shikhar Dhawan (DC) vs Deepak Chahar (CSK)
DC opener Shikhar Dhawan had a bizarre IPL 2020 campaign. He was getting hundreds but was also getting out for ducks. Nevertheless, he did register impressive numbers - 618 runs in 17 games at an average of 44.14 and a strike rate of 144.73.
Dhawan created history in IPL 2020 by becoming the first player to score back-to-back hundreds in the history of the competition.
Although he did not feature in most of the T20 games against England, Dhawan came back strongly in the ODI series, registering two fifties in three games. The left-hander should head into IPL 2021 in the right frame of mind.
Meanwhile, for CSK, pacer Deepak Chahar was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing campaign last year. He picked up 12 wickets in 14 games at an economy rate of 7.61. In a number of matches, he kept things tight and got early breakthroughs for CSK.
Although a prolific scorer, Dhawan can be susceptible early on if he is kept quiet. Chahar has the ability to restrict batsmen with his accuracy. If he gets things right against Dhawan, the CSK pacer could do some significant early damage to DC's chances of winning the game.
#3 Faf du Plessis (CSK) vs Chris Woakes (DC)
With Shane Watson now retired, Faf du Plessis will be the senior opener in the CSK team. Like Chahar with the ball, Du Plessis was among the few positives for the franchise with the bat last year.
In 13 IPL games last season, the CSK opener smashed 449 runs at an average of 40.81 and a strike rate of 140.75. Four times during the competition last year, Du Plessis crossed the fifty-run mark.
Even in games which CSK lost, Faf du Plessis came up with impressive performances. He could be keen to carry on the good work this season too.
Meanwhile, with Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje unavailable for the first game due to quarantine rules, DC are set to field England’s pace-bowling all-rounder Chris Woakes.
Woakes did not feature in IPL 2020 but was retained by DC owing to his all-round prowess. In 18 IPL matches, Woakes has claimed 25 wickets. He can pick up early wickets, but he can be a bit expensive, though.
It would be a difficult task for the 32-year-old in the absence of Rabada and Nortje. Nevertheless, Woakes is an experienced campaigner and if he can get rid of Du Plessis early, he would have done a good job.