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With seven wins in a row, Chennai Super Kingsare turning out to be the biggest threat for all teams in IPL 2013. While they have already booked their berth in the top-four, the team is now determined to iron off the small creases in their game and maintain their lofty standards.
When they take on Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday, CSK have a great chance to test themselves in away conditions, against a strong opponent. Known for their invincibility at home, the Chennai-based team now aim to be “good travellers” according to Coach Stephen Fleming.
“I think it's great if there is home and away advantage and disadvantage. It really adds to the competition,” Fleming told reporters. “When you go away it's a tough game with a tough crowd and if you win, the conditions make that victory much better.
“We certainly have honoured ourselves when it comes to our home record. This year we have made a real effort to be good travellers and we have been doing it well. The majority of the Indian players in our side know this ground (Wankhede Stadium) pretty well but in terms of crowd support and parochialism towards your home team, it’s going to be different,” Fleming said.
The former New Zealand captain said he was pleased to see the crowds connect with their home teams with passion, as that can only be good for the tournament on the whole.
“I think it's fantastic that in a short space of time, you are getting passion and commitment towards a group of players. Games in Mumbai are quite special for our players and they enjoy coming here. Chennai and Mumbai, especially have a little bit of history already. They have had hard fought games and Mumbai has the better of us. So we are very determined to play well here,” Fleming said.
He expressed particular pleasure at the way his team has managed to string together a long winning streak this season.”It is a good run. It's a little bit different to the other campaigns we have been part of, where we have been a bit of stop and start.
“We have been very consistent this year. I won’t say that we’ve been dominant but we have been out of wood in games and that is just as important as being a form side playing well in every department. We still have got our challenges. Within the side, we know we need to get better. And in some ways that is driving us forward in search of that perfect performance. We are comfortable as a team but by no means are we complacent or satisfied with where we are at,” he said.
Ahead of the match, CSK have a minor injury issue with Wriddhiman Saha, who was included in the XI for the last two games for an injured and an out of form Murali Vijay. Fleming said the decision on who will open the innings with Michael Hussey against MI will be taken on the match day.
“Vijay hurt his finger and we thought it was broken at that time. He played for a game or so with lot of discomfort. We felt it was better for him to have a period of time out as he did need to give the finger a chance to rest. In the meantime, another good player in Saha took this opportunity. Saha was in good form and it is his place at the moment. But he is carrying a little bit of an injury, so whether Vijay comes back depends on Saha's fitness now,” Fleming said.
When talking of the pace bowling attack, Fleming was particular high on praise for young Mohit Sharma. “Mohit Sharma, with his attitude and demeanour, is a very nice guy, very calm guy and that fits in well with the way we operate. His performances, I won't say has exceeded but they are at a level where we are happy with what he has done. I think he is talented. He is a pretty good all-rounder as well; he just doesn't get the opportunity in the side. But his fielding and bowling to date have been really important to our success. He has been a good find.”
After three wins on the bounce,Mumbai Indians experienced a bump in their IPL campaign with a seven-wicket loss in Hyderabad. They’re back in Mumbai for two home games, the first of which is against table-toppers Chennai Super Kings.
On the eve of the big game, MI’s in-form batsman, Dinesh Karthik, told the media that the team was confident of putting the defeat against Sunrisers Hyderabad behind and getting back on the winning track.
“We’ll need a minimum of three wins from here on to guarantee ourselves a place in the top four. We have six matches left and we are capable of winning three of them. We want to take it one game at a time and do the best that we can,” Karthik said.
The last time MI played CSK (in Chennai) they emerged victorious by nine runs in a last-over thriller. Karthik expects another nail-biting encounter as the two star-studded sides lock horns again.
“It’s a tough game; they’re a good team and have won seven games in a row. It’s going to be a very interesting game. We’ve always had close encounters with CSK and we’re looking forward to this one,” Karthik said.
To succeed against the strong Super Kings, MI will have to take their batting performance a notch higher, especially after their modest 129 total in the last game. For that the team will need an inspired performance from their opening batsmen. Karthik said they are happy with the starts that Dwayne Smith and Sachin Tendulkar have provided so far.
“We’re very happy with the way Smith and Sachin paaji are going. They’re getting us starts and at a fair clip as well. So, we’re very happy with the way things are right now. It’s important that we bat well through the middle and finish off well in the end,” he said.
Death bowling is an area where Karthik thought MI needs to improve on. “Our death bowling can get better and it’s an area we’re really working on. We seem to leak runs in the death overs. We seem to depend on Malinga and it’s important that people who bowl around him also do well.” While we might not see too many changes in the team, MI are in danger of having to take the field without their star West Indian all-rounder, Kieron Pollard, who hurt himself in the finger. Karthik said the decision on his inclusion will be taken just before the match.
“Regarding Pollard’s finger injury the call will be taken before the match. He has been practising so I’m sure he’s feeling better.”