IPL 2019: Defending champions CSK bank on formidable spin threat in play-off battle

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Imran Tahir has been in sensational form. Image - BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

Ahead of the all-important 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) play-off clashes, we look at how Chennai Super Kings are shaping up.

CHENNAI SUPER KINGS

League position – 2

Matches – 14

Wins – 9

Losses – 5

STRENGTH

Experience and loads of it. Chennai’s squad is brimming with veteran campaigners who have done it all before on the big stage and continue to defy their ages in T20 cricket.

The 2019 campaign has proved to be no different with veterans such as Imran Tahir and Harbhajan Singh leading the line.

Their spin threat has been their calling card in the 2019 campaign with Tahir, Harbhajan and Ravindra Jadeja snaring 47 wickets between them.

WEAKNESS

It is with the bat that Chennai have struggled this season, with openers Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu failing to hit the heights of their 2018 showings. Skipper MS Dhoni is the glue which has held the batting department together with an average of over 122 but the rest of the unit has failed to fire on a consistent basis.

Both Watson and Rayudu are averaging less than 20 with the bat this season and that has increased the pressure on the rest of the batsmen. However, Faf du Plessis came out of his shell with 96 against Kings XI.

CSK's Shane Watson. Image - @IPL/Twitter.

CSK’s Shane Watson. Image – @IPL/Twitter.

OPPORTUNITY

The defending champions will have the luxury of playing their Qualifier 1 battle on home soil at the Chepauk stadium. They will be the only team to have a home advantage in the play-offs and that could prove to be crucial given that the team has won all but one of the seven matches played at the venue this year.

Plus, featuring in Qualifier 1 gives CSK two shots at making the cut for the final – always a good thing.

THREAT

While they do enjoy the home advantage, the fact that Chennai play host to Mumbai Indians is discomforting. Rohit Sharma and his men are the only team to beat CSK at the Chepauk in the current campaign and have enjoyed considerable success at the venue over the years. In seven clashes between the two sides at the venue, Mumbai have emerged on the winning side on five occasions.

Chennai will also have to make do without the services of batsman Kedar Jadhav, who picked up a shoulder injury in the loss to KXIP and will play no further part in the remainder of the tournament.

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IPL 2019: Hardik Pandya's all-round engine powering Mumbai Indians' fine run

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Pandya in sensational form for Mumbai. Image - BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

Ahead of the all-important 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) playoff clashes, we look at how Mumbai Indians are shaping up.

MUMBAI INDIANS

League position – 1

Matches – 14

Wins – 9

Losses – 5

STRENGTHS

If there is one man who has defined Mumbai’s campaign this season, it is Hardik Pandya. The all-rounder has put behind a lean year in international cricket behind him to produce his best-ever IPL showing.

A total of 380 runs have come solely from Pandya’s bat so far this season with the right-hander striking them at a rate of nearly 200. Only KKR’s Andre Russell can claim to have a better all-round tournament than Pandya who has also picked up 14 wickets with the ball and even that will be an arguable call.

With Pandya striking the ball as cleanly as he has ever done in his career, Mumbai will be pretty confident.

WEAKNESS

Currently, there aren’t many chinks in Mumbai’s armour. However, they have relied too heavily on Pandya’s swift cameos in the death overs to bail them out of sticky situations on several occasions and that reliance could prove costly if the all-rounder fails to fire.

One of the top-order batsmen who has failed to really make it count is skipper Rohit Sharma, whose second half-century of the tournament came as recently as Sunday. While he has had several starts, the opener has struggled to play the long innings and that has at times increased the pressure on all-rounders such as Pandya and Kieron Pollard to go all guns blazing from ball one.

Rohit Sharma yet to get going. Image - BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

Rohit Sharma yet to get going. Image – BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

OPPORTUNITY

Finishing top of the league has its perks and the biggest of them is the fact that Mumbai will get two attempts at making the final. That is not the only positive sign for Rohit’s men, who take on Chennai Super Kings at the Chepauk stadium in Qualifier 1.

Mumbai have won five of their seven meetings against CSK at the Chepauk and that should give them the upper hand in the Qualifier. They have also done the double over MS Dhoni and his men this season and that should be another psychological boost.

THREAT

Spin will be crucial for Mumbai in the Qualifier 1 battle against CSK at the Chepauk and their best performer in that department has been young Rahul Chahar who is undertaking his maiden IPL campaign.

While Krunal Pandya is experienced, Chahar, Anukul Roy and even Mayank Markande are still fairly new to the big stage and their mentality will greatly tested in the play-offs.

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IPL 2019: Momentum and psychological edge with Mumbai in Qualifier 1 battle with CSK

Sudhir Gupta 6/05/2019
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Mumbai and CSK meet in Qualifier 1. Image - BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

Despite recent setbacks, Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming has vowed to back his playing XI ahead of the upcoming Qualifier 1 battle against Mumbai Indians on Tuesday.

Having earlier become the first team to qualify for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019 play-offs, Chennai have seen the momentum slip away of late with two defeats in their last three outings.

The latest of them came in a crushing six-wicket loss to Kings XI Punjab at Mohali on Sunday in what was their fifth defeat this campaign.

Question marks have been raised over the form of Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu but Fleming is backing the veterans to step up in the play-offs.

“It (form) ebbs and flows throughout the tournament. We can still get better on all facets,” Fleming said after the defeat to KXIP.

“We’re now getting into one-off games, and we’re going to back these players right through to the end.

“We have drifted a bit in the last couple of games with a little bit of fatigue and a little bit of being near the top of the table. But that’s over now, and we can focus on the one-off game in Chennai and go wherever we need to go after that.”

While Chennai are in danger of losing momentum at the most crucial stage of the tournament, there are no such worries for Mumbai who finished the league stage in control after a thumping nine-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders.

With Mumbai men picking up steam at just the right time, skipper Rohit Sharma is a confident man heading into the play-offs.

“It is something we know about the IPL that the business end matters. We always come back well in the second half of the tournament,” he said after Sunday’s win over KKR.

“In all three trophies that we have won, the boys have picked themselves up in the business end.”

While defending champions CSK have won six of their seven home matches at the Chepauk Stadium this season, their only loss at the venue came against Mumbai itself. Rohit’s men have a positive 5-2 head-to-head record against MS Dhoni’s troops at the venue and that should see them hold the slight psychological edge in Tuesday’s clash.

Mumbai and Chennai are the two most dominant teams in the history of the IPL with both franchises having won the competition thrice apiece.

The winner of the first Qualifier will gain a direct entry into the final to be held on May 12 while the loser will get another shot in Qualifier 2 set to take place at Vizag on Friday.

LIKELY XIs

Chennai Super Kings: Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (wk and c), Mitchell Santner, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Harbhajan Singh, Imran Tahir.

Mumbai Indians: Quinton de Kock (wk), Rohit Sharma (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Evin Lewis, Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Anukul Roy, Rahul Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Lasith Malinga.

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