Match#25: Mumbai Indians v/s Chennai SuperKings
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
Form Guide: MI- Win, Win, Loss, Win, CSK- Win, Loss, Win, Loss,
MS Dhoni will return to the stadium that witnessed his transformation from mere mortal and captain-cool to the ‘closest thing to Sachin Tendulkar this country has ever seen’. Being called a cult-legend-gutsy-genius-with-midas-touch surely pales in comparison to that. Coincidentally, he will step onto the field with his team to face the Man himself in his own den- and probably feel remotely like a Sri-Lankan did on April 2nd.
But this is much more than a game between two cricketing legends (in their own right, surely). It is a re-match of last year’s final which, no doubt, Sachin will have not forgotten. Neither will MSD and his band of yellow boys (whose core group remains the same)- though for entirely different reasons altogether.
This is also a match-up between two IPL heavyweights with a collective combination of players that could primarily form a T20 ICC World XI team on present form and stature.
With yet another dicey start to their campaign, Chennai will look to put their rain-inflicted D/L loss to Kochi behind them and return to their original plan of winning every alternate game and going on to make the semi-final by the skin of their teeth. It worked for them last year, and Mumbai were the biggest casualties of this unusual fake-out strategy. But the group stages have never really excited them too much and come KnockOut time- the SuperKings will start to resemble the famous blur of yellow (and baggy green) that swept across World Cricket for 15 long, dominating years.
The Mumbai Indians- who, in the derby game against Pune *ALMOST* lived upto the ominous reputation of being coached by 3 South Africans ex-players (survivors of the ’99 massacre)- will be breathing a massive sigh of relief after Rohit Sharma and Andrew Symonds almost guided them to a comfortably-paced defeat after chasing down the target with an alarming degree of serene tranquility that oozes out from our very own ‘Line-and-length-or-get-banged’ Munaf Patel when he takes his run-up. They may argue that they always had things under control, but when Rohit Sharma had to finally free his arms and do a Miandad (from South Africa) on the last ball, one could not help but feel that the two batsmen at the crease were so desperately craving for any kind of action in this IPL (thanks to the greedy Sachin and Rayadu)- that this seemed like the perfect way to enter the limelight with a BANG. Oh, Sharma, you little scriptwriter you!
As vain as this may sound, I would also like to take out a moment and direct you towards the prediction of the preview that was written for this game. That a tie was most likely followed by a close Mumbai win (off the last ball) and the probable dismissal of Tendulkar by the little-known Rahul Sharma- are only some of the gems from this crystal-balled preview that may have freaked out a few readers. No, do not sue us for fixing yet- because humble bloggers like us rarely get an opportunity to boast of our prowess often considering how every team refuses to play according to reputation, form (or logic).
Mumbai Indians: (Finalists 2010)
As predicted (again), when Sachin Tendulkar finally decided to give the law of averages a run for its money, the rest of the batters (2 at a time, next up- Pollard!) looked a bit bamboozled to even find themselves out on the pitch with bats in their hands. Surely, this was a mistake- they thought. What were they supposed to do? Hit the ball?
‘The Kochi cap of mine seems to be working!’
And so they batted, not unlike a lazy noon net session, claiming to have things under control in a massively one-sided match right down to the last ball. Rohit Sharma and Symonds were only a defensive shot away from earning themselves one-way tickets to the Rambo Circus in Mumbai- atleast till the next game.
Hence, this largely-untested batting order might definitely be giving the team management a few sleepless hours. It is not their fault that the opposition teams are refusing to compete on equal ground. If they do (rarely), Mumbai get thrashed and still manage to go untested. Don’t ask how.
An idea would be to send in the bottom 8 first- followed by Sachin, his opening parter and then Rayadu. Time and again, one cannot help but feel that this team’s greatest strength will eventually prove to be its downfall- not entirely because the rest of the teams in the league are probably conspiring together and trying to pull off a plan so outlandish that even Inspector Daya from CID will not have seen it coming- especially when Mumbai Indians find themselves totally at sea in the knockout stages.
Something on the lines of ‘Don’t test them even remotely till the Finals. That is the ONLY way to beat them.’ That Sachin Tendulkar called their bluff by actually being dismissed and giving the others (read Sharma) a few tense moments out in the middle- seems to have only confirmed this intellectually inclined battle that would put Douglas Jardine to shame.
The Super Kings will look forward to playing this perpetually-self-defeating game of cat-and-mouse at the Wankhede, in front of a strong-hearted Mumbai crowd.
Player to watch out for: Rohit Sharma
Now that he has tasted blood (almost his own), the youngster will be keen to get a move-on and prove precisely why he is not yet a wasted talent- atleast not until he plays again on the international stage. For this, he will need a generous donation of goodwill from Sachin Tendulkar and Ambati Rayadu. (read giving him an over or two to play)
Fans are now convinced that they might watch Sachin play another world cup before they actually manage to watch Kieron Pollard actually hold a bat again. Some have even questioned the identity of a certain R. Sathish in the team- not seemingly convinced that he is a left-arm spinner with a thigh-strain. Or, wait, is he?
Chennai Super Kings: (Winners 2010, Finalists 2008, Semi finalists 2009)
With Raina showing a semblance of form that has made him the highest scorer in the IPL, the Super Kings will also be delighted to know that rainfall is not expected this side of the country for atleast another week (considering the MET department has predicted ‘June’) Fresh from their hostile confrontation with the famous Duckworth & Lewis (no, they’re not looney toon millionaires) against a fortunate chase-specialists Kochi, the Super Kings will now look to vent their frustrations in various forms: be it the divinely-touched cover drives of Murali Vijay, the deceptive-hit-and-runs of Michael Hussey, the tearing-fast-beamers of R. Ashwin, the blind-slog-sweeps from Suresh Raina or the brutal struggle with the bat that is MSD himself. If all else fails, there is always the promising-but-reckless Anirudha Srikantha- the chip of the old block.
‘Yes, losing to the weaker teams is part of our strategy…’
One way or the other, they will definitely have more players actually being involved in the action than Mumbai might have had in their previous 4 games put together.
Player to watch out for: Doug Bollinger
The consistently-injured Dougie is back- and he seemed to hit the deck immediately against Kochi- continuing from where he left off last season. The bowling looks considerably stronger with his presence, and R. Ashwin will be breathing easy now that he has some major wicket-taking support (and another Australian in the team)
Also, the silken touch of Murali Vijay needs to last more than the first 5 overs if he is to add more substance than style to this team. The classy elegance and eye-catching timing that decorates his blink-and-you-will-miss cameos may not always be enough if he is to replicate the form that made him the highest scorer of last year’s Champions League.
Bolstered with considerable confidence after the potentially controversial (I wish) prediction of the Mumbai-Pune game, keeping with the same tone (read shocking), a Chennai win seems most likely- even if Mumbai finds another way to make it close. But if Pollard comes to the crease, by hook or by crook- there will definitely be a result.