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Two-time champions Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians go head to head in Qualifier 1 of the Pepsi IPL 2013. There is no doubting that these have been the top two teams in the competition even if they suffered defeats in their final league matches of the regular season. Royal Challengers Bangalore got the better of CSK in a rain-affected match at Bengaluru, while Mumbai Indians were blown away by Kings XI Punjab at Dharamsala.
There is little that separates the Chennai Super Kings and the Mumbai Indians. Both teams have won 11 matches and are only separated by a difference of 0.09 in the Net Run Rate factor. Man to man, CSK score ahead of their opponents on the batting front, while MI’s bowling attack boasts of four international class bowlers. Both teams are blessed with a lot of experience, have several match winners in their line-up and have converted lost-causes into wins.
Overall though, one should consider CSK to be favourites heading into this contest, for, they have made it to this stage in every season of the IPL so far and have the experience of playing in such high-stakes matches. MS Dhoni’s team also have been the best travelers this season having won five of their seven away matches while the Mumbai Indians only managed three wins on the road.
In their matches at Delhi earlier this season, CSK defeated hosts Delhi Daredevils by a mammoth 86 runs and MI lost to DD by 9 wickets despite posting 161 on the board.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 8 p.m
Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, Delhi
Not only are Michael Hussey, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni the top three run-getters of the Chennai Super Kings of this season, they are the three most important batsmen in the line-up – in the same order too. Almost whenever Hussey scores runs, CSK go on to win. Hussey sets the tone at the top of the order and has the strokes to turn on the heat at the end. Batting at number three, Raina has won CSK many matches single-handedly and will be expected to come good again. Dhoni has promoted himself to bat at number four – and given how good a striker he is, and the kind of form he has displayed during this season, it is fair to expect some fireworks from him too.
Sachin Tendulkar played some stunning strokes in the three innings before injury forced him to miss the matches against Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab.
Question marks remain over his participation in this match; if he is declared unavailable to play, MI will need to choose between Glenn Maxwell and Dwayne Smith and hope they can get them off to a solid start. But the two batsmen who have been the pillar for MI so far are wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik and skipper Rohit Sharma. For MI to do well, it is important that either of Karthik or Sharma - batting at numbers three and four respectively - get a big score. Also look out for Kieron Pollard, who is capable of causing a lot of damage in very little time.
The quick bowlers in both teams have been equally good – even if MI score over CSK on class and experience. However, given that the pitch at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium has historically aided the spinners, all eyes will be on R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja from CSK and Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha for MI.
In contests between the Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians, it is certainly the latter who hold the edge, given they have won eight of the 13 matches between the two teams.
Even in the two meetings between the two teams this season, it was the Mumbai Indians who triumphed. In the first meeting at Chennai, MI posted a competitive 148 on the board and then restricted the hosts to 139 for nine to win by nine runs.
In the second meeting at Mumbai, Mumbai Indians posted a modest 139 and then dismissed CSK for 79 – their lowest total in the IPL – to win by 60 runs.
Despite their poor record against the Mumbai Indians, CSK have always won when matches which have mattered most. They defeated the Mumbai Indians in the Final of IPL 2010 and brought an end to the Mumbai Indians run in IPL 2011 by defeating them in the Eliminator.
Off the 12 times Michael Hussey has scored 50 or more, CSK have gone on to win 11 times.
Pragyan Ojha has outstanding numbers when playing against CSK; in 11 matches he has 18 wickets and an economy rate of 5.89. CSK skipper MS Dhoni has only won seven tosses in 16 matches this season. Overall, he has won the toss in only 43 of the 94 matches he has led CSK in.
The winner will progress straight to the title-clash on May 26 and the loser in this match will have a second chance at making it to the final when they clash with the winner of the Eliminator (Rajasthan Royals v Sunrisers Hyderabad) in Qualifier 2 on May 24.
It is set to be a mouth-watering contest between the Mumbai Indiansand the Chennai Super Kingsat the Feroze Shah Kotla when they take each on other in the first Playoff of the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013. Both the teams finished the league phase with 22 points each, the run-rate deciding their position on the points table.
While speaking to the media ahead of practice in the hot Delhi weather, MI’s stand-in skipper, Rohit Sharma indicated that it will be an even contest on Tuesday evening.
Asked about the big clash against theMS Dhoni-led side, who have more experience of playing in the Playoffs and the high pressure situation, he said, “We have no doubts they are a good team. I am sure if we can play consistent cricket it will help us. We just need to up whatever we have been doing by ten percent. We have beaten them in the league phases in both games, so obviously, the pressure will be on them. “We’ve got to go out and do what we have been doing so far. I am sure that if we can stick together, get the things right on the field it will certainly help us.”
Besides Sharma himself, the team has had many different players perform on different occasions and have clicked as a unit to take them across the line. Australian pacer, Mitchell Johnson has been one of their key players in the tournament so far. Speaking about his contribution, Sharma said, “He has been brilliant. He has been getting those early breakthroughs for us which is very important in this format. If he can continue what he has been doing, it will really be great. He has got the experience, and he has been doing it for Australia for so many years. It is not surprising what he has been doing.
Former MI captain, Harbhajan Singh too has played a key role in the Mumbai franchise’s fortunes. Discussing the contribution of the ‘Turbanator’ and the team, he said, “Along with Mitchell Johnson Harbhajan is probably in the top ten I guess along with Pragyan Ojha. I actually cannot single out anyone here. It has been a real team effort. You have seen Lasith Malinga chipping in, in the last two-three games. Ojha has been brilliant for us.
“Whenever our fifth bowler has come in; they have got wickets. Dhawal Kulkarni played in Mumbai and got two wickets, Pawan Suyal played against CSK and got one wicket. So the fifth bowlers is not a problem for us. All the four bowlers that we have been playing have been fantastic. They have been getting wickets regularly, especially Bhajji has been fantastic. Getting 19 wickets in the tournament is something good. His bowling has certainly helped us reaching here and his batting too. He has gone in at the later part of the game got us through a couple of times. We are looking forward to Harbhajan Singh contributing in terms of batting and bowling as well.”
The youngster himself has led from the front and amassed 526 runs from 16 games. Speaking about the responsibility of leading the team, Sharma said, “When it came to me it was a huge challenge but I was ready. It didn’t come to me as a surprise because over the last two years I have been the vice-captain so I was in the loop of taking that responsibility. And yes, it came at the right time and I feel it has certainly helped my batting a lot. I am understanding the game more than what I used to, and it is really reflecting and I am very happy the way things have gone so far.”
Asked how he has managed to keep his team focused despite matters that have been unfolding off the field, Sharma said, “Everybody here is a professional cricketer. We have got a more important job here than to think other issues. We are here on a mission and we certainly don’t want to get distracted by what is happening. We have got big job on our hands, to win the Trophy. So we are all concentrating on what we need to do, the planning, the strategy and stuff like that.”
While the team has moved from strength to strength, the fitness of Sachin Tendulkar has kept him out of the last two league games. Speaking about Tendulkar’s fitness and his availability for the game, he said, “We don’t know yet, we are going to take a call on Tuesday.
Discussing the team’s away record, which has not been as great as their record at home, the Wankhede Stadium, and if it would have an implication on playing the Playoff at the Kotla, Sharma insisted the team needed to play good cricket to win games. Elaborating, he said, “I don’t believe in the home and away thing because at the end of the day you have to play good cricket and as I said if we can up the ante by ten percent in whatever we have been doing, batting bowling and fielding I am sure that the results will fall in place. And CSK too will be playing away and I don’t think they have a good away record as well. So it has been the same for both the teams. There will not be home or crowd advantage for any of the games. So at the end of the day we have to play good cricket to win the game.