As if the stakes aren’t high enough already ahead of the first qualifier of IPL 2019, there are a few metaphorical carrots dangling in front of Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians – turning the knob further on this rivalry.
The two three-time champions don’t just have the chance to take one more step towards an unprecedented fourth IPL title, but also, in the process, have the opportunity to lay an inconvenient diversion and the risk of elimination for the other. In a two-horse race for the trophy cabinet domination, there can be no better match-up for such a fixture.
And then the plot thickens further. The overall head-to-head (11-15 in favour MI) puts the two sides on a more-or-less even keel. But a closer look reveals Mumbai Indians’ recent grip over CSK. MI have lost just once in their last seven meetings against them, and just a fortnight ago, became the first side to beat MS Dhoni’s men at Chepauk since… themselves in 2015. CSK could argue that they aren’t the similarly in-rhythm orchestra without their master arranger – MS Dhoni – who skipped that match, but the fact remains that MI have had the wood over the title holders for a few seasons now. There’s an intriguing back-and-forth in terms of results in knockouts too – CSK lead 4-3 but two of those three wins for MI earned them the trophy.
For Mumbai Indians to level that figure, they have a worrying middle-overs trend to reverse. And that’s easier said than done, considering the fulcrum of CSK’s success this year has been in the way they’ve controlled matches in the same phase with the ball [picking 36 wickets and conceding runs at an economy rate of 6.65].
Suryakumar Yadav – MI’s No.3 this season – has scored a series of promising 20s, but has failed to consolidate further. MI have also had uncertainty at No.4, leaving Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard to do a sweep up job at the death. Hardik’s potency this season has saved MI in many-a-fixture, but Mumbai could do with a better batting foundation from the top-order in such a crucial game.
When: Chennai Super Kings vs Mumbai Indians, Qualifier 1, May 7 2019, 7:30 PM IST
Where: M A Chidambaram stadium, Chennai
What to expect: The usual – temperatures soaring past 35 degrees celsius late evening and a pitch playing to perfection for spinners.
Chennai Super Kings
A shoulder injury in Sunday’s game against KXIP ended Kedar Jadhav’s IPL 2019, and opened up a middle-order vacancy, expected to be filled by Dhruv Shorey. Shorey has filled in for the regulars this season, but predominantly as a substitute fielder. Incidentally, the one fixture he played in, was against Mumbai Indians at Chepauk, as a replacement for an unwell MS Dhoni. With Jadhav not being used as a bowling option all season, CSK can turn to a specialist batsman in Shorey to plug the gap.
CSK might also have a Mitchell Santner dilemma. The New Zealand spinner was one of the few positives from the league stage game against MI at this venue, picking up 2 wickets for 13 runs in his four overs. But deciding on who could make way for Santner will be tricky.
Shane Watson has had three single-digit outings since his 96 against Sunrisers Hyderabad, but replacing him when the team itself is in the midst of ordinary batting performances will be quite a gamble. If they go through with it, they will have to rely on Ambati Rayudu to wiggle his way out of a rut, while also taking up the responsibility of opening the batting.
Probable XI: Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Dhruv Shorey, MS Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Deepak Chahar, Imran Tahir
Mitchell McClenaghan impressed at the Wankhede Stadium in his comeback game, but as the action shifts to a sticky, slow Chepauk strip, the New Zealander might have to make way for a spin option – like leggie Mayank Markande (if fit) or left-arm spinner Anukul Roy.
Such a swap would also give Mumbai Indians the luxury to play an additional overseas player – which means they can pick between Ishan Kishan and Evin Lewis to bat at the troubled No.4 position. There’s been very little to choose between the two, as neither has managed to make use of the few chances afforded to them.
Probable XI: Quinton de Kock, Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan/Evin Lewis, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Mitchell McClenaghan/Anukul Roy, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Lasith Malinga
Did you know:
– CSK’s last win over MI at Chepauk came in 2010
– MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina average 51 and 61.50 against MI in seven knockout games. Conversely, Kieron Pollard and Rohit Sharma struggle in the same fixtures- with an average of 36.33 and 16.43 respectively.
–CSK spinners have been devastating at home – picking 30 wickets in 79.2 overs at an average of 15.60, while conceding only at 5.90 runs-an-over.
What they said:
“It is something we know about the IPL that the business end matters, we always come back well in the second half of this tournament. In all the three trophies that we’ve won, the boys have picked themselves up in the business end.” – Rohit Sharma said after a comprehensive win over KKR took MI to top of the table.
“Quite happy with the way we bowled, despite giving a few runs at the start. That’s something you have to keep in mind, if you can’t win a game, you make sure you get the opposition to get the runs in most number of overs. You have to quickly adapt, learn and reassess.” – MS Dhoni said after his team’s defeat to KXIP on Sunday.