Raina and Mclenaghan

Chennai Super Kings (CSK) undoubtedly have been the most consistent Twenty20 (T20) side and this is the eighth consecutive time they have made it to the playoffs of the Indian Premier League (IPL). They are one side who have retained their core strength and has been led by the same captain – Mahendra Singh Dhoni in all eight editions of the tournament. The side also owes much of its success to Suresh Raina, who has been the backbone of their batting since the inception. In fact, Raina with 3646 runs is the highest run getter in IPL, 330 clear of the next best Rohit Sharma.

 

It’s safe to say that Raina is India’s best T20 batsman and such is his consistency that in each of the edition in IPL, he has surpassed the 400-run mark. The eighth edition has been below par considering what he has done over the years. A name that has frequently appeared in the top ten now is at no. 20 in terms of highest runs. He has managed 321 runs this season. While CSK will desperately hope he gets to the 400-mark tonight, arch-rivals Mumbai Indians (MI) will expect Mitchell McClenaghan to unleash his barrage of short-balls on the southpaw.

 

In IPL playoffs/semis, Raina averages close to 65 with a strike rate of almost 174. The numbers indicate that Raina is indubitably a big match player. This season, for CSK, Brendon McCullum has made the difference with the bat and has scored 436 runs at a strike rate of 155.7. Batting has been one of the weaker areas for CSK this season and with McCullum out due to national duties, the side will bank on Raina’s willow.

 

Raina’s limitation in dealing with short-pitched bowling is well known and McClenaghan has used that ball to good effect in this tournament. In their do-or-die game against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), McClenaghan got rid of the dangerous David Warner with his first ball. Warner, who is known to be a very good player of short-ball, was deceived by McClenaghan, who forced him to play a false short by not giving him enough room to free his arms.

 

“I was bowling to the big boundary and David loves to pull. He is a great puller of the ball, just a great striker of the ball. He’s never faced me before. You need to take a chance to get guys like Davey out and thankfully it came off tonight,” said the Kiwi left-arm pacer after the SRH game.

 

McClenaghan has been a key part of the Mumbai renaissance after they lost their first four games. He has bowled with heart and has put in the hard yards. Fourteen wickets from 10 matches isn’t a fair indication of what he has done with the leather at the top as well as in the death. He hasn’t been very lucky as well. Against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in Mumbai, Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli were dropped off two consecutive deliveries of him.

 

He has fitted into the Mumbai’s scheme of things and having worked with Shane Bond in the Black Caps camp has helped him. He has used the short-ball to good effect and Mumbai will look forward to bring him into the attack to unsettle Raina, while CSK will hope Raina crosses the hurdle.

 

CSK coach Stephen Fleming has high expectations from Raina and in a report from Times of India, he has said, “Big players on big occasions win those matches and he is certainly one of those. He has done it for us on a number of times. With the absence of McCullum, Raina will look to be the mainstay of our batting unit.”

One team will qualify for the final tonight and much of that team’s fortune will depend on how either of these two left-handers fare.

 

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades , all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sportsmarketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)

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