Kolkata: Two-time former champions and the most consistent team of the season, Chennai Super Kings will lock horns with late bloomers Mumbai Indians in a high-voltage IPL summit clash here tomorrow, bringing the 47-day T20 extravaganza to a relatively controversy-free end.
Ever since the 2013 spot-fixing scandal, controversy has dogged Chennai Super Kings and this season too the undervaluation of the franchise acquisition to a trust for Rs 5 lakh came under the Enforcement Directorate scanner. But it was nowhere close to the furore that was generated in 2013. Season eight was not entirely free of drama with reports of a bookie approach, some ugly on-field brawls and breach of protocols. In the middle of all this, the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led CSK has gone about their job with absolute precision.
This will be another shot at redemption for Dhoni’s men, who were denied a third title by Mumbai Indians at the same venue, on May 26, two years ago. Table toppers CSK had lost to second-placed Mumbai Indians by 25 runs in the first qualifier but they won when it mattered the most — in the second qualifier last night — to make their sixth final appearance in eight attempts. Fresh from their three-wicket win against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Ranchi, CSK will be in red hot form while Mumbai Indians, who got a four-day rest after directly advancing into the final, may have to watch out for complacency. CSK are a team known to keep their nucleus intact and this season too they have some senior players who are getting the job done, and if one adds the ‘Dhoni Touch’ then the yellow brigade looks invincible.
Left-arm pacer Ashish Nehra, who clinched the man of the match against RCB for his 3/28, has been a revelation with 22 wickets to his tally. They also have one Mr Cricket, and a familiar Aussie, who will turn 40 in four days time. Playing his third match this season, Michael Hussey stood in the path of the spirited Kohli’s men with a defiant 56 in their modest chase of 140, and while fielding he gave more than 100 per cent in an age-defying display. Having clinched their maiden title here in 2013, Mumbai Indians’ road to the final has been typical — rising like the proverbial phoenix. Having suffered five losses from first six matches that included a four-match losing streak to kick off season eight, MI showed resilience winning seven of their last eight matches to finish the league stage on a high. In their last league, which was a do-or-die contest against Sunrisers Hyderabad, MI dished out their best this season, destroying their opponents for 113 and then chased it down with more than six overs to spare.
MI will be looking forward to play at the venue where they tasted their maiden success and where their skipper Rohit Sharma had scored an ODI world record 264 against Sri Lanka in November last year. Openers Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons have also struck a good balance. Simmons has been in red hot form with the five fifties — the most by a Mumbai batsman in a single edition of the IPL along with JP Duminy (2009) and Sachin Tendulkar (2010). This will be MI’s third final and they had faced the same opponents on both the previous occasions — in 2010 they had lost to CSK by 22 runs while in 2013 they won by 23 runs. As for the battle inside the battle, the Eden track, which has been conducive to slow bowling, will pit two India off-spinners against each other in one of the most tempting contests. Making a grand comeback to the Test side, Harbhajan Singh, who has had some memorable moments at the ground including a hattrick, will look forward to cast his magic for MI, while Dhoni will be reliant on R Ashwin.