An uber-confident Mumbai Indians (CSK) takes on an ultra cool Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the first match of the Indian Premier League’s playoffs. The winner will go straight to the IPL final, while the loser will go to the final eliminator of the playoffs, where they will get one more chance to fight for a spot in the finals.

Background

These teams are evenly matched in all aspects of the game. The Chennai team has an edge in their batting and spin bowling. It is neutralized by Mumbai Indian’s upper hand in pace bowling. These two teams have been two of the fiercest rivals in the gladiatorial arena of the IPL. They have played 22 matches against each other over the eight IPL seasons, with each winning 11 matches apiece. Even in this IPL, CSK won the match in Mumbai, while MI returned the favour in Chennai.

If the action in the first eight years of the IPL is indication, these two teams are going to become the arch rivals in the Indian T-20 arena. The team’s fans simply hate each other. Their owners too often invite the public wrath.

Reliance Industries, headed by Mukesh Ambani, is Mumbai Indians’ owner. The company is one of the richest and most powerful in India. But it has been accused of wielding too much unfair influence on the Indian government.

On the other hand, CSK’s ownership has been a controversial issue for a long time. For all practical purposes, N Srinivasan – former BCCI president and current ICC chairman – and his India Cements are the team owners. His son-in-law was even caught in a match-fixing scandal. Srinivasan has emerged as one of the most controversial public figures in India outside politics.

While their owners are much hated, the presence of two popular cricketers in both the teams attracts fans from all over India to these teams. Sachin Tendulkar had been the icon player for MI and he is currently its mentor. MS Dhoni has been the captain for CSK right from the start. It is an open secret in India that the Indian cricket fandom can be divided into two: Dhoni fans and Sachin fans. They represent two schools of thought among Indian cricket fans. When Mumbai Indians clash with Chennai Super Kings, the two schools of thought clash too.

Preview – MI

Mumbai Indians now has a settled combination. Barring injuries, they are not going to change it. The openers – Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel – play aggressive but risk-free cricket. The middle-order comprising Rohit Sharma, Keiron Pollard and Ambati Rayudu is capable of playing according to the situation. Hardik Pandya is the new hard-hitting sensation in the Mumbai line-up.

Lasith Malinga and Mitchell McClenaghan are perhaps the best opening bowling combination in the playoffs. Vinay Kumar is a handy third seamer. Spinners Harbhajan Singh and J Suchith bowl with guile and craft. If any of them has an off-day, there are Pollard and Pandya to roll their arm over.

Mumbai Indians’ fielding has been inconsistent. They take some great catches; but drop sitters. They cannot afford any fielding lapses against CSK.

Preview – CSK

Chennai Super Kings will have to do without Brendon McCullum. He has left the team to join the New Zealand team in England. Michael Hussey is the obvious replacement. Hussey will be rusty. His opening partner will be Dwayne Smith, who is not in the best of form. Suresh Raina usually brings out his best game against Mumbai Indians, while Faf de Plessis will be looking forward to do what AB de Villiers did in Mumbai the other night. MS Dhoni is not the same force with the bat as he once was. Still, he can biff a breezy cameo.

The pitch in Mumbai favours batsmen. CSK’s army of all-rounders will have to play a big hand in this match. Dwayne Bravo, Pawan Negi, Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin will have to score brisk runs and try to put brakes on Mumbai Indians’ scoring. Their performance with both bat and ball is going to determine CSK’s fate.

Prediction

The one thing that can be predicted is that this is going to be a high-scoring match. Chennai Super Kings specialize in not doing any mistakes and playing percentage cricket. Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, specialize in doing spectacular deeds. Percentage cricket is not for them. If Mumbai Indians hold on to their catches, they will have a slight edge.

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