The dynamics of the playoffs are different. Here, it’s a lot about creating opportunities, withstanding pressure and executing plans.
Winning key moments matter. Of course, end-game skills are critical to the outcome.
In these big-ticket matches, individual brilliance can change outcomes. And there are several game-changers in both Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians.
Indeed, Tuesday’s Qualifier-1 will feature the likes of M.S. Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, Imran Tahir, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah, all capable of altering scripts.
And the clash between IPL’s two most successful franchises has a lot at stake. The winner catches the quick flight to the final.
Chepauk is CSK’s fortress, but MI will be full of beans going into the game. After all, it has beaten CSK twice in the league phase this season, the second of them at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.
Yet, the Chepauk game was also one where CSK was without hugely influential skipper Dhoni.
And, Dhoni’s absence adversely impacts CSK at different levels. Firstly, it leaves the side without its master tactician.
Tweakers’ club: Ravindra Jadeja, Imran Tahir and Harbhajan Singh have been instrumental in Chennai Super Kings making it to the playoffs.
Dhoni is someone who has an instinctive feel for this format, whether shuffling his bowlers, setting the batsmen up and narrowing angles clinically on the field.
Then, it deprives the side of a lightning-quick stumper who teams up with the bowler with his invaluable inputs from behind the stumps, lending a different dimension to the attack.
His batting — Dhoni has 368 runs at a strike rate of 138.92 this season — and his sensational striking in the end overs has also been a massive factor in CSK’s triumphs.
But then, CSK has appeared too dependent on its skipper. The middle-order has often stumbled.
However, Faf du Plessis is back among big runs at the top of the order; the feisty South African is a man for the big occasion.
However, du Plessis’ partner Shane Watson averages 18.42 from 14 games. Will CSK continue to show faith in the misfiring Aussie?
The host could have M. Vijay as one of the openers and push Watson into the middle-order for the injured Kedar Jadhav. Or Vijay, who looked good against MI in the league clash here, could bat lower.
The surface should assist spin and CSK’s trio of Harbhajan Singh, Tahir and Ravindra Jadeja are crucial to its plans.
Power Play: The Pandya brothers, Krunal and Hardik, and Kieron Pollard have contributed their might to Mumbai Indians’ cause.
MI has Krunal Pandya, a street-smart left-arm spinner and the improving leg-spinner, Rahul Chahar, to exploit the conditions. Dew could be a factor.
And, MI has two of the most destructive death-overs specialists in pacemen Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah with their scorching yorkers and changes of pace.
There is also the ebullient Hardik Pandya, who can swing matches with bat and ball. And as captain, Rohit is a smooth operator.
At the top of the order is ‘Hitman’ Rohit, with his silken touch, timing and the ability to clear the ground.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock, gifted with the bat, will be a threat up the order.
Harbhajan’s duel with the left-handed de Kock with the new ball could be interesting.
Seamer Deepak Chahar, bowling with control and movement, will seek to exploit any early looseness in Rohit’s game.
It’s game on at Chepauk between the two IPL giants.