Chennai has managed to win both the matches against Mumbai this year © IANS


Two teams have had contrasting second half of the Indian premier League (IPL) 2014. It’s precisely this phase which has brought them together in the bottom two of the playoffs race. Abhijit Banare looks at what has changed for Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK).


Mumbai Indians: After the 40th match of the IPL 2014, Mumbai Indians’ hopes were all done and dusted as they now had to win all the four matches ahead of them and at the same time hope some bizarre calculations and results fall in their place. This included the downfall of Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore.


While the other equations were not in their hand but they certainly executed their responsibilities well.


What has changed for MI: When teams are winning, everything seems right within, but MI have fought five consecutive loses to resurrect their campaign which is more than just any other turnaround. There have been many changes that clicked but a major credit goes to Lendl Simmons. Very few heard about his T20 exploits. To MI’s luck, it turned out to be a master-stroke.


The unsung hero – Harbhajan Singh. Without Lasith Malinga, MI certainly lost their tump card. Throughout this season, Bhajji may not have picked enough wickets but he has been economical on all pitches.  Moreover, Jasprit Bumrah, the young Gujarat pacer has been on target at the start. When Bumrah makes to the XI ahead of Praveen Kumar, it certainly tells you the faith they have in him and he hasn’t disappointed.


The return of Michael Hussey: When Hussey was picked at the auction, MI certainly hoped for the same solid starts that he gave to CSK, but the veteran struggled on the slow pitches in UAE. However, ever since his return in the business end of the tournament, he has regained his form which has complemented with the scoring of Lendl Simmons.


With that sensational win against Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai certainly have piled a lot of confidence ahead of the playoffs and have a self-belief that anything is possible. Apart from cricketing skills, you certainly need those belief and confidence when you face a team like CSK in a must-win situation.


Chennai Super Kings: While MI were clawing their way back, here was a certain consistent team called CSK which was humbled by oppositions. After 37 matches of the season, CSK were comfortably placed with 16 points from 10 matches (losing two – both against Kings XI Punjab). With four matches to go, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders, defeated CSK with ease. All these three teams were in a must-win situation and managed to get the better of CSK. It also indicated that this season was the most competitive with no clear favourites. Even KXIP faced some tough moments which fell their way.


In all these three consecutive losses, CSK were batting first. In other words, teams under pressure had it easy against CSK. From CSK’s point of view, MS Dhoni has been at his usual best towards the death. He has finished five of the chases for CSK. Chennai have been struggling to avoid leaking runs. Mohit Sharma and Ishwar Pandey who were the ideal pace duo for Dhoni but the worrying factor is the ease with which teams are dealing their seasoned campaigners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Maxwell in particular has been brutal on Ashwin.


Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum need to regain their form. They haven’t set the stage ablaze in the business end of the tournament. Tough to expect good performances in T20 every time, but being the openers, they can change the complexion of the matches early on to swing the momentum in CSK’s favour.


As it has been in this season and particularly against CSK, MI will hope for toss to fall their way and chase a score. Irrespective of the first innings score, teams batting second will fancy their chances to chase them.


As a final verdict, it’s an easy one, Mumbai have the form and momentum but CSK have the experience and once they are in playoffs, it’s a new chapter for them altogether. It’s another tough one on the cards with MI enjoying the home advantage. But that would mean little as they are playing on different conditions at the Cricket Club of India.


(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)