Is Mumbai Indians the South Africa of the Indian Premier League? It seems so, following their unceremonious exit from the tournament in the playoffs stage. Arguably, despite having the most balanced team out of the nine teams in the competition, not winning the Cup even after five years does injustice to their capabilities. On the other hand, Chennai Super Kings proved why they have won the IPL twice and stand a strong chance to win a hat trick of titles as Dhoni and co. reveled again in a high-pressure contest, this time at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.
The Men in Blue of the IPL came into this game as the overwhelming favourites in the eyes of many, although the Men in Yellow, their opponents have gained much needed momentum and simultaneously made the last four once again. This was an eliminator match, so it came as a bit of a surprise when Harbhajan Singh won the toss and put Chennai Super Kings into bat. Perhaps, he was relying on their performances against Chennai in the round robin stage of the tournament in which Mumbai prevailed twice, chasing totals they set for them. Besides, the team may have felt comfortable chasing on a batting paradise in Bangalore, against a not so strong CSK bowling attack. There could be several other thoughts as to why Bhajji made this decision, but it proved to be detrimental in the end for the side which actually third on the points table after playing 16 matches.
Mumbai began extremely well, with the wickets of Murali Vijay and Suresh Raina in the first two overs itself by the bench warming Dhawal Kulkarni. Harbhajan bowled the first and the third over, giving away just 1 run by then. He seemed to have turned the clock back in his first spell, but clearly the strategy was that since he was not still in the best of form this season with the ball, he could contain Chennai’s experienced top order in the powerplay overs which would generally not look to score big in the first six overs.
Subramanium Badrinath coming back to the No.4 spot was a bit of a gamble taken by the Chennai management, since Dhoni had the capacity to bring Chennai back into the game by settling down first and then looking to hit towards the end. However, Badrinath justified the faith that the team has in him, by deciding to take on the Mumbai bowling after the first timeout. These are good signs for the Super Kings, which needs a settled batting lineup to win the two matches which are required to win the championship.
But Michael Hussey’s contribution cannot be ignored as well. Mr. Cricket’s inclusion in the team was criticized by many, since Faf du Plessis has been the one of the highest run getters in this year’s IPL and definitely the highest for CSK. Yet Hussey proved why he is a big match player, irrespective of the fact that he is playing for Australia or Chennai. He was a bit slow at the beginning, but went after the bowling alongside Badrinath. Hussey returning to his very best does not make for good news either for Kolkata Knight Riders or Delhi Daredevils.
Then of course came the Dhoni and Bravo blitzkrieg which demoralized Mumbai Indians badly. Hussey and Badrinath had done their job, and that had already rattled a bowling attack which was considered the best in this year’s competition, following its success in the round robin games. After all, it was the bowling largely which won Mumbai many matches. None of the bowlers, including the spearhead Lasith Malinga were given any respect as Dhoni once again showed why he is such a success in the world of cricket.
His innings was reminiscent to that of the World Cup final last year when he manhandled Sri Lanka, after not being in such great form in that competition. His helicopter shot which went for six is the longest of this year’s IPL, as he hit it 112 metres from the pitch and to the rooftop of the Chinnaswamy. The Chennai captain ended with 51 off just 20 balls, that too unbeaten in the end. Plus, Bravo continued his splendid run in the competition with the bat by playing yet another quick fire knock which led Chennai to a massive total of 187 in 20 overs. Both of them added as many as 73 runs in the last five overs, which almost kicked Mumbai Indians out of the game.
However, Mumbai began their run chase extremely well, courtesy Dwayne Smith again opening the batting and attacking Ben Hilfenhaus severely, like he did in the contest between these two teams a few weeks ago at the Wankhede Stadium. All was going well until the West Indies all-rounder made a fatal error of getting Sachin Tendulkar run out. Fortunately, Sachin behaved like a true sportsman that he always has been, and wished that Smith carried on playing like he was doing to ensure that the team won the match.
Unfortunately for Mumbai Indians, Sachin’s wish was not fulfilled as Smith was dismissed an over later and that signaled the end of Mumbai’s fight. The rest of the batters struggled as Chennai famously choked Mumbai yet again in a crunch game, reminiscent of the 2010 final. None of the other batsmen showed stomach to chase the target as the run rate was always above the reach of Mumbai, the way Chennai bowled throughout the game.
There was nothing wrong in the pitch, but CSK were better than MI on the particular day and deserved the victory thoroughly. Even if many believe that Chennai were helped by Deccan Chargers to make it into the last four this time. Dhoni deservingly won the man of the match award and ensured that Chennai still has a chance to make it to their fourth IPL final in five years, while Mumbai can only continue to dream having the IPL title in the hands for the next 12 months.