Since playing the tournament opener in Mumbai, the two most successful teams in IPL history have had contrasting journeys in the last 20 days. Table-toppers Chennai Super Kings have most bases covered and are dominating the league with only one loss so far whereas defending champions Mumbai Indians are languishing at the bottom with only one win to their name.
Mumbai's ride hasn't been as bad as Delhi Daredevils' but when they were bowled out for 87 by Sunrisers Hyderabad at home, they had moved one step closer to pressing the panic button. Two more losses and they will virtually be out of the playoffs race. But their next opponent is a team that has only become stronger in the last week. Super Kings' batting order looks solid, opening bowlers move the ball around, Dwayne Bravo delivers with bat and ball in the death overs, and MS Dhoni's six-hitting during his 70* off 34 against Royal Challengers Bangalore is surely not going to soothe any Mumbai bowler's nerves.
Mumbai's bowling has not stuttered much though. Their middle order has been the main weakness and even though individual efforts have stood out sporadically, the entire unit hasn't been able to come together to clinch the crucial moments, especially in the dying moments of their close losses. Mayank Markande continues to strangle the opposition, one of their top-order batsmen scores runs in nearly every game, Jasprit Bumrah doesn't leak too many runs, but something is still amiss. Mumbai need to plug their holes quickly because time is running out.
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Ambati Rayudu, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 5 Sam Billings, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Deepak Chahar, 10 Shardul Thakur, 11 Imran Tahir
Mumbai Indians: 1 Suryakumar Yadav, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Ishan Kishan (wk), 4 Rohit Sharma (capt), 5 Krunal Pandya, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Mitchell McClenaghan, 9 Mayank Markande, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Who knows how different Mumbai's season could have been had they beaten Super Kings in the opening match. Mumbai had them at 118 for 8 in the 17th over after scoring 165 for 4 before Bravo turned Mumbai's music down and made them dance to his own tunes.
Mumbai need to make some changes, be it in personnel or shuffling of the batting order. Learning from their only win so far, they could open with Rohit Sharma, who scored a majestic 94 off 52 at No. 4 against Royal Challengers, but had effectively opened after they were 0 for 2 in the first over. Rohit's slow starts and late flourishes are not a secret anymore. His strike rate in the IPL Powerplays since 2015 is 127.3 so if Evin Lewis can do the hitting initially and Rohit later on, they may have a better chance to utilise his batting style.
Stats that matter
Ambati Rayudu has scored 283 runs this season at a strike rate of 159 and average of 47.2. He needs 113 more runs to make this his most prolific IPL season. He also needs 84 runs to reach 4000 runs in T20s.
Super Kings' economy rate in the middle overs stands at 8.57, only behind Rajasthan Royals' 8.59. Imran Tahir has been crucial in that phase with six wickets.
Tahir has enjoyed bowling at the MCA Stadium in the IPL. The legspinner has 15 wickets from eight innings at the ground, with an average of 17 and economy rate of 8.2.
Dwayne Bravo has an enviable record against two of Mumbai bowlers in T20s. He has scored 30 runs off 16 balls against Jasprit Bumrah and 40 off 18 balls against Mitchell McClenaghan.
Expect Mustafizur Rahman to bowl as soon as Ravindra Jadeja comes out to bat. The allrounder has scored only 16 runs off 18 balls against him in all T20s, and has been dismissed four times.
Kieron Pollard could draw inspiration from his record against Dwayne Bravo to turn his form around: 182 runs off 111 balls with a strike rate of 164.
Krunal Pandya and Shane Watson. Picking allrounders is the safest bet in fantasy for obvious reasons. Krunal has been the most economical Mumbai bowler (7.04) this season, has taken four catches and six wickets in 15 overs. He also bats at No. 5 nowadays, above Kieron Pollard and Hardik, which allows him time to score more runs. Watson has struck a century, boasts of a strike rate of 162 this season and is their joint second-highest wicket taker, with an economy rate of 8.23. He could well be one of the most valued allrounders this season.