By S S Ramaswamy
Mumbai: May 5, 2012
As the race to grab the top four spots heats up, fancied outfits Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians will clash at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday in what promises to be a riveting contest between the two IPL heavyweights.
The Super Kings, the title holders for the last two years, and last year's Champions League winners Mumbai, have endured mixed fortunes leading up to the return leg and significantly have dusted off their losing run ahead of the match.
The Super Kings would be thirsting for revenge not only for the comprehensive loss suffered in the first leg match which kicked off IPL 5 just over a month ago in their backyard but also to end MI's three-match winning streak against them beginning with the IPL encounter here on April 22, 2011 that the hosts won by eight runs.
In between the two IPL encounters that the two contested over the last two seasons came the CLT20 League clash on September 24 in Chennai which also went in favour of MI by a margin of three wickets and overall MI have the edge with a 5-4 record in IPL.
These two teams, with the two-best winning percentage among all teams in IPL would thus square off in battle-hardened fashion with MI eager to stamp their superiority for the second time after their eight-wicket thrashing of the defending champions on April 4.
Both the teams are confronted with a wobbly batting order, their perceived strengths over the last few seasons.
While MI have struggled to put up a decent score on occasions, having been restricted to scores of 92, 101 and 120, the Super Kings have also not really set things on fire with a batting line-up boasting of the likes of Suresh Raina and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Both sides need to get their act together in batting to make it a rip-roaring contest rather than a struggle for runs.
But MI are missing Pollard in more ways than one.
The giant West Indian fell on his right shoulder while fielding in the away game against the Delhi Daredevils and missed the subsequent two games against Deccan Chargers at home two days later and against the Warriors in Pune and is not expected to take the field in tomorrow's game too.
The Trinidadian is a huge factor in all three departments of the game with his ability to clear the ropes nonchalantly with the bat, bowl effectively with his medium pacers and in patrolling the deep with his giant frame to stop certain boundaries and even sixes, besides taking mind-boggling catches.
MI have brought in another West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Smith to fill in for not only Pollard but also for injured Australian Mitchell Johnson.
Young MI batsmen Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu have not been consistent but the bench strength has not been inspiring enough to field any other player as their replacements while the lanky James Franklin has been promoted up the order to accompany Tendulkar which has created a deep hole in the absence of Pollard.
Malinga has been the pick of the bowlers along with Pollard, while Munaf Patel has had his off days but has also been among the wickets (12 in 8 games).
Chennai Super Kings highest taker has been Doug Bollinger (8 wickets), but he had been benched in the last few games. Ben Hilfenhaus has added teeth to their bowling following a successful stint in Test cricket, but it would be difficult for him to adapt to totally different wicket conditions in India so soon after flying in from the Caribbean
Another important factor would be the type of track that is on offer as the Wankhede pitch has differed significantly from match to match. (PTI)
MI (probable): James Franklin, Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik(wk), Ambati Rayudu, Thissara Perera, Robin Peterson, Harbhajan Singh(c), Lasith Malinga, Pragyan Ojha, Munaf Patel
CSK (probable): Faf du Plessis, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, S Badrinath, MS Dhoni(wk/c), Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Albie Morkel, Shadab Jakati, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ben Hilfenhaus
Time: 16:00 local (10:30 GMT)