Dubai: Even the most diehard of supporters of Mumbai Indians or Chennai Super Kings cannot claim their team as the favourites for the title as the two most successful teams in the history of Indian Premier League (IPL) lock horns in the final of the 12th edition on Sunday.
With the final being held on a neutral venue in Hyderabad, both teams can’t even claim familiarity with the pitch at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. The fact that Chennai Super Kings have staged a comeback from their defeat to Mumbai in the first qualifier by stopping Delhi Capitals in the second qualifier and reach the final makes them a team with renewed energy and spirit, hoping to avoid their earlier mistakes and stop Mumbai’s strong run against them.
IPL history too serves no psychological advantage to either teams since both have won the final three times each. However, Mumbai can take confidence from their show against Chennai in this edition as they have beaten Dhoni’s yellow shirts both in league stages and the play-offs this season. However, Mumbai are well aware that Chennai have booked their eighth final berth from 10 seasons (after having served their two-year suspension in 2016 & 2017) and always raised their game on the big occasions.
Everything boils down to how the stars in both teams perform to the role expected of them. It will also depend a lot of how both captains, Chennai’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma not only make the right moves but also perform with the bat. Sharma, despite possessing the demolishing skills, hasn’t been consistent this season while Dhoni, in the twilight of his career, has repeatedly lifted his team out of the woods.
Mumbai’s bowling attack has done well with pacer Jasprit Bumrah proving to be deadly and spinner Rahul Chahar finding his rhythm, well backed by the Pandya brothers - Hardik and Krunal. They may go into the final with Mitchell McClenaghan replacing Jayant Yadav in the final eleven. Another good knock from in-form Suryakumar Yadav is likely while opener Quinton de Kock, young Ishan Kishan and allrounder Kieron Pollard all need to rise to the occasion. Lasith Malinga, the veteran, can be still dangerous if he finds his rhythm.
Chennai’s success will depend a lot on their openers Faf Du Plessis and Shane Watson, and it will be a big boost if they are able to once again give a rollicking start. Watson, who has regained his form through a half-century in the second qualifier, is dangerous for Mumbai. Suresh Raina has struggled for form and this would be the right match for him to deliver.
It was indeed a delight to see two ageing spinners, 40-year-old Imran Tahir and 38-year-old Harbhajan Singh, proving to be a deadly combination for Chennai. Dhoni admitted that the CSK bowling department should get the credit for getting the team to a record eighth IPL final in 10 years.
“I think the credit needs to go to the spinners: the captain only asks them that I will use you at this point of time. When they get the ball, it’s up to them,” Dhoni said in the post-match presentation after win over the Delhi Capitals.
The Hyderabad Cricket Association curators, Y.L. Chandrasekhar and Mukesh Kumar, claim they have prepared a perfect T20 pitch. It’s time then to look forward to a hard-pitched battle for the most prestigious T20 league title in the game!