Eight teams, 59 matches, 18,292 runs, 627 wickets, 769 sixes and a shade under 50 days of high octane cricket, and, when the dust settled, 2019 narrowed down to the most expected two-horse tussle. Two seasoned, successful horses with six titles and 13 final appearances between them [eight for Chennai, 5 for Mumbai]. The two best teams of 2019, heck, the two best teams in League history face off for the fourth time this season. And, this time the stakes are the highest! The El Clásico to beat all El Clásicos! A team with 5 finals in 12 outings will clash with a team with 8 finals in 10 outings. Both searching for a 4th title in their 4th finals meeting.
There couldn’t have been a bigger stage for two history-making sides to chase history one more time. Chennai made history on Friday by reaching their 8th League final after they beat Delhi by 6 wickets in Qualifier 2 in Vizag. No other team has featured in as many finals – Mumbai lying a distant 2nd with 4 final appearances. Curiously, these 2 teams have faced each other in 3 finals already and will be slugging it out for the trophy once again – for a record 4th time. Mumbai beat Chennai thrice this season; twice in the league stages and in Qualifier I – it’s one of the rare statistics regarding Chennai’s League history where they find themselves in a slightly disadvantageous position. In the 7 finals that they have played, they have emerged winners thrice (2010, 2011 and 2018) while ending as runners-up on 4 separate occasions. It remains to be seen if Chennai can be fourth time lucky.
Head to Head
Overall: Matches – 27, Mumbai – 16, Chennai – 11
Since 2015: Matches – 9, Mumbai – 7, Chennai – 2
In Finals: Matches – 3, Mumbai – 2, Chennai – 1
👉 8 of the 11 previous Finals have been won by team that won the toss
👉 If Imran Tahir makes the Chennai XI, he will be the first 40-year old to compete in a Final
👉 Imran Tahir needs two more wickets to become only the second spinner in League history to bag the Purple Cap; the only spinner to finish as the season’s highest wicket-taker was Pragyan Ojha, back in 2010
💰 What’s At Stake?
The winner of this match will receive the League trophy and a winner’s purse of INR 20 Crore. The loser takes home a cheque of INR 12.5 crore.
Mumbai: Quinton de Kock, Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Rahul Chahar, Jayant Yadav/Mitchell McClenaghan, Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah
Chennai: Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Harbhajan Singh, Imran Tahir, Shardul Thakur/Murali Vijay, Deepak Chahar
Mumbai have had the advantage of a mini-break before the final by virtue of winning the first qualifier. But as Friday night’s game at Visakhapatnam unfolded, it brought them a match-up vs conditions dilemma. On a spinning Chepauk pitch, Mumbai opted to bench Mitchell McClenaghan despite his previous game returns, just to bring in an offspinner in Jayant Yadav to trouble Suresh Raina early.
The Chennai No.3 came with the reputation of getting better with the bat as the tournament progressed and has been particularly proficient in the knockouts. In the first qualifier though, Mumbai’s move worked like a charm – Jayant claimed Raina’s wicket in his first over.
Going with the same team should be ideal then, but what of the conditions? Fast bowlers have thrived on the Hyderabad pitch this year, and Hyderabad’s left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed’s numbers at home (10 wickets in 4 games) might tempt Rohit Sharma to bring back McClenaghan.
Going a batsman short against a Kagiso Rabada-less, bits-and-pieces Delhi bowling attack was a calculated move. But can such a decision come easy when it has to be carried off against the Jasprit Bumrah-fuelled bowling machinery of Mumbai? Unlikely.
Shardul Thakur replaced Murali Vijay for the second qualifier, only to bowl just a single over. There’s a good chance then, Chennai will revert to including an extra batsman in the line-up.
Now, one stat stands out like a sore thumb for Chennai – since 2013, Mumbai has won the trophy every alternate year. And if you are the superstitions type, you will see that happening in 2019 as well. Leaving that aside, Mumbai still has a better chance to win as they have all the bases covered. Chennai has been inconsistent in the last few games and Mumbai would want to exploit that.
After serving a two-year suspension, in 2015 and 2016, Chennai returned to the fold in 2018 and immediately struck form. The MS Dhoni-led side beat Hyderabad by eight wickets at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai to clinch their third trophy.
En route the playoffs this season, they won nine out of 14 games. The only side that dominated them was Mumbai.
Here are a few interesting statistics to trace Chennai’s journey in the League
100: No. of matches won by Chennai in the League
10: No. of seasons Chennai has played in the League
8: No. of times Chennai has reached the final
3: No. of times Chennai has won the final
137.54: M.S. Dhoni’s strike-rate in 2019
103.50: Best batting average of the season (Dhoni) in 2019
414: No. of runs Dhoni scored in 2019
173: No. of dot balls by paceman Deepak Chahar in 2019
142: No. of dot balls by leg-spinner Imran Tahir in 2019
6.36: Slow left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja’s economy in 2019
111.0: Distance (in metres) of the biggest six of the season by Dhoni
4/12: Tahir’s best figures (against Delhi) in 2019
5 Reasons why Mumbai Indians should win the tournament (Courtesy – CricTracker)
1. Great record in finals
The Rohit Sharma-led side has been the most successful team in the last 6 years of the League. Starting from 2013, Mumbai have won three trophies in just 6 seasons, 2019 being the seventh. Their first championship victory came in 2013, followed by triumphs in 2015 and 2017 seasons, respectively. They would love this trend of winning the titles in alternate years to go on, and if that happens, Mumbai will get their fourth championship victory tonight, the most by any team.
Mumbai have some amazing numbers in the finals of the tournament. In the four finals they have played till now, the three-time champions, as the words suggest, have won three. That is quite an achievement, given the fact that the most consistent team right from the first season, Chennai, despite playing in 7 finals (2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2018) till now, have only managed three victories.
2. Impressive against Chennai
The overall head-to-head battle between Mumbai and Chennai gives a clear indication of how dominant the boys in blue-and-gold have been over the ones in yellow. The two teams have played as many as 27 matches against each other, in which the MS Dhoni-led team has won 11, while Mumbai have come out as the happier side in the remaining 16 matches. In the finals, the Mumbai-based franchise will definitely be more confident going into the clash.
This season, in particular, has been a pretty good one for Mumbai against Chennai. Rohit Sharma’s men have defeated MS Dhoni’s troops every time they have faced-off in 2019. That will be a big confidence booster for the already confident three-time champs, who also finished the league stage of the tournament this season as the top-ranked side.
3. In-form middle-order
The Mumbai middle-order has looked solid right from the start. After the openers, the likes of Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard and Krunal Pandya, have all chipped in with some useful runs at very good strike-rates at some point this season. While Surya has mostly been involved in steadying the ship, players like Pandya-brothers and Pollard have more often been aggressive.
The younger Pandya, in particular, has been the stand-out performer for Mumbai this season. His lusty, but oh so stylish, blows towards the end of the innings have managed to grab quite a few eyeballs. The middle-order contributing consistently is very good news for Rohit Sharma as it will allow him and his opening partner to play freely at the start of the innings accumulating as many runs as possible.
Having a good middle-order also gives Mumbai the luxury of experimenting a bit with the bat in hand, as they will look to be the best they can come the finals.
4. Brilliant bowling attack
Having two of the best bowlers and death-overs specialists of modern-day cricket in Jasprit Bumrah and Lasith Malinga in the same team is something a lot of teams, obviously excluding Mumbai, can only dream of. Rohit Sharma will consider himself really lucky to have them both, in addition to other brilliant players in the squad.
Besides having a lethal pace-attack, Rohit Sharma also has talented and hardworking spinners like Mayank Markande, Krunal Pandya, Jayant Yadav and Rahul Chahar at his disposal. The senior Pandya, Jayant and Chahar were the ones who absolutely dismantled the Chennai top-order, a couple of days ago, that eventually helped Mumbai win the Qualifier-1 and book a spot in the finals.
5. Better mix of youth and experience
The experience of Rohit, Pollard and Malinga in the Mumbai dugout coupled with young guns like, Hardik, Mayank and Chahar give Mumbai the edge over an aging Chennai side.
Considering how evenly balanced the to sides are, the all firing Mumbai and the bruised but experienced and ever-capable Chennai, you would be forgiven to back the Blues. But, remember, MS Dhoni knows this stage better than anyone else. He has made it to the final for the 9th time in the history of the league. Although they are not in their best shape, Chennai still are potent enough to clinch this contest. At the top of it all, they have the all-important reason to prove themselves against Mumbai. It is because of this exact fact, Chennai could be victorious on Sunday.
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