Chennai: Adversity often brings the best out of Mumbai Indians. For reasons known only to them, for the second year in succession Rohit Sharma & Co have taken more than a month to rev up their engines.
Rejuvenated by four wins on the trot, Mumbai appear ready to face Chennai Super Kings at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday. The hosts, on the other hand, are grappling with inconsistency after losing two of their last four matches.
A win for table toppers Chennai, who have been invincible in five matches at Chepauk this season, will guarantee them a place in the play-off, simultaneously making fifth-placed Mumbai’s chances of progression tougher.
The visitors will miss the services of the in-form pacer Lasith Malinga as a result of an unwritten ban on Sri Lanakan players in Chennai. Along with New Zealand pacer Mitchell McClenaghan he has accounted for 11 wickets in their bullish run.
With all-rounder Corey Anderson yet to recover from an injury, Mumbai are likely to go with the tested medium-pace of Jasprit Bumrah. After a disastrous start, Mumbai’s turnaround became reality because of the solid performances of their openers — Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons — and the timely return to form of middle-order batsman Ambati Rayudu.
The onus will be on skipper Rohit and Rayudu to tackle the CSK spinners. Harbhajan Singh, who was frugal with his offies (2/11) against Delhi in the last match, would hold the key for Mumbai during the middle-phase.
For Chennai, everything seemed rosy until the defeat against KKR at the Eden Gardens last week. Despite the breezy starts provided by Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith, the middle-order has failed to cash in on the momentum as a result of its inability to tackle quality spin bowling.
Chennai have lost wickets in a heap (4/24 vs KKR, 4/29 vs KKR (Kolkata), 4/41 vs RCB) during the consolidation phase in three of their last four matches that put them on the back foot towards the end.
Strangely, barring Suresh Raina (52 against RCB), no other CSK batsman has posted a half-century in the last four matches. With Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja failing to strike it big, the onus of firing at the slog fell on the young shoulders of all-rounder Pawan Negi.
Coach Stephen Fleming said that there is a “healthy competition” between left-arm spinning all-rounders Negi and Jadeja. “It’s good to have a player like Negi because he adds depth to our team. We want more from Jadeja, the big hitter.” Mumbai may have the momentum but beating Chennai at their own backyard would be no child’s play....