Mumbai Indians (MI) will square off against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) for the fourth time this season, although the stakes will be higher than ever before when the sides meet at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata tomorrow, to decide who wins the eighth edition of the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2015 (IPL 2015).
The Indians were the first team to qualify for the finals this season, after they beat the Super Kings by 25 runs at the Wankhede Stadium in the Qualifier 1 this past Tuesday.
Chennai, after losing to Mumbai, moved to Ranchi, their skipper’s hometown, and awaited the winner of the eliminator that was played between Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) on Wednesday.
Virat Kohli’s side won the eliminator emphatically, putting themselves in a virtual semifinal against MS Dhoni’s devils, on Friday. The hosts – Chennai – played better on the night and went on to win the game by 3 wickets, setting up a date with Mumbai in the final on Sunday.
Both these sides have been involved in a couple of IPL finals before, with Chennai winning in 2010 and Mumbai Indians beating Dhoni’s side in 2013, when the final was played at the exact same venue where the sides will meet tomorrow night.
Will the script be different this time around? Can Mumbai beat Chennai for the third time in a row this season? Which team will feel confident ahead of the final showdown?
Answers to follow…
Anybody who has followed this IPL season will need no reminding of Mumbai’s renaissance, winning 88% of their last 9 games and thereby getting themselves into the third final in their history.
At the beginning of the season, Mumbai Indians failed as a team, with their batsmen failing to put up the runs on the board, the bowlers proving their ineptitude to pick wickets and on the field, they failed to take the chances they were afforded.
Their first win of the campaign came against Bangalore, where their batsman put up a gargantuan total (209/7) on the board, with their openers providing a solid foundation for them and the likes of Unmukt Chand and Rohit playing ideal T20 innings’ to provide their side that final push to such a massive total.
RCB did well for a major part of their chase, but Mumbai bowlers did enough to win the spoils for their team.
They had a few positives to come out of that game, in which Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons started forming a very good partnership at the top of the order and their bowling attack provided them with some sort of solidity compared to their previous outings.
Mumbai, however, could not replicate such form when they faced Delhi Daredevils (DD) at the Feroz Shah Kotla and suffered a massive defeat, their 4th in the first five games.
Things really started clicking into gear for Mumbai when Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) visited Wankhede and put up a really poor display with the bat; losing the game by 20 runs and helping the Indians kick start a 5-game winning run.
During that run, which saw them defeat the likes of Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), Rajasthan, Delhi, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Chennai, Patel and Simmons got their team off to many a good start; Hardik Pandya impressed massively with the bat while coming in at No.5 and No.6 positions; Ambati Rayudu punched above his weight and played a couple of match-winning innings, and Kieron Pollard did his bit with the bat, too.
The bowling remained a bit of a worry still, but Lasith Malinga has got into his bowling groove as the season has progressed, and in Mitchell McClenaghan, the Srilankan quick has found a solid new ball bowling partner who, without a smidgen of doubt, has been the talismanic figure in Mumbai Indians’ season.
The Mumbai Indians team management has also been rewarded for their persistence with Jagadeesha Suchith, who continues to impress with his calmness and willingness to bowl during the mandatory powerplay overs. Harbhajan Singh, the lead spinner in the side, has been a tad inconsistent this season, though he played a starring role with the ball in Mumbai beating Chennai to the finals and will look to repeat such a performance tomorrow.
The impressive aspect about Mumbai Indians’ season has been the way they have kept getting stronger as the season has progressed; they have been the more consistent of the two eventual finalists during the second half of this IPL season, and though they have had to work hard for their victories, Rohit and company will be confident ahead of tomorrow’s showdown.
Going into tomorrow’s game, they have had an extra three days than their opponents to prepare and acclimatize to the conditions in Kolkata and that will be of slight advantage to them.
Also, Mumbai don’t have any particular weakness in their probable playing XI, while Chennai have at least a couple of chinks in their armor: the middle order has failed to perform consistently and it remains to be seen if their bowling attack can pick wickets against an in-form Mumbai batting lineup, even though they have two of their bowlers – Ashish Nehra and Dwayne Bravo – in the top three leading wicket-takers of the tournament so far.
Batting remains Mumbai Indians’ strongest suit, and the batsmen will have to play their parts well if their side is to trounce Chennai once more and this time, go on to lift the crown.
Chennai Super Kings (CSK)
The South Indian franchise started off its campaign with a narrow victory at home against Delhi, following it up with 5 more wins against the likes of Sunrisers, Kings XI, Knight Riders, Mumbai and Royal Challengers in the first half of the league phase, with their solitary defeat coming against Rajasthan at the Motera, Ahmedabad.
Their season has waned off, though, since exhibiting such imperious form, the kind that was bettered only by Rajasthan, winning a mere 4 from their next 9 fixtures, including the defeat to the Indians in Qualifier 1 of IPL 2015.
The reason for such a massive dip in form, as aforementioned, has been down to their middle order’s ineptitude to score runs throughout this season; it was the opening duo of Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith, who got their team off to quick, as well as solid, starts, giving Chennai the upper hand very early on in their games.
McCullum, who had 436 runs to his name from 14 innings when he left Chennai to join up with the national squad, was in imperious form with the bat and Dhoni’s side fed off the New Zealand skipper’s swashbuckling innings’ at the top of the order.
However, on occasions when their openers, either one or both of them, fell cheaply, Chennai struggled and that is how Rajasthan inflicted CSK’s first defeat of the season.
There were, however, a couple of games – against Delhi in their very first fixture of the campaign and Kolkata later on, both at the MA Chidambaram Stadium – in which their bowlers stepped up to the plate and bailed them out of trouble.
Going into the finals against Mumbai, it will be interesting to see if the Chennai batsmen improve their game and deliver the goods when it matters the most.
Their bowling attack is suited to the conditions in Kolkata, where the slower bowlers of Chennai can hold their own, giving them a sense of optimism ahead of tomorrow’s showdown.
In Pawan Negi, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina, Dhoni has 4 spinning options that will not make it easy for Mumbai to score quick runs, especially with the hosts carrying many a stroke-maker – Simmons, Patel, Pollard, Rohit and Pandya – in their batting lineup; this will be one of the major subplots to tomorrow’s game.
Chennai, however, do need wickets with the new ball, which, if they manage, will put Mumbai seriously on the back foot.
Simmons and Patel are in sublime touch at the top of the order, but dismissing them early will bring in Rohit and Rayudu to the middle, the kind of scenario that will suit the away side and help them control the game better than they managed in the first qualifier.
Chennai may not be in the best of form, going into the final of the 8th edition of the IPL. But a good start, either with the bat or ball, will make them feel comfortable and neutralize whatever advantage the hosts have over them prior to that first ball.
Let us also not forget the significance the toss carries, purely because of the nature of the playing surface that is generally on the slower side, assists the spinners and the bowlers who like to vary the pace of their deliveries.
It will be interesting to see what the captain who wins the toss does. While batting first is generally the way to go when you play at the Eden Gardens, there has been an obtrusive change to that pattern this season: the chasing side has won 4 of the 6 games played at the venue, with KKR successfully chasing scores over 160 to win the game on three occasions and the Royal Challengers brilliantly chasing down 179 against the home side in another game during the early stages of this season.
MI vs CSK in the finals of IPL 2015, should be an intriguing match-up that will have the hosts start as favorites ahead of the game. Chennai won’t be too far behind, but they need a good start to bridge the slight gap between them and Mumbai.