On Tuesday evening, the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai will light up for one last time in this ongoing 2019 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) as the defending champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will lock horns against table-toppers of the league stage, Mumbai Indians, in the Qualifier 1.
The winner of this contest will directly qualify for the grand finale on 12 May, whereas the other team will get another opportunity in the Qualifier 2 to secure a spot in the title clash.
Both teams have plenty of depth and quality in their ranks. And having beaten Chennai twice in this season, Mumbai should have the physiological edge coming into this game.
However, in a high-pressure match like this, past records hardly matter. Instead, the team that has more players with big-match temperament tends to do well. But here, even in this aspect, there is hardly anything to separate between these two franchises as both line-ups are filled with experienced pros, who have been through such situations on numerous occasions throughout their careers.
So, here’s a look at some of the key battles between these marquee players from both sides that could eventually end up determining the outcome of this fixture.
Hardik Pandya vs Imran Tahir
On the slow and turning Chepauk pitch, the battle between Hardik Pandya's power-hitting skills and Imran Tahir’s leg-breaks is expected to be a mouth-watering contest for any cricket fan. Pandya’s form with the bat in this ongoing IPL 2019 has been nothing short of phenomenal. In 13 knocks this season, Pandya has 373 runs at an average of 46.62 and most importantly, he is striking at 197.35. In hindsight, for Chennai, Tahir has taken 21 scalps already and has proved to be the premier wicket-taker in his ‘Yellow Brigade’.
So, whenever Pandya comes to the crease, MS Dhoni will make sure that he faces the leg-spin of Tahir as much as possible. The bowler will tempt the right-hander to hit against the spin, especially early in his innings, but it will be interesting to notice how Pandya reacts to such gameplans.
Jasprit Bumrah vs MS Dhoni
It is a known fact that going after Jasprit Bumrah in the death overs is one of the most challenging tasks for any batsman in contemporary cricket. In most cases, in Mumbai Indians colours, he bowls three overs in the death and generally peg back the batsmen with his pace, accuracy, and variations. But for Chennai, the in-form Dhoni does the job of keeping the run-flow intact in the end overs. He himself has a strike-rate of 139.92 in this IPL 2019.
Hence, if Dhoni survives till those end overs, in which Bumrah will bowl, we can certainly hope for a fantastic duel.
Lasith Malinga vs Suresh Raina
Last time when Mumbai Indians played at the Chepauk, Lasith Malinga ripped through the Chennai batting with 4 for 37. The Sri Lankan pacer thrives in slow-low scratchy surfaces like the one expected for the Qualifier 1. So, it is being anticipated, that Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma will use Malinga’s pace to go hard up-front against the vulnerable Chennai top-order. And against a batsman like Suresh Raina, who is susceptible against serious pace, Malinga will use his short-pitched tactics, like he did against Andre Russell quite successfully in the previous encounter.
Batting at No 3, Raina plays a crucial role for CSK. He, with all his attacking instincts, provides the early momentum to his team. So, in the IPL, his wicket is always a prized scalp. And for Rohit, Malinga is the ideal bowler to go after Raina in the powerplay overs.
Quinton de Kock vs Harbhajan Singh
With 492 runs this season, Quinton de Kock has been the most successful Mumbai batsman around. Batting at the top, he takes on the bowlers early in the powerplay whereas his partner Rohit plays more conventional cricket. So, in order to counter this, Dhoni will straightway bowl Harbhajan Singh’s off-spin against the left-handed de Kock. He is expected to be introduced into the attack, as early as in the second over of the innings. And on that Chepauk track, it won’t be easy for the South African batsman to dominate the slow bowling.
Rohit Sharma vs Deepak Chahar
With the new ball, Deepak Chahar has been nothing short of a revelation for CSK in this season. He generally bowls two or three overs in the powerplay and hardly gives anything away. Also, so far in this IPL, the youngster has taken 14 wickets as well. So, in a crunch game, Mumbai should not allow him to go about his business smoothly. One needs to put him under pressure and with all his experience and expertise, Rohit seems ideal for the role. Despite having a scratchy IPL so far, the Mumbai skipper got runs in the last game, which should have boosted his confidence level. Now, in a virtual semi-final, he is required to come out of his shell and take the initiative.