MANIC MONDAY

Chennai SuperKings v/s Kolkata Knight Riders

MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai

Dada’s handwriting is tough to read, no?
 
The points table bears an extremely bizarre look, and things aren’t getting any simpler. If there was ever a mid-table scrum (Rank 2 to 8), this is it. Punjab were on the verge of being eliminated against Champions Chennai, and they pulled off a must-win game after being in a very familiar situation- this time, without the services of Piyush Chawla in the end. David Hussey learned from his mistakes, but one can’t say the same about Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh. The Indian captains, except Sehwag- who is backing up his poor fielding with phenomenal runs- have been poor this year. Deccan Chargers are certainly out of things, but are hell-bent on playing party pooper now. Mumbai Indians are ailing, and will need a miracle to be as explosive as Bangalore or Chennai if need be. 

It is still early to speculate about the teams that are favorites to reach the last four. But two things are for certain- Delhi Daredevils will be the first team to qualify by a mile, and Deccan Chargers will be the first team to be eliminated by a mile.
At one point of time before the KKR game on Saturday, Mumbai and KKR had won the same number of games out of 8, but were separated by 5 positions (2nd and 7th respectively). Apart from NRR, summer rains in most parts of the country have made things very interesting for the final stretch. 
Back to the drawing board
 
At the same time, 7 out of 9 teams had won exactly 4 games- with only four teams ahead because of their rained out games. The Knight Riders, for better or for worse, were one of those four teams- and despite starting with consecutive losses, still look favorites to secure one of those berths due to some powerful bench strength.

Chennai Super Kings:
The Champions, clearly struggling Away from Home this season, had an opportunity to leapfrog most teams into second place after restricting Punjab to 160 in their last game. But Dhoni seemed to have lost his mind once again, promoting Saha to number 3- and that was it. They struggled to a 7 run loss, and now face an uphill task to stay in the race for the knockouts. At most times, they have come out on top in such situations- but their most expensive Indian signing Jadeja, and the highest IPL scorer Raina have been failing consistently enough to hurt them. One still can’t bet against them, though, and they might have to win atleast 4 of their next 6 games to be assured of that precious berth. Of course, that depends a lot on the outcome of this crucial game, against opponents that are the biggest underachievers in IPL history. The odds are in their favour, this time.
Player to watch out for: R. Ashwin
The lanky off-spinner hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck this season, with most batsmen willing to see him off and attack the likes of Jadeja and Jakati. He remains a crucial contributor with his miserly spells, and is the reason most bating teams find it hard to take off at the end against them. Sooner or later, he has to be amongst the magical-spell-group, and captain Dhoni will be hoping that this is the game.

Win.One.
 
Kolkata Knight Riders:
After always looking like the in-form team in the middle stages of the tournament, this team is prone to sloppy spells towards the fag end of the group stages. Their foreign stars, except surprise element Narine, are yet to hit the straps. They will feel like they missed out against the Chargers after their game was rained out at Eden Gardens, and will be looking to begin that late surge- much expected of a squad that has the likes of Kallis, Lee, Shakib and Morgan in the ranks. Having said that, the scrap to the finish line is just getting started, with Bangalore still looking like the strongest contender to snatch that number 2 position.
Player to watch out for: Jacques Kallis
After enduring a dry spell throughout most of this edition, much like fellow ex-Orange-cap-wearer-and-legend Sachin Tendulkar, the veteran is still to give that defining performance of his campaign. Hopefully, with his girlfriend gone back on a modeling assignment, he can concentrate on things at hand- and forget about sight-seeing for the next 6 games.
 
Now you see me…
 
Prediction:

Very close call, but one expects Chennai’s depth in batting to pull through finally- after all, how many failures can Raina endure. He has only the IPL left to prove himself anyway.
 

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