After what has seemed like another unending series of matches, we finally have the IPL finalists. Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings have made it to the big Sunday at Eden Gardens. Both sides have taken contrasting paths to the final. Chennai have been consistent as ever. They have made it to yet another IPL final, their sixth, which means they have missed out on only two occasions. On the other hand, no one expected Mumbai to be here after what seemed like an unending losing streak in the first half of the event. So all praise to Mumbai for the amazing comeback they have made.
Looking at Chennai first, they put up a thoroughly professional effort against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the second qualifier. So that would give them a lot of confidence as they head into the big day. And, as mentioned above, they have made it to this stage numerous times before, so there should not be as many nerves. Also, a number of the players from the current side have been with the team almost from the first season. That also will be to their advantage. At the same time, Mumbai had beaten them in the qualifier, and that might be something Chennai would be wary of.
A few players from the Chennai outfit will be the key if they want to clinch their third IPL title. Mike Hussey played a crucial role in the qualifier on Friday, and guided a tense chase. With Brendon McCullum unavailable, Hussey will have to make a significant contribution. He is a big match player so hopes will be high from him. Suresh Raina hasn’t lit the tournament on fire, but if he makes runs on Sunday, the earlier failures will easily be forgotten. All-rounder Dwayne Bravo, skipper MS Dhoni and in-form fast bowler Ashish Nehra will be the other players Chennai will look out for.
Mumbai too have a number of star players, and will be extremely buoyant going into the final. They might feel that they have a slight advantage, but the final will be a totally different proposition. Lendl Simmons has been excellent at the top of the order ever since he as been asked to open. With his consistency, he has been the unsung hero in the tournament for Mumbai. His opening pairing with Parthiv Patel has worked well in the second half of the event.
If Mumbai want to look at a trump card, it is definitely Kieron Pollard. On more than once occasion in the tournament, he has been responsible for turning the game around in Mumbai’s favour with the bat, courtesy his big hitting. He also won them a game with the ball, with an excellent over. If skipper Rohit Sharma comes to the party, there would be nothing better for the team. Lower down the order, Ambati Rayudu has done well. Even in the bowling, they have two match-winners in Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh, well supported by Mitchell McClenaghan.
A close contest seems in the offing, and hopefully Mumbai and Chennai will not let the crowds down.
--By A Cricket Analyst