League position – 1
Matches – 14
Wins – 9
Losses – 5
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jadhav hurt his shoulder while fielding in the deep at Mohali on Sunday in the 14th over of Kings XI’s innings and did not subsequently return to the field.
The right-handed batsman is now expected to play no further part in the remainder of the tournament in a news which will have the Indian team management gravely worried less than a month before the 2019 World Cup gets underway in England.
“Kedar Jadhav’s getting an x-ray and a scan tomorrow,” CSK coach Stephen Fleming had stated after the clash.
“We’re hopeful for him. I don’t think we’ll see him again in this tournament for us. So now his attention will turn to what it looks like for the World Cup. He’s in some discomfort but we just need to be accurate with our assessments tomorrow.
“Fingers crossed that it’s nothing too serious but it didn’t look that good.”
Jadhav is part of the 15-man India squad for the World Cup which is set to depart for England on May 22. If he is unable to recover in time, India might be forced to turn towards their reserve group of players comprising of Rishabh Pant, Ambati Rayudu and Axar Patel.
The batsman looks like a certainty to miss Chennai’s upcoming Qualifier 1 clash against Mumbai Indians at the Chepauk stadium which takes place on Tuesday.