Clash of Titans as CSK face Mumbai Indians in 1st play-off
It will be a 'Battle of Equals' when mighty Chennai Super Kings meet the formidable Mumbai Indians in the first play-off match of the Pepsi Indian Premier League here tomorrow.
On paper, there is very little to choose between the two teams, who have both won 11 out of their 16 matches and have a number of match-winners who can turn the tables on a given day.
Mumbai Indians under stewardship of Rohit Sharma has been a force to reckon with having won all their eight matches at home, while CSK's season has been a mix and match but they have successfully finished off a number of close encounters, which has been their hallmark over the years.
Mumbai Indians might just have a psychological advantage having beaten the 'Men in Yellow' in both home and away games.
However it will be an altogether different test on a 'neutral venue' as they will be playing at the Feroze Shah Kotla which has been known for producing dodgy 22-yard strips over the years.
With both teams relying on their batsmen to do the trick, one can brace up for 'some battles' within the main contest.
It can be a Sachin Tendulkar versus Ravichandran Ashwin, Mahendra Singh Dhoni versus Harbhajan Singh, Kieron Pollard against Mohit Sharma or Mike Hussey versus Pragyan Ojha affair.
Tendulkar is likely to make a comeback at the top of the order and the senior batsman would certainly want to play an innings of impact.
Only 287 runs from 14 matches this season at an average of shade over 22 is not something that Tendulkar will be too happy about.
His form has been patchy but occasional brilliance like the one against Kolkata Knight Riders in Mumbai can be expected any time. With the dangerous Dwayne Smith as a partner, one can expect an explosive start from the duo.
Skipper Rohit, who has always been an 'IPL Specialist', has again excelled in MI jersey with 526 runs and would only like to improve upon that performance.
The big-bodied Pollard with his ability to clear the ropes at will is also be a force to reckon with.
In bowling department, Mitchell Johnson (22 wickets @economy rate of 7.11) and Harbhajan (19 wickets @6.66 runs per over) have been consistent. In fact, the senior off-spinner will certainly have a point to prove to his rival Ashwin, who has got 15 wickets at an economy rate of 6.62.
If the Mumbai Indians have excelled in setting up big totals, Chennai Super Kings have been masters in chasing down any target.
If 60 runs required in four overs was considered impossible even a few years back, thanks to the talismanic CSK skipper, any target looks achievable when 'Captain Cool' MSD is at the crease. In fact, Dhoni often tells jokingly that CSK's game starts at the end of 10th over.
'Mr Cricket' Hussey has been in an unbelievable form having scored 646 runs at an average of nearly 50. Magnificent in terms of T20 cricket. With Suresh Raina (466), who has never disappointed in CSK shirt. The skipper himself has scored 398 runs but more importantly has the capability of finishing off matches from a near impossible situations.
CSK's bowling depends a lot on how Dwayne Bravo bowls during the middle-overs. With 25 wickets, Bravo has been Dhoni's 'Go-To' man in crisis situations and is one of the favourites to get the 'Purple Cap'.
Haryana seamer Mohit Sharma has been one of the finds of this IPL season with 17 scalps and it will be interesting to see his temperament in a big match situation where margin of error will be minimal.
Mohit will be encouraged by the fact that last time he played at the Kotla, he decimated Delhi Daredevils top-order with a fantastic first spell.
Good show in the knock-out can book a berth in India 'A' squad to South Africa, which is scheduled at the end of next month.
While Chris Morris also has been decent in the chances that he has got, CSK management might be tempted to field Albie Morkel in place of young West Indian Jason Holder who has been a touch expensive in the matches that he has played so far.
In all, a cracker of a contest can be expected tomorrow.
Chennai Super Kings: s: M S Dhoni (C), Akila Dananjaya, Albie Morkel, Srikkanta Anirutha, Ankit Rajpoot, Baba Aparajith, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ben Laughlin, Chris Morris, Dirk Nannes, Dwayne Bravo, Francois du Plessis, Imtiyaz Ahmed, Jason Holder, Michael Hussey, Mohit Sharma, Murali Vijay, Nuwan Kulasekara, R Karthikeyan, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ronit More, Shadab Jakati, S Badrinath, Suresh Raina, Vijay Shankar and Wridhiman Saha.
Mumbai Indians: Ricky Ponting (Capt), Abu Nechim Ahmed, Akshar Patel, Aditya Tare, Aiden Blizzard, Ambati Rayudu, Amitoze Singh, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik, Dwayne Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Harbhajan Singh, Jacob Oram, Jalaj Saxena, James Franklin, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Munaf Patel, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Phil Hughes, Pawan Suyal, Pragyan Ojha, Rishi Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar, Suryakumar Yadav, Sushant Marathe, Yuzvendra Singh Chahal.