Chennai, Mumbai have plenty at stake

Chennai, Mumbai have plenty at stake

Its knockout time today as Dhonis men go up against Harbhajan Singhs challengers

Chennai, Mumbai have plenty at stake

On Sunday night, Chennai Super Kings players might have been pinching themselves after entering the knockout phase of the IPL V through fortuituous circumstances.

They needed a massive favour from Deccan Chargers to keep their hopes of defending the title alive after a crushing defeat against Kings XI Punjab in their last league match, and the out-of-contention Hyderabad unit did just that defeating Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

With fortune aiding them so handsomely, the Super Kings might believe that they are destined for something bigger in this tournament, and against Mumbai Indians, their opponents in the Eliminator here on Wednesday, that belief might transform them into a totally different team.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men never looked like a champion outfit for the entire length of the tournament, stuttering many times even at the MA Chidambaram stadium — their home ground and an impregnable fort over the last five years. There have been not many stand-out performers for Chennai this season either with bat or ball, and only Dwayne Bravo has managed to produce efforts that are distantly related to consistency. Other leading names such as Dhoni, M Vijay, R Ashwin, Suresh Raina, Albie Morkel, Ravindra Jadeja and Mike Hussey have been far too spasmodic, but Super Kings are still in the play-offs. How?

Along with the luck factor, Chennai have managed to unearth match-winners whenever they needed one, and their game against Royal Challengers is a piece of evidence.
Chasing a 200-plus target, the defending champions were in all sorts of trouble, but Morkel hammered 28 runs off Virat Kohli to decisively change the course of the match. But against a side like Mumbai, the Super Kings will require more than just luck and occasional match-winners. Though Mumbai too have their share of worries to address, the Harbhajan Singh-led side appears to be peaking at the right time and their resounding 10-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals is an ominous sign for Chennai.  Sachin Tendulkar, whose willow has been silent for a larger part of this edition of the IPL, too seemed to have found his range with a well-paced fifty against Royals and the form of West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Smith too is heartening from the Mumbai perspective. While Smith made an aggressive fifty against Rahul Dravid’s men in the last league game, Mumbai also have a long batting line-up to fall back upon.

The likes of Kieron Pollard, who seemed to be in good touch upon his return from a shoulder injury midway through, Rohit Sharma, who made a blistering hundred against Kolkata Knight Riders, Dinesh Kaarthick and Ambati Rayudu might not have been fired in unison, but that line-up still evokes more confidence than that of the Super Kings.

But batsmen from either side will not dwell too much on the past as the M Chinnaswamy stadium pitch has tended to be their ally, and the short boundaries here too will add to their expectations. On the bowling front, however, Mumbai have a definite edge because of the presence of Lasith Malinga, the third highest wicket-taker in the tournament. But it will not be wise to take Chennai for granted because they have just walked back into the tournament from a near-impossible situation.