Super Kings bowlers will be hard-pressed against the Mumbai Indians' batsmen
Amidst the Indian Premier League's mixed bag of last over finishes and the insinuations about spot-fixing and slanderous nights, irony too has found a place to flourish.
Royal Challengers Bangalore was expected to saunter into the play-offs, however, the men in red and golden shades imploded at Hyderabad. Now the aggrieved team-members, perhaps with a wry smile, will watch their home-turf — Chinnaswamy Stadium — play host to the Eliminator match between defending champion Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians here on Wednesday night. Irony could not have had a louder version!
The league's recent quixotic results, especially Deccan Chargers' ambush of RCB, have helped CSK find a way back into the last-four stage. Fate's strange ways have also revived an old prefix that tailed M.S. Dhoni's name — ‘destiny's child.' The skipper though leads an outfit that has shed its domineering veneer and the stumble against King's XI Punjab at Dharamshala almost triggered a free-fall until RCB inadvertently lent a helping hand.
CSK's previous visit to Bangalore was spent watching the rain and the forecast hints at a few wet spells though the city has suffered a dry phase over the last two days.
Squaring up against Mumbai Indians, Dhoni's team will remember its twin defeats against Harbhajan Singh's men in the league stage. History's sobering reminder may well count for nothing in a do-or-die match with the loser crashing out and the winner finding a berth in the second qualifier.
Faf du Plessis (398), Suresh Raina (341) and Dwayne Bravo (305) have clicked for CSK while Dhoni (269) remains a pivotal presence despite the lack of a game-changing innings in the latest edition.
The rest have cobbled together some runs but more needs to be done in a decisive game on a pitch, which has been good to batsmen.
CSK's bowlers though will be hard-pressed against the Mumbai Indians' batsmen with Rohit Sharma (419), Ambati Rayudu (322), Sachin Tendulkar (313) finding adequate backing in recent times from the likes of Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Smith.
Lasith Malinga (22 wickets) is the biggest impact bowler on either side and the way he is countered will also determine Mumbai Indians' progress and CSK's fate.
Besides improving his own form, Harbhajan will be well advised to rein in his combative players, who have had many run-ins with rivals and authorities. When Mumbai Indians last played here, a rousing triumph against the host was marred by Rayudu's outburst against Harshal Patel.
It is a trait that could be avoided more so in a season that has seen the IPL churn news of different shades.
The league had commenced at Chennai with Mumbai Indians defeating CSK on April 4.
Life has come a full circle for the two teams and on Wednesday night, only one will be left standing for the remainder of the tournament.
It is a context that can only engineer a cracking contest.