Perennial underachievers Mumbai Indians, still pursuing the elusive title, would take on a team that has embraced the championship like no other, the two-time champion Chennai Super Kings.
A cursory glance at the personnel of both squads is enough to lit up the cricket enthusiast—Mumbai have amidst them legends of the stature of Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting, apart from exciting T20 newbies such as Kieron Pollard. Meanwhile, CSK is packed with the crux of Team India, much like what Barcelona is to Spain.
Mumbai would recollect with a gasp their last-ball loss to Royal Challengers Bangalore — a match they should have won — and would straightaway aspire a revival. The one positive is that their players have already gotten into the match-frame, and at least temporarily have solved the opening issue. Whereas, CSK would be playing their first match of their league, at their fortess, where they have lost only 11 of their 32 fixtures. Against Mumbai, they have lost only one out of three matches at home. However, the overall record is slightly tilted to Mumbai (6-5). This though is an indicator that their clashes are mostly tense.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s battalion—four of them were part of Indian epochal 4-0 drubbing of Australia—is refreshed after a 12-day break. Though they would miss their last year’s find Faf du Plessis, Mike Hussey’s availability for the entire season should boost their top order. His opening partner Murali Vijay, too, is in fine touch.
With peerless finishers such as Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo and the skipper himself, their middle-order is packed with fire and brimstone. Last year’s million-dollar swoop Ravindra Jadeja, too, could play a more significant role this year, more so after his career-defining series against Australia. Shoring up the bowling was CSK’s priority in the auction, and the acquisition of Dirk Nannes should more than make up for South African all-rounder Albie Morkel’s absence. A canny limited-overs bowler, Nannes could forge a useful combination with Ben Hilfenhaus.
That portends an exciting contest at the top, as they would take on Tendulkar and Ponting, who were rather circumspect against Royal Challengers. Also, Mumbai don’t have a settled middle-order. A line-up comprising Dinesh Karthik, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Pollard might sound good, but there are no specific slots.
They have plaguing weaknesses in the bowling department as well. Without their titular bowler Lasith Malinga, they struggled against RCB. Though Mitchell Johnson and Jasprit Bumrah were adequate against RCB, Jacob Oram and Munaf Patel were wayward, and bowled short and once too often. Harbhajan Singh stifled the run-rate in the middle overs, but the bowlers that followed him at the death proved expensive. In such a scenario, Oram might get the axe, and Mumbai might rope in an extra spinner on a surface that looks flat and dry.