Two weeks ago, this matchup between two of the league’s most illustrious and successful teams was supposed to be the talking point of the first half of the season in Dubai. Mumbai Indians is one of the few outfits to have a winning record against perennial favorites Chennai—and last year Rohit Sharma had MS Dhoni’s number more than once.
But this is 2014. It is a new season, with new (sort of) teams. CSK have retained all their major players, while Mumbai—well, Mumbai let go off their two best overseas players in Maxwell and Smith. What’s more, there is no Johnson, and Malinga is left to fight it out with old warhorse Zaheer Khan. If there was ever an award for the most harebrained auction picks, Mumbai win it hands down with yet another impulsive buy in New Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson—who seems to be resembling their horror pick Richard Levi from last season. Any international player that breaks records in one single game on the circuit is picked at any cost my Mumbai, and so far, their only ‘good’ pick Pollard is still coming to terms with life after injury.
It is the wrong time to face a power-batting Chennai, who have won 1 out of their 2 games—failing to defend 205 against the rampaging Kings XI team (built on Mumbai exports).
Rohit Sharma has a lot to think about, especially about his own batting position in the team, and the tag of ‘all-rounder’ to has-been Harbhajan Singh.
They have lost both their games convincingly. Their chase against Kolkata was torturous to watch, and their batting effort against Bangalore was so bad that Kohli scored 0 in the chase and still managed to win by 7 wickets. So far, they look like the team that will compete with the Daredevils for the Wooden Spoon position (dead last), and are showing no signs of learning or improvement. The team selection is confounding, with Hussey furthering their misery with his scratchy form at the top. Rohit needs to bat on top — he is their only hope, and he must do away with outdated players like Harbhajan, Ojha and Zaheer, who seem to believe that they are only in the team to restrict economy rates. To their credit though, they have not performed as badly as other out-of-favour Indian rejects like Gambhir and Sehwag.
They will face the fury of Dwayne Smith—their own ex-opener and best bet—at the top of the CSK order. Santokie must be brought in to strengthen the bowling, as well as Hazlewood. Famous names must be done away with for now, that includes Anderson and Hussey.
X-factor: Santokie. The bizarre West-Indian left-handed medium-fast bowler will add the variety that Clint McKay previously brought to the ranks.
Along with the Kings XI, they have the most powerful batting lineup in the league. Their bowling fired against a Peiterson-less Delhi, with R. Ashwin continuing his top form from the T20 World Cup. Smith and McCullum at the top could destroy Mumbai, unless Malinga has other ideas. Raina is back in form, and Dhoni has eased into his finishing position once again. Things look good, and they only seem to be warming up. The team is so good that even their export Parthiv Patel is firing at Bangalore at the top. Somehow, though, this team has often come up short against the glamorous Mumbai Indians. They will not have forgotten the 2013 Final, where they never recovered from a first-over Malinga onslaught, paving the way for the League-CL double for Rohit Sharma’s Mumbai Indians. Only CSK had done the double, back in 2011, before that.
X-factor: Ravindra Jadeja. He finally showed some spark with his bowling on Monday, and has never been more than a bits-and-pieces contributor in a starry setup. This could be his year, if he chooses to bat batter.
A win for CSK. Mumbai need a revamp, and fast.