Following all the glitz and glory of the past 59 matches, it is time for the one last showdown in this 2019 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). And two of the most decorated teams in the history of IPL – Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) – will once again feature on Sunday's title clash in Hyderabad. Interestingly, both of them are competing for their fourth IPL championship crown.
Having beaten the defending champions CSK thrice in this 12th edition of IPL, Mumbai should have the physiological edge going into this blockbuster final. However, in a big-ticket clash as such, the pressure factor plays a much significant role than skills. So, for both camps this particular fixture will be a different ball game altogether and previous results will have a very little significance.
In the meantime, here’s a look at some of the key battles between the top players from Mumbai and CSK that could eventually end up determining the outcome of this championship final.
Hardik Pandya vs Imran Tahir
This edition of IPL has enhanced Hardik Pandya's reputation as a power hitter. He has taken over from Kieron Pollard and scored 386 runs in 14 innings with a whopping strike-rate of 193. In fact, barring Andre Russell of Kolkata Knight Riders, there has been no other batsman in the competition, who even came close to matching Pandya's late-order hitting skills. Against Chennai, he showed a glimpse of his potential, when these two teams met at Wankhede. Pandya got 25 off just 8 balls to help Mumbai score 45 runs in the last two overs of the innings.
So, in this highly-anticipated final, eyes will once again be on Pandya and to counter this threat, CSK should use its best wicket-taker Imran Tahir.
Compared to the other venues in this IPL, the boundaries are quite big at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad. So, MS Dhoni can actually use Tahir as bait to Pandya, who usually likes to take the spinners on early in his innings. And with all the tricks in his bag, the leggie is very much capable of inducing a rash shot.
MS Dhoni vs Jasprit Bumrah
With 414 runs in 11 knocks, this has been Dhoni's best IPL season as a batsman and data show more than 70 percent of his runs have been scored in the last three overs of the innings. However, in the history of IPL, against Jasprit Bumrah, the CSK skipper has an overall strike-rate of just 102.20 and he was being dismissed by the pacer three out of the last seven outings. Furthermore, this season, Dhoni's strike-rate has dropped down to less than 100 against Bumrah.
So, the plan is simple for Mumbai. If Dhoni stays till the end of the innings, they will unleash Bumrah on him. And in such a scenario, we can expect a fierce contest between the duo.
Quinton de Kock vs Harbhajan Singh
Quinton de Kock has scored 500 runs in this season. At the top, he provides the solidity for Mumbai and prepares a platform for the likes of Hardik and company to come in and tee off. So in this final, Chennai needs to get rid of him as early as possible to have a go at the middle-order. And for this job, the off-spin of Harbhajan Singh will be trusted by Dhoni.
With the new ball, he will come round the wicket to cramp de Kock for room. And with the field up, the batsman can get tempted to go over the top. In fact, in Qualifier 1, when these two teams last met, the off-spinner dismissed the left-hander with a similar gameplan. This time it will be interesting to notice how de Kock counters this well-known strategy of the opposition.
Suryakumar Yadav vs Deepak Chahar
Suryakumar Yadav has turned out to be Chennai's nemesis twice in this season. At No.3, he plays the role of a sheet-anchor and others play around him. He thrives under pressure and it was evident during his knock of unbeaten 71 against CSK in the first Qualifier. Wickets were falling around him, but the stylish right-hander remained calm and kept on scoring the runs. So, this time CSK is required to come up with a better gameplan against Yadav.
Perhaps, someone like Deepak Chahar, who has been a revelation for Chennai in this IPL with the new ball, is an ideal bowler to knock him down early. Yadav likes to shuffle around the crease and try to play those cheeky shots behind the stumps. However, against Chahar, who is very accurate with his line and length, it won't be an easy task to play those high-risk shots on a consistent basis.
Faf du Plessis vs Lasith Malinga
At the top, Faf du Plessis is the Mr. Consistent for Chennai. This year, he has 370 runs in 11 outings. For the first few overs, he plays conservative cricket and after getting himself in, du Plessis ups the ante. Furthermore, he also provides a cover for his out of form opening partner, Shane Watson.
So, the wicket of du Plessis, will be a priced scalp for Mumbai. To get rid of him, Rohit Sharma may attack with Lasith Malinga. He can come round the wicket and bowl shot in his body (like he did against Andre Russell at Wankhede) keeping the square leg back. The shot-pitched strategy can be a handy option against du Plessis, who likes to come to the front-foot early.