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So much has already been written about the poor show of these two teams — Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians — this year that anything more along the same lines will be superfluous. Suffice to say that for both this has been an eminently forgettable season.
Mumbai Indians have already gone kaput and Chennai Super Kings’ prospects of making the playoffs, while mathematically possible, is so slender that it tends towards zero. It will be a miracle if they make the cut.
In this background, the outcome of tonight’s match would seem academic. However, every IPL season doles out lessons and promises for the next one which makes every match consequential.
Take CSK’s late awakening, as it were, this season. The emergence of Devon Conway as a match-winning opening batsman and the rapport he’s struck with the other opener Ruturaj Gaikwad in the last few games have given CSK’s batting a sense of security for the future editions of the tournament.
In fact, the team management would be wondering if they made a big mistake by dropping Conway after just one failure at the start of the season.
For most of the season, the lament was about CSK letting Faf du Plessis go in the auction. Conway appears to have the skill and grit to fill the gap.
If he (and Gaikwad) finish the tournament strongly, a great deal of CSK’s batting worries for the next season or two would be alleviated. Also, Deepak Chahar’s return (he missed the season because of injury) should give the bowling a much-needed edge.
One worry which will linger for CSK is big captaincy issue. MS Dhoni took up the responsibility in a crisis when Ravindra Jadeja decided he was better off focusing on his cricket, but the management will have to look beyond him next season.
Moeen Ali could fit the bill because he has a wealth of international experience and has also captained England in some T20 matches. Or the choice might veer towards an Indian player. All told, the captaincy decision remains a matter unresolved for CSK going ahead.
MI’s problems this season have been of largely a different nature. The utter failure of Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard to fire has cost the team dear, match after match.
Ishan Kishan, the highest-earning player in the mega auction, hasn’t quite lived up to top billing which has made MI’s batting look extremely vulnerable, the brilliance of Suryakumar Yadav and the promise of Tilak Varma notwithstanding.
In the previous match, against KKR, Mumbai were bundled out for 113 chasing 165, reducing Jasprit Bumrah’s sensational 5-10 performance to nought. This was not the first time this season that Bumrah’s effort went in vain.
Like CSK with Conway, in hindsight, Mumbai too were hasty in confining Tim David and Daniel Sams. Both were bought with great enthusiasm in the auction but consigned to the benches after a couple of early failures. Having adjusted to the pitches and the psychological demands of the IPL, both players have shown match-winning ability which augurs well for their team going ahead.
Given that their travails this season have been so similar, what can one expect in tonight’s match?
Clearly, CSK’s batting looks in better form, now with Conway, Gaikwad and also Moeen Ali among runs. Mumbai, struggling to get half-decent scores, will miss Yadav who has an injury to his left arm and will take no further part in the competition.
In the bowling, Bumrah, supported by Riley Meredith and Dan Sams, puts MI clearly ahead in the pace department. But in spin, with Moeen hitting peak form, CSK look much stronger.
If Jadeja, who missed the previous match, returns to the playing XI, the team gains an all-round strength. But Maheesh Theekshana’s strikes in the powerplay may be difficult to ignore.
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