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The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 is now down to its final stages. The journey to the Eliminator could not have been more different for the two sides. While Chennai Super Kings (CSK) were dominant almost throughout the league stages, they faltered slightly at the far end. On the other hand, Mumbai Indians (MI) overcame a horrendous start to their campaign and roared back into peak form when it mattered the most. Shiamak Unwalla looks at some of the key clashes that could well decide the fate of their contest.
Lendl Simmons vs Mohit Sharma: While Lendl Simmons was a late acquisition for Mumbai Indians, it would be fair to say that his advent coincided with - and maybe brought about a sea-change in Mumbai’s fortunes. With 327 runs at an average of 54.5, Simmons has provided much-needed stability at the top of the order. Meanwhile, Mohit Sharma has continued his impressive showing for CSK by snaring 19 wickets with his accurate swingers. If he manages to account for Simmons early, MI will be at a massive disadvantage.
Rohit Sharma vs Ravindra Jadeja: Rohit Sharma has been fairly consistent for MI throughout the IPL 7, without ever setting the stage on fire. He has provided a stable platform while allowing the big hitters around him to prosper. However, in a big knockout match the onus will be on him as a senior player to step up and put in a noteworthy performance. Ravindra Jadeja, with 17 wickets, has been his usual effective self. However, he has also had the tendency to go for runs this season. If Rohit can go after Jadeja early, his potency might diminish and that could cause the CSK attack to start bleeding runs.
Corey Anderson vs Ravichandran Ashwin: For a long time, Corey Anderson was known as Mumbai’s big investment that flopped majorly. MI were mocked for letting go of the big-hitting Glenn Maxwell and going for an untried and untested Anderson. However, after starring in a chase of 191 in less than 15 overs, Anderson has disproved a lot of his detractors with aplomb. With an innings of 95 not out off just 44 balls, Anderson virtually overshadowed Maxwell’s previous efforts in the tournament. If he can bat in similar fashion, the CSK bowlers may well have to run for cover. However, if there is one bowler who could potentially stop him in his tracks, it is Ravichandran Ashwin. The off-spinner has not been as consistent as he would have liked, but as he proved against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) with a spell that read 3-1-3-1, on his day he can be unplayable. CSK will be hoping he can stop the MI juggernaut in his tracks.
Dwayne Smith vs Jasprit Bumrah: One of the main reasons CSK struggled in their last few games was because of a sudden dip in form of their main batsman, Dwayne Smith. Smith has since got back to his run-scoring ways and will be keen to take full toll on a MI attack that doesn’t have a lot of firepower. That being said, the unheralded Jasprit Bumrah has been in terrific form in the last few games, and has managed to bowl yorkers almost at will, thereby making it tough to score off him. If he can bowl a few well-directed quick ones at the base of the stumps, he could beat Smith’s bat-swing and knock him over.
MS Dhoni vs Harbhajan Singh: The Indian captain will be looking to score some big runs after getting some good starts in the last few games. He currently averages a tremendous 65.8 with a strike rate of 150.22 after scoring 329 runs so far in the tournament. His old friend and former teammate, Harbhajan Singh, has tasted success against Dhoni in the past and will be looking to curtail the run-scoring. The contest between the two ought to be a riveting one.
Suresh Raina vs Shreyas Gopal: Suresh Raina has a habit of scoring heavily in crunch games, and with the kind of form he is in right now, will be a very dangerous batsman for CSK. Shreyas Gopal, the young leg-spinner whose bowling action so closely resembles Anil Kumble’s, has got some big wickets recently. The Karnataka spinner has shown some bigheartedness, and has been rewarded with wickets. If he can account for Raina early, CSK will be at a massive disadvantage.
Irrespective of the final result, the Eliminator ought to be a cracking contest. Mumbai have tremendous momentum going for them, while Chennai have the experience of making it to five finals in six years.
Please note that some of the players mentioned above might not play the game for various reasons.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)
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