Monday, May 21, 2012

The Mêlée of the Metros (Part Two)



Can Bhajji spin it MI's way?
Unpredictability: You can’t be certain who will open with Sachin. You can’t be certain who will be the fourth overseas player. You can’t be certain if Bhajji will bowl his 4 overs. You can’t be certain of who amongst RP/Munaf/Dhaval/Nechim/Ojha will play. You can’t be certain of who will be the next one summoned by the match referee (is there anyone actually left who has not contributed to MI being last, and deservedly so, in the fair play table? Sachin, I guess). You can’t be certain of anything at all. And precisely that, adds an element of surprise for the opposition as much as it does for their fans. It may just work in their favor.
Pulling off close wins: Despite all the unpredictability and inconsistency, they have managed as many wins as KKR. They have been involved in a lot of tight finishes and to their credit, have been able to pull off most of those. The remaining games will be closely fought and they have made it a sort of a habit of winning these games. That should hold them in good stead.


Unpredictability: Unpredictability is good as long as it is not within the team itself. They have been very inconsistent with their performances. They have won some games that could have really gone either way and had those games gone the other way, they would have struggled. They need some real consistency from here on in, to claim the coveted trophy.
Team Combinations: They have played 16 full games this season so far and they do not know their best 11. May it be amongst the Indian bowlers or their overseas pros, they simply can’t figure out their best combination. That is a serious issue. They need to pick a steady combination and stick to it for everyone within and outside the group to feel settled as well.
The Pollard Puzzle: When you have as destructive a giant of a player as Pollard, why not utilize him? They haven’t been able to use him to his optimum best and get the most out of his explosive abilities. The failure to decipher this puzzle led to Mumbai’s downfall in the final of IPL 3. It’s been two seasons since then, and the think-tank still continues to ponder over the puzzle.

They have won the champions league by beating Chennai, they have done the double over CSK this season (a comprehensive win in the opening match at Chennai and Dwayne Smith’s 14 off the last 3 at the Wankhede). So they have the slight psychological edge over CSK in the eliminator. They also have the opportunity to avenge the loss of the IPL 3 final. Sachin has the perfect opportunity to express himself, play with freedom and inspire the side to victory. On paper, they have the best and most well-rounded bowling attack in the IPL. The batting is not too behind either. The owners have left no stone unturned to put together a very good unit with depth in the squad. They have had the best and shrewdest auction buys to go along with the transfers of Dinesh Karthik and Pragyan Ojha. Its time they repay their owners with the ultimate prize. They surely have the ammunition to pull it off. The only question remains, will it fire or back-fire!

Quite often, in any scenario in life, the biggest threat comes from within. The case with MI is somewhat similar. They need to overcome their inconsistency on the field; otherwise it could lead to their downfall. To add to that, right now their biggest threat stems from CSK. The Super Kings have been there, done that and the way they have sneaked in, they have nothing to lose. In a situation like this, like wounded tigers, CSK will be at their most dangerous. Mumbai will have to be at their absolute best to see out this very potent threat.



MSD: The Man with the Midas Touch
Experience and Know-How: They are two time defending champions. With their last minute entry into the playoffs, they maintain their 100 percent record in being the only team to finish in the top four in every season of the IPL thus far. In terms of playing the big matches in the IPL and winning them, they are the team with all the answers. This is when they are at their dangerous best and at times, simply unstoppable. They were not sure if they would qualify till the last moment. Somehow, the stars of fortune conspired and they find themselves in the playoffs. Now that they are here, they will try and make the most of it.
MSD and knock-outs: Love him or Hate him, you simply cannot ignore the fact that things go his way in knock-outs and final like situations. He has done it time and again, and you cannot put it down to luck every time. On occasions when he has no option but to win, almost every time he wins.
Stability: Chopping and Changing is a policy the India skipper doesn’t endorse. He identifies his personnel and sticks to them. He gives immense confidence to his players, who are assured that a single failure won’t cost them their place in the side. This settled environment relaxes the players and enables them to perform to the best of their ability.
Home advantage: If CSK win the eliminator, they play their next game (maybe two) at home as a reward for winning the trophy last year. Apart from the initial blip early this season, the M.A.Chidambaram stadium has been their fortress. If they land there after winning the eliminator, it will take a very brave man to bet against a hat-trick of IPL wins for the men in yellow.


Rusty Raina: The single most successful batsman in all IPL, Suresh Raina has been a major factor in CSK’s continued success. He has aggregated more than 400 runs in each of the previous four seasons. This year he has been a meek shadow of his former self. A firing Raina is very crucial to CSK’s fortunes and this year when he has not been at his best, it has reflected directly in CSK’s results.
The Spin in the Tale: Spin has been CSK’s stronghold. That’s where their strength lies. That is what MSD is most comfortable doing. Taking the pace off the ball and strangling the opposition. Unfortunately for him, this season has not gone to plan in that sense. Ashwin has been off-color; Jakati has not done anything of substance yet. Despite reinforcing his spin options with the arrival of Jadeja, the spinners have not done the job like previous years. They need to come into their own, especially their strike bowler Ashwin, to see this one through to the end.
The Famed Finisher: MSD needs to find his touch with the bat and do what he does best – see off games. He becomes doubly crucial with Raina out of form. Even MSD has struggled this year and apart from a couple of substantial scores, has not been all guns blazing. He and Albie Morkel, these two blokes have to take the responsibility and provide the impetus to the innings and see it through to the end. It is what he is very accomplished at doing time and again; about time he comes back into his own.

 Let’s put it straight. They were on the verge of elimination. They have been literally given a new lease of life, albeit thanks to the Deccan Chargers. They have been literally handed this opportunity on a platter and they simply must take it. A hat-trick of IPL trophies awaits them. If they achieve it, they would set a record so stunning, within the first 5 years of this competition, that any other team will find it virtually impossible to replicate or break it in the future. A chance to go down in the history books doesn’t come your way very often. The CSK boys have a fabulous opportunity to create history, and they should be well up for it.

Much like their play-off opponents, it’s the inconsistency, a quality that you so rarely associate with CSK that has haunted them. There have been a very few games this season where all three departments have clicked together for CSK. The top 4 need to lay the foundation, the lower order needs to finish games and the spinners need to be at their best. These 3 things have rarely happened in a single day for them this season. They need to rectify that. Every game from now on, like the previous three for them, is a knock-out. One slip up and this new lease of life will evaporate as quickly as it came.  

That is it for my analysis. Have your pick and back your team through to the end. I hope that the last 4 games are as exciting as the tournament has been on the whole. At the end of the day, let cricket win. On that note, as they say, “Let the games begin!”

2008 : Rajasthan Royals
2009: Deccan Chargers
2010: Chennai Super Kings
2011: Chennai Super Kings
2012: ??? 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Nice one Mihir.
    Delhi has been at the top in the league games. But they will be playing all their 3 possible play off games on low scoring spin friendly slow pitches (Pune and Chennai). Delhi's strength of fast bowling will not be very helpful in these conditions. That's where I feel KKR will do well. If KKR can get rid of Viru and Warner early, they can make it to the final.
    Mumbai and CSK play in Bangalore which will be a high scoring match. Chennai seems to be very rusty this time. This is an opportunity for Mumbai to take advantage of that. If MI open with Sachin and Smith/Gibbs and get a good start then they should win with their batting strength. If Chennai wins this one, it will gain its confidence and will be dangerous on their home soil in the last two games.
    I expect a MI vs KKR final. Let’s see what happens.