The 8th edition of the Pepsi Indian Premier League (IPL) has been an amazing tournament so far, and the final two games – a virtual semi-final and final – involving three heavyweight teams, should live up to the billing, as well.
|Can Dhoni find his mojo tonight, playing in Ranchi?|
The JSCA International Stadium in Ranchi will host the second qualifier, a South Indian derby involving the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), to decide which team goes on to face the Mumbai Indians (MI) at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, in the final of IPL 2015.
MS Dhoni’s men have only won 40% of their last five games, and their performance in the first qualifier clearly demonstrated their immediate form prior to such a pivotal clash.
Virat Kohli’s side, on the other hand, has lost just 1 of their last five games, and their performances have been very much up to the mark too.
Tonight’s clash is all about which of these teams can bring their A-game to the table, and deliver their best cricket when it matters the most.
Chennai won both their games against Bangalore in the league phase of this edition of the IPL, but they were in pretty good form at the time and therefore, managed to overwhelm the Vijay Mallya-owned franchise.
Will the current form for either of these sides determine their passage into Sunday’s finals? Or will Dhoni find his mojo tonight, playing in his hometown and defeat Team India’s new Test captain Kohli once again? Answers to follow…
The player battles in this intriguing tussle between CSK and RCB could have a profound impact on the end result of the game.
Man-to-man there is not much to choose between these two star-studded lineups, with the Challengers, in particular, wanting to do well and overcome their ineptitude to win their first IPL title.
Talking of Chennai first, Brendon McCullum’s significance to his side’s form in the early phase of this IPL cannot be stressed enough: he was ultra-aggressive at the top of the order, and Dhoni’s devils invariably got the upper hand very early on in their games, managing to do enough thereafter, to remain ahead of the opposition.
Dwayne Smith has struggled after a few good innings’ early on, and Michael Hussey, with his conventional and calculated approach to cricket, will not bother most opponents.
The Super Kings’ middle order has flattered to deceive this season, and it simply got to come good tonight, in order for their side to have a chance of beating the red hot RCB.
The good news, however, for them is that the Challengers’ bowling attack can be made to look ordinary, with Mitchell Starc being the only bowler who can pose danger to the batsmen regardless of the nature of the playing surface.
Chennai, for me, need to get their batting order sorted and what I mean by it is that Dhoni has been the villain for his side, failing to score quick runs and stick to a position in the batting lineup.
The Indian ODI skipper has walked into bat at various positions during the 15 games so far, upsetting the rhythm of the batsman in the middle and approach of the ones, Faf du Plessis, for instance, to follow him.
Even without McCullum, CSK have got the batsmen to cash in on a relatively inexperienced RCB attack and post a big total on the board if they bat first.
Their bowling has been steady throughout the tournament and Dhoni, in the aftermath of defeat to MI in the first qualifier, admitted that he was happy with how his bowlers fared, even though Mumbai got up to 187 after looking like they would only get to 170, at best.
Ravindra Jadeja and Mohit Sharma, though, remain the weak links in their side’s bowling attack, but it will be greatly surprising if Dhoni changes two of his trusted personnel, at this stage of the season.
Moving onto RCB, they look a better batting side compared to their opponents tonight. In AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle and Kohli, Bangalore have three batsmen in the top 10 leading run-scorers of the tournament, and will hold the key to tonight’s encounter.
Gayle can be a bit of hit-and-miss, though he can do significant damage to the opponent’ chances of winning if he bats for 10 overs; Kohli, while opening the batting along with the Jamaican, has sought to play the anchor role; and de Villiers, without having to say anything, looks totally irrepressible at the moment.
But, again, the Royal Challengers’ batting lineup is akin to Chennai’s, in that they too have a brittle middle order which can capitulate against the bowling trio of Ashish Nehra, Dwayne Bravo and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Mandeep Singh played a magnificent innings against the Rajasthan Royals (RR) a couple of nights back, and will once again have to step up to the plate tonight. The all-rounder skills of David Wiese will hold the key to RCB posting a big total if they bat first, or have to chase to reach the finals.
Royal Challengers’ bowling attack has done well, picking 96 wickets in the 15 games they have played. Yuzvendra Chahal and Harshal Patel have delivered wickets and consistency, picking 21 and 16 wickets, respectively, so far, but face their biggest test tonight against CSK.
Sreenath Arvind, in the 4 games, has done well, but needs to stand up tonight; Chennai might try to score heavily against him.
As you can see, there is ‘nothing’ to choose between CSK and RCB, who promise yet another intriguing T20 cricket match in this year’s Pepsi IPL. And, as the headline suggests, it will be a tussle between the Royal Challengers’ temperament against the Super Kings’ current form.