Kolkata: Embroiled in the spot-fixing scam, becoming champions for a third time would be a daunting task for the Chennai Super Kings when they take on the formidable Mumbai Indians in the summit clash of the scandal-marred Indian Premier League, here on Sunday.
The arrest of its management official M Gurunath, who is the son-in-law of the team owner and BCCI President N Srinivasan, on the suspicion of betting would have surely dented the morale of the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side.
It will be a huge challenge for the players and their skipper to cope up with the situation and play their natural game against a team, which is keen to win that elusive trophy.
Chennai have been a part of four consecutive, five overall, finals but it is the best chance for Mumbai to take a good shot at the title, avenge their 2010 final defeat.
It is one trophy that is missing from the cabinet of the milestone man of Indian cricket. He had a heartbreak as Mumbai Indians captain in 2010 when the team lost to Dhoni's men by 22 runs.
It was CSK's first IPL title and since then Dhoni's team has grown in stature.
On paper, it's a battle of equals with both Chennai and Mumbai boasting explosive Twenty20 specialists in Michael Hussey, Dwayne Smith, Ravindra Jadeja and Kieron Pollard.
Both teams have a penetrating pace attack with Albie Morkel and season's find Mohit Sharma doing a tidy job for Chennai, while Mitchell Johnson, Lasith Malinga and Pollard make a terrific trio in the Mumbai ranks.
In conditions where spin-bowling could prove to be a decisive factor, Chennai have a star-studded line-up in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja but Mumbai can match them with the experienced duo of Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha.
The return to form of Harbhajan (3/23), who had a man-of-the-match performance against the Rajasthan Royals last night, would augur well for Mumbai even as they face injury concerns with regards to Ojha who has hurt his elbow.
That Eden is a happy hunting ground for Mumbai (five wins from six outings) would certainly give Rohit Sharma's team an edge.
Dwayne Smith's red-hot form would be another advantage as Mumbai would hope the West Indian would fire again and steer the side without gifting his wicket away.
Smith's 44-ball 62 (second successive half-century) was once again the highlight of the last night's second qualifier before Mumbai.
Incidentally, Sharma was part of the triumphant Deccan Chargers in 2009 and it would be a second IPL final for the Mumbai skipper. The only issue he would have to address is the team's tendency to choke in the middle.
It has been a frustrating month for Sharma as the batsman has not been able to convert his starts with his last half-century (79 unbeaten) coming against Kings XI Punjab way back on April 29.
Sharma's woeful form with the bat continued in the last match as well when his middle stump was rattled by Siddharth Trivedi.
Mumbai would hope that the skipper get into the act especially on the stage that matters the most.
Chennai is a team full of stars with Orange Cap holder Micheal Hussey leading the run charts with 732 runs (@56.30) as 'Mr Cricket' would look to contribute again along with another Dhoni's trusted lieutenant Suresh Raina who has 548 runs (45.66) including an unbeaten 100.
In bowling, Dwayne Bravo has been Dhoni's go to man with 28 wickets. Dhoni will also look up to the young Mohit who has impressed with 19 scalps from 17 matches.
But it's the duo of Ashwin and Jadeja who will be encouraged by the Eden conditions as they would look to get maximum out of the spin-friendly Eden conditions.
Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (C), Michael Hussey, Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Subramaniam Badrinath, Dwayne Bravo, Albie Morkel, Chris Morris, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohit Sharma, Akila Dananjaya, Faf du Plessis, Ben Hilfenhaus, Jason Holder, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ben Laughlin, Dirk Nannes, Anirudha Srikkanth, Baba Aparajith, Imtiaz Ahmed, Shadab Jakati, R Karthikeyan, Ronit More, Ankit Rajpoot, Wriddhiman Saha and Vijay Shankar.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (C), Dwayne Smith, Aditya Tare, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Kieron Pollard, Ambatti Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Johnson, Lasith Malinga, Pragyan Ojha, Rishi Dhawan, Ricky Ponting, Glenn Maxwell, Jacob Oram, Sachin Tendulkar, Abu Nechim, Amitoze Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Munaf Patel, Javed Khan, Sushant Marathe, Akshar Patel, Jalaj Saxena, Pawan Suyal and Suryakumar Yadav.
Story first published on: Saturday, 25 May 2013 12:25 IST