Ten days ago, when these two teams were about to face off for the first time, it looked like a colossal mismatch. Mumbai Indians were on a 4-game losing streak and CSK had their usual stellar start to the league, losing only to runaway leaders KXIP.
In this last week, CSK rose to the top of the table before being destroyed again by a wounded KXIP, who in turn were looking for redemption after being defeated by last-placed Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede. So the Superkings are back in second position—a clear second to a clear first—and will face Rohit Sharma’s home-bullies in a game that could go a long way in defining either team’s campaign.
We’re at the business end of the tournament, and while CSK have lost only 2 of their 7 games, MI have won 2 of their 7 games. Still, such is the importance of momentum in IPL cricket, this will be an evenly-fought battle.
They’re on a 2-game winning streak. While that may seem miniscule in comparison to what Maxwell and his boys are achieving, this team has received a timely boost of consecutive home games at their fortress—a stadium where they remained unbeaten all of 2013. Their two best players have rediscovered their UAE-lost touch (Rohit and Pollard), and Harbhajan Singh is gradually rediscovering that bowlers are supposed to take wickets. He got Gayle and Parthiv in their last game, setting up a miraculous win against a rampaging batting line-up. Zaheer being injured and out of the IPL could be a blessing in disguise, because it gives young inexperienced bowlers like Suyal and Bumrah more opportunities. It was impressive to see how Suyal bounces back in his second spell after Gayle smashed him to pieces with 28 runs off his second over. He showed character, and has grown as a bowler in that one spell—the growth that the MI management must learn to harness instead of depending on old reputations and legs. Malinga isn’t at his best, but does just enough to restrict teams, and big buy Anderson is yet to prove himself. Rohit will hope that the Kiwi shows a glimpse of his ability soon, because even opener Ben Dunk is falling short so far. It is only a matter of time though, before this Aussie—famed for his T20 talent—hits the ground running. They will do well to target Jadeja and Ashwin again, the way Maxwell and Miller did, to rip out the heart of their attack.
Rohit’s pacing of his T20 innings might not always come off—he starts slowly and ends up with an all-out attack, but often, he gets out before he can explode. It looks foolish then, and he will look to be more careful in the slog overs.
X-factor: Pollard. He is in massive hitting form, showing the form that RCB hope Gayle will show soon. He has combined well with his Captain in the last two games, and will look to improve on his bowling against CSK.
The only 2 games this team has lost has been against the same team — KXIP Punjab. Their bowling has spectacularly tanked against Maxwell twice in a row, and their confidence dented. Dhoni’s lack of Plan B was exposed, and his ‘calm’ approach with the bat didn’t exactly help his team. Nevertheless, CSK still look like the most sorted team, despite a record 232 plundered off their bowling. Mohit Sharma, as impressive as he is in the beginning, fails to keep teams down in his last over. First, it was Duminy and then Bailey, who took more than 20 each off his last over in two consecutive games. McCullum looks rusty again, and Smith is the more consistent partner. They will look to bat carefully against Malinga, and probably hunt down the inexperienced guys—which is where Harbhajan’s four overs are over crucial.
X-factor: Du Plessis. He finally came to the party against KXIP, but in a lost cause. He needs more time at the crease, to counter Raina’s peaking-at-30 tendencies.
MI to maintain their home run—they always need a standout individual performance, and this could be Anderson’s day.