A win will assure Mahendra Singh's Dhoni's men a place in the play-offs
Chennai Super Kings will have the chance to preserve its perfect home record when it takes on Kochi Tuskers Kerala at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Wednesday.
A win will leave CSK with seven home wins out of a possible seven in the league stage (a feat never before achieved in the IPL). In fact, the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side has won a staggering ten out of eleven matches across two editions.
Tuskers will finish its league engagements with Wednesday's match and even a win does not guarantee the side a place in the play-offs. The visitors will need to upset CSK and hope that Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab lose their remaining fixtures (two matches each), a course of events that appears unlikely.
The defending champion, on the other hand, is more or less through to the next stage, but will not want to ease off before the potentially key tie against Royal Challengers Bangalore on May 22 — an encounter which might well decide if the side finishes in the top-two.
CSK has displayed a reluctance to make wholesale changes to its playing eleven through the tournament, and the match against KTK, coming as it does at the back of a five-day break between home matches, should be no different.
Dwayne Bravo has filled in for the departing Suraj Randiv, picking up three wickets in the two matches he has played, but hasn't yet been called up to contribute with the bat.
It will be interesting to see if Bravo will be given a hit before the play-off stage, and if so, where in the batting order he will appear.
Randiv's absence has also placed the onus on Suresh Raina to back Ravichandran Ashwin and Shadab Jakati up with his off-spin. Raina has stepped in admirably, picking up two wickets for no runs against Rajasthan and going for just 16 runs from his four overs against Delhi.
CSK's bowling and batting units appear well drilled otherwise, with Doug Bollinger, Albie Morkel and Ashwin in the running for the Purple Cap, while Michael Hussey, Subramaniam Badrinath and Suresh Raina figure in the top-15 of the scorers' list.
KTK's bowling has been manned more or less entirely by local hands and while R.P. Singh, S. Sreesanth and Prasanth Parameswaran fired in unison in the last match against Rajasthan, it was Brad Hodge who did the most damage, picking up four wickets to go with his 17-ball 33.
The bowling overall has blown hot and cold —that performance against a harried Rajasthan side coming after KTK failed to defend 178 against Kings XI in the previous match.
However, the biggest worry for the Tuskers, setting aside CSK's fearsome home-record of course, will be the batting order.