You can see Sunday’s game featuring Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings as more than just another cricket clash – a battle between two cultures, between representatives of two teeming metropolises which embrace heroes without reservation and instill in them a fierce drive to sustain winning, and, between two squads ready to put everything on the line in their pursuit of joy.
These are sides from the best talent labs and have shown that while winning is one thing, winning, again and again, is altogether another. These emerge from an environment in which players are encouraged to do their best every time they step on the field, backing one another up and enjoying one another’s success. And yet, learning to live with the outcome.
Or, you can simply see the Indian Premier League (IPL) final in Hyderabad as a clash featuring two wonderfully talented cricket sides, either marshalled by classy leaders who inspire a variety of match-winners to be rearing to do everything in their powers by bringing their A game one last time this season.
Mumbai Indians, of course, will be delighted that their captain Rohit Sharma is not overawed by the powerful aura around his Chennai Super Kings counterpart, Mahendra Singh Dhoni that can cause doubts in the minds of most of his rivals. Rohit has not made put a foot wrong in the three matches against their formidable opponents from Chennai.
Yet, because it is Dhoni, even a Rohit will keep looking for that gentle touch that can alter the course of a match. Be in the way he handles the bowling resources or makes subtle changes in the field placement or in deciding the batting order, everyone will expect Dhoni to produce a signature trick to assume greater control of proceedings.
Then again, a great deal will depend on the track that will be laid out for the big game.
Chennai Super Kings may not find a batting track to their liking. For, it will hamper their bowlers a fair bit, the spinners have been able to apply a stranglehold in the middle-overs on tracks that have been on the slower side. It will also mean that their own batsmen will have to work find the best form of IPL 2019 to match Mumbai Indians.
The trio of Chennai Super Kings spin bowlers – leg-spinner Imran Tahir, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja – have let the attack with fearlessness and intelligence that adds layers to their skills with the cricket ball. They have been backed admirably by seamer Deepak Chahar who has scalped 19 wickets so far.
Yet, even if none of their bowlers has 20 wickets this season, Mumbai Indians’ attack appears better prepared to bowl in any conditions. With all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya as well as leg-spinner Rahul Chahar offering great support to pace duo Jasprit Bumrah and Lasith Malinga, their attack takes the pitch out of the equation more readily than Chennai Super Kings.
From a batting perspective as well, Rohit's opening partnership with Quinton de Kock, Suryakumar Yadav’s coming to the party in the Qualifier 1 in Chennai, the strike-power that Kieron Pollard and the Pandya brothers, especially Hardik, bring to the table combine to make Mumbai Indian a bit more formidable than Chennai Super Kings batsmen.
With Faf du Plessis and Dhoni in good scoring form and with Suresh Raina and Shane Watson also having some wonderful knocks and confidence under their belt, Chennai Super Kings has quality to boast of. Ambati Rayudu and Ravindra Jadeja can play capable roles according to the situation. Yet, Kedar Jadhav’s injury will disturb the team’s balance a fair bit.
Mumbai Indians have won all three meetings with Chennai Super Kings this season but even they will be aware that these do not count for much when playing the final against a formidable opponent, no matter how weary the legs of their players are at the end of a long season. There will no quarters asked, and none given.
The nature of the T20 beast is such that any player or two can grab the flow of the game by the scruff of its neck and confound the opposition with a stellar performance. But there can be no doubt that the team whose players sense and seize such key moments to be able to leave their own stamp will have their nose ahead at the business end of the game.
Which is precisely why we must resist the urge to see Sunday’s night’s fixture in Hyderabad a mere cricket game. The match can be a veritable treat in offering great insights into human traits like doggedness, aggression, passion, conviction, courage and emotional control that few other events spread across three and a half hours can do.
Two teams that have won the IPL crown three times each, representing bustling cities that have embraced their heroes readily, will be ready to unfurl some exciting insights into the lovely game. It would be wonderful to watch Mumbai Indians convert their psychological edge just as it would be to observe Chennai Super Kings turn the script to its advantage.
Yes, it is important to shift focus away from what the marketing gurus have been telling us. This is not just entertainment packaged for families. It can be the most compelling three hours and a half workshop in human behaviour (especially to pressure) and life skills. It would be a pity if this were seen as only another cricket game.