Big boys kick off big week
Match factsMay 21, 2013
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
Big PictureAfter 72 league matches - mismatches, in some cases - we're into the final week of the IPL. The most important week. The week Chennai Super Kings have negotiated five times previously, with more success than failure; they're the only team to progress past the league stage in every edition of the IPL so far, losing once in the semis, finishing runners-up twice (including last year), and winning the title in 2010 and 2011. Of the 10 playoff matches they've contested, they've won seven. They will go into the first qualifier knowing just how to win these big games, and with the cushion of having a second chance at making the final should they need it - both huge pluses.
But, in Mumbai Indians, Super Kings face the only IPL line-up that is arguably even stronger than their own. While the two teams match-up on the batting front - both in terms of proven performers and power-hitting - Mumbai hold the clear edge in the bowling department. This season, especially, Mumbai's bowlers have been lethal as a unit (as opposed to Lasith Malinga being the single biggest threat), with Mitchell Johnson swinging it at pace, Harbhajan Singh striking consistently while being economical, and Pragyan Ojha and Dhawal Kulkarni providing reliable support. They've already demolished Super Kings' line-up once this season, rolling them for 79 - the tournament's lowest total - at the Wankhede.
Both teams are coming off losses after seemingly letting their guard down in inconsequential matches, but before being tripped up in Dharamsala Mumbai had five comfortable wins in a row. Super Kings, on the other hand, have an up-and-down record of late after posting an record-equalling seven consecutive IPL victories earlier in the tournament. That has prompted talk of them having peaked too early.
Both teams have injury concerns to key players: Albie Morkel and Sachin Tendulkar. If Morkel is fit, he is likely to slot in as one of three overseas seam-bowling allrounders for Super Kings. If Tendulkar is fit, Mumbai will have to take a tough call - his replacement, Aditya Tare, has made two handy contributions, scoring rapidly as opener for a team that has got off to slow starts more often than not. Ambati Rayudu, who has 196 runs in 16 matches at 17.81, could be the one to miss out.
Form guideChennai Super Kings: LWLWL (most recent first)
Mumbai Indians: LWWWW
In the spotlightM Vijay has had a woeful IPL 2013 so far. He came into the tournament having enjoyed much success in India's home Test series against Australia, but his form has fallen away rapidly. More than his stats - 271 runs at 22.58 in 13 games - it has been the manner in which he has batted that has inspired very little confidence: he has swung and missed, scratched around, and hardly ever dominated the bowling. Against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday, Super Kings seemed more interested in allowing Vijay to bat his way back into form than going after the steep target in the eight-over shootout. The team, and Vijay, will be quietly hoping for a repeat of last year, when he followed up a forgettable league stage with 113 off 58 balls in the qualifiers.
Lasith Malinga, by his standards, has had an average IPL. He has not been in contention for the purple cap at any point, and is only third on Mumbai Indians' bowling charts in terms of wickets taken. But his record of 17 wickets at 21.05, with an economy rate of 6.71, is far from poor and it would be silly to underestimate him; it is still likely to be Malinga who causes the most telling damage if he gets those killer yorkers right.
Stats and trivia
- Mumbai are comfortably ahead in the head-to-head against Super Kings, winning eight off 13 games. In their last six encounters, Super Kings have won only once. But, revealingly, Super Kings have won both the playoff games between the two
- On Saturday, Malinga became the first bowler to 100 IPL wickets. Harbhajan Singh and Albie Morkel, with 73 wickets apiece, are joint-third behind Malinga and Kings XI's Piyush Chawla for the most wickets taken for a single team in the IPL
Quotes"I have been given the role of bowling in the Powerplays. But the only instruction I was given was to stick to whatever I have been doing so far, not think too much and try to remain as blank as I can. The coach and captain told me that whatever I have done on the cricket field so far has brought me into the IPL and the same will take me forward in my career."
Chennai Super Kings fast bowler Mohit Sharma defines his role in the team
Nikita Bastian is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo