MI are the only team that CSK haven’t been able to beat this season with the Dhoni-led side losing the two group matches and the first qualifier.

 

Soldiers are often advised to break stride when they cross a bridge lest the vibrations they create together might cause it to crumble due to resonance. This small scientific fact can well be applied to counter real-world situations, as well as a game of cricket. Such is the power of collective effort. A kind of advice Mahendra Singh Dhoni would like to give his players if they are to topple a team as mighty as Mumbai Indians (MI).

On Friday night, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) fought together, like a team, in all facets of the game and beat a resurgent but inexperienced Delhi Capitals (DC). CSK came into the game at the back of four losses in six games while Delhi were on song and looked to shatter CSK’s dreams of winning the cup for the fourth time. But a clinical and an all-round performance made sure they smoked Delhi convincingly, as if it was already written in the stars.

The cash-rich league on Sunday will witness a clash between the tournament’s most successful teams—MI and CSK—even as both the franchises eye their fourth cup at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad. Going by the red-hot form Mumbai Indians are in, people would be willing to bet on Rohit Shama-led side but the guile of Dhoni’s captaincy can turn things around at any juncture during the course of the game.

But if statistics are anything to go by, the Dhoni-led side, despite being the best in handling nerve-jangling situations during the knockouts, have won only thrice (2010, 2011 and 2018) in their seven final appearances. On the other hand, MI have won three (2013, 2015 and 2017) out of the four finals they have played. Also, the momentum seems to be on Mumbai’s side having beaten Chennai thrice already in the tournament, including the first qualifier match in Chepauk.

“Mumbai Indians have a great team, no question, not too many holes in their team. It’s going to be a great challenge,” Chennai opener Shane Watson said after Friday’s victory over Delhi in Qualifier 2 match.

What makes Mumbai Indians favourites to win the title?

Presence of several match-winners.

Rohit’s team boasts some of the most dangerous players, who have the ability to take the team aground single-handedly. Hammering the ball at a strike rate of 193, Hardik Pandya has been dismissing the ball from its presence better than he has ever done before while on his day, Pollard can be as devastating as anyone in the game. They have players like Suryakumar Yadav (409 runs from 15 games) who guided the team to the finals after a match-winning knock in the qualifiers round. Team’s skipper Rohit Sharma too can steady the ship if needed be and hit the ball across fence at will.

Especially Rohit (390 runs from 14 games), who has not been able to accumulate runs by his own standards in this edition. Come the final match and he would be eager to make his mark in the big game. Their top-scorer, Quinton De Kock (500 runs), would also look to provide the team with a good start.

On the bowling front, Jasprit Bumrah, their top wicket-taker (17 scalps), can handicap oppositions with his toe-crushing yorkers. Not to forget the experience he brings in at the death overs which can easily tie down the batsmen and derail Chennai Express. Even if Chennai gets over Bumrah, Lasith Malinga, who was once unsold in 2018, has still got it in him to take on any opposition on his day.

Is there a chance for the yellow army to get better of MI?

Yes, provided they play well in the power-play overs like they performed against Delhi. CSK must be relieved after 37-year-old Watson’s blistering half-century against DC, signaling a repeat of finals (2018) against Sunrisers Hyderabad might well be in store. His partner, Faf du Plessis, too has looked in good touch this season.

But it is the bowling that has mostly saved the day for CSK and Dhoni knows it well. “The credit needs to go to the bowlers. The captain only says this is what I need. Then it’s up to them to figure out how to bowl, and they have to put in the hard yards. Thanks to the bowling department, we are where we are this season,” Dhoni had said at the post-match presentation on Friday.

Teams have struggled to tackle Chennai’s spinner trident—Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja. They will look to repeat their performance whereas it will be a test for Deepak Chahar and Dwayne Bravo against MI’s batting prowess.

Which player in the CSK camp can make the biggest impact against MI?

Cometh the hour, cometh Dhoni. We are always in awe of Dhoni’s captaincy and his agility behind the stumps. It’s as if almost inevitable to see him at his best when the stakes are higher. He has been the guy who has marshalled his troops well and  shone with bat too. Although, their middle-order batsmen, Raina and Rayudu, need to get their act together in case their top order fails to live up to the expectations.

Squads

Chennai Super Kings: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Murali Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja, Dhruv Shorey, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Rituraj Gaikwad, Dwayne Bravo, Karn Sharma, Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Santner, Shardul Thakur, Mohit Sharma, K M Asif, Deepak Chahar, N Jagadeesan, Scott Kuggeleijn.

Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (C), Quinton de Kock, Suryakumar Yadav, Yuvraj Singh, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Mitchell McClenaghan, Mayank Markande, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Anmolpreet Singh, Siddhesh Lad, Ankul Roy, Evin Lewis, Pankaj Jaiswal, Ben Cutting, Ishan Kishan, Aditya Tare, Rasikh Salam, Barinder Sran, Jayant Yadav, Beuran Hendricks and Lasith Malinga.

 

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