Dubai: Friday’s do-or-die battle between the Chennai Super Kings and defending champions Mumbai Indians promises to be a run riot with the two fighting for very different causes.
While four-time champions Mumbai will be all out to reclaim their spot at the top of the eight-team standings, three-time MS Dhoni-led champs will be eager to keep themselves alive in the fight for the play-offs.
Mumbai, who have slipped to third place with 12 points from nine matches, can assume their leadership at the top should they win against bottom-placed CSK in Sharjah on Friday.
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The Rohit Sharma-led team from Mumbai saw Delhi Capitals hold on to their top spot despite their five-wicket loss against Kings XI Punjab last Tuesday, while Royal Challengers Bangalore slipped into second, also with 14 points, after their spanking eight-wicket win against Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday.
After matching a fast-improving Kings XI Punjab last Sunday, Mumbai went down following a second Super Over to the KL Rahul-led team, thereby losing out on their chance of going back to the top. But Mumbai Indians have the best net run-rate among the three — +1.201 compared to a +0.774 of the Capitals and +0.182 of Virat Kohli’s RCB.
Skipper Dhoni has realised the travails of leading an ageing side, conceding after their loss to Rajasthan Royals that their season might already be over. However, CSK can still get to the magic 14 points — the minimum required to make the play-offs — but for that they will need to win their remaining four games to give themselves an outside chance of progressing.
As though the hammering at the hands of Rajasthan wasn’t enough, Chennai got the news that they would have to do without the services of the injured Dwayne Bravo. Word has it that Dhoni and the team management may concur to give an opportunity to some of the younger, untested players such as N Jagadeesan or Ruturaj Gaikwad, in the squad.
Mumbai — who lost the tournament opener against Chennai in Abu Dhabi on September 19 — had shown marked improvement until their five-match winning streak was stopped in dramatic fashion by Punjab on Sunday.
The fact, however, is that Mumbai have found the balance that ensures they are in a winning position at most times. The MI batting has proved to be consistent with Quinton de Kock in steady form, while skipper Rohit Sharma has backed him up along with the likes of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan.
And if that top order has not worked, then the power-hitting abilities of Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya have come to their rescue, while Krunal Pandya has proved his all-round utility when needed.
Things are no longer the same in Sharjah. As the tournament has progressed, the wicket has slowed down considerably making it even more difficult for all. It will be interesting to see how either team adapt to these conditions.