Chennai hope to stop Mumbai in their tracks

Chennai hope to stop Mumbai in their tracks

Resurgent Super Kings take on Indians in final today; Tendulkar worry for hosts

Chennai hope to stop Mumbai in their tracks

Doug Bollingers’ form will be the key to Chennai Super Kings’ success in the final. APInjuries have been few and far between, their form hasn’t oscillated from the sublime to the ridiculous, and they have routinely maintained a high standard that has reflected directly in their supreme dominance of the league phase as well as the semifinal against Royal Challengers.

It must, therefore, be construed as a cruel twist of fate that their most important player faces a massive injury cloud ahead of the grand final against the Chennai Super Kings at the DY Patil stadium on Sunday night. Sachin Tendulkar’s potential absence from the title round will be a killer blow for a team that has looked up to its talismanic skipper, benefitting immensely from his batting brilliance and his exceptional motivational skills.
They might have the wherewithal on paper to tide over his possible non-availability, but whether they can summon the mental strength to tackle the Super Kings, peaking nicely at the right time, is another question altogether.

Tendulkar, it must be stressed, isn’t ruled out of the final, yet. The master batsman, who turned 37 on Saturday, had five stitches to bind together a split webbing in his right hand, and will give himself every chance of playing on Sunday in one of the more important matches in a glittering career of numerous highs.

Egging the team on

He has played through the pain barrier in the past and come up trumps, therefore there is every likelihood he will walk out for the toss with Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Only if he believes he can’t grip the bat properly, and consequently will be letting the team down, will the champion sit out and egg his team-mates on from the dugout.

The Indians haven’t been a one-man army, even if Tendulkar’s contribution can’t be quantified. The young Saurabh Tiwary and the not so young Ambati Rayudu have grown fangs in the last six weeks, the bowling has been spearheaded magnificently by Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Lasith Malinga, and most crucially, they have been able to extract the best with bat, ball and in the field from the admirable Kieron Pollard, a complete Twenty20 package if ever there was one.

Oftentimes, the Indians have given the impression that they have held Pollard back too long, giving him no more than three or four overs to run riot. It’s a tactic that has worked beautifully, as the Challengers will readily testify.

The benefit of having such a brutal decimator of attacks allows the top-order to bat without panic, a luxury not many teams in the competition can boast of.

The Super Kings left it late in making it to the semis, but they are a nicely rounded, well-balanced unit led shrewdly. Even without a single substantial contribution from Matthew Hayden in the last four weeks, they have made their second IPL final; Suresh Raina has been their undisputed star, but Dhoni himself has shown promising signs in the last couple of matches, while Doug Bollinger and offie R Ashwin have been outstanding as a new-ball combine.

The DY Patil strip dictates a bat-first approach, in any case the most prudent option in a cup final. The fans, who will throng the ground in their thousands, will not only pray for a popular and long-awaited home triumph, but also that the clouds which gathered on Saturday dissipate to make the first possibility a reality.

Teams (from):

Mumbai Indians: Sachin Tendulkar (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Abhishek Nayar, Ambati Rayudu, Saurabh Tiwary, Jean-Paul Duminy, Kieron Pollard, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Ryan McLaren, R Sathish, Sanath Jayasuriya, Luke Ronchi, Ali Murtaza, Dhawal Kulkarni, Chandan Madan, Aditya Tare.

Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Matthew Hayden, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, S Badrinath, Albie Morkel, Aniruddha Srikkanth, R Ashwin, Shadab Jakati, Doug Bollinger, Muttiah Muralitharan, Justin Kemp, Thilan Thushara, Tissara Perera, Sudeep Tyagi, Lakshmipathi Balaji, Joginder Sharma, Manpreet Gony, George Bailey, Arun Karthik.

How Dhoni’s men stack up against Tendulkar’s high-flying warriors in Sunday showdown

Mumbai Indians

* Strengths: A long batting line-up and a lethal bowling combination, perhaps the best in the competition. Sachin Tendulkar has been the mainstay, but the likes of Sourabh Tiwary and Ambati Rayudu have lent meat to the batting. With Kieron Pollard in ominous form and Jean-Paul Duminy joining the party at the right time, Mumbai wear an unbeatable look. Zaheer Khan, Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh not only provide versatality to the attack, but also the class. They have consistently been amongst wickets with miserly spells.

* Weaknesses: While the Indians have managed to come out of Tendulkar’s shadow, scoring wins even when the maestro hasn’t performed with the bat, his likely absence in the final through injury may deter them on the D-Day.

*  Men to look out for: Sachin Tendulkar (if he plays), Saurabh Tiwary, Lasith Malinga.
* X-factor: Kieron Pollard (Matches: 13; Runs: 246; Highest: 45 n.o.; Strike-rate: 179).

Chennai Super Kings

* Strengths: If their last two matches are anything to go by, Super Kings are primed to land the spoils on Sunday. In a must-win last league match, skipper MS Dhoni led from front as the Chennai side chased down a total in excess of 180 to enter the semis. In the semifinal, despite putting up a modest 139 on admittedly slow wicket, Dhoni’s men defended the total with tigerish zeal to make it to the final for the second time in two years; a sign of their bowlers and batsmen rising to the occasion when the chips are down.

*  Weaknesses: Where the Indians have been supremely consistent, Super Kings have been anything but that. The team appears to rely on only a few players; Suresh Raina and Murali Vijay shouldered batting. Off-spinner R Ashwin and Doug Bollinger have been brilliant in bowling, but the same can’t be said about the rest, including Muttiah Muralitharan.

*  Men to look out for: Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Doug Bollinger.
*  X-factor: Murali Vijay (Matches: 14, Runs: 432; Highest: 127; SR: 158).

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