MI, CSK to face off in riveting contest in IPL

Mumbai Indians (MI) player Lasith Malinga celebrates after claiming the wicket of Shane Watson during the Indian Premier League 2019 (IPL T20) cricket match between Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) at Wankede Stadium in Mumbai, Wednesday, April 3, 2019. Photo: PTI

With skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in red-hot form, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will start favourites against the slightly off-colour Mumbai Indians (MI) when the IPL’s two most successful teams have their first showdown of the season in Mumbai on April 3.

The Super Kings, three-time winners of the T20 League like the hosts, have been on a roll with three wins on the trot that have boosted them to the top of the table. Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, had a familiar stuttering start with a victory sandwiched between two defeats.

Recent history in head-to-head clashes is in MI’s favour, as the Rohit Sharma-led home team has beaten their rivals in four out of the last five contests. Overall too Mumbai holds a 14-12 advantage over CSK, including once in the defunct Champions T20 League.

However, CSK seem to hold the edge this time around, especially with Dhoni rolling back the years with a typically robust 75 off 46 balls that lifted his team from 27 for three to 175 for five against Rajasthan Royals at home in their last match. And with Dwayne Bravo holding off Rajasthan’s charge at the end with the ball, CSK maintained their 100% record.

The Super Kings have the edge in batting depth and in spin bowling variety, while Mumbai have the better pace attack on a pitch that is bound to offer bounce and carry. Mumbai are over-dependent on openers Rohit and South African Quinton de Kock. The rest need to step up.

The hosts Mumbai will have the option of fielding new recruit, West Indian fast bowler Alzarri Joseph, or all rounder Ben Cutting in place of the off-boil Lasith Malinga.

In the spin department, Mumbai are behind their opponents who have Harbhajan Singh, South African Imran Tahir and Ravindra Jadeja to bank on after the power play.