After 59 matches, two old foes have once again made it to the Indian Premier League (IPL) final. While it is Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) eighth final, Mumbai Indians have made it to their fifth final, with both teams winning the title thrice, making them two of the most decorated teams in IPL history.
The approach taken by these two sides have been quite contrasting, but both sides have one thing in common, which is the fact that they have always backed their players, no matter how badly they perform. Shane Watson scored an excellent fifty against Delhi Capitals (DC) in qualifier 2 and a 96 against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). If it weren’t for those two knocks, Watson’s numbers would have been abysmal. Kieron Pollard has been regularly in the XI, despite the fact that he has rarely made an impact with the bat, barring the 83 against Kings XI Punjab, and has barely bowled in the last 2-3 seasons.
Above all, the core team has remained the same for both sides over the years. While MS Dhoni has been an ever-present figure for CSK, the likes of Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, and Dwayne Bravo are some of the players, who have stuck by CSK through thick and thin over the years. Now, CSK, being the oldest IPL team with an average of age of above 34, have banished the theory that T20 is a young man’s game. Of course, they have been led by a shrewd and calculated captain in Dhoni, who has always gotten the best out of his players, which has been crucial in CSK’s success over the years.
Many consider Rohit Sharma a better captain than Virat Kohli, at least when it comes to the IPL. Rohit has three IPL titles to show for it. Like CSK, MI have also not let go of their core players – be it Pollard, the Pandya brothers, Lasith Malinga or Jasprit Bumrah to name a few. The players too have returned the favour by putting up good performances and are the main reasons behind MI’s triumph in 2013, 2015 and most recently in 2017.
The finale will take place in Hyderabad, which means neither teams will have home advantage per se. While spin has played a huge role in CSK’s campaign, MI have had their pacers do bulk of the damage.
The CSK spinners have taken 60 wickets this season, which is the highest among all teams, while MI have picked up just 26 wickets with the help of their spinners, the second lowest this IPL after KXIP (24). However, when it comes to the pacers, MI have taken 61 wickets, only behind Delhi Capitals (68), while the CSK pacers have taken 39 scalps, ahead of Royal Challengers Bangalore (34) and Kolkata Knight Riders (27).
The pacers have had a slight advantage over spinners this time at Hyderabad. While spinners are used as more of a controlling option, the pacers have been deployed to knock over the batsmen.
Having said that, the leading wicket-taker in the powerplay this season is speedster Deepak Chahar, while for MI Jason Behrendroff and leggie Rahul Chahar have taken three wickets a piece, which is quite a contrast to CSK. In fact, the top two bowlers with most wickets in the first phase are from CSK, Harbhajan Singh being the other with 9 wickets.
Even in the middle phase, there is a vast difference. At the top of the pile is Imran Tahir, who has picked 22 wickets at an economy rate of 5.95, well ahead of Shreyas Gopal of Rajasthan Royals (RR), who has 11 wickets and concedes at 7.13 per over. MI’s highest wicket-taker in the middle phase this season is another leggie – Rahul Chahar – who 9 scalps at an economy rate of 6.88.
MI make up some ground at the death, where they have the likes of Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah, who have consistently done well in the final phase. However, CSK lag behind in this front, with Bravo being their strike bowler despite not being in the best of form lately.
A similar pattern can be seen in the way these two teams go about their business with the bat. While CSK’s batting run-rate is rock bottom in the powerplays and middle-overs, they make up some ground at the death. Here’s a comparison:
Dwayne Bravo was under the pump going into the second qualifier against DC going five continuous matches without picking up a single wicket – his worst streak in the tournament. In a do-or-die match, Bravo put all his experience into play and finished with impressive figures of 2 for 19 from his four overs. In the four matches he played before being injured, Bravo bowled 67% of his deliveries at the death and as a result, picked up more wickets in his spell. However since, he has bowled close to 60% of his deliveries in the middle phase and failed to pick up even a single wicket until he got the wicket of Axar Patel on Friday. CSK will be banking on the all-rounder to deliver in the final as well.
Rohit vs Jadeja: Rohit and Jadeja have come face-to-face on 15 occasions in the IPL and the MI skipper has found it tough to score runs against him, but has been dismissed just twice. Jadeja got the better of Rohit this season when the teams clashed at the Wankhede Stadium. Jadeja has bowled more in the middle phase and sometimes at the death this season and it will be interesting to see how the contest turns out if Rohit faces Jadeja this time.
Dhoni vs Bumrah: Dhoni has played many useful knocks this season, while Bumrah has been a lethal weapon early on and also at the death. Dhoni has found it difficult to put Bumrah away in the IPL, scoring just 47 runs from 46 balls faced. The last time Bumrah dismissed Dhoni was in the IPL 2017 final and since then Dhoni has scored 13 off 19 deliveries.
MI: Mumbai are unlikely to make many changes to their XI. However, since the Hyderabad track tilts a bit towards the pacers, Jayant Yadav could make way for Barinder Sran in the XI. Otherwise, MI are a balanced side.
Lasith Malinga, Rohit Sharma (c), Kieron Pollard, Suryakumar Yadav, Barinder Sran, Quinton de Kock (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Ishan Kishan, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Chahar
CSK: Watson returned to form with an excellent fifty in the qualifier 2 against DC and considering his heroics in the last year’s final, he will perhaps be the first name on the team sheet. CSK played an extra bowler – Shardul Thakur – in place of Murali Vijay against DC and might go in with him once again in the final, given that the track assists pacers. The will most likely go in with an unchanged XI.
Faf du Plessis, Shane Watson, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir