After 58 matches and almost seven weeks, the IPL Final takes place on Sunday and Mumbai Indians have home advantage when they take on the Chennai Super Kings. Mumbai are slight favourites in what has the making of a thriller.
Venue and conditions:
The DY Patil stadium has a toss bias, in total five matches played there so far four have been won by the side batting first. It is clear the surface wears as a match progresses, making it difficult for batsmen to hit through the line of the ball with confidence. In the first innings, the average run rate is 8.23. In the second it is just 6.9.
The BCCI’s top brass will refuse to attend the final to distance themselves from Lalit Modi, IPL’s under-investigation commissioner. Suresh Raina, with 1318 runs to his name, has overtaken Adam Gilchrist as the leading scorer in all IPL matches. Tendulkar is fifth with 1122 runs. He also holds record for most catches, 26, for a non-wicketkeeper.
Mumbai must decide whether they want to gamble for a second time. The decision to pair Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando, instead of one from Dwayne Bravo or Ryan McLaren against Bangalore in the semi-final, was a strange one. Of course, it paid off but in terms of balance it makes little sense. Bravo or McLaren bowl more than useful overs and offer vital runs.
Five stitches in Sachin Tendulkars right hand make the Mumbai Indians captain and star performer a doubt for the final. It would be a real blow were Sachin to miss out after his performances with the bat and as skipper guided Mumbai to the final via a largely trouble free passage. They won 10 of 14 games to make the semi finals where they disposed of the Royal Challengers in a 35 run win.
Tiwary and Pollard piled on the runs in the semi final to more than compensate for the early loss of Tendulkar and put to bed any thought that Mumbai were over reliant on their skipper for top order runs. Zaheer Khan, who could take over as captain if Sachin is ruled out, is part of a bowling attack that has been head and shoulders above any other in the tournament. Malinga, Pollard, Harbhajan and more recently Dilhara Fernando have been scourge of opposing batsmen.
Chennai saw off Deccan Chargers in the semi final despite posting a total of just 142 after winning the toss and electing to bat first. Chennai are unlikely to make any changes to their team following a fine performance against Deccan. Muttiah Muralitharan returned to the side in that game while Doug Bollinger continued his mean streak.
They should give serious consideration to dropping Matthew Hayden, who is on a horror run with the willow. Mike Hussey or Justin Kemp are more than capable replacements. Matty Hayden, who has just one big score to his name, once again went early and this time the young guns Raina and Vijay failed to deliver with the bat. In the end, they did well to struggle on to 142. Dhoni’s decision to play 3 spinners, including Murali helped put the squeeze on Deccan early doors and they took control in the early stages of the chase on their way to a 38 run win.
Dhoni may well stick with the spin attack to supplement the pace of Doug Bollinger who has performed really well since his late arrival.
Head to Head:
The head to head record this year also stands at one win each. Chennai have beaten the Mumbai Indians earlier in the tournament, a 24 run win in match 37 bodes well for this final although that game was played in Chennai. On their earlier visit to Mumbai in match 21, Super Kings posted 180/2, a total which was overhauled by Mumbai with a full over to spare.
Mumbai are the in-form team and they probably have their noses slightly ahead of Chennai. But Chennai have been in a final before and have been extremely consistent across all three seasons.
Tendulkar’s participation is obviously crucial as is the toss bearing in mind both semi finals played here were won by the side bating first. Chennai have improved in the bowling department so the key is how their big hitters perform against the best attack in the tournament.
Chennai has a sporting chance, especially if they win the toss. They have more options than RCB (who Mumbai beat in semi final) when it comes to taking pace off the ball but they will need very significant contributions from at least two batsmen against the menace of the Mumbai bowlers.
It is clear the DY Patil stadium surface is not up to scratch for a game of this importance. After almost seven weeks of cricket and 58 matches, the tournament will be decided by the toss of a coin? The team who will win the toss and bat first would excel the tournament.
Mumbai produced probably their best performance of the competition in the semi-final and finally put to bed the notion that they are a one-man team. Sachin Tendulkar’s failure brought the best out of the rest and Chennai will know they are up against a tougher unit than previously thought.
The key man for MS Dhoni’s Chennai will be Doug Bollinger. CSK beat Mumbai with Bollinger in the side after he missed the first match and his economy rate of 6.51 is the fifth best of the competition. Imagine the impact Bollinger could make if CSK bowl second.
Author: Mona Gupta (New Delhi)