Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are not exactly foes but the rivalry is as intense as any in the T20 format of the game
India versus Pakistan rivalry in ICC world cups generates maximum interest and hype even though Pakistan is yet to defeat India!
In Indian Premier League’s context, Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are not exactly foes but the rivalry is as intense as any in the T20 format of the game. Oddly, in the last 5 matches CSK has failed to win a single one against MI and have lost 8 out of previous 10 games.
Mumbai, too, has their own jinx to counter as they haven’t won the first game of the IPL since 2012. Additionally, Mumbai Indians had lost all matches in UAE in 2014. “We didn't have a great experience last time yes, but it's a different team now,” said skipper Rohit Sharma at the pre-tournament press conference on September 17.
Dronacharya Dhoni, Arjun Rohit!
No one can even think of pitting a captain against MS Dhoni in terms of accomplishments in international limited overs cricket. However, when it comes to IPL, his protégé Rohit has done even better than the Super Kings' master. During the IPL auction if Rohit was hell-bent on getting Australian pacer Nathan Coulter –Nile (for Rs 8 Crore), Dhoni was equally adamant on getting Piyush Chawla (for Rs 6.75 crore). The clarity of thoughts in both captains regarding having their own weapons of choice is very similar.
What can be termed as a bit unconventional, both captains prefer to adopt a resembling batting strategy in Powerplays (first 6 overs) where their run rate is the lowest among all teams. If Rohit is confident of making it up in overs 7-15, the Ranchi man’s blitzkrieg approach in death overs (last five overs from no. 16 to 20) is known as the ‘Dhoni time'. Since both of them acknowledge each other’s threat with bat, they have been able to keep each other relatively quiet even if Rohit usually opens the innings while Dhoni bats at the fag end of the innings.
Dhoni’s numbers (an average of 25 and a strike-rate of 102.9, his lowest among all teams since 2016) against Mumbai are coincidentally matching to that of Rohit(an average of around 25 with a strike-rate under 130 since 2017.
The Legends are out for personal reasons
The build-up for both the teams started in almost identical fashion. If MI lost Lasith Malinga (the most successful bowler in the IPL history, 170 wickets with an economy rate of 7.14), then CSK were jolted by Harbhajan Singh’s (third most successful with 150 wickets at an economy rate 7.05) absence. Both the legendary players were out because of personal reasons.
The Chahar brothers
Nothing perhaps separates Mumbai and Chennai with two brothers playing for different teams with contrasting skills and dissimilar approaches. While the elder Deepak Chahar is master in exploiting new ball (since 2018, CSK have snatched 56 wickets in the powerplay, the most among all teams. Almost half of them (25) due to Deepak and he's also been getting better in death overs.
The younger brother Rahul specializes in the containment job in the middle overs for Mumbai Indians. He is the least-attacked spinner in IPL in the last two seasons (roughly, only 40 % attacking shots have been attempted against him) and it easily reflects in his economy rate of 6.55 runs per over.
The parsimonious left-armers
Both Krunal Pandya (economy rate of 7.16) and Ravindra Jadeja (economy rate of 7.57) are very good defensive and street-smart spinners. However, Jadeja is more experienced and also more attacking. Along with Krunal, MI’s other spinners (Rahul Chahar, Jayant Yadav and Anukul Roy) have managed a total of 61 IPL wickets between them while is nearly double (108) scalps alone!
Different styles but comparable methods for the trump cards
The important IPL career numbers (wickets and economy rates) are again almost similar for the trump cards of Mumbai and Chennai. Even the last IPL, the impact of these two match-winners is almost same! If Jasprit Bumrah will trouble CSK with new and old bowls in opening and death overs, South African Imran Tahir will suffocate MI mostly in the middle overs.
The Caribbean all-rounders
Both the Trinidadians are hard-hitters and death-over experts for the respective teams. While MI’s Pollard was in stupendous touch (207 runs 7 innings in the recent CPL, Bravo (17 runs in 3 innings) hardly batted. However, the bowling numbers (9 and 7.50 for Bravo, 8 and 7.55 for Pollard) were eerily similar for both in terms of wickets and economy rate.
Battle between the best Coaches
If Stephan Fleming is the coach of CSK since ancient times with three IPL titles (none can rival his record as a coach) Mumbai has got the services of equally cool and strategic Mahela Jayawardene who has two IPL trophies under his belt (2017 and 2019). In the first match, the Sri Lankan will have a bit of ‘home’ advantage as MI is based in Abu Dhabi while CSK will reach the venue on match day. “I must admit, going to Abu Dhabi without seeing the wicket or assessing the conditions is going to be one of the big challenges to start with” admitted Fleming in CSK’s official website.
It’s said that T20 in general, and IPL in particular, is a game of smaller margins. More so in case of the fiercest rivalry between these two teams. If Mumbai has four titles, CSK has got three. Last two finals between these two sides were decided by a margin of one run. Can we see a same kind of opening in the first game of IPL 2020?
MI – Rohit Sharma , Quinton de Kock (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah
CSK – Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (c&wk), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Piyush Chawla, Imran Tahir
Match starts on Saturday - September 19, 7.30 PM IST
(Vimal Kumar is a senior sports journalist who has covered multiple cricket world cups and Rio Olympics in the last two decades. Vimal is also the author of Sachin: Cricketer Of The Century and The Cricket Fanatic’s Essential Guide.)Check the complete IPL 2020 coverage HERE.