Mumbai Indians (MI) face an away clash against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, in match 43 of this year’s Pepsi Indian Premier League (IPL).
The Super Kings have played to their pedigree this season too, dominating teams with a supreme brand of cricket and thriving on consistency in results; no wonder they are currently atop of the table and assured of a playoff spot.
The Indians, after suffering a calamitous start to their campaign with four straight defeats, have done well to register five wins from their next six games and give themselves a genuine chance of making it to the playoffs.
Mumbai have been the only IPL side that has gone toe-to-toe with CSK over the years, though they have failed to win any of their last four games including the ignominious 6-wicket defeat in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, against MS Dhoni’s side.
Can they conjure up an unlikely victory tomorrow against the Super Kings, who are playing on another level compared to the rest of the IPL outfits? Read on…
The Super Kings are one of the very few IPL sides that possess a wonderful blend of international stars and talented Indian players, who make up a significant 7 spots in their team’s playing XI.
The likes of Brendon McCullum, Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Bravo are devastating T20 players who have played to potential this time around too and been crucial to their side dominating the tournament until this point of the campaign.
McCullum, fresh from leading New Zealand into the finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, has been impossible to bowl to and invariably provided his team with good starts at the top of the order.
He continues to play with so much confidence and no bowler has so far come up with an answer to his imperious approach to T20 batting.
Of late, though, the swashbuckling right-hander has struggled to kick on after getting off to starts and it has had a mitigating effect on his side, who, as a result, have not been able to post big totals or chase them down, like against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH).
McCullum is the leading run-scorer with 315 runs for the Super Kings, whose second highest scorer is Smith. The hard-hitting Caribbean opener has done well as a Super King after making the move from Mumbai last Indian summer.
Chennai’s strength lies in the quick starts provided by their opening duo of McCullum and Smith, but the two-time IPL winners’ middle-order, despite the presence of Suresh Raina, du Plessis and Dhoni himself, has surprisingly struggled to score runs this season.
Dhoni, in particular, has been woeful with the bat, struggling to rotate strike, getting bowled against medium pace bowlers and striking it at just 122 runs/100 balls, which, however, does not reflect how poor he has been.
Yes, both Dhoni and Raina have notched up over 200 runs each so far, however, when their side has been in a spot of bother, none of them have actually played a noteworthy innings. Such a pattern was palpable in their defeats, all of which have come away from home, against Rajasthan Royals (RR), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Sunrisers this season.
It will be an area to target for tomorrow’s visitors, who need to remind themselves that early wickets against CSK will give them a fair chance of winning the game.
Coming to the bowling department, Ashish Nehra, without a shadow of doubt, has been in very good rhythm, bowling very good lines and lengths that have suffocated most batsmen from getting him away.
The left-arm seamer has been well backed up by Dwayne Bravo, who, with 16 wickets to his name, is a vital cog with the ball for CSK.
Mohit Sharma has continued from where he left off for India at the Cricket World Cup earlier in the year, though he has been a touch expensive and going at an economy rate of 8.6 runs-per-over.
Ravindra Jadeja has not been effective as in previous seasons, picking up just 5 wickets and conceding close to 8.5 runs-per-over.
Technically, he has become more round-armish and hence been quite easy for most batsmen to score runs off him while also feeling less threatened to be dismissed.
Ravichandran Ashwin’s two-match absence has not affected his side from delivering results, as Pawan Negi has done well with the ball and as a lower order batsman. The home boy, however, is expected to recover in time for tomorrow’s game.
Super Kings, as aforementioned, will look to set the tone early on in the innings, be it with the bat or ball.
They have got the personnel to wrest control of the game early on with quick runs or wickets, and will look to do exactly the same against what is actually proving to be a decent MI side that played poorly early on in the tournament.
The visitors come into this game on the back of four consecutive victories, which will have done their confidence a world of good.
They won their last fixture against Delhi Daredevils (DD) on Tuesday night, a victory that was crucial to keeping them in the hunt for making it to the playoffs, and will look to build on from the momentum they have gained recently.
The openers – Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons – have started delivering and been the cornerstone to their side’s renaissance. Both the batsmen have been scoring runs recently and are in good touch ahead of this massive fixture.
Mumbai’s middle order has had a lot of renovation done to it and simply hasn’t look settled, with Rohit Sharma slotting himself at No.4 and Unmukt Chand predominantly being the No.3 batsman, who has failed to deliver.
Therefore, it is mighty important for Mumbai that Simmons and Parthiv get them off to a good start again, and thereby not put their middle order, comprising of free stroke-makers in Rohit and Kieron Pollard, in a catch-22 situation.
The form of Ambati Rayudu has simply been superb, with the Hyderabadi batsman playing two match-winning innings in his side’s last three games: his 53 (27) against RR was flawless and helped his side post a formidable 187 on the board; against the Daredevils on Tuesday, boy, what a magnificent innings it turned out to be, under pressure?
At first he played second fiddle to Rohit when they were reeling at 40/4; he largely looked for singles and intended to give the strike back to the Mumbai batsman. Once Rohit was dismissed and MI were pushed into a tight corner, Rayudu’s approach changed completely and he nonchalantly took his side over the line, with not much effort required from Pollard, who got himself a nice 14-ball 26.
Rayudu and Pollard getting runs should hold Mumbai in good stead, heading into the business end of the tournament that sees them face pivotal clashes against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and KKR after tomorrow night’s game.
MI’s bowling, along with their batting, has improved on its performance levels as the season has progressed, picking wickets, bowling economically and winning games for their side.
The drawback for MI is that Lasith Malinga will not be available for this game and, having returned to form with the ball, it is a massive hole to be filled for the visitors.
It will be interesting to see how they respond to that selection, and whether they look to strengthen the batting or give an outing to someone like Marchant de Lange, who has been warming the benches from game No.1.
Apart from that, Mitchell McClenaghan has been a crucial component in this MI revival that needs to keep going for the remaining 4 games if they are to make it to the last four.
The New Zealand seamer has picked up 9 wickets from 6 games and, apart from the last game when he got bludgeoned by Yuvraj Singh, added firepower to his side’s bowling attack.
|Harbhajan will hold the key to Mumbai’s chances of winning|
Harbhajan Singh had an impressive outing against DD after a couple of tough games with the ball, and the Turbanator will relish bowling at the Chepauk.
The form of Vinay Kumar and Jagadeesha Suchith – the Karnataka duo – has improved, as well, though it remains to be seen how they respond to the strong CSK batting lineup.
Like the hosts, the visitors will also depend on their new ball bowlers and opening batsmen to do their respective jobs well early on in the game, as that is where Dhoni’s devils are at their strongest.
The M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, given the kind of surface that gets prepared to invariably suit the home side, overwhelmingly favors the side batting first, meaning that the toss becomes rather indispensable and, in many ways, has an influence on the end result of the game. Chennai will start as favorites for this fixture, but Mumbai, given their recent form, will be a force to reckon with.