It's time for big-ticket action

It's time for big-ticket action

Chennai Super Kings face Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 1 at Feroz Shah Kotla today

It's time for big-ticket action

They have the cream of talent and were among the first to make it to the top four. They are the favourites for the title, too.

Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, the top two finishers in the league stage, bring a host of cricket glitterati on field when they meet in the first play-off match of the Indian Premier League VI at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium on Tuesday.

Both finished with 22 points from 16 matches, with 11 wins and five losses albeit in a contrasting fashion. While Super Kings, the two-time champion, have been in irrepressible form, Mumbai Indians started slow before catching up.

Ricky Ponting, who was initially leading the side and opening with SachinTendulkar, could not sustain the interest of the cricket enthusiasts. The former Australian skipper has been woefully out of form. The passing of reins to Rohit Sharma in the middle of the tournament turned a new leaf and fetched better results to see Mumbai Indians win all of their eight home matches.

Tendulkar delighted with odd flashes of brilliance, but his availability for the match will be decided only on the morrow though. Dinesh Kaarthick and Rohit have added strength to the  middle-order. Rohit has brilliantly carried out the role of a finisher with 526 runs in his account this season. Then there is Kieron Pollard who can always be counted to provide the late thrust.

In Lasith Malinga, they have a seasoned practitioner of toe-crushers, a handy tool in the shorter format. Mitchell Johnson has gotten better with every match while  Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha have led the spin department with aplomb, and their efforts will be crucial on low and slow Kotla pitch. For the Super Kings, Kotla will be an unfamiliar territory, having played knock-out stage matches at their home ground in Chennai for the last three seasons.

But this time the play-offs had to be shifted to Delhi due to political reasons. In the last three outings, they have won the title twice and lost once. Led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has invariably proved his astuteness in the Indian conditions, Super Kings carry an intimidating aura. Like Mumbai, they have some of the very best in business in their ranks and they have been in form. They bat deep, which makes them one of the best chasers in the league, and their attack has enviable variety.

If Michael Hussey has turned into a run machine with 646 runs this season, Dhoni has performed his finisher role with ease. There have been numerous occasions when Dhoni skillfully maneuvered a bleak situation to victory. The form of Suresh Raina (466) has boosted the middle-order with Ravindra Jadeja contributing well at the end.

In bowling, Dwayne Bravo can make the ball talk and has given Super Kings crucial breakthroughs. With 25 wickets, he is one of the leading contenders for purple cap.  He has got company in Chris Morris and find of the season for Super Kings, Mohit Sharma. The three make potent bowling attack with R Ashwin and Jadeja.

However, Super Kings have lost both their league matches against Mumbai but it matters little at this stage. The contest is between the best of talents, one that raises the performances notches higher, and also the heart beats.

Star watch

MS DHONI: The man whose calm persona and astute leadership have been the cornerstone of this Chennai Super Kings team. The Indian skippers’ skills would be vital for the Chennai outfit to win add a third Indian Premier League title.

KIERON POLLARD: The tall and burly all-rounder from the West Indies has played a crucial role for the Mumbai Indians this season. The team will count on his powerful hitting and breakthroughs with the ball at the crucial phase against CSK.

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