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In the quest for their third title the Chennai Super Kings will take on the Mumbai Indians at the Feroze Shah Kotla on Tuesday evening. Table-toppers on the basis of their run-rate in the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013, the MS Dhoni-led side are keen to win the battle and take the field again only on May 26 in the final at the Eden Gardens.
While speaking to the media ahead of the much awaited contest between the top two teams, CSK coach Stephen Fleming said, “CSK have been very good this year. To motivate the players to win another IPL, with a big semi-final against Mumbai Indians, is our main focus.”
“The group of guys that I have got, are focused on playing the best that we can play. And, as I say, hopefully itss two games away - beat Mumbai and then have another final. And really we are trying to let nothing else creep into the dressing room”.
Discussing the importance of the game heading in the final stages of the tournament he said, “It’s a big game, isn’t it? And certainly, Chennai (Super Kings) –Mumbai (Indians) makes the mouth water. We came close last year taking the long way.
Sometimes it can help if you continually play because you get to good form. We just came up short against a great performance by Kolkata (Knight Riders). But certainly the advantage of playing well on Tuesday and having two or three days off at this point of the tournament is very appealing, rather than travel and play which can tax the players. So, we would love to win on Tuesday and book our place in the final and then work out a good programme.”
Beaten on both occasions by the Mumbai Indians, CSK will be keen to reverse the results when they take the field. Speaking about the opponents he said, “Obviously we got thumped in the last match. So we didn’t just lose, we got absolutely thumped. And that’s down to a good performance by MI. You look at CSK and when we’ve played away in the finals, we’ve started our way through qualifying games and once we get to the finals we’ve been excellent. So, there’s a lot of focus on stepping up that performance. Some of the players we have in our side are big-match players. Our skipper, MS Dhoni, is probably number one in the world, in terms of producing performances when they matter. We turn to those types of players in these situations, whether it’s the Rainas or Dhonis or the overseas players.
Asked if MI have an advantage over them given the record, Fleming said, “Probably, yeah, they’ve beaten us twice this year. They are a team that has beaten us probably more than anyone else. But does it count for anything on the day? I don’t think so.”
Asked if there is too much dependence on Michael Hussey and Suresh Raina the coach said that given their position in the line-up and their roles he is pleased with the way things are turning out. He elaborated, “You depend a lot on your top three or four, that’s a fact. Teams that don’t do well have their top three-four batsmen not playing that well. The fact we have had Raina, Hussey, and (Murali) Vijay is starting to come into form, has allowed the Bravos, the Dhonis, the Jadejas to play cameos. So while Hussey has been fantastic, Raina’s also had a good period of play. If they all combine, it’s good for us. The guys are ready to go. I am more than comfortable with the team dynamics.”
While discussing the importance of mental strength towards the business end of the competition he said, “There’s a lot more pressure, isn’t it? The finals and the last couple of games and the round robins are usually full of pressure. You look at the Hyderabad game and the pressure towards the end of the game they felt. The semi-finals (Playoffs) are no different. It is the team that handles it the best that usually wins the competition. It takes one or two players for your game. You look at MI, they’ve got the players all the way through their side that can do it. And so do we. We are very excited. That’s the other point. We’re excited about being here again. We are proud of our consistency to make another final. We would certainly love to win it again, that’s for sure.”
The former New Zealand captain who has witnessed the competition and the game evolve said of the IPL, “I think this year has been very good.Cricket-wise, forget the rubbish that’s going on, but the cricket I’ve seen has been excellent. Some of the games have been close. A lot more tactics have been put in place. Looking at next year, the auction and how teams are bought and squads are changed I think you will see it will get better as the years go on.
“Talking from a coaching point of view, I am learning all the time. So, I think we’re being quite smart this year. And some of the things we have done, we have learnt from previous years. We like to think our performances our getting better.”
“The standard of cricket, I think, helps some of the skills that are now being put into play at the international level. I think it has improved the game. You look at some of the one-day games, the scores and some of the shots being now played. The pace in Test match cricket has improved. The skill-set of batsmen and bowlers, I think, is on the up. That’s due to T20 cricket and players being able to try new things and learn new skills,” he added.
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.