It’s the clash of the Titans in the finals of this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) as defending champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) look to retain their title against the mighty Mumbai Indians (MI) at the Rajiv Gandhi International cricket stadium in Hyderabad.
After sweating it out for almost six weeks of intense cricketing action, both the teams have managed to overcome every competition that came their way for a spot in the finals of this highly-prestigious tournament.
MI and CSK have played against each other on three instances in this edition and surprisingly, all the games have been won by the Mumbai franchise. CSK would be eager to take revenge by getting the better of the Men in Blue.
Mumbai and Chennai have three IPL titles to their names and would do anything to become the first ever team to have four IPL trophies in their cabinet.
Chennai Super Kings
Entering their eighth IPL final, CSK is the team to beat. Whether they are going through a rough patch or even worse, losing two games on the trot, they will bounce back and let you know why they are considered to be the ‘best team in IPL history’.
But for the first time, CSK had to take a longer route to enter the finals. They lost the Qualifier 1 against Mumbai Indians and then defeated the revamped Delhi Capitals in the Qualifier 2 to advance to the finals.
MS Dhoni would have taken a sigh of relief after Qualifier 2 as the opening pair of Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis finally came good against Delhi. The openers stitched a solid 81-run stand and gave a strong foundation to the team.
Both the players scored half-centuries with Du Plessis (370 runs in 11 games) showing why he is known to be one of the finest cricketers in the modern era.
Watson, who was struggling in the entire tournament, played one of his best knocks this season as he seems to be peaking at the right time.
The team management would be hoping for a similar performance from these experienced campaigners so that some pressure can be mounted on the experienced bowling line-up of Mumbai Indians.
Other than these two, all eyes will be on MS Dhoni as to how he ends the season. With an average of 135 this year, Dhoni has been the saving grace for CSK as far as the batting department is concerned.
The 37-year-old former India skipper is the only batsman in CSK who has scored more than 400 runs this year and has looked in sublime touch.
Another important member in CSK’s batting line-up is the southpaw, Suresh Raina. Surprisingly, he has failed in both the playoff games so far. He would want to forget what happened in the past and come good in the finals as his experience in the middle-overs is vital.
Chennai’s bowling department has been their saving grace. The three top-quality spinners – Imran Tahir (24 wickets), Harbhajan Singh (16 wickets), and Ravindra Jadeja (15 wickets) – have been controlling the run-flow in the middle-overs and most importantly, chipping in with the wickets.
Meanwhile, Deepak Chahar has been impressive as well, especially with the new ball.
Probably, the most balanced side in this year’s IPL, Mumbai would want to continue the pattern of winning the trophy every alternate year.
They registered a comfortable win over CSK in the first Qualifier and would be high on confidence as they haven't been defeated by Chennai this season.
As far as the batting is concerned, Quinton de Knock has scored more than 500 runs this year. He has been consistent from the very first game and would want to play another match-winning knock for his team in the finals.
His opening partner and captain of the team, Rohit Sharma will have to lead from the front with the bat. It is a given that if Sharma plays a good knock, the chances of Mumbai winning are much higher. So far, he has scored 390 runs in 14 matches and would want to finish on a high.
Another batsman who will be crucial in today’s game is Suryakumar Yadav. The way he played in the previous game against CSK showed glimpses of what he is capable of.
Yadav played sensibly and kept rotating the strike by taking singles and doubles. The onus of finishing strong will be on Hardik Pandya (386 runs in 15 games) who has rescued Mumbai on several occasions this season.
Pandya has taken his game to a whole new level just before the World Cup. Along with a few match-winning cameos, his innings of 91 from 34 balls against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), reflected why he is considered to be one of the finest young talents in world cricket at present.
Meanwhile, the bowling department looks solid with Jasprit Bumrah (17 wickets) and Lasith Malinga (15 wickets) spearheading the pace attack. Bumrah and Malinga have been complimenting each other nicely in this year’s tournament and their match-winning spells have been one of the main reasons why MI has been so successful.
Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya have also bowled well in crunch situations and on a wicket which will support spin, they will be too hot to handle.
CSK: Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (C and wk), Murali Vijay/Shardul Thakur, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Harbhajan Singh, Deepak Chahar, and Imran Tahir.
(Featured Image: FB/Mumbai Indians)
About the Author
Sports Journalist by profession, a Cricket Fanatic by passion. Aayush Sharma has been following the game of cricket since childhood and considers Sachin Tendulkar as his idol. When in free time, he loves to read books or go out and play some gully cricket with friends. For him, Tennis ace Roger Federer and F1 Legend Michael Schumacher are the only sportspersons that reach the level of Tendulkar