In the last season of the IPL, the Mumbai Indians (MI) started terribly and then managed to sneak into the playoffs by the narrowest of margins, aided in no small measure by a late season meltdown from the Rajasthan Royals (RR). This season seems to be following a similar script, but to keep earning those valuable points they need to hold on to their spot in the top 4, MI’s next win will have to come against the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). In an away game. CSK have won ten on the trot at home and as their last home win against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) showed, they always odds on favourites at Chennai.
MI’s task is difficult but they have the confidence as they enter this game on the back of a four game winning streak, three of those being away games. It would suddenly seem to have all fallen in place for MI after their nightmarish start to the season where desperate attempts to figure out the right combination had thrown up poor results. Since the inclusion of Kiwi Mitchell McClenaghan, their bowling has looked more settled and with Harbhajan Singh turning the clock back and Lasith Malinga rediscovering his accuracy (he will miss this game though), they are very well poised; in fact, the return of Corey Anderson from injury actually presents them a selection dilemma. In terms of the batting, the box that remained to be checked was Amabti Rayudu’s form and he’s sorted that out over the last couple of games contributing vitally as a finisher.
CSK, meanwhile have looked settled from the start of the tournament and would want to quickly pickup the points they need to cement their position on top of the table and ensure playoff qualification. There is still an injury cloud hanging over Ravichandran Ashwin who will assessed before the game to decide if he starts. CSK have coped well despite his absence thanks to their depth and Dhoni’s canny captaincy but his replacement, Pawan Negi, hasn’t really threatened to keep Ashwin out of the team on the basis of form. While their batting has always been exciting and the bowling often a mixture of smart spin and medium pacers disciplined enough to bowl to their fields, it is their fielding that has emerged as their secret weapon this season. They have been electric to watch on the field – Dwayne Bravo and Brendan McCullum in particular have stood out – and it has had an effect on the opposition as was the case in the game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), where Bravo’s run out of Kohli set off a domino collapse.
When a team is winning, it is easy to say that there is no need to change a winning combination (in fact CSK had not made a change to their squad till they were forced to when Ashwin was injured), but with an eye on the playoffs, this might be the time for CSK to try out their squad depth and probably give Irfan Pathan a go towards the end of the tournament.
MI will have to play out of their skins to beat CSK at home but if their recent approach to games is anything to go by, they won’t back down. It is MI’s confidence up against CSK’s steel and should make for a cracker of a game.
Form Book (Last 5 IPL games)
Chennai Super Kings WLLWW
Mumbai Indians WWWWL